5 Ways CPAs Can Help Businesses Recover From COVID-19
From maximizing cash flow to minimizing risk, certified public accountants are proving to be critical strategic business advisors.
By Mike Malee |
Digital Exclusive - 2020
The spread of COVID-19 has spurred a trifecta of global crises: health, humanitarian, and economic. In many ways, the events we are living through now are unprecedented—from large-scale quarantines and school closings, to mass layoffs and business shutdowns. Organizations worldwide have accelerated actions to protect employees, customers, suppliers and, yes, financial results.
In the first half of the year, numerous companies were forced to cut back, significantly slashing expenses to survive as revenues nose-dived. For many, aggressive cost-savings strategies yielded a spike in growth in the third quarter. But there’s reason to be cautious. A recent Wall Street Journal article
projects a leveling off as 2020 draws to a close.
Amid continued uncertainty, the need for business leaders to surround themselves with trusted, strategic, skilled, and forward-focused advisors is amplified. Finance and accounting staff, particularly those that are certified public accountants (CPAs), directly contribute to a company’s financial health as well as its ongoing resilience. Sure, all finance and accounting employees are smart and capable; they know how to balance budgets, analyze financial statements, and crunch numbers. But CPAs are adept at managing complexity; they have experience with planning and forecasting, and they know how to think—and act—on their feet during emergencies, both internal and external. They track the ever-evolving world of accounting, including embracing new technologies and being fully immersed in data analytics. These are the people every business leader needs on their team. And during times of crisis, CPAs are invaluable. Here are five ways CPAs are putting their experience and expertise to work for businesses now.
1. Shoring up vital supply chains
The global pandemic has restricted the free movement of people, materials, and goods. Because of this, business leaders must figure out new ways to secure their company’s supply chains. CPAs are uniquely qualified to help manage and mitigate the risks that challenge companies dependent on complex supply chains. Managing cash and capital is just as important as managing the flow of services, products, and relationships among partners. By combining supply chain, procurement, and financial management capabilities with advanced technology and data, CPAs can both streamline and optimize the flow of financial information between buyers and suppliers, minimizing disruption and improving decision-making. CPAs are also able to help do the hard work of digitizing and automating core processes to reduce exposure to risk and create resilience.
2. Reevaluating budgets and investments
As companies around the world plan for 2021, the budgetary ramifications of COVID-19 loom large. The pandemic is far from over, so the future remains unpredictable. When it comes to uncertainties and changing economies, CPAs know how to adapt and flex, and help their clients and organizations do the same. CPAs have strong skills in budgeting and forecasting and are capable in accelerating and updating both so that business leaders have access to real-time data and metrics to guide operations- and investment-related decisions over the next year. It’s likely some decisions will change month-to-month as market conditions spurred by the pandemic continue to also change.
3. Maintaining cash flow
Cash flow remains top of mind for business leaders, and rightfully so. As available cash in addition to accessible, incremental capital is qualified, CPAs are well positioned to combine those numbers with forecasting models associated with up-to-date sales projections and reporting metrics that track real-time liquidity. This depth of insight enables executives to spot opportunities to curb spending throughout the organization while also prioritizing payments. In times of crisis, such as now, when conditions are changing constantly and a cash shortage remains a possibility, CPAs are essential to helping establish a framework that executives can use to monitor conditions and make cash decisions that ultimately impact the company’s ability to survive in the short-term and then thrive as demand returns.
4. Minimizing risk
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced industry leaders to accelerate digital technology adoption to safeguard and advance their businesses. But with such rapid transformation comes significant risks. Having a sophisticated, strategic advisor to help minimize financial and security risks has never been more critical than now. CPAs, who have largely built their reputations on trust and ethics, are uniquely positioned to help drive strategic planning processes, act as cross-functional business partners, and establish ethical and legal compliance. In fact, a CPA may be the best person to lead your risk management operations during a crisis.
5. Planning for the future
While the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, it won’t last forever, and it won’t be the last crisis we face. CPAs can be relied on to guide their clients and organizations through both times of calm and crisis. They continually hone their skills and strengthen their expertise through experience but also through continuing professional education, which is a requirement for maintaining licensure compliance, and many invest in ongoing learning to amplify their knowledge—and their value. For example, as COVID-19 rattled the economy, it spurred tax changes, new reporting requirements, and new loan programs. CPAs were deemed essential in both learning about these changes and helping clients and companies navigate them.
As we look beyond the short-term and begin to balance market activity with economic reality, CPAs are empowering executives with the information critical to making informed, strategic decisions and ensuring their clients and organizations not only make it through this crisis but are prepared to survive the next and thrive in each new normal that follows.
If you need a CPA to partner with, visit the Illinois CPA Society’s Find a CPA Directory at www.icpas.org/findacpa
Mike Malee is president and managing director of Becker Professional Education.