Proper cash flow management is an obvious solution to the issue of financial uncertainty. Providing business clients with a cash flow forecast can help alleviate anxiety for the future of their business, and instill confidence, and an actionable plan to keep their business buoyant.
To help shed some light on the importance of cash flow management, we held a webinar hosted by our UK based Account Manager Loreena Maguet, with guest speakers Sharon Pocock, MD and Chief Innovator of firm Kinder Pocock, Hannah Waumsley, Success Manager at Chaser, and Sam Fairbairn, Account Manager at Float. For more information, you can watch the full webinar here.
Here are just six of the many points they touched upon across their conversation:
1) Focus on cash flow management to dispel uncertainty.
Before lockdown, the main issue business owners faced was the fear of the unknown. Although many governments across the world have made the tough decision to close down non-essential businesses, these stringent measures were almost unimaginable only a few months ago. Uncertainty is a breeding ground for worst-case thinking and poor decision making, which is why cash flow management is so vital.
Cash flow forecasting provides clients with a clear understanding of money coming in, money going out, and when this will happen. Knowing this is key to charting the way forward, whether it involves government aid, a private loan, or eliminating unnecessary costs. Whether a business has enough money in the bank to last for a few months, weeks, or days, having the data in hand provides a clear path to the next actionable step.
2) Understand the needs of your clients’ business.
While a cash flow forecast will help you understand the health of your client’s business, it’s important to remember that it’s not the only factor in play. Some businesses might have made the jump to working from home with ease, while others might have temporarily closed up shop—everyone’s situation is different. Know what you’re dealing with ahead of time, and bear that in mind when reaching out to your clients. What is the biggest issue they face? Do they have staff to care for? Are they struggling to make the transition to operating online? Have they had to shut up shop under the new restrictions? Along with a cash flow forecast, what can you offer that will really help them overcome their specific challenges?
3) Understand the needs of your clients.
Empathy is going to be paramount, and key to effective empathy is the capacity for regular check-ins, and the willingness to really listen. Aside from business concerns, everyone is worried about their health, their family, the news, the economy. With situations evolving at a breakneck speed, clients who were calm and composed one week, may hit an emotional roadblock the next. Keep lines of communication open, be ready to change strategy and direction if need be, and have an open heart and a supportive (virtual) shoulder to cry on. Your clients won’t forget it.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If there is one thing we have seen over and over again across the last few weeks, it’s that we’re all in this together. Just as business owners can look to their accountants for help, accountants can also find support with their app partners. Spotlight Reporting, Chaser, and Float all have resources and offers to help accountants help their clients through this period. More than that, the teams at these companies will have seen numerous strategies put in place by accounting firms across niches, and across the world. They might have specific information that could help you and your business change direction, and start making a difference. Reach out to them—they’re always happy to help.
5) Don’t forget your own business.
While you’re busy reaching out to clients and helping them keep their businesses buoyant, it is important to remember that at the end of the day, an accounting firm is also a business. You won’t be any use to anyone if your own business goes under, so take some time out to do a cash flow forecast for yourself, make sure that what you’re offering is still viable, and that your own family and staff are provided for. Although the world is going through a devastating period, there are some good things that we can bring through with us out the other side. Use this time as a period for analysis, and make good adaptions permanent. For example, adoption of cloud technology is at an all time high, and this is changing the landscape of office life for the better. Despite the fact that our employees are all working from home, collaboration between teams globally has risen due to the use of tools and platforms like Slack, Zoom, Trello, and Yammer. Even when we get back to the office, we aim to ensure that this becomes the new norm.
6) Look at what other top firms are doing (like Kinder Pocock)
Sharon Pocock and the staff at Kinder Pocock spent their first week in lockdown calling each and every one of their clients, to ascertain what was needed. They then compiled notes from each of these calls into a spreadsheet, and colour coded their clients according to the amount of immediate attention needed. From there, they set up routine check-ins, and created action plans for business owners and themselves to work through together. Action plans held both accountant and client accountable, generated momentum, and helped clients feel more in control.
While triaging individual clients, Sharon and Kinder Pocock also started disseminating relevant information through social media and webinars, sometimes typing up a “translation” of government information as it was released directly into Facebook. These channels are a fantastic way to get information across from one to many, freeing up time for more one-on-ones.
In an incredibly generous move, Sharon didn’t restrict these resources to her clients, but opened them up to the wider public. “I’m on a mission to help all the small businesses,” she said, “but I think that’s what we need to do at the moment. They need our help. All of us together need to be there for them. There’s no other choice, really.”