Weathering the COVID-19 storm

By Brian E. Ravencraft, CPA, CGMA, Partner at Holbrook & Manter, CPAs

As the accounting partner for businesses of all sizes, Holbrook & Manter is helping our clients navigate this pandemic. We are witnessing their great perseverance and new strategies for success along the way. For this month’s article, I asked some of our team members to weigh in on the following prompt:

It goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges to businesses of all sizes, across many industries. However, many of these businesses have pivoted and are finding new ways to be successful. Many businesses are finding ways to bounce back as we continue to battle the virus. Please share what you are seeing from business owners when it comes to staying the course and meeting their challenges head on.

Read on for our team member answers.

We have seen employers reprioritize their energy and focus extensively on their online presence in a variety of ways through the challenges of COVID-19. I’ve seen a streamlined ordering process online for supplies with a safe pick up process onsite or an online check in process with a salon to ease client’s concerns with exposure to staff and other customers. Companies have not only seen the challenges to remain in business, to draw new customers and invite loyal clients back to their business, but they’ve overcome them. The creativity, sense of urgency and outpouring of concern and empathy for both their employees and their community has sparked a renewed desire for many to keep their spending local. While it will always be a tragedy to see some small businesses fade away through no fault of their own, it is encouraging to see others find a renewed spirit to succeed and find a new way to do what they love.

-Chandra Reau

From my view, we are finding that business owners are focusing on revenue retention and team member retention. So, the health and safety of clients and employees are equally critical for success of hands-on types of industries. Other industries which lend themselves to remote working are leveraging technology to stay connected with clients and employees.

-Justin Linscott

I notice a lot of businesses being flexible and more understanding for certain issues that come up due to COVID. Communication is key to being able to handle challenges that arise randomly. Having both parties communicating their current issues they may be experiencing makes everything easier to resolve. I have seen some businesses change their products to meet other demands in the market such as cleaning products and masks because of the pandemic. I also see more businesses keeping more cash on hand than in previous years.

-Nathan Duffy

From my perspective the businesses that are surviving and building through these challenging times are the ones who previously invested in leadership training for their themselves and their teams. I believe that leadership is a key in these challenging environments and businesses and their management will be well served going forward in investing in developing leaders.

-Brad Ridge

The biggest winners are businesses who become flexible. The world doesn’t operate currently like it used to and neither should your business. For example, a local restaurant has historically had special pricing on items during a day of the week for dine-in only. Obviously, with COVID regulations, this could no longer be a thing. They changed their policy to extend to carryout. The first few weeks were slow, but word got out, and then it became over a 1.5-hour wait. They adjusted their policies and earned potentially lost income as a result. Also, trust your employees. Allowing more flexibility with work-from-home and setting your employees to do so comfortably, results in more productivity. Numerous businesses are surprised that people are working more hours at home. Company goals can still be met if you are flexible and trust your employees.

-Zac Anderson

One of our clients produces plastic bottles for food and household products. They have been overwhelmed with orders from existing customers to produce large quantities of bottles for hand sanitizers and soaps/cleaning products. Additionally, they have been contacted by new customers wanting these specific products as well; our client is hopeful these new customers will become long term customers for their other needs. Employees have been working significantly more hours and have received appreciation bonuses as a result.

-Linda Lehman

One thing that could be important to note during these times… money is cheap right now to refinance a house. That in turn can lower expenses for a sole proprietor in the aggregate.

-Mark Rhea

Business owners are having to adapting to the ever changing environment; realizing that the “human” aspect of business decisions have to come into play — i.e. allowing for flexibility, worrying about the isolation and other feelings your staff and customers may be feeling, etc.  Most have taken a deep dive at looking at operating expenses and made adjustments to purchasing frequency, quantities, etc. and negotiate for longer payment terms with vendors.

– Carmen George

The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has definitely impacted our clients and their respective businesses. However, many of them have found a way to pivot and adapt as best they can given their unique situation. It seems that many of our clients, mostly out of necessity, have simply adjusted their business models to make due with less inputs and resources. Also, this process has quite frankly been enlightening for many clients due to their associates’ absences from work — it did provide a fresh look at their respective associates’ role and responsibilities. To this end, some clients have analyzed and determined that they could do without some of those jobs for now and some clients have further assessed that certain accounting functions and job responsibilities could be offloaded to Holbrook & Manter’s Business Services & Solutions Team. By offloading these roles and responsibilities to Holbrook & Manter, they have most often repurposed that person’s role within their organization.

Additionally, the PPP loans have been a solid life line that permitted many businesses to keep key associates on their payroll and involved in the business ongoing activities even during the darkest days of the pandemic. The PPP loans in many cases seem to have worked as intended as once the client’s business picked back up a bit their associates were still involved and engaged in the business’s ongoing activities and could help the business continue to move forward.

In summary, clients have had to pivot and adapt to a new way to conduct their business and more importantly lean into a new normal. For those that have accepted and embraced this change, their business should candidly come out of this pandemic in a better place than when the pandemic started.

-Stephen Smith

COVID-19 has definitely impacted our client businesses, but many have found ways to battle through a shortage of staff and keeping customers engaged. We have several clients who have utilized more younger staff as many older employees have stayed home due to health concerns. Younger staff have been asked to assume more responsibilities and have done so with flying colors. They have gone through some accelerated training and have been willing to work the needed hours. This has actually helped one client have some record months of sales even after the state mandates kicked in.

Clients have taken advantage of the PPP loans and have continued to keep core staff employed in the short run so that as they have ramped back up, they are ready to assume more normal work hours as business increased. With some restaurant industry clients, they have worked hard to promote take-out service and home delivery by re-deploying employees to handle increased takeout and delivery.

The impact of COVID-19 is not over, but clients are still providing high level of customer service and communicating more though email, using Zoom meetings and other similar mediums to stay in contact and to serve their clients and customers.

-Robert Buckley

If our firm can help you navigate the pandemic, please reach out. We would be happy to assist you.

Brian E. Ravencraft, CPA, CGMA is a Principal with Holbrook & Manter, CPAs. Brian has been with Holbrook & Manter since 1995, primarily focusing on the areas of Tax Consulting and Management Advisory Services within several firm service areas, focusing on agri-business and closely held businesses and their owners. Holbrook & Manter is a professional services firm founded in 1919 and we are unique in that we offer the resources of a large firm without compromising the focused and responsive personal attention that each client deserves. You can reach Brian through www.HolbrookManter.com.

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