What's Your Client Covid19 Game Plan?
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced accountants to change their modus operandi. Social distancing mandates and self-isolation rules have taken face-to-face client meetings off the agenda at a time when clients are in desperate need of help. Not only that, the majority of staff in the profession are now working remotely as Federal and State Governments release stimulus packages, grants and subsidies to rescue anxious business owners.
It’s a whole new world and accountants have had to quickly adapt to this evolving crisis and find new ways to function to help their clients weather the storm. For the past few years we have had a generation of young accountants wanting the flexibility of working from a remote location but most smaller firms have been reluctant to make the call. They are concerned about the distractions and productivity and generally view it as a perk rather than a staff retention strategy. A month ago, even the most progressive firms couldn’t imagine all the team working remotely from home for weeks or possibly months on end. At the end of this pandemic it will be mainstream.
COVID 19 struck with little or no warning and the uncertainty has created panic, anxiety and fear. Entrepreneurs don’t like to sit idle but a lot of businesses have been forced into hibernation on the back of government restrictions and instructions.
So, what are the risks for your firm?
It’s vital that you lead from the front because unfortunately, this crisis could spell doom for some clients. Retailers, restaurants, travel, tourism and other industries are in distress and will want advice regarding stimulus payments, employee retention, job keeper entitlements and cost cutting. Restructuring advice might also be on the agenda and there could be fee pressure from these struggling clients. Their work might need to take priority in the short term but they might be very slow payers.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom because some industries will boom. If your clients are supermarkets or manufacturers of medical supplies, toilet paper or cleaning products then they will probably enjoy a massive spike in profits. They are more likely to need tax planning services and advice around managing their growth.
Retention of your existing clients is the cornerstone of future growth and now is the time to step up as their trusted advisor. Make no mistake, this crisis presents a massive opportunity for smart accounting firms because a lot of firms are yet to communicate with their clients. They are too busy putting out client bushfires and responding to emails and calls. These business owners are getting information about the government packages second hand. Clients of the proactive firms are sharing their information with friends, family and business colleagues and when the crisis ends, I predict we will see mass migration of clients from reactive firms to proactive firms.
For years we have discussed the challenge of accountants shifting their focus from compliance to consulting work. Well, here’s your chance to make the move because it’s the perfect time to get on the front foot and start calling your business clients. Below we have put together a checklist of items to discuss with clients on that call and no doubt, these conversations will create extra work opportunities. Most importantly, they will strengthen relationships.
WHATS YOUR PLAN?
These are extraordinary times that require exceptional leadership. No one knows when this crisis will end but your clients will judge you based on how you respond.
it is judgement day because the advice you give clients could be the difference between thrive and survive. There’s no instruction manual for accountants and your clients don’t expect you to have all the answers. However, they do expect you to provide them with a game plan. They need help to identify and claim every piece of government assistance on offer. Clients with a plan are calm clients.
For the members of our coaching club, the Accountants Accelerator Group, we have produced a checklist they can roll out with their clients. Member firms are now equipped with a list of strategies to discuss with clients and each team member are deliver a consistent message.
The checklist includes strategies around:
- Update Your Financial Records - this provides a true financial picture including figures around wages, cash flow and profitability. These figures are essential to apply for some of the government subsidies that require proof of the decline in revenue as well as qualifying criteria for things like the Job Keeper payments. It also gives you a picture of their tax position which will help you decide if you need to look at deferral of any tax obligations.
- Prepare a Cash Flow Budget - not easy to produce in this these uncertain times but it’s all about calculating the business’ cash position over the next few months. Factor in the entitlement to government grants and Job Keeper payments.
- Apply for Government Stimulus Incentives - Federal Government Cash Boost of between $20k and $100k for eligible businesses
- Apply for State Government Subsidies & Grants - state by state it varies but for example, Victoria and NSW are offering $10k payments for eligible businesses. These figures can be added to the cash flow forecast.
- Job Keeper Entitlements - with updated payroll records you can assess any entitlements and those figures can also filter through to the cash flow forecast.
- Understand the Loan Concessions provided by the banks
- Tax Office Deferral Options
- Marketing Plan – every business needs a new marketing plan.
It’s time to communicate so get your team on the phones, email, Skype and Zoom. Offer special crisis coaching sessions during the day, night or weekends. Remember, some of your clients will be working remotely from home.