Over the past few weeks, there’s been a huge impact on so many businesses and firms that is trickling down to individuals and, as such, it’s important for us to remember that we are all in this together.
We all have a choice to panic and look at the lack of funds and toilet paper, or we can choose to support each other and come out of this stronger as a community.
Think of how to support your clients in this difficult time - whether it’s sharing useful information or giving people longer to pay your bills. To better help other firms and businesses manage during these unsettling times, we’ve put together a list of questions and tips to ask to help navigate the crisis together.
1. Take a deep breath and don’t panic. It sounds trite given what’s happening, but if you panic, your judgment is impaired and this is the time when you need your judgment more than ever. Focus on the next three steps you have to do and take and no more. Celebrate when you accomplish them and pick three more.
2. Think about your people first. Your people need a plan – as much as you can play out different scenarios and what will happen in each for them including payroll, working from home responsibilities and connection with others in the organization. If working from home is possible, make sure people have what they need to work from home including a laptop with the correct applications installed, extra screens, paperwork, how-to manuals, and office supplies if applicable. Put together regular virtual meetings or a call tree and make sure everyone knows who their contacts are within the organization to keep your workforce connected. Be honest about what we know and don’t know. Let them voice opinions and concerns.
3. Lay out multiple scenarios for your business. Think about different scenarios, with the most severe being that you have to close. (For some of our hospitality clients, this is already a reality.) Is there a way you can offer services or products virtually? Is there a way to build goodwill with your community during this difficult time?
4. Keep your financial data up to date. This is even more important right now than it ever has been. How can you make informed decisions if you don’t truly know where you stand? If you intend to apply for a bank or government loan, you could be asked to provide up to 24 months of financial information.
5. Use this as an opportunity to look at other ways of working. Your business has value - look at what is unique to you and your business and ways you can leverage that virtually. Create videos using Loom or Camtasia and share them online and network with customers and clients virtually. Now is the time to start thinking outside the box!
6. What money will still be coming in? Clearly, your ability to make your sales is the key driver. But, if you have outstanding receivables from customers, consider reaching out to see if / when they will be able to pay? (Or…. if you have financial capacity…. Offer them credit. It will win you a lot of goodwill.)
7. How will my costs change? You may save some costs (eg not having to replace purchases) but have to incur others (i.e. additional cleaning supplies; purchase of extra technology that helps you work remotely).
8. What bills do I have outstanding? What’s the priority of payment? Reach out to your suppliers to let them know you’re going to work with them. Or, ask if they are prepared to be flexible. There’s flexibility on tax payments, as well as money available so make sure to use it.
As Simon Sinek says, "It's better that we should all suffer a little, than any of us should have to suffer a lot!"
My firm has been trying to practice this with our clients by providing daily updates of information around government programs. We are also working with clients that have had to shut down operations to provide options around payment for services.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this from clients - the short messages of thanks I’ve received do so much to brighten my day and help me get through this difficult time myself. Thank you to everyone that is focusing on the greater good during this time. I feel grateful to be in a position to reduce a little bit of stress for clients in this difficult time.
During this challenging time it’s important for all CPA’s to remember that we are essentially a helping profession. Now is our time to help.
Allison Hawkins is partner at Hawkins & Co. Accounting and a National Xero Ambassador. With solid experience at PWC, Prudential Life and Pensions UK, Ernst and Young, (UK and Toronto) and Direct Energy, she has built business models to help clients obtain financing, as well as reviewed business processes across a wide range of companies....