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updated: 11/11/2020 3:42 PM

How my accounting firm is handling the pandemic

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  • Michael Leonard

    Michael Leonard

 
By Michael Leonard
Leonard and Associates

The current health crisis will have long-lasting economic implications. It has many accounting firms scrambling to meet their customers' concerns, adhere to novel legislative updates and safeguard their workers.

Nonetheless, the pandemic has also ensured that financial professionals can learn critical lessons that have strengthened their roles in an uncertain future.

This article will highlight a collection of our company's actions since the crisis onset and what knowledge my team members and I have learned from this unprecedented period.

The most reassuring lesson from this period was the confirmation that accountants have an invaluable role. The volatility introduced by this illness meant that most businesses were struggling to maintain their client base.

The crisis revealed which skills consumers desired most and which ones empowered us to develop strategies that serve the market. Our firm has learned extensively about our clients' and colleagues' mindsets and how sound our growth strategy and visions are.

We quickly realized that our duty as trusted economic advisers are indispensable and maximized this chance without inconveniencing our customers. Although we encountered newer challenges, we also discovered the value we add to our consumers' businesses, by helping them navigate the unknown.

Doing so meant we became "lifesavers," as we guided our clients through navigating the PPP funds and advised them on how to survive unexpected problems. This goodwill significantly helped them recover and ensured we maintained a satisfied and enthusiastic client base.

My father founded this accounting firm in 1971, and I assumed control in 2011 after four decades of steady profits and happy consumers. We hope to continue this culture, by giving our consumers the self-confidence boost they critically require and by remaining first responders for most small businesses.

They can trust us, cease to consider us as commodities and look to us to keep them financially healthy. We are providing strategic insight and preparing consumers for unforeseen events. Consequently, we have heavily integrated technological applications to enhance company operations and boost efficiency.

For instance, we have implemented a cloud-based software that allows clients and new customers to upload tax documents for our review. This process is critical during applications for loans, as firms seek to survive and thrive without losing their value. This program also helps professionals comprehend an organization's standing to offer the perfect advisory information that suits the specific client firm.

This pandemic has caused most industries to either collapse or remain crippled for extended periods. Also, most organizations are advising their employees to remain homebound and execute their duties remotely.

Therefore, most existing engagements have been impacted, introducing a new landscape that presents more chances for accounting firms to advise their customers.

Moreover, we are also offering continuing services, including business and personal tax preparation, tax resolution, tax planning and consulting. However, we have slightly altered our approach because we now consider the pandemic's influence on all businesses.

The coronavirus disaster may have settled into an extended siege; we are not sure when the end is coming. For example, we are assisting some of our consumers in addressing the pandemic's indirect impacts and implementing long-lasting plans if the crisis extends much further.

As a result, our software is critical, since it enables me to assign different tasks to all employees, depending on our current consumers' needs. I can select workers to handle inquiries, give advice and solve technical issues without ignoring any duties or under-serving any customer.

This is all from my entire staff working from home. Our firm has embraced its advisory capacity, and we strive to guide customers concerning their cash flow wants.

This change implies, informing them how to manage downturns and reliefs and adjust their models to incorporate restart efforts. Additionally, we are aiding clients whose revenue streams remain crushed months into the crisis and those struggling to find financial institutions that can process their PPP loans.

As such, we continue now to assist countless businesses to have their PPP loans forgiven. We also keep working with new businesses to qualify for the SBA disaster loans. For instance, we have secured more than $25 million of low-interest funding for our client businesses through the SBA disaster assistance programs. We are focusing less on compliance work and more on advisory services, to ensure that most of our clients can survive this crisis.

We have been conducting our operations with numerous helpful considerations in mind. For instance, we have revisited previous engagement letters to ensure they reflect our clients' current arrangement. We have encouraged our clients to actively participate, as we review these documents, so all parties can clarify updated products and sign onto a new deal.

We are consistently monitoring collection and billing activities. Some of our customers have struggled to clear their invoices, primarily due to cash flow limitations. Therefore, we are proactively discussing alternatives and adjusting payment requirements.

Luckily, we have not had to suspend services, as most consumers have promptly paid or agreed to payment plans that suit both parties. The ramifications of this virus are still unknown. As my father would say, "The way out is the way through." I will continue to guide my clients through these unchartered times.

• Michael Leonard is the managing partner of the accounting firm Leonard and Associates.