Practical advice can help clients navigate uncertainty
Promoted by Intuit QuickBooks.
Clients, staff and accountants themselves are all under pressure.
- Businesses have to make tough decisions to cut costs.
- Creditors may be willing to negotiate terms.
- Accountants have the right to drop difficult clients.
Providing essential support in COVID
Hima Gupta’s phone started ringing the moment the government announced there would be grants to help businesses survive the first lockdown.
“Clients were asking me whether they would qualify, how they could apply, how much money they’d get, what the grants would look like – all questions I didn’t have answers for because the details hadn’t been released,” she says. “I quickly realised that just saying ‘I don’t know’ wasn’t enough for many clients in such uncertain times. So, until I was able to tell them more, I suggested they take practical steps to such as looking for ways to reduce their outgoings.”
Hima, whose business 3E Accounting is based in Sydney’s inner west, helped clients to review their expenses and cut back on everything but essential costs. She also suggested they talk to creditors about deferring payment or settling on a payment plan.
This often meant negotiating with the ATO.
“About 60 per cent of my clients are in the construction industry – plumbers, scaffolders, builders and developers – and many of them had a really profitable quarter before lockdown,” she says. “That left them with a substantial outstanding tax bill when their work just stopped. In general, the ATO was very helpful and agreed to spread the payments across 12 months or so, which made a big difference to cashflow.”
Just when the worst appear to be over, COVD once again brought parts of Australia to a halt.
“I thought last year was hard, but this year is harder,” says Hima. “No-one knows how long this outbreak will last, and clients who worked so hard to keep their doors open are wondering how they’re going to stay afloat. They’re facing even more difficult decisions, such as standing down staff, just to survive.”
Under mounting pressure herself, Hima learned the hard way that sometimes she had to say no.
“I was telling my clients to take care of themselves and put themselves first but not doing it myself,” she says. “My head was spinning and I was waking up in the middle of the night doing calculations. Then I realized that nothing is ever worth losing your peace of mind over. I give my clients all the support I reasonably can but, for some, that isn’t enough. Once I decided to tell them I’m not the right fit as their accountant I started sleeping a lot better.”
Intuit QuickBooks is helping her to spend more time on, rather than in, her business. She plans to take on more staff in the future to reduce her mounting workload – and she is also vetting new clients more closely.
“A good accountant/client relationship can be very beneficial to both sides, so I think it’s important to have a discussion to see if you can work well together,” she says. “It’s very hard to help someone who doesn’t appreciate your advice.”