If you are one of the many small business owners in a general upheaval in response to COVID-19, we sympathize. Now is not the time for a lecture on your business continuity measures, but it is a good time to regroup and assess what type of shape you are in and find some measures to take to strengthen remote operations.
In short, the more you can move to the cloud, the better you will be. For many, that is not as easy as it sounds. Let’s dive into three key areas you will be affected in and how to rethink things moving forward.
Area One: Business Continuity Planning is For Every Business
The key is to be thinking about business continuity, but the goal is to have a plan. Accountfully is a Charleston, South Carolina based company, so hurricanes would seem to be the major threat, but most recently our (very) inland location in Nashville was close to a serious tornado that hit earlier this month. Fortunately, we fared well, but it was another reminder we are not immune to sudden changes in normal operations. Understanding that and planning for it, is a great first step.
Of course, disruption in the norm is not just natural disaster based. The general public has learned this with the recent pandemic response measures put into place nationwide. For a more in-depth look at how outsourced accounting and cloud based functionality keeps you in the game during a change in ops, go here. For the basic rundown, you are in the right place.
What to Assess: Do you have a plan when things need to run as normal away from the office? Do your employees, clients and vendors know what to expect when these changes happen?
What to Rethink: If you are unsure of the pain points of your remote operation abilities, you are probably seeing them now. Look at what is causing you to struggle. Is it communication? Is it not having a plan? Is it having to go to a physical location to do some of your business?
What to Restructure: If there isn't a business continuity plan in place, now is a great time to write one and communicate it, especially if it is fresh in your mind as you live it. This will also help drive decisions surrounding adopting cloud based ways of working moving forward.
Area Two: Tracking Time and Getting Paid
The biggest asset to your business is your people, so take good care of them. Another piece to your success is keeping key vendors paid to move your business forward. As captain of the ship, you also need to make sure you're OK too. Be empathetic to your team, and yourself. If this is a new change, there will be some hiccups, but be understanding and do your best. A huge part in taking care of your people is to keep them paid for their efforts, hopefully without them needing to cash a check. A more in-depth look at modern payroll methods - time tracking, payments methods to employ and more - can be found here.
Chances are, the first things that will cross the minds of employees, new to remote status are: 1) will this affect when and how I am paid, and 2) how will my boss know I’m actually working? In response to these, you as a leader should define what you want to see. Many workers are without childcare or school as an option during the day, maybe it means being more flexible with the time of day they need to put in work. For employees that are hourly, do they have a system to track their time from their phone or home computer? There are lots of time tracking software options out there to help. For example, Accountfully uses Harvest, where it can work from a computer or a mobile phone.
Communicating during the lack of face time can also bring up challenges. If not implemented already, virtual meeting options like Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom can function as a great way to get the team together for a meeting or check in. Messaging systems through Google or others, like Slack make for a great way to ask and answer questions on the fly. Many of these will offer the option of showing your availability status too, which will help show your team members you are actively working.
What to Assess: If I don’t have access to a checkbook can I pay my employees and vendors? How do I know my employees are meeting their commitments from home? Are my time tracking methods up to modern standards?
What to Rethink: Does it make sense to limit some meetings for the future, if we can go without them? Are your vendors and employees able to be paid via ACH, direct deposit or similar, non-bank-visiting based method?
What to Restructure: Think about how you are tracking time, take advantage of ACH payment options where you can with employees and vendors.
Area Three: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, uncertainty and big changes will come down to money. Do you have enough to cover a decrease in revenue (if so, for how long)? Are your books up to date and easily accessible to make decisions on the fly? Perhaps the biggest benefit to the books-side of business is using a cloud based accounting software, such as Quickbooks Online. The other piece to this is keeping it updated, so that you have relevant information handy. The better you know your cash reality, the better you can plan. It is not pleasant to make the call on cutting hours or delaying payment to vendors, but it is better to know what you are working with, than to overextend your business.
When obtaining funding to stay afloat may be an only option, having the right tools for lenders will be extremely important now, too. We hosted a Webinar on small business funding that touches on how to best prepare in the instance you will need to take the steps for more cash without giving away more equity. You can watch the recording here.
As this seemingly indefinite waiting period wraps up, you will be able to review the trends and changes that were made based on the data. There may also be tax implications to the changes in operations due to the pandemic, so maintaining these accurate books and records will be especially important to have at tax time.
What to Assess: Do I know my current financial status? Can I even access my books from outside of the office?
What to Rethink: Do I maintain accurate and up to date records? Do I have enough data to make big business decisions? Do I need to make big changes to preserve the financial health of the company, as in delaying or making smaller payments to vendors or cutting employee hours?
What to Restructure: If you are not able to access your company’s books from outside of the office, this is a red flag, consider moving to the cloud ASAP. Having access to the numbers is only the first piece of the puzzle - you will need accurate and up to date financials to be able to make smart decisions now, and to learn from the trend in data to better prepare for future interruptions in business.
Take time and breathe. You got this. For more information and lots of helpful tips for running your business, check out our blog and our resources page. You will find a lot of helpful articles and guides to lead you in the right direction. If it feels like engaging Accountfully is the best choice to help manage the trying changes in your business, we can help answer any questions you may have.