I didn’t expect to start writing something tonight (Sunday), but a wise mentor of mine said exactly what’s been on my mind and what even a wiser Mentor (God) has been pushing on my heart when times get quiet and I have some time to think. The effects COVID-19 is having on businesses is a perfect opportunity to write about Healthy Accounting.
One of the main reasons I started Healthy Accounting was to teach people how to prepare for a situation that was unexpected. I choose the name Healthy Accounting because, just like with our bodies we have to have the essential systems (circulatory, digestive, nervous, etc ) taken care of for our body to work the best that it can. In accounting we have to have the essential systems (bookkeeping, financial statements, budgets and cash flow) taken care of for our big picture (our company, taxes, financing, investors) to work. I was tired of seeing so many businesses work so hard for so long and then something unexpected happens and they either almost lose the business, or they do lose the business-everything that they have worked so hard for.
Now, we’re in the beginning stages of one of those scenarios-COVID 19. You could say it is shock. Shock occurs when your body doesn’t have enough blood circulating through your system to keep organs and tissues functioning properly (Healthline.com). Perhaps your company is in shock right now. Your blood (cash/revenue/payments from customers) has either stopped completely or it has slowed down substantially. Now that we’re one to two weeks into this-
What should you have already done or what do you need to be doing now?
Here are 10 ideas:
- Control the controllable– there are going to be a lot of things you cannot control in this situation. There is a lot of information and misinformation flying around. Do what you can, and stay grounded to what you can control. Don’t listen to sources that are out to scare you or just like to talk. Be wise in what you can do.
- Get someone by your side to help you walk through this- have someone that you trust, or a couple of people that you trust to walk through this with you. Pick the people that know your business the best. If you can have someone within the company and someone outside of the company to be alongside you, that is great. The person inside will be familiar with all the details of the company and can help you navigate. The person outside will not be in the thick of the details and may have a clearer picture to help you along the way. (I can be the outside person for you.)
- Make sure you have spoken with your employees– it’s good to be honest with them. Many of us have never been through this type of shock to our business. We haven’t been forced to shut down or entirely shift our business so fast. Be honest and communicate often on what is being done. Even if you don’t really have anything to say, touch base with them. Remember to ask them if they have any questions.
- Be in touch with your customers-you may not be able to reach out to all of them in person. If you can verbally speak to them, that is great, do that. If you can’t verbally speak to all of your customers, reach out by email and let them know what you are doing. When you shift what you’re doing let them know that too. Be sure to touch base with your top customers verbally at a minimum. It’s important to know what is happening to them and if you can work together still in some way.
- Be creative with your revenue options-I have seen so many great ideas from businesses that have closed to the public, but can function at a minimal level. One of our local salons in Greensburg, PA (Contempo Artistries https://contempoartistries.com/) did a live Facebook event to show you how to do your roots while we’re in quarantine. They offered some of the root touch up products they had in stock and could easily get so they could make the sale on the spot. Customers just messaged in to say they wanted one and the salon delivered them to the customers. Many clothing stores are offering curb- side pick up and gift certificates. Think creatively (I know it may be hard-if need be ask a couple of your staff members to think creatively) just to keep some revenue flowing. Remember to repeat your ideas. Customers are being inundated with information too. When they get a break in their lives, they may want to purchase and they’ll need quick and easy information on how to do that.
- Be in touch with your vendors-these are the people you pay. Be honest with them too. If you’re trying to just get a grasp on how much money you have (this is one of the many times good bookkeeping comes in) let them know that their payment may be a little behind. If you’re trying to get some funding in place, let them know that you are working on that too. If you need to defer payment for a couple of months, ask them if that is an option. Companies are understanding, especially in this situation. Many banks and lenders are being very kind and allowing you to defer payment for a few months. In some situations it’s interest and principal, in others it is principal only. Regardless, it can give you some breathing room and thinking space. Do not take advantage of the situation. If you can pay your vendor, you should. They are a company that is trying to operate also.
- Cut out expenses- you don’t need or can live without-even if it’s just temporary. Removing any amount of expense you don’t need will help your cash flow for things you do need. This is an area where you may have to make some really hard choices. Yes, something may be easier if you have that expense-but this is shock-do you really need that expense? Remember too, you may not have as much staff, do you really need that internet with 500 bazillion megabytes or can you downgrade-even temporarily?
- Contact your insurance company to see if you have business interruption coverage-It is possible that you have business interruption coverage and it may or may not cover a situation like COVID-19. It’s worth the couple of minutes it will take to shoot an email to your insurance broker and ask.
- Use your emergency fund only when absolutely necessary. (Yes, your business should have an emergency fund). Try the other steps before this one and touch the emergency money only as a next to last option.
- As a last option, look into lending. Please take this option very seriously. It’s easy to jump at money being given by the government or by banks. If your business cash flow was tight beforehand, lending is going to make things even tighter afterwards. If you are currently closed, there will come a time to reopen. When you do reopen, you’ll want to focus on expenses you really need not using your cash flow for debt.
I hope these steps give you a little bit of guidance in a very difficult time. I am here if you need help with any of the essential elements (bookkeeping, financial statements, budgeting, or cash flow) or any of these 10 steps. Until next time, do look for the good in all of this. Talk to you soon.
Tricia (Owner/Healthy Accounting, Greensburg PA)