SBS Accounting & Advisors Staff Q&A: How the Pandemic has Affected Your Life and Our Clients

As small business owners, managing our staff and keeping our businesses moving forward has been a big challenge during the pandemic. When panic and fear sets in, we sometimes make rash decisions and lose sight of the bigger picture.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, I can confidently say that while COVID-19 has impacted us, it hasn’t broken our spirit, or made me question the value and importance of my staff. I am truly blessed with a great team who strives every day to bring genuine care and powerful solutions to our clients.

With this in mind, I decided to catch up with my staff to see how the pandemic has affected them, and what advice they have for you moving forward.

How has the pandemic affected your work and your life, and what advice do you have for small business owners to survive and move forward?

Daniel Bill: COVID has affected all of us in one way or another. It seems like it has affected our staff in the accounting industry by a reduction of work, due to small businesses that have been unable to cope during this challenging time. This has resulted in less work for us as accounting professionals. On the positive side, since our staff already work from home, the change has been limited in that regard, as we were already prepared to service our clients from a remote environment.

My advice to small business owners during these times is to really take stock of your business:

  1. Do you know where you stand financially, and do you have substantial cash reserves to survive another crisis?
  2. A plan needs to be put in place in order to make an effort to recover from the negative effect the pandemic has had on your company. Drafting a business plan, including marketing and strategic initiatives, is crucial to a successful recovery.
  3. What long-term changes need to be made to support sustained growth and crisis survival moving forward?

Robyn Hirschman: The pandemic has definitely affected my work life and personal life in some ways. With schools being closed for almost three months, my 12 year old is at home now, in addition to my 3 year old who is always home with me. I’ve had to adapt to a schedule to allow me to be available to help my oldest child with schoolwork and her online courses, and just to be present in general. Being a single mother, it has been tricky to find a nice balance over the past few months, with work and the kids being around all the time.

Also, since things are closed and we can’t do most of the things we usually go out and do as a family, such as going to the park, the beach, attractions and theme parks, we’ve had to improvise and do more stuff at home together. Although work in general has not changed a great deal since I have always worked remotely, I did lose a few accounts that resulted in losing a few hours. However, this change did allow me to be a little more flexible with my kids’ schedules, so it was okay for me.

I am located in South Florida, and I believe the next month will show many more positive test results and probably even another quarantine/lockdown period. I feel bad for all the businesses that have struggled during these times, and I keep them all in my prayers. I feel bad for the businesses that did not survive the pandemic and had no choice but to close.

The most valuable advice I can offer for small businesses is to do everything you can to have an online/virtual presence. I’ve noticed that businesses that don’t sell online, or restaurants that don’t have a huge takeout/delivery, have not survived. During these times, this virtual transition is so important to stay connected and still be able to conduct business. Online marketplaces, video conferences with doctors, food delivery and extracurricular programs offered via Zoom – these are all things I have witnessed with businesses since March, and I really feel like these are the lifelines of survival.

Michelle Newberry: COVID-19 has affected me mostly because schools closed, and I was tasked with homeschooling my 6 year old. It was very difficult to juggle working from home, homeschooling a child and having a child home all day. I ultimately had to lower my workload and give up clients.

The best piece of advice I can give anyone is to always have a cash reserve fund. I was thankful to have that safety net in place so that paying my bills was one less thing I had to stress about.

Jennifer Richardson: The day-to-day work for me hasn’t been all that different. We already worked remotely a large portion of the time. There have been some external factors that have made a difference though: My husband and son are home more, which, of course, means that I have more distractions to pull my attention away from my work. My son just turned nine last week and was home from school, but it wasn’t like summer because he still had online classes to attend. We had to then become the teacher (and tech support!), as well as try to juggle a work-from-home schedule. It never failed that his online class would be at the same time as a work meeting, so that always made it a little more interesting to juggle.

I really think it’s been hardest on my son. EVERYTHING is cancelled: baseball (we didn’t even play one game), orchestra, church, in-person school, summer camp and our summer family vacation (cruise). It’s been difficult with very little personal interaction, too. God designed us to need interaction. For example, even though church is back to meeting, we still can only wave and smile from a distance. No hugs or handshakes.

There have been a lot of positives, too, though. We are home a lot more. We are getting more rest and eating home-cooked meals, instead of fast food on the fly as we scramble to get to practice on time. Our son is often out riding his bike and learning to enjoy his time at home.

Advice that I would have for small businesses is to start planning now for the next pandemic by learning from this one. How did the business function during COVID-19? Did your bills get paid? Were you able to have someone still run payroll like clockwork? There are things that can be done so that your business doesn’t have to stop during times like this. Also, look for something that your business does, or can do, that would make it relevant to the “new normal.”

Sharon Sheekey: “My life has been altered by COVID, and it has not been easy. The transition for my children to be out of school and doing online classes has been hard to manage, along with working from home. My college-aged child and junior high child definitely have had some difficulties. Also, just entertaining them while I have work to do has been a challenge. They could not do much outside of our house, and we had to come up with things to keep the sanity. My husband has had a decrease in his work, which affects our household negatively with managing bill payments and now having the kids home 24/7.

Small business owners have it the hardest. A handful have staff that they might have had for a long time, and decisions had to be made. I would say that a good percentage – from what I know – did receive the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to help with payroll. Expenses would be the next thing that would have to really be scrutinized for the time being. Negotiating could help in certain situations, where you are due a monthly fee. I know there was a lot of help out there, and hopefully businesses are starting to pick up and start to feel some of the stresses leave. I pray for them and all families, as we ALL were affected in some way by this shut down. 

David Shonfelt: Being that SBS is mainly a remote-based company, we were already primed to work during the pandemic with minimal change. I think the biggest change to my work was keeping up with the changing stimulus laws, and how to best record the PPP and Economic Injury Disaster loans in the books. We always want to stay up to date on changing practices and laws, which requires constant study, but during the pandemic, the law has changed so fast that it will make your head spin, and it is often not in layman’s terms. We want to do our best to support our clients that have questions about these programs, so we have to know how to handle each stimulus package and law change as it comes.

Each company is going to face its own issues and hurdles. In a general sense, now is the time to trim unnecessary expenses and keep an eye on your cash flow.

Being Introspective and Intentional in Your Life and Business

I hope that some of the experiences and advice my staff brought up connected with you in some way. Going a step further, perhaps you can ask you and your staff this very question. The answers and discussions that ensue may shine a light on ways to grow as a team and with your customers.

In gathering this important information, you can be intentional moving forward to not only elevate your business, but also prepare it to withstand – and even grow – when faced with an adversity or unprecedented event such as the pandemic.

How to Grow Your Business – Even During a Pandemic

As small business owners, our success and growth often hinges on our willingness to face challenges head on, embrace change and find solutions to any situation. Even so, no one could have braced for the unprecedented pandemic of COVID-19 and how it has impacted all of us.

First and foremost, our hearts go out to every business affected by COVID-19. With that being said, we all must move forward and give our best effort toward recovering and revitalizing our businesses. While the coronavirus has turned many of our lives upside down, it can’t break our spirit and our drive as small business owners.

Here are some ways we believe you can grow your business – even during a pandemic. We’d also love to hear from you on your personal journeys through this difficult time, and what you have done to get through it and push ahead.

Cultivate Customer Relationships

You may already have a great system in place to build customer relationships and experiences, but the pandemic offers a unique opportunity to take that to the next level.

Your customers are probably hurting just like all of us, and some genuine support, care and connectivity are much needed! How are they acting and responding to the pandemic, and what can you do about it? Check in on them, ask how they are doing and see how you can help. Displaying this genuine care and compassion goes a long way in building their trust, loyalty and respect. Not only is this personalized service and support the right thing to do, but it can also bring you powerful relationships and even more business through word of mouth.

In addition, look for professional ways to connect with your customers and increase business. For example, stay active on social media and/or blogging, delivering timely and relevant messages and content that provide solutions to your customers’ immediate or future challenges. Perhaps, look for ways to expand your service offerings by providing more products or services.

Making yourself available to talk to them and work out what’s on their mind will go a long way to deepening customer relationships.

Make Wise Investments

During an economic crisis, we are all watching our money even more closely. As small business owners, we still must be willing to make some investments to grow, but it’s important we choose those wisely.

As you may have noticed from our Facebook page (or my LinkedIn and Twitter), we are focused on delivering content that helps provide solutions to our customers to help them take their businesses to the next level. This is one piece of our marketing effort. No matter what industry you’re in, marketing is important. I, myself, was reluctant to make this investment at first, but am sure glad I did.

Another area where investing is important is in automation tools to improve your workflow and get powerful solutions to your everyday needs. If you’ve kept up with our blogs and newsletters (thank you!), you know we are big believers in QuickBooks Online and its powerful integration with hundreds of apps in the cloud. It’s helped us to help you in tremendous ways, and we would love to talk to you more and find the apps that work best for your business.

Improve Cash Flow

Cash flow is an absolute must for any business to grow, especially during COVID-19. We are all human, and common cash flow mistakes can stunt growth, or worse, threaten business longevity.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, cash flow is an area we specialize in and preach. We know how important cash flow management is, and want to be there every step of the way to get you what you need to survive and grow. From making sure you get paid on time, tracking data and KPIs to ignite growth, and generating projections and budgeting to strategically plan for your future, we will make sure you get the solutions you need to take control of your cash flow and prosper.

Take Time for Introspection

The pandemic has forced many of us to relocate, work remotely and juggle our work/life balance like never before. In doing so, it’s given us time to reflect on our lives and our businesses.

Taking time for introspection is key. If you do have more time at home, considering spending it on yourself, your family and your business. It’s important to stay as productive and levelheaded as you can.

There’s nothing like spending time with your loved ones. These are the very people many of us get our inspiration and aspiration from as business owners. Because we wear so many hats running our businesses, we sometimes miss out on spending the quality time with them that we need, and if nothing else, the pandemic has given many of us that opportunity.

It’s important to spend it on your business, too. How are you spending your money? What can you do to improve your business going forward? What lessons did you learn from the pandemic that you could apply for positive change and growth in the future? These are all important questions to ask, and can help you find a path to long-term success.

Looking Ahead: We are Here to Help

While these highlight just some of the ways you can grow your business during a pandemic, we hope they’ll help you moving forward. When we come together as a community and work toward common goals, we are better for it.

SBS is here to be your trusted advisor through all of this. If you want to implement some of these tips into your business, or simply want someone to talk to, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’d love to hear from you, learn about your personal journey and help grow your business.

SBS Staff Spotlight: Chonda Shupe

Welcome to another SBS staff spotlight. We recently interviewed Chonda Shupe of SBS Accounting & Advisors. Get to know Chonda in this profile of her role at SBS.

Jonathan Bill: How long have you been at SBS?  

Chonda Shupe: 4 months

JB: What do you do for SBS?

CS: I am an account manager.

JB: What is the most satisfying part of your job?

CS: I think the most satisfying part of my job is being able to help people with their finances. Not everyone has the skill, or the time, to handle their books, and that’s where we come in to help. Helping clients focus on the areas they excel in their business, and having us focus on the areas we excel, is such a win-win situation for everyone.

JB: What do you think is the most productive app to use with QuickBooks Online (QBO)?    

CS: Personally, I love It just makes the workflow of paying bills so easy, and saves so much time.

JB: What is it like working remotely, and what tools do you use to do? 

CS: I really enjoy working remotely. It’s nice not having to lug the old book bag, full of stuff, to the office daily as I used to. No traffic to compete with, and coffee is always available, so what’s not to love? We work by logging into our remote server, and I have two huge monitors to be able to work in a paperless world. It’s very different, and not the norm in the beginning, but after a while, you really get used to it and enjoy all the work you can get done without interruptions.

JB: Can you describe a complicated client issue and how you solved it?  

CS: I have a client who has been having some technical issues with an app, and we all know that can get complicated – trying to figure out the problem, working with tech support and the time it takes to do all that. You’re trying to be account manager, but also IT Tech, all at the same time. I have been able to help solve several problems and/or issues recently by researching and utilizing my IT background. Troubleshooting issues and solving them are another satisfying part of my job.

JB: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work? 

CS: Spend time with my family and church activities.

JB: Thanks Chonda!

4 New QuickBooks Online Features to Boost Your Books and Catapult Your Cash Flow

As small business owners, getting our books in order, getting paid on time and creating cash flow is very important. But, realizing these goals may not only be complex and challenging, but also take us away from running our businesses.

With Intuit consistently delivering new features in QuickBooks Online (QBO) – and the knowledge and expertise of our team at SBS Accounting & Advisors – you’re able to focus your time wisely, while we bring you powerful solutions to your everyday needs. The latest four features do just that.

Here is more about those four features, which SBS can help implement and make sure you get the most out of.

Take Control of Your Transactions in the Banking Tab

Nestled inside the Business View in QBO, you can now find a redesigned banking tab. This feature helps you take control of managing transactions, pay more attention to your customers and clients, and make sure your business runs smoothly and efficiently.

While there are incremental changes throughout, the best part of this feature is how the most important actions are brought to your attention. For example, QuickBooks is designed to learn what transactions hold the highest importance for you, bringing them to the forefront. You’ll have a better categorization of your transactions, which will give you peace of mind that your books are being taken care of.

Here is how the banking tab feature will look in your QBO:

Capitalize on Your Accounts Payable With This Bill Feature

In the past, categorizing your bills and keeping up with your accounts payable was challenging. Now, thanks to a new feature inside QBO, you can label receipts as either a “Bill” or an “Expense,” when transmitting them from your phone, computer or email.

To access this enhancement, you’ll visit the Receipts tab by clicking banking, receipts and then browse. Next, select “Bill” or “Expense.” Here is how it will look:

Improving Your Invoicing With Artificial Intelligence

Chasing down payments is vital, but no one I know likes to do it. On one hand, we must get paid to survive and grow, but are also worried that we might drive our customers away if we are too aggressive or say the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, inside QBO Advanced – Intuit’s version of QuickBooks for mid-market businesses – users get their most important invoices prioritized and paid faster. This will help transform your workflow and your cash flow. If you’re not sure if you should be on QBO Advanced or stay with QBO, let’s discuss your options.

To tap into this feature and set up a workflow reminder, simply go to workflows, templates and payment due reminder. This will let you see which clients’ invoices matter most.

Catapult Your Cash Flow With This New Platform

By now, you’ve probably heard me stress the importance of cash flow management. Often, we find business owners tend to neglect, or not completely comprehend, cash flow. By making common cash flow mistakes, businesses suffer and their future may be in jeopardy.

Creating cash flow is an absolute must for small business survival and growth. It’s often a challenging task for small business owners, but don’t worry … SBS specializes in transforming your cash flow and taking your business to the next level.

Helping us in this endeavor is the new cash flow dashboard inside QBO Advanced. Now, you’ll get a report that provides cash flow insights and a vision into the data that is driving your business. Through SBS’ knowledge and expertise, we can take this data and come up with specific strategies to make sure you have the cash flow you need to grow your business.

Cash flow dashboard benefits include always being able to see your cash flow trends, seeing the data that’s dictating how your company is progressing, being able to compare your cash flow at different moments in time, and having control over your transactions through alerts and performance tracking.

Here’s how it will look:

Ready to get Started or Have Questions? SBS is Here to Help!

As you can see, these new or enhanced features inside QBO and QBO Advanced are designed to make both of our lives easier – and our businesses better. If you’re ready to get started, or have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us today. In doing so, you’ll be on your way to a more powerful workflow, and growing your business now and into the future.

(Images courtesy of Intuit QuickBooks)

Reflecting and Looking Ahead: How to Prepare for Recovery

As small business owners, we’re expected to lead our companies at all times and have all the answers, but when it comes to something like COVID-19, all of us are encountering a new normal.

It’s been a hard time for a lot of our clients who are struggling. We know that, and our hearts go out to every business that had to furlough staff, cut back or, even worse, close their doors.

Today, Georgia is among many states that are beginning to open up, but how are you going to handle your business going forward, and how will you survive for the long term? At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we are big believers in looking at your past and taking advantage of the present in order to take you to the next level in the future. When it comes to preparing for a strong recovery from COVID-19, we feel the same principles apply.

With some reflection and a forward-thinking approach, you can prepare for recovery. Here are some tips we feel will help.

Pause for Reflection

If you stared at your reflection in the mirror every morning before and during the pandemic, did your look and feel change, and why?

This very question should tap into your psyche and explain how you acted, and the decisions you made, during this difficult time. Whenever a life-altering event takes place and our stress levels rise, it’s common to make hasty decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make. However, it’s always important to see the bigger picture – even in times of panic, uncertainty and adversity. If you only see the bottom line, your business will greatly suffer.

Self-development and Preparation: Work on You

Managing our stress and workflow is very important. Self-care may have been the last thing you thought of during this time, but recovering from the physical and mental toll of this unbelievably uphill battle requires a great deal of self-care – at least moving forward.

Whether it’s prayer, listening to good music, going outside, or reaching out to someone you love with kindness and gratitude, take time to invest in those things that are most important. Taking a little bit of time to work on you can lead to significantly better performance and perseverance.

This starts with improving your workflow. Work on managing your time and tasks better so that you’re not overwhelmed. Perhaps, make a list of what needs to be done, then prioritize and tackle it. Otherwise, you’re going in a million directions and have no plan for getting everything done.

Tap Into Your Inspirations

When it comes to getting through a crisis – and, quite frankly, every aspect of your business on a day-to-day basis – it’s key to tap into your inspirations. What, or who, motivates and inspires you to make your small business better?

It may be your family, employees or customers, working to make a difference in their lives and seeing their success and journeys. I know that for SBS, glorifying our Maker and impacting the lives of those we serve, is our higher purpose – and the motivation we need to keep working hard, no matter how big or small the task at hand may seem.

So, what is your higher purpose? Tapping into your inspirations can provide the fulfillment and reason you need to get through this crisis and make a strong recovery.

Come Out a Better Leader

Moving forward, you must come away from the experience being a better leader. Some of that may come down to the points above, where you reflect on the past, work on yourself to better manage stress and workflow, and see what inspires you to find your purpose.

In the process, you may see who, and what, you value the most. Take a look at how this event truly impacted your life and those around you. Maybe, you struggled financially, seeing your business’ future in jeopardy, or at least your growth stunted.

We specialize in helping you get back on your feet. Check out our recent blog for help in this area.

Ready to Take the Next Step, or Have Questions? We are Here to Help

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has impacted all of us, and recovering from it won’t be easy. But, as small business owners, it’s essential.

Hopefully, some of these tips will help steer you on a path back from the aftermath, making a strong recovery for your small business and its longevity. Our paths may not be exactly alike, but we are all working toward the same common goal, and know that we are here for you every step of the way.

So, if you’re ready to take that next step, or have any questions, reach out to us today. In doing so, you’ll be on your way to growing as a person and a business.

4 Common Cash Flow Mistakes Small Businesses Make

No matter what stage or level of success your business is in, it won’t go far without strong cash flow management. And, in the midst of COVID-19, cash flow has never felt so important to small business sustainability and survival.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we see a lot of small business owners struggling in this area, having trouble comprehending it or sometimes not even addressing it. This can send a business spiraling downward, or at the very least, keep it from growing. And, the numbers across the board back this up – 82 percent of startups and small businesses fail due to poor cash flow problems and understanding, according to a U.S. Bank study.

Don’t worry! Our team at SBS specializes in helping transform your cash flow to ignite powerful results and growth – being your trusted advisor every step of the way. Before getting into the weeds, though, I feel it’s important to provide some background on common cash flow mistakes small businesses make, so that you know what to look out for and act upon.

Here are 4 common cash flow mistakes that small businesses make:

1. Lingering Unpaid Invoices 

Getting paid for your work keeps your small business alive. Getting paid on time gets you the cash flow you need to plan for your future, make key purchases and grow your business.

But, that’s easier said than done – and a common issue we see among small businesses. Chasing down payment can be challenging because you might worry about setting the customer off, and risk losing their business or fracturing your relationship.

At SBS, we’ve spent years helping our clients navigate through these difficulties. We make sure you get the apps, tools and advice you need to get paid on time and grow your business. Then, we will implement them into your workflow so that you have the cash flow you need – when you need it – to take your business to the next level.

2. No Budget in Place

As a kid, your parents may have told you to budget. If it went over your head or weren’t mature enough to keep yourself from buying the things you wanted, that’s more than understandable. But, whether you knew it, that life lesson manifests itself in adulthood when running a business.

Small business owners sometimes have the same problem – only on a much larger scale that has a bigger impact on their lives. That’s because spending out of control, or not having a plan in place for the future, can send a business spiraling down.

At SBS, we see this all the time. It’s so important to know where your business stands, and budgeting and projecting allows us to take your historic financial data to help plan for your future and grow your business. For example, in addition to helping you prepare a budget, we’ll provide you with a budget vs. actual report on a monthly basis to help you track your performance against your goals. After all, you can only spend what you can afford, and it’s our obligation to make sure you strategically plan your spending to generate success and stay in business.

3. No Rainy Day Savings Cushion on Hand

No matter how ironclad your budget may seem, there will always be life events or circumstances that get in the way, such as COVID-19. That’s why it is so critical to have a savings cushion on hand to help you get through these unforeseen moments.

It’s always smart to have at least a few month’s worth (an average is three months) of operating expenses in this savings account. If you currently don’t have this set up, or want to increase your savings cushion, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today. You must be prepared to weather the storm.

4. Overestimating Future Business/Sales

As small business owners and entrepreneurs, optimism can be a great asset. But, at times, it can also be a hindrance.

Take, for example, overestimating future business/sales. When we count on, or overestimate, sales coming through in the future, we tend to overspend in the present. This can create a cash shortage problem that hurts your business.

At SBS, we study key performance indicators (KPIs) and other data to make sure that you have an accurate financial picture of your finances and can plan for a successful future. We also break down your financial fluency – what your numbers mean and how they impact your growth. That means going over your income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet to help you understand where you’re at and get you to where you want to go.

Bottom Line: Cash Flow is King, and We’re Here to Help!

While these are just a few of the common cash flow mistakes out there, chances are that you have dealt with at least some of these issues. Facing adversity is not uncommon to small business owners, but we want you to know that you are not alone.

SBS is here for you every step of the way, making sure you plan for, and acquire, the cash flow you need to not only survive COVID-19, but also thrive in the future. Contact us today to discuss your current situation and opportunities, and you’ll be one step closer to weathering the storm and breaking through these barriers to achieve success.

Overcoming COVID-19: What You can do to Help Others and Yourself

First, and foremost, we hope you are safe and healthy, and our hearts go out to all small businesses affected by this unprecedented pandemic. While COVID-19 has turned many of our lives upside down, there are still positives to take out of this experience, and things we can do to help others and build up our communities.

Your goodness and kindness goes a long way, as we will get through this by coming together as a united front. As you continue to work your way through this unforeseen reality, here are some things you can do to help others, yourself and your business.

Take groceries to those who shouldn’t, or can’t, go out. Whether it’s an older family member or friend, an elderly neighbor, or perhaps someone who faces health problems or disabilities, you should help them get their basic necessities, if you can. Volunteer to get them the groceries they need to survive.

Call or write others. In our everyday, busy lives, we sometimes neglect calling or writing those who mean the most to us. COVID-19 has certainly put life into perspective, making human interaction something all of us need to get through this time. You’d be surprised how much a simple phone call or note would mean to those who are housebound. Just hearing your voice or seeing your kind words can uplift or inspire those around you, while improving your relationships and bringing the community closer together.

Spend time with family. One of the positives of the shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders is that many of us get to spend more time with the family we live with. Take advantage of this time together. When we all love each other and spend quality time together, we have memories and moments to cherish and behold – something that’s important during this difficult time. Spending time on your marriage, and with your kids and other loved ones, has never felt so important, at least for me.

Take your business remote. Shifting gears, many small businesses have been affected by the virus, forcing us to work from home and manage our teams remotely. It’s one thing to embrace and enable a remote workforce, but it’s another to have to do it completely 100 percent. With this new reality, we must all adjust as business owners to ensure our businesses survive this crisis. Check out our recent blog to get tips for managing a remote workforce.

Donate. Another thing we can do right now is donate to causes we believe in or that need our support. When you hear “donate,” your first thought may be money, but time also applies. You could give blood or give a donation, drop off food to a local food bank, donate to kids in need, or even embrace other local businesses such as getting takeout from your favorite restaurants. These are just some suggestions. Find something you connect with and want to do. A little bit of your time or money could go a long way to helping those in need.

Banding Together Toward a Greater Cause

It’s common to devote most of our time to our work and immediate family, and perhaps live a more private or secluded life. But, with this pandemic, we all must come together to collectively combat the coronavirus, and help each other survive and grow.

I hope some of these suggestions help inspire you to take some action, if you can. I also believe that when we face adversity – and overcome that adversity – we are stronger and more successful. It’s that backbone and resolve that will get us through these difficult times. And, remember, a little bit of help can go a long way!

4 Practical Tips to Managing a Remote Workforce

As we all come to grips with the impact and reality of our current situation, we first want to say that our hearts go out to small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. With the recent two-week home order in Atlanta, and other mandates across the country, our businesses are forced to operate remotely.

At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we have been managing a remote workforce for more than five years and wanted to share some of the insights we’ve learned over that time. It’s critical to get your virtual strategy right the first time – doing well can have great benefits and long-term business growth, while a poor job can lead to lack of productivity and employees becoming islands.

As you face this potential new challenge, here are four practical tips to managing a remote workforce, and, of course, SBS is here every step of the way to answer any questions or discuss solutions for your business.

  1. Set a schedule. Some may disagree with me, but if there is not some expectation set for when your staff should work, things can go south. This doesn’t mean that you can’t make exceptions or put together custom schedules for those that have special needs, such as children being in the home. But, the key is that there should be a clear expectation as to when your staff should be working. This will encourage a clean break between work and personal life, which will foster work/life harmony and keep staff from getting burned out.
  2. Meet regularly. I cannot emphasize this enough. In order to keep a strong and connected culture, you must have regular team meetings. Thankfully, there are some wonderful tools out there for virtual meetings, such as GoToMeeting and Zoom. Make it a requirement to turn cameras on, interact, and make meetings fun and informative. All this will help keep your team together and provide a personal touch that is often lost when working remotely.
  3. Overcommunicate. Because the primary way of communicating with a remote workforce is through writing (at least in our case), it’s vital that you overcommunicate when sending texts, emails or other written communication. Read and reread your messages BEFORE you send them to ensure they contain all the pertinent details. Teach your team to do so as well. Also, clearly document your policies and procedures so there is no doubt what guidelines your staff needs to follow.
  4. Trust but verify. There is an old myth that says, “If I can’t see my staff, I can’t manage them.” This simply is not true. People want to be trusted. One of the most freeing things you could potentially do for your staff is letting them know that you are proud of them and that you trust that even though you cannot see them, they will act in the best interest of the company.Be sure to also communicate that this goes both ways – you also expect for them to trust that you have their best interests in mind. This being said, blind faith is never wise. Periodically pull time reports and regularly check in on the status of your projects as a way of holding your staff accountable to your trust agreement. If there seems to be a violation, investigate to see if there were factors outside of the employees’ control that made it seem as if they were not operating with your company’s best interests in mind. If there was a violation of trust, remind the employee of your agreement with them. If the employee continues to break trust, you must let them go.

Moving Forward to Meet the Challenges

These are certainly difficult times, but as business owners, we know that we have to constantly adapt in order to grow. While this new challenge may be our toughest yet, we feel that following these remote workforce tips will set you on a path to survive and grow. And, hopefully when all this passes by and we return to our normal routines, you’ll be in a position to capitalize off your remote workforce strategies.

If you have any questions, or are ready to tackle managing remote staff, don’t hesitate to contact us today. We pray that you all stay safe and healthy.

6 Small Business Cybersecurity Tips to Halt the Hackers

Securing our businesses from malicious hackers should always be top of mind, and although you may think you’re less likely to get hit by a cybersecurity attack because you’re not a multi-million dollar company, the reality is that you’re actually more likely to suffer an attack.

According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 43 percent of data breaches involved small business victims. I find small businesses often have lax security policies in place, making them easier targets and low-hanging fruit for talented hackers.

Before you panic, I’ve come up with six basic security measures you can take to halt the hackers and keep them from wreaking havoc on your business.

#1: Implement Cloud Security

Let’s start with the foundation. A cybersecurity plan is very important; you need a system and expert personnel, or outsourced tech help, to secure and protect your data, 24/7. That’s the exact duty of a cloud service provider.

By tapping into cloud security, you have full control of your data on a local server. Find a reputable company to protect this data, using their expertise of the latest cybersecurity tactics to keep you safe. At SBS Accounting & Advisors, we use Aventis Systems.

#2: Train and Motivate Your Staff to Avoid Phishing Emails 

You may think an overseas hacker is going to extraordinary lengths to break down your walls and infect your small business network. However, they’re often simply leveraging a basic phishing email, hoping a staff member opens a door to your systems by clicking on the email.

This simple, yet effective hacking technique illustrates how important it is to train your staff to protect against common cybersecurity threats. You can start with basic practice: look out for phishing emails, employ smart browsing strategies, and avoid downloading any suspicious files or clicking any harmful links.

Then, you can get into the weeds a bit more. Go over password strength and strategy. Adding multifactor authentication is a must. This added layer of security goes beyond the basic username and password, typically forcing the user to enter a code sent to their mobile device to get in the system.

Another reason these security tactics are so key is because many small business enable employees to work remotely. A simple click of the wrong link or file – not under your supervision – can trigger a lingering cyberattack. And, since they’re often using their own devices, they’re much easier to be breached if the devices are unsecured. As a business owner, you can put policies in place for these personal devices.

Getting your staff up to speed on best security practices is only half the battle. They must also be motivated and willing to not only retain the information, but also be proactive and go to bat for you in executing what they learn. The best way to do that is to empower them with more responsibility by task delegation, for example, as well as a bonus or just genuine praise when they perform admirably. When your employees feel good about the work and the impact they’re making, they’re much more likely to represent the business in the way you envision.

#4: Protect Your Paper

At SBS, we are big proponents of going paperless. However, many small businesses still have paper of some kind, and if that paper contains sensitive information, it must be kept out of the hands of hackers.

Despite being so digital today, paper is still one of the easiest ways for hackers to exploit your business. Make sure you have established procedures for protecting your paper. For example, have employees shred sensitive documents in a micro crosscut shredder, or keep them locked up if you must hold on to them.

#5: Hire a Hacker

Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The best defense is a good offense.” That kind of approach also applies to cybersecurity. In order to keep the hackers away, you have to think like a hacker – and the best way to do that is to hire one!

Of course, the person must be ethical, and as strange as it sounds, many of today’s security experts were former hackers. The bottom line is to stay one step ahead of the cybercriminal, as well as repair any vulnerabilities. And, if a breach does happen, you have a person in place to fix it sooner rather than later.

#6: Can’t Afford a Hacker? Hire a Cybersecurity Consultant

As a small business, you might not be able to afford a part-time hacker, and that’s okay. Instead, employ a cybersecurity consultant.

This consultant – known as a managed IT services provider – can be called upon, as needed, to protect you and your business from malicious hackers. Beyond that, they can keep your systems running smoothly and quickly, protect your data to remain operable, put in a disaster recovery plan, and more.

Ready to Get Started? We’re Here to Help

As you can see, cybersecurity is one of the most important and challenging burdens for small business owners. However, with some strategic planning and proactive tactics, you can put yourself in a much better position to keep your company safe.

Contact us today if you’re ready to implement these best security practices, or if you have any questions. You never know when these criminals might come your way; you must have an actionable plan and defense team in place for when they do.

SBS Staff Spotlight: Betsy Gallo

Welcome to another SBS staff spotlight. We recently interviewed Betsy Gallo of SBS Accounting & Advisors. Get to know Betsy in this profile of her role at SBS.

Jonathan Bill: How long have you been at SBS?

Betsy Gallo: I’m in my 5th year working for SBS.

JB: What do you do for SBS?

BG: I am an account manager and bookkeeper. For my clients, I am the initial “go-to” contact for our team. 

JB: What is the most satisfying part of your job, or what are you most looking forward to?

BG: I enjoy knowing and serving the particular interest points for each client. I’m glad to see the finished financial statements each month, and I appreciate the reward of a job well done: the books are balanced and it’s a good day.

JB: What certifications do you have that help you in your work with SBS?

BG: I am a QuickBooks ProAdvisor and maintain a CPB (Certified Public Bookkeeper) license. 

JB: What do you think is the most productive app to use with QBO?

BG: I’ve worked with and QuickBooks Online, and have been very pleased.

JB: What is it like working remotely, and what tools do you use to do so?

BG: Working from home provides scheduling flexibility and usually uninterrupted focus time. There are hours added to my week that may have been spent commuting. I use a computer with remote server access, dual monitors, extended keyboard and have video meeting capability.

JB: What is your favorite thing to do outside of work?        

BG: I enjoy being outside, being with friends and family, walking, hiking, and swimming.

JB: Thanks Betsy!