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posted: 5/14/2020 1:00 AM

Suiting up in the quarterback role: Your accountant?

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  • Brian Hagene

    Brian Hagene

 

Maybe I've been cooped up too long without my usual weekend ritual of watching sports. I can't help but think of the similarities between a quarterback's role leading a football team and my role as an accounting adviser to our clients during the COVID-19 crisis. A quarterback leads the team with vision and foresight, good communication skills and the confidence to direct his team down the field in order to score.

My role is to stay apprised of the current political climate, governmental guidelines and tax changes, then communicate important updates to clients. For the past two months, we have connected our clients with the resources they need to make decisions and survive the current crisis.

Many business owners have survived downturns in business, including the 2008 recession; however, these are unprecedented times. One of the biggest concerns we have heard from clients is around cash flow. Monitoring cash flow and providing access to financial information is what we do. We also reassure our clients when they have questions about what to do to survive the pandemic. Like a quarterback encourages his team when they're down, we are here to provide our clients with sensible advice and expertise.

That expertise extends to new government programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program which was rolled out to help small businesses, self-employed individuals and independent contractors. The government made available more than $600 billion in loans to cover payroll and other expenses through existing Small Business Administration lenders to help vulnerable businesses stay afloat and retain their employees.

However, since the loans are based on payroll numbers, many businesses have struggled with how to calculate the payroll costs needed to apply for the loans. Additionally, once the loan is received, how can they make sure that the loans will be forgiven? It's not just about applying for and receiving the loan. This change will affect cash flow analysis, bookkeeping, payroll services, and financial statements, not to mention changes to taxes and financial projections which have turned on a dime during this crisis.

In addition to providing essential accounting services, answering questions and easing our clients concerns, we also facilitate communications with other trusted advisers like attorneys and the bankers and commercial lenders responsible for disbursing the loans. During our 33 years in business, we've built solid relationships with bankers who have proved to be vital resources to our clients. As a team, we huddle up and figure out what information is needed to apply for the loan, then help them get their information organized. We track cash flow and the documentation a business owner will need for loan forgiveness.

If a business owner hasn't been paying attention to the numbers, there's no better time to begin. A small business needs accounting services as much as any large organization. As a company grows, their need for accounting services may change, requiring us to take a more consultative role. Accounting firms not only help business owners plan for taxes and succession planning, we also assist with financial planning and ensure compliance with bank loan covenants.

The pandemic has become a global timeout, almost like halftime. Like many of you, we've gone back into the locker room, reassessed our priorities and shifted the conversations we are having with our clients. Since federal and state governments have moved tax payments deadlines to July 15, we are focused on how we can support our clients and their needs right now.

We offer you words of encouragement and advice -- pay attention to your numbers, stay connected to your banker, and let us be of service to you, however we can.

• Brian Hagene, CPA, CGMA, is a partner at Mathieson, Moyski, Austin & Co., LLP, an accounting firm based in Wheaton. Contact him at bhagene@mmaadvisors.com.