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:
- Do you know where you stand financially, and do you have substantial cash reserves to survive another crisis?
- 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.
- 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.