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Opinion: In crisis, get a hand or lend a hand

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As I write this column, the COVID-19 tsunami has come ashore. There is fear, frustration and uncertainty as the pandemic spreads.

What will be the impact? Massive loss of life. Communities rocked. Governments scrambling. Economic systems upheaved.

For some business owners, there are brighter days on the other side of this crisis. If you are light on debt and have gotten disciplined with cash flow, you may be in a position to dramatically expand once we find our way to dry land.

We will get through this. There will be lovely moments, spent together as families – and over video conferencing. There will be lessons learned about staying healthy and creating a better health care system.

Some people will be poised for a business rebound. Many prior to the outbreak were only a paycheck or a sale away from disaster.

There are times in our lives where we are going to need a hand. For example, when we’re very little and when we’re very old. Or when disaster strikes.

And there are times in our lives where we’re in a position to lend a hand.

Here are the money matters first to consider. If you have been lax in any way with your financial reporting, it’s time to shore it up. Audit your balance sheet and profit and loss statement. Work with your accountant (over video conference) and get caught up.

The basics are:

• 2019 financials – done, even if you don’t have to file or pay yet.

• Last month – closed; use a month-end checklist.

• Current – balance sheet and P&L review every week.

• Payroll – current, accurate and in compliance.

Here are some of the bare bones basic numbers to track: profits and losses; sales, cost of goods sold, overhead and net profit; and total gross wages. Then, compare the numbers to budget, balance sheet, cash flow, details of accounts receivable and payable, and debt.

Get the facts, and you’ll sleep better. You can see how much money you have, how much money is coming in and where the money is going.

Help will be available from vendors, other business owners, family members, partners, your associations or franchise partners, and local, state and federal governments. Help may come in the form of good advice, materials and personal protective equipment, extra hands to help with projects, payment deferments and loans. For the most part, your financial partners may offer deferment but not forgiveness.

For us to survive, literally, we all need to get a hand and lend a hand. Keeping people solvent is everyone’s responsibility.

Perhaps you’re in a position to lend a hand. Maybe you are debt free and have stockpiled some savings. You may be able to offer a hand and it is OK to have guidelines for doing so. The U.S. government is giving massive financial relief, and oversight is built right into it. You may be able to help your team members by paying them in spite of them not working or relieve some accounts receivable for those getting hit harder than you. If you are able, the caution is that at some point that may put you in a financial bind. It is reasonable and responsible to ask those whom you are helping for access to their financial information.

And if you need a hand, ask for it. Be willing to concede to oversight. I’m committed to using the current crisis situation as a springboard to better leadership, accountability and performance in every area of my life – and the lives of people under my stewardship.

We’ll get through this. Hand in hand.

Metaphorically.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.

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