With some states reopening their economies, the end of widespread coronavirus shutdowns might finally be in sight. But with many states still in lockdown and businesses digging out of a huge revenue hole, CARES Act government loans remain a viable, and often necessary, option for small-business owners.
With the Paycheck Protection Program replenished with cash, business owners have another opportunity to tide themselves over financially until the country can open completely and business can start to approach operating normally again.
CPA firms need to take the lead in helping their clients access funds—as well as create budgets and take other actions that will help small businesses come out of shutdowns stronger than ever. In fact, if anything, the pandemic has provided accounting firms with a useful roadmap for how to serve clients going forward.
Darren Root, CEO of Rootworks, and John Mitchell, brand director at Rootworks, discussed in a recent webinar some steps CPA firms can take to help their clients now and in the future. The webinar is available for viewing and featured in the Right Networks COVID-19 Resource Center. In the course of a discussion that covered a wide variety of topics, Root and Mitchell revealed several tactics CPA firms can use to assist clients:
Presentations. Although the coronavirus panic and resulting lockdowns seem already to have lasted for decades, the fact is that many businesses are still struggling to find sources of funding or successfully apply for loans. CPA firms can assist them with old-fashioned, although well-executed, PowerPoint presentations that explain, for instance, the differences between PPP loans and economic injury disaster loans, and what the application process involves for each loan type.
Business owners looking for answers will appreciate the guidance, and accounting firms can deepen their relationships as trusted advisors for their clients. Firms can also produce presentations on other topics, such as how to budget during a crisis.
Spreadsheets. Budgeting remains a major concern for small businesses, many of which have never actually developed budgets before and are now being forced to do so at a very difficult time. CPA firms can develop spreadsheets that help business owners answer pressing questions, including: How much cash do I have now? Which debts need to be paid now, and which can wait or be forgiven altogether? What are my current expected revenues and debits for the duration of the shutdowns?
The handy spreadsheet can also be a tool for tracking government money received once a business qualifies for a loan. Again, CPA firms can help answer critical questions from business owners: What do I need to pay back to the government, and what will be forgivable—and on what timeline? How long will loan money last, and how long will I need for it to tide me over?
Loan tracking. Of course, before businesses can manage loans, they have to qualify for them and collect the money. Accounting firms can help clients here, too. Tracking loan qualification, as well as the reception of money, and scheduling paybacks for clients is a critical service firms can provide.
Tracking debt-forgiveness submissions is another service CPA firms can provide to help clients navigate the frequently complex process of managing loans and loan repayments. Anything firms can do to take accounting work away from their clients will help them strengthen their relationships with small businesses.
The beauty of all of these services, of course, is that they’ll still be excellent practices to have in place even after coronavirus-driven panic ends and business gets back to normal. Clients are sure to remember, as well, how helpful—or not—their accounting firms were when they needed them most. CPAs have an opportunity to do some real good for their clients, and maybe for the country as a whole, right now as the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
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