Having worked with businesses for many years, I have had the opportunity to meet many types of business owners. Among the many, the few that stand out are the true entrepreneurs: the ones who take a risk no matter the weather or the crisis, and manage to ride it all out with grace.
COVID-19 has been an ongoing crisis for many businesses. One of my clients, the owner of a direct marketing company, stands out. He was faced with a complete stop to his business when the first stay-at-home orders hit – a complete disruption to the company’s project schedule for the rest of 2020, which was full of high-dollar work. Instead of letting this defeat him, he called me and said, “I need to do something. What can I do? I need your help.”
Out of all my clients, he was the one who asked the correct question. All the others asked me how I can help them with their loan and/or forgiveness applications, directly running to the government aid to bail them out. He was different – because of his entrepreneurial spirit, I knew we could work together as a team to get him through this crisis.
Initially, we scheduled some meetings to go over different topics and needs. In the first several sessions, we worked through getting the company some cash flow with the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Industry Disaster Loans, and brainstormed some strategies for alternative sources of work for his team. The fruits of our efforts? Both loans funded and some projects were put on board.
His team went back to work. Income started to come back in. Not the same stream as before, but a strong effort, despite the initial outlook of doom and gloom. My client maintained his connections well and made new ones. He had a drive to keep his team working and take care of them.
Sadly, his team did not feel the same way. They had gone on unemployment during the time when there was no work, and when they came back, there were some errors in unreported vs. actual time. Once again, my client stepped up, and with my guidance, was able to resolve the situation.
This very sticky situation could have been a ticking time bomb. I’ve seen many business owners fail when it comes to tests like that – and it always comes back in their face. Everything was reported and brought into compliance, decisively and rapidly. To this day, he sleeps at night because we proactively handled the crisis.
Throughout the rest of the year, we had many conversations to plan and act, rather than waiting for things to get better. The end result for tax year 2020 is that his company’s gross receipts were reduced by half, a stiff blow to any company. However, in this case, it was a victory. Without our teamwork, he was facing a 90 percent reduction in revenue and no work. He has also gotten much smarter at looking at other aspects of his business, including his client base, overhead, and prospects.
Advising a client during COVID-19 has made us stretch our muscles when it comes to handing the client the right advice at the right time. Working with clients is no longer limited to tax preparation. We must extend our reach and knowledge past our normal limits, and stay ahead of the game, no matter how twisted it may be. Topics cross many tax borders, income, sales, and payroll taxes, as well as extending into insurance, regular loan payments, state nexus, and other topics we might not necessarily deal with on a regular basis. Having a strong network and reference library is key to being the leading partner in your relationship with your clients.
Working with my client this past year has not felt like something out of the ordinary. We always had this kind of relationship. It’s what he came to me for: to be his advisor through thick and thin. It’s why all my clients come to me. So, in order to work with me and my team, prospective clients are screened. We add value to what they do, so if a repetitive mindset is not there from the beginning, we know there is nothing that can be done to help them.
We love to be the champion for our clients. This time has been one where we can come forward and let our expertise shine. Helping my client through all the heartache and headache that is still ongoing has reinforced a lesson I, myself as an entrepreneur, learned when my first business failed. If you position yourself correctly, you can withstand anything!
Editor’s note: We know Susan’s story is not unique, so if you have similar stories to share of how you helped your clients, please share them below. The Intuit® Tax Pro Center has a full library of articles related to advisory services. Check them out today.