These are a number of tips and resources for small businesses should consider during these hard times with the COVID-19 outbreak.
1.) LOOK AT YOUR FINANCIALS & CASH FLOW
With many states being under quarantine and either shutting down or restricting, how long will your business be able to survive through lost revenue, employee absenteeism? You will want to look into your business’s cash flow and plan for a 6 to 8-month drop in revenue.
The best strategy would be to get a line of credit approved now, even if you don’t end up using it as it will be your safety net. Make sure to aggressively pursue your accounts receivable.
2.) PREPARE FOR A DISASTER LOAN
• Complete and assemble 2019 and prior year financial statements
• Start documenting and forecasting the impacts of the situation.
In the past, SBA disaster loans have required many forms, can be confusing, and could take 3-6 weeks before receiving money. For additional details, visit sba.gov/disaster.
Some notes about SBA Disaster assistance in response to the coronavirus:
• The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering small businesses low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital. Small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus(COVID-19) can qualify.
• SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance and can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing.
• These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%.
• SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to pay.
• For additional information, contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or visit SBA.gov/disaster for more information.
• Please call Chamberland Business Accounting at 401-765-1235 for help in gathering your financial information and applying for SBA assistance.
3.) COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE. COMMUNICATE AND GET ONLINE!
Reassure your customers and staff that your business is taking all necessary precautions to keep your business safe and clean. Provide both your customers and staff with up-to-date information as often as possible and let them know they can reach out to you at any time. Communicate with them any changes such as hours of operation, delivery options, curb-side services, etc.
Take advantage of online platforms such as your company’s Facebook page or website to inform your customers of your operating status and how they are able to purchase your products or services. Utilize mass email platforms such as Constant Contact or MailChimp to communicate to your customers any new information; you can also use post mail for those who choose not to have an email. Make sure your business has a “Google My Business” profile with updated contact information.
4.) UNDERSTAND YOUR INSURANCE POLICY
Are you aware of what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t? Business interruption insurance is insurance coverage that replaces business income lost in a disaster. Business interruption insurance is not sold as a separate policy but is either added to a property/casualty policy or included in a comprehensive package policy as an add-on or rider. If you don’t have this insurance, it may be too late to help you in this emergency, but you should know what is, how it works, and how much it costs.
A government-mandated closure (hospitality business, for instance) most likely will enable business interruption insurance to kick in.
5.) LOOK AT YOUR SUPPLY CHAINS
Do you use a variety of vendors or do you receive all of your goods from one source? During a pandemic, supply chain management is crucial; you should always have multiple providers of essential resources of your business to ensure your goods will be delivered. To help possibly reduce costs, partner with another local business to share a vendor contract; it will make your order bigger and seen as more important as well as helping to cut down on costs.
6.) DEVELOP AN INCIDENT RESPONSE PLAN
Do you have any plans in place for your business during this pandemic? Look at your business model and evaluate if your employees can work remotely? Can you sell your products online? These plans need to be created, communicated, and implemented in your business.
Make sure your employees are properly trained and have an understanding of how to use any new technology before they are sent to work at home. You should also look into which services or programs can be temporarily shut down.
Go through all of your expenses and cut everything that you don’t need!
7.) PRACTICE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES AT YOUR PLACE OF BUSINESS
It may seem silly to have to continue to tell your employees to wash their hands, cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. But the truth is, habits are hard to break. Printing signs on your office printer can help as subtle reminders to your employees and customers to practice better personal hygiene-key to recovery from this illness, according to the public health experts.
8.) NEW PAID SICK LEAVE REQUIREMENTS
Starting April 1, businesses with ONE OR MORE EMPLOYEES must provide to any affected employees:
• Paid sick leave-2 weeks paid leave at 100% of employee’s normal pay, up to $511 per day
• Paid family and medical leave-additional 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67% of normal pay, up to $200 per day (small businesses can apply for a waiver of this in some limited circumstances).
• Small businesses will get a tax credit to cover these costs
• Gig workers and independent contractors will get the same benefits in the form of a tax credit.
Gig workers/independent contractors: if you are paid by another company (e.g. a rideshare company, caterer, a worker platform like Upwork, another contracting company)., you’re eligible for a tax credit of up to 2 weeks sick leave at your average pay and 12 weeks of family/medical leave at 2/3 your average pay. The same caps apply-$511/$200 per day. You must show you had to comply with self-isolation or care for family members, including children whose schools have been closed due to the coronavirus. Tax credits will be applied against your tax payments, or you will get a rebate if your tax is lower than the credit.
Even if you’re not currently negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, you could be in the future depending upon circumstances, or you could face another type of business interruption. If you are in this situation, use your time now to develop a disaster recovery plan.
With unemployment being at an all-time low, many businesses are competing with each other to hire and retain qualified workers. As a small business owner, you may be finding it challenging to be going up against larger corporations to attract qualified workers, who have the resources and capital to be able to offer better pay and more extravagant benefits. However, there are benefits your small business can provide to current and future employees to entice them to your business.
Health and Dental Insurance
Many employees are looking to work for a business that will be able to offer them and their families health and dental insurance. As long as your small business has no more than 50 full-time workers, you can browse and apply for insurance through federal or state online marketplaces, such as the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP; though to buy insurance through the marketplace your business must cover at least 50 percent of the cost of the premiums of employees (not counting their families). Other options for finding the right health insurance plans for your business include: third-party benefits administrators (Gusto and Zenefits), traditional full-service agents or brokers, trade associations, and insurance companies themselves. If your business provides health insurance to your employees, you can write off the costs as business expenses; if your business has fewer than 25 full-time employees, covers at least 50 percent of the cost of premiums, and pays an average wage of less than $50,000 than you could qualify for the sliding-scale tax credit, which will allow you to deduct up to 50 percent of what you pay on employee premium costs (not including their families).
Another benefit you can offer to your employees is paid time off or PTO. Paid time offer is a lump sum of paid days off per year that will cover everything from vacation time to sick days. This lump sum of time off, will not be as costly to your business as offering a certain amount of days for sick leave, personal time, bereavement time, and vacation time throughout the year and it allows employees more flexibility in taking time away for whatever they need. You as the owner can decide how many days you are able to give employees and whether the time off will be granted or accrued, with many small businesses choosing the accrual method of employees working the extra time to be placed in banked time off. This can be a cost to your business, however, it is a much smaller cost compared to the cost of hiring and training the replacement of an unhappy employee. For sick leave, make sure to read and follow your state’s guidelines for sick leave as you may have to follow different guidelines and requirements according to your state.
Your current and future employees will also appreciate working for you when you are able to provide paid holidays. Your employees would much rather be spending their holidays with their loved ones rather than being at work, but most cannot afford to lose a day of pay. You can decide which holidays you would like to offer to your workers, it would also be a great policy to allow a policy where employees can choose their holidays in certain instances; for instance an employee can choose to swap out having Christmas as a paid holiday for their own religious holiday, such as Hanukah or Ramadan.
Another important benefit that many employees are looking for is parental leave, specifically paid parental leave. You, like many small business owners, may steer away from offering parental leave as you feel it is an extreme cost to your business, though, a number of small businesses that provide parental leave argue it is not. Many business owners who offer the leave, claim that it would be rare for many employees to use this leave as you may get those who do not want children, already had them, or are not ready for them. Employees who would be utilizing this benefit would be a rare few, but they will appreciate having the option and it will again be less costly compared to the cost of hiring another employee. Also, some businesses give employees the flexibility to work from home full or part-time (if they are able to) for a short-time following the leave, to allow employees more flexibility after their children are born. This can keep businesses from avoiding the costs of hiring temporary workers and keep other employees from having to manage a greater deal of responsibilities with a member being out.
Offering your employees a retirement plan option is a benefit that many, especially your older employees, will appreciate. Many payroll service providers, such as local accountants, will offer low-cost payroll services with retirement plans for small business owners. Not only will the accounting firm take-away the headache from having to deal with extracting the payments for the retirement accounts, but they will be able to provide you insight and tax advice; you may also be able to qualify for a tax deduction if you provide contributions to your employees’ retirement plans.
With a younger generation now being the main workforce over baby boomers, your business will need to adapt and cater to the needs of these newer generations. One way your business can attract and maintain millennials and generation z is to offer flexible work schedules. You may offer your employees the opportunity to take half days here and there when needed or perhaps allow them to work from home once a week. A flexible schedule option will vary based on your business and it’s specific needs; for instance in a restaurant you cannot give the option to your chefs or wait staff to work from home, however you may give the option for them to work hours that are more flexible for their personal schedule.
Your business does not have to be in the food industry to be able to provide free meals and food to employees. If your business is an eatery, then you will be able to offer your employees some of the food you provide for free; even if your business is a tech firm or hair salon, you could still have food catered in once in a while for employees or have snacks and refreshments available for them to grab throughout the work day. Providing meals for your employees at your business location could also qualify your business to receive a meal deduction for up to 50 percent of the cost of the meals.
Casual Dress Code
A casual dress codes is another perk you can give to your employees that help your business to recruit more workers. Perhaps offering a day of the week, in which your employees can come in wearing jeans and a t-shirt or other types of casual attire.
Holiday Parties/ Pot lucks
Another low-cost perk would be to rent out a local center and host a Holiday Party for your employees, this will give them a break from the holiday pressures and appreciate making it like they are your family. This simple gesture of a holiday party could also make your company eligible for a business deduction, in which 100 percent of the cost is deductible. If your budget does not allow for you to rent out a space, you can use your work space and have all employees participate in a pot-luck allowing them to take a break from their work schedules to mingle with one another and relax.
If your business is, for instance, in the retail or food industry than you can also provide your employees with an employee discount. This will not only offer incentives for employees joining your business, but it will help to increase the sales of your business as your employees will be more inclined to want to buy products from you at the discount than pay full price elsewhere.
Bring pets to Work
Many younger workers are opting to have pets over children. As long as none of your other employees have an allergy or there are no federal or state requirements that forbid it, you can offer employees to bring in their pet perhaps once a month (as long as the pet is sufficiently trained and will not cause a disruption). You should use caution with this perk as other employees and/or your clients may be uncomfortable or have a fear of certain animals being around them.
There are a number of benefits that your small business can offer to help bring in new employees and ensure that your current employees will be happy, continuing to stay. It is best to meet with a small business accountant to go over your cash flows and create a budget to help guide you on what benefits you can offer to ensure your employees are kept happy, while your business stays out of the red.
Looking for financial guidance in setting up or revising benefits for your employees?
Schedule free consultation with us at https://chamberlandco.com/.
Our economy is forever changing and often times, unpredictable, so we may never know when the next recession comes forward or how long it will last for. Many businesses, especially our local, small businesses, fear that any longstanding recession can place them in the negatives and eventually out of business. Thankfully, there are 8 steps you can take that will keep your business improving during uncertain times.
1.) Take Control of Cash- Cash is crucial to the survival of your business. Collect all accounts receivable, be careful granting credit to new customers monitor all purchases, and pay only those item, which will literally keep the doors open.
2.) Know Your Costs- Understand how much each product or service line actually costs. Don’t sell products or services you lose money on. Having this information will allow you to focus on the more stable and profitable areas.
3.) Produce Accurate Financial Information- Businesses that produce accurate financial statements within 20 days of each month and weekly flash reports have the tools to better manage their business. This information allows you to head off a crisis, better manage your cash, and give you the information to prevent losses.
4.) Listen- Gather as much data as possible by talking with employees, customers, future customers and people in the same or similar industry. You can use this feedback to chart a better and more profit-driven future.
5.) Planning, Goal Setting, Focus- Now that you have gathered your data, it is time to formulate a strategic plan toward success. Always keep in mind that both employees and customers look to you for leadership and it is up to you to provide it. Set a 3 year, 1 year, 90 day, and weekly goals that you will update quarterly. It is critical to stay focused on cash flow while constantly maintaining a secure cash reserve. It is essential never to compromise quality for price and always create value.
6.) Right Size- Eliminate all waste! The three biggest costs in a business, other than product or service cost are: payroll, facility, and equipment. You must position these costs to make a profit at the current level of sales. You must also make sure you have the right people working for the company.
7.) Raise New Cash- New cash can give a company a big advantage, enabling increased marketing and sales efforts, finalizing new orders and facilitating efficiency. However, you only want to raise external cash if you are 100 percent sure you will be able to make a profit.
8.) Marketing Budget- Marketing is essential for a business to maintain its awareness and visibility or grow. Do not waste precious time and money marketing where your target audience is not and use feedback from customers to find where they are. Opt out of costly TV commercial slots, newspaper ads, or billboards; instead use social media platforms your audience is on such as: Facebook, Linkedin (B2B), Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You can also use the social platform’s paid advertising that can offer a low-cost way to reach your target audience. Also choose email marketing and use free platforms such as Mail chimp to stay top of mind or Google adwords to bring new leads to your website.
Operating a small business in uncertain times can be both a stressful and frightening experience for business owners. It is best to have an experienced accountant to help you maintain cash flowing into your business, record and manage accurate financial records, and provide expert advice on the best decisions and budgets to make, so your business continues to profit and grow.
Is your bookkeeping becoming too much to handle or you are unsure if you are properly recording all of your records? You may be looking for someone to help you take on the burden of your business’s bookkeeping but are unsure which professional should you hire, a bookkeeper or an accountant. Both professionals will share a common goal, however, there are a number of differences in the role of a bookkeeper versus an accountant as well as the difference between hiring both professionals or getting all the services in one place.
A bookkeeper is a professional that is responsible for recording and classifying your company’s daily financial transactions that will include sales, payroll, payment of bills, etc. In this process they will look over your bank statements, receipts, and other forms of documentation to review each transaction and make sure they are placed in the correct categories. The focus of the bookkeeper is to ensure that your records are accurate and up-to-date, with all of the databases, spreadsheets, and accounting systems have the correct data and are placed in the correct accounts to ensure that all of the bills are paid and the proper reports can be pulled.
An accountant is one who has a 4-year degree and in cases with CPA’s who will have a 5-year degree in accounting and usually a master’s degree in Taxation or some other area of accounting. Accountants and CPA’s will have a higher level of expertise and experience compared to bookkeepers and are responsible for overseeing and checking the work of the bookkeeper. An accountant will take the financial records the bookkeeper had organized and will analyze and interpret the data where they then will compile it into reports or financial statements. Accountants are crucial in helping you to make decisions in your business that you are unsure of, they are there to help guide you through critical business decisions.
You know realize that your business will need both professionals in order to properly operate and successfully last, but do you go with hiring both or choosing a firm that does all in one? If you choose to hire a separate bookkeeper from your accountant and they are an onsite bookkeeper you can expect to pay the national average of between $30,000 to $40,000 depending on where you live while an off-site bookkeeper can cost you anywhere between $60,000 to $80,000 per year at $30 to $40 per hour. The other down side to having your bookkeeper separate from your accountant is that your accountant will not be overseeing your bookkeeper’s work year-round; this means you would have to make sure they are recording everything properly or your accountant will have to fix everything at the end of the year, which can become quite costly.
If decide to choose an accounting firm that will also manage your bookkeeping work than you will usually have more of an advantage over those who don’t. Not only will your business have a bookkeeper that will do all your work, but you will also have an accountant manager that constantly oversees the bookkeepers work to ensure everything is recorded and categized accurately. This also means that you will have an accountant year-round available to track the financial health of your business and provide guidance on making the most profitable decisions for your business. Having your bookkeeping and taxes completed in one place also means you’re at the front of the line for taxes to be done, while you would have to “get in line” when your bookkeeping is handled outside the firm; you may also have to wait on your bookkeeper sending all of the necessary documents to your accountant which can add time to your tax return wait.
Your business will require both professionals, however, it is personal choice on what works best for your business. To many small businesses, it makes the most sense to have their bookkeeping work and taxes for their business done in the same firm for both value reasons and financial. You will not have to worry about spending extra money on hiring two separate professionals and full-service firms will often offer a more affordable pricing option to receive all of your accounting services at one place. Many also enjoy the extra perks of having their bookkeeping and other accounting services in one place such as their accountant being able to provide year-round guidance and receiving more insight into the business’s finances. It is best for you to look over your business and decide financially and strategically which option would work best for you.
There has been a lot of controversy this tax season over tax payers claiming that they are receiving a much smaller tax return this year. To many, this may seem like the government has taken more money from you and you’re not getting back the amount you should. This, however, is misinformation that has been being spread around this tax season, especially on social media and the web. This year, taxes were filed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which was signed into law in December 2017 by President Donald Trump and is the biggest tax code reform the country has seen in a long time. Politics aside, the new tax law had made it so that more Americans had a reduction in their tax bill.
If you receive a large tax refund, it means that you should change your withholding on your W-4 form, as a large tax refund simply means that you overpaid the IRS that year. This essentially means that you are giving the IRS an interest free loan for the year that they eventually return back to you in the form of a tax return. If your tax return is smaller or you don’t see a tax return at all, this can actually be good news because you either paid the correct amount or did not give as much extra taxes to the IRS to hold on to. A tax return is not a bonus, like many come to believe and this is money that you and your family could have used throughout the year to invest, save, paid down debt, or took vacations.
Many tax payers may not have also noticed that thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they had more money in their take home pay. The new tax law had created new, mostly lower tax brackets so many Americans were paying less in taxes and keeping more money in their paycheck, which also resulted in smaller tax returns for this year, not the government taking more money than you owed.
It is best to work with an accountant to discuss the correct amount you should be withholding on your W-4 so you can not only avoiding paying more than you should to the IRS, but also to ensure you are paying enough of what you owe so you can avoid tax penalties and having to owe at the end of the year.