AAT members share their challenges, how they are working through them, and what they are communicating in relation to coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis.
One of the most important things for many businesses right now is making sure that they have the cash-flow to survive. Whether this is by furloughing some or all workers, gaining grant funds, offering new products and services or taking more drastic measures. Accountants are the ones to work out which are going to be the best options and the most financially viable.
Coronavirus – feedback and questions
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The government guidelines
Although the government has announced many support schemes, it is still felt that huge gaps have been left in the information that has been released. It’s non-stop trying to keep up to date with the latest news, communicate it to clients or the rest of the business, and answer the questions that come back.
AAT member, Amanda Lang said, “It’s a huge challenge with not a lot of clarified information from the government. I’m problem-solving by watching the daily press conferences and hoping for some new information.”
What this means for each individual
Finance professionals are becoming the go-to people for finding out what the support means, as it stands, for each individual case. Which grants are available and when? What does furloughing mean for different workers, for holiday entitlement and zero-hours contracts? How to prepare in case employees need Essential Worker Authorisation? What are the best options for the self-employed and one director limited companies?
As things stand, many accountants running small businesses are spending time helping clients to claim but will not be entitled to any of the benefits themselves.
AAT member, Karen Chugg said, “There are so many questions and the information is not there yet to answer them. If there is funding available businesses have to somehow survive until it is released.”
If you can update people regularly by email, on your website, via social media or by running regular group video calls or webinars then you will reduce the number of incoming questions or at least contain them as much as possible to a certain place and time. Create a relevant database and send out an update every time new information is released via the channel(s) that work(s) best for you and your team or clients.
If clients aren’t digital, then educating them on how to digitalise records, use secure file sharing platforms and have video calls instead of face-to-face appointments is yet another task. Some accountants and bookkeepers are getting bags of paperwork dropped off to them where clients don’t have the ability or equipment to scan documents or work online.
A great positive is that the finance community is really going out of their way to help each other even more than normal. Accounting and bookkeeping Facebook Groups are really useful for asking questions, sharing templates and generally supporting each other, especially if you are working alone.
A dilemma many in practice are facing is doing a lot of extra work and even having to take on additional employees without knowing if they will definitely get paid. They don’t want to add to the stress by demanding immediate payment for work or risk losing clients but also don’t want any uncertainty of getting paid themselves.
Some options are:
- Creating monthly installment payment plans if you don’t currently have them in place
- Asking clients to make smaller payments over a longer period.
- Deferring payments until clients receive grants, loans, wages or start re-trading
Winning new business
It might not feel like it but it’s a really good time to make new connections. If you are being proactive to reassure your clients and see what help they need then they are likely to refer you to others who also need support.
People are spending more time online and on social media right now and there are half as many emails landing in inboxes as normal so put yourself out there if you have the capacity.
- Keep up to date with the government announcements.
- Communicate regularly with clients and stakeholders.
- Be generous with your help and support.
- It’s a good time to make new connections online.
Finance professionals across industry and practice are being heavily relied on for problem-solving and to decipher the details of the government support, all of which is as brand new to them as it is to anyone. Don’t try and do this alone, there is lots of support and advice available to you.
- Managing the impacts of coronavirus: 10 expert tips for business owners
- Coronavirus help and information
- Coronavirus (Covid-19) and data protection: what you need to know
Sophie Cross is the Editor of Freelancer Magazine and a freelance writer and marketer at Thoughtfully.