Given the events of the last week and how COVID-19 is affecting the world I wanted to put out some thoughts about how to manage your business through these unsettling times.
I’ve broken this down into 3 sections…
- The big picture
- Key questions for your business financials
- Government and financial support – summary as of March 18, 2020
The big picture….
- Take a deep breath and don’t panic -it sounds trite given what’s happening but if you panic your judgment is impaired and this is the time when you need your judgment more than ever. Focus on the next 3 steps you have to take and no more. Celebrate when you accomplish them and pick 3 more.
- Think about your people first. Your people need a plan – as much as you can play out different scenarios and what will happen in each for them including payroll, working from home responsibilities and connection with others in the organization. If working from home is possible make sure people have what they need to work from home including a laptop with the correct applications installed, extra screens, paperwork, how-to manuals, and office supplies if applicable. Put together regular virtual meetings or a call tree and make sure everyone knows who their contacts are within the organization to keep your workforce connected. Be honest about what we know and don’t know. Let them voice opinions and concerns.
- Lay out multiple scenarios for your business with the most severe being that you have to close. (For some of our hospitality clients, this is already a reality.) Is there a way you can offer services or products virtually? Is there a way to build goodwill with your community during this difficult time?
- Keep your financial data up to date -this is even more important right now than it ever has been. How can you make informed decisions if you don’t truly know where you stand? If you intend to apply for a BDC Loan (see below) you will need 24 months of financial information.
- Use this as an opportunity to look at other ways of working. Your business has value -look at what is unique to you and your business and ways you can leverage that virtually. Create videos using Loom or Camtasia and share them online, network with customers/clients virtually. Think outside the box.
- Be generous in spirit. Everyone’s in this together.
I truly believe that good will come out of this -everyone is affected and we are all it in together. Of course I’m concerned but I’m also excited to see the creativity that starts to flow. Here’s an interesting article for inspiration: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/03/09/li-edelkoort-coronavirus-reset/
Key questions for your business financials
Clearly the financial impact will vary depending on your business. But this applies to everybody.
- What money will still be coming in? Clearly, your ability to make your sales is the key driver. But, if you have outstanding receivables from customers, consider reaching out to my customers to see if / when they will be able to pay? [Or…. if you have financial capacity…. Offer them credit. It will win you a lot of goodwill.]
- Can I pay my people or do I have to lay them off? If you have to lay them off, make sure to file ROE’s with service Canada using the Code: D00, so they can claim EI and other benefits. Be aware of the fast-changing landscape – the Ontario government is taking measures to protect workers who may need to take leave for self-isolation or to care for loved ones. Keep up to date here: https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development.html. See also the section below for government support, to help you cover payroll.
- How will my costs change? You may save some costs (eg not having to replace purchases) but have to incur others (eg. additional cleaning supplies; purchase of extra technology that helps you work remotely).
- What bills do I have outstanding? What’s the priority of payment? Reach out to your suppliers to let them know you’re going to work with them. Or, ask if they are prepared to be flexible. Also….. See the comments below under “government help”. There’s flexibility on tax payments, as well as money available. Use it.
- What credit facilities do I have available – or can I arrange? In order of preference, we suggest: wage subsidy program; deferral of non-payroll tax payments; deferral of loan payments; suppliers giving terms; use of government loan programs via BDC, use of LoC (personal or business); credit cards.
Government and financial support (as of March 18):
This morning the PM announced significant financial support for individuals and businesses under the COVID-19 Economic response Plan: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/news/2020/03/canadas-covid-19-economic-response-plan-support-for-canadians-and-businesses.html
- Personal tax returns are now due June 1st with payments not due until August 31, 2020. But consider filing early.
We suggest you file your taxes early if you expect a refund, and / or to take advantage of enhanced support announced by the government (see link above on details of monies available – GST Credit, Canada Child Benefit Program).
Filing your return is what determines your eligibility for these programs. Our team is working remotely and will continue to process tax returns on a first come first serve basis as they come in. Please contact the office by phone or email for options on how to provide us with your tax information. CRA is now recognizing Electronic signatures for their authorization forms so there is no need to meet in person.
- Other personal income support (EI and deferral of student loan payments) – see the link above.
Separately – we note that other lenders may also allow you to defer payments (eg. car loan and mortgage payments) interest-free – call them and ask.
- Businesses can defer any income taxes (tax on profits) due from today until August 31, 2020. CRA will not charge any interest or penalty. This applies to income tax installments as well.
Please note: it’s not clear if the penalty waiver applies to just payments, or filings as well. We will work with you to continue to hit all required filing deadlines for your business.
Also, you can only delay paying tax on profits – this measure does not include HST or Payroll. We note that CRA charges interest at 6% on late payments…. so you may consider deferring HST payments as a means of credit, if possible.
We do not encourage you to stop paying payroll remittances – but see the next point below.
- Small businesses will be able to access a wage subsidy of 10% for a period of 3 months up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. You must be eligible for the small business deduction OR a non-profit or charity to qualify for this.
This can be accessed immediately by reducing your payroll remittance withheld on employees’ remuneration. If you use Wagepoint (our recommended payroll solution) we will provide an update on how this works, as soon as we know.
- On a case by case basis, all major Canadian Banks are offering programs for the deferral of mortgage payments and loan payments for businesses. We’ve spoken to WFCU and they are also offering the same deferral. Contact your branch or business banking representative.
- BDC is also offering several financing options for small businesses during this challenging time. (https://www.bdc.ca/en/pages/special-support.aspx?special-initiative=covid19)
The main criteria is that you’ve been in operation for 24 months. Applications can be submitted online. They’ve had a significant increase in the number of applications in the last 3 days. Be prepared to wait about 3 weeks for funds to be received if you qualify. These loans are unsecured.
- Small business loans up to $100,000 can be obtained by filling out an application online. They will assess the application and contact you directly.
- Working capital loans to help fund short-term cash flow crunches
- Purchase order financing to increase your cash flow to allow you to fulfill orders.
We wish you as much stability and success as possible in these challenging times.