A great way to start 2021 is to take a fresh look at your business finances. Many things changed in 2020, and if you are in the habit of spending on the same items year after year, it’s the perfect time to decide what is essential and what can go.

There are only a few ways to increase profits when you think about it in black and white terms. You can either raise revenues or cut costs. Let’s take a look at where we can potentially cut costs.

Publications

These expenses tend to be monthly or yearly, and we tend to just let them automatically renew time after time. But do we really need them? Take a look in your Dues and Subscriptions account to evaluate what you really need to stay informed, and cancel the rest.

Memberships

If you are a member of an organization or two, what benefits are you getting from your investment? Does it raise revenue for you? Do you use everything the membership offers? If not, it might need to go on the chopping block.

Memberships are especially tricky if the organization provides a local meeting component as a benefit and your state or county has been shut down. There’s a tradeoff right now between supporting the organization so that it’s still there when we can freely meet again and being responsible about your own business costs.

Office/Store Rent

With many employees working from home, the question has come up in many businesses about how much space they really need. As leases expire, consider how much space you really need. Some employees may love to work from home permanently, which frees up space.

Retail stores that have moved their business online may be able to cut back on customer-facing space but might need more inventory storage space. A restaurant that has successfully transitioned to pickup and delivery orders might be able to get by with a smaller seating area.

Software Apps

Are you paying for any technology applications that you are simply not using?  This is a good place to look for cuts.

Some applications charge by number of contacts.  Keeping your lists clean inside these apps will avoid increases and cut costs in some cases.

Office Supplies

Do you really still need things like staplers and scissors on everyone’s desk? If your business is going paperless, you can save a lot on office supplies.

Printing

Do you need to spend money on printing, or can the printed item be delivered electronically?

Shipping/Postage

While information can be delivered electronically, physical goods still need to be shipped.  Make sure you have the best deal with your shipping vendors based on your volume.  You may also need to consider building your shipping costs into the price of the product or add a shipping fee to the bill if you don’t already.

Marketing

A great way to increase profits is to become more intentional about your marketing costs. Are you able to measure what’s working and what isn’t? Or are you doing the same thing year after year?

Marketing has changed so much, even in the last few years. It might be time to implement digital marketing methods, which can be more cost-effective than older, outdated methods.

Labor

Make sure employees manage their time effectively by providing the right training and supervision. This should help to reduce labor expenses.

Telephone/Internet

Has your business changed?  Do you need all those extra features you are paying for?  Could you do without those extra lines?  Would another phone plan save you money on long distance or international calls? Many telecommunication companies will often bargain with you or offer you a new deal just for checking in with them.

This gives you ten places to look to cut costs and correspondingly increase profits for 2021. If you need help reviewing your income statement, please reach out.

Qualifying small businesses can now apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through certain lenders. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reopened its PPP portal on January 11, 2021 after Congress passed and the President signed legislation in December 2020, authorizing the continuation of the program and an additional $284 billion in funds.

The program allows for two types of applications:

  • First Draw Loans to qualifying entities that did not receive a PPP loan in 2020, and
  • Second Draw Loans for previous PPP loan recipients and with a narrower set of qualifications.

First Draw PPP Loans for First-Time Borrowers

Borrowers that qualify for first-draw PPP loans can apply for up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs (with caps), for a maximum loan amount of $10 million. Generally speaking, the applicants must have been in operation on February 15, 2020 and be among the following types of businesses:

  • Businesses with 500 or fewer employees that are eligible for other SBA 7(a) loans
  • Sole proprietors, some self-employed individuals, and independent contractors
  • Nonprofits, including churches
  • Sec. 501(c)(6) businesses
  • Food or lodging operations with NAICS codes that start with 72 and with fewer than 500 employees per location
  • Certain news operations with qualifying NAICS codes in the 51 range

A number of entities are specifically prohibited from receiving loans.

The SBA application for First Draw Loans is here:
https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-ppp-first-draw-borrower-application-form

The applicant must attest to the necessity of the loan, among several other declarations.

Second Draw PPP Loans for Borrowers That Received a PPP Loan in 2020

Borrowers that qualify for a second-draw PPP loan can apply for up to 2.5* times their average monthly payroll costs (with caps), for a maximum loan amount of $2 million. Generally speaking, the applicants must qualify as follows:

  • Employ no more than 300 employees
  • Have spent all of their first PPP loan on eligible expenses
  • Do not have to apply for forgiveness for the first loan ahead of receiving the second loan
  • Can show a 25 percent drop in gross receipts in any one 2020 calendar quarter from 2019. If it’s easier to show a 25 percent drop for the entire 2020 year compared to 2019, applicants can submit their tax returns as proof.

*Companies with NAICS code 72, which generally speaking are food and lodging operations, can borrow up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll costs (with caps).

The SBA application for Second Draw Loans is here:
https://www.sba.gov/document/sba-form-2483-sd-ppp-second-draw-borrower-application-form

The applicant must attest to the necessity of the loan, among multiple other certifications and declarations.

Loan Forgiveness

PPP loan recipients can apply to have PPP loans forgiven if the funds are used within a specified covered period from 8 to 24 weeks on the following eligible costs: payroll (60 percent of funds), rent, covered worker protection and facility modification expenditures, covered property damage costs, certain supplier costs, accounting (!) expenses, and a handful of other qualifying expenses.

Timing

The SBA portal opened Monday, January 11, 2021 for first-draw loans by lenders (about 10 percent) that cater to underserved communities. These include Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs), Certified Development Companies (CDCs) and Microloan Intermediaries.

On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the SBA application portal began accepting applications for Second Draw loans. A few days later, additional lenders will be added to the portals.

SBA says it “plans to dedicate specific times to process and assist the smallest PPP lenders with loan applications from eligible small businesses.”

What to Do Next

Here are some suggested steps to get ready for this next round of PPP funds.

  1. Determine which lender you want to use to apply for PPP funds.
  2. Visit your lender website to see if they have a PPP notification signup so you can get notified of updates.
  3. Collect the documents you need for the application.
    a. Payroll summary reports
    b. Profit and loss statements
    c. Tax returns
  4. Begin calculating the amounts you’ll need for the application:
    a. Gross receipts by quarter for 2020 and 2019
    b. Average monthly payroll costs, including cap limits for wages over $100,000, for the year you want to use (2020, 2019, or the year from the application date)
  5. Contact us if you need help with documentation or calculation or other advice.
  6. Contact your tax preparer about tax ramifications.
  7. Contact your attorney to evaluate the loan agreement.

Further PPP Resources

Updated PPP Lender forms, guidance, and resources are available at www.sba.gov/ppp.

CARES Act Treasury page: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares/assistance-for-small-businesses

Jan 6, 2021 SBA PPP Interim Final Rule – 82 pages
https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-IFR-Paycheck-Protection-Program-as-Amended-by-Economic-Aid-Act.pdf

Jan 6, 2021 SBA PPP Second Draw Interim Final Rule – 42 pages
https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/PPP-IFR-Second-Draw-Loans.pdf

A cashless business is one that processes all cash transactions electronically. There is no paper or coin money taken or handled. While no one society has become 100 percent cashless yet, most organizations are moving in that direction.

A business can become cash-free by providing multiple electronic alternatives to payment.  Credit cards are the most common electronic payment implementation. This option most likely includes MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express.  Some businesses also have a PayPal account and offer that method for payments. Venmo, owned by PayPal, is an efficient mobile alternative, but it is mostly used for consumer-to-consumer transactions. And there is also cryptocurrency.

Cashless businesses are more efficient, help to reduce crime, and have a better audit trail of transactions. Going cash-free also saves money and time spent counting the money, storing the money, safeguarding the money, protecting employees at risk of becoming theft victims, and physically going to the bank.

On the negative side, credit card companies charge fees to merchants, although these can now be passed to the customer in most states. Electronic transactions also require a higher level of technology, and privacy is reduced. And while security is an issue, all merchants that take credit cards must comply with PCI (Payment Card Industry) security standards and sign a document each year stating so.

If your clientele does not keep their money in a bank or if they are not able (or have chosen not) to have a credit card, you may need to rethink going cashless. About 20 percent of U.S. households are challenged when it comes to having access to checking and savings accounts. This has led to several state and local laws being passed in the U.S. prohibiting a business from going cashless. Nothing has been passed at the national level as of this writing, however the Payment Choice Act was introduced in both chambers in mid-2020.

The pandemic has accelerated the move to cashless with the desire for contactless transactions. Several countries are leading the way to becoming cash-free as an entire country, including Sweden, Finland, Norway, China, and South Korea. Sweden’s government has been the most aggressive, claiming they will become a 100 percent cashless society by 2023.

Is going cashless right for you? Meeting your customers’ needs is a prime consideration. At the very least, you can move to increase the percentage of electronic transactions and decrease the percentage of cash transactions when feasible.  This measure will save time and money in and of itself.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA 2021) became law on December 27, 2020, and among many other things, provided for a second round of potentially forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses that were financially impacted by the effects of the pandemic.

The Act not only provides funds and guidelines for a round two of PPP money; it also expands PPP round one in a number of ways.  Here are a few of the highlights.

Changes to PPP Round 1 Loans

Existing borrowers with PPP loans can reapply for a loan or request a loan increase as long as they have not received forgiveness. This includes borrowers that returned all or part of their PPP loan or whose loan maximum has increased due to regulations implemented after receipt of their loan.

Businesses that have not been granted forgiveness can spend PPP money and apply for forgiveness on an expanded list of expenses, including:

  • Software, cloud computing, HR, and accounting
  • Property damage
  • Supplier costs
  • Essential contracts in force prior to loan
  • Worker protections, e.g. PPE
  • Payroll costs can include group insurance including group life, disability, vision, dental

They can now choose their covered period at any time between 8 and 24 weeks (previously it was 8 OR 24 weeks only).

There will be a simplified forgiveness application for loans under $150,000.  However, do note that this is not the rumored rubber stamp: the backup paperwork and calculations are still required.

The SBA has until January 21, 2021 to establish the guidelines for the application process.

PPP Second Draw Loans

Additional PPP monies will be available to qualifying businesses, up to loan amounts of $2 million. The business must:

  • Employ 300 or fewer employees
  • Have used or plan to use the full amount of PPP1
  • Can prove a 25 percent drop in revenue in any quarter of 2020 compared to 2019

Businesses, certain non-profit organizations, housing cooperatives, veterans’ organizations, tribal businesses, self-employed individuals, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and small agricultural co-operatives are eligible.

In round two, borrowers may receive a loan amount of up to 2.5X the average monthly payroll costs in the one year prior to the loan or the calendar year. Businesses with NAICS code 72 (Accommodation and Food Services) may receive loans of up to 3.5X average monthly payroll costs. The rules for forgiveness are the same as in round one.

Organizations not eligible for PPP2 include:

  • Businesses not in operation on Feb 15, 2020
  • Businesses that received a Shuttered Venue Operator Grant
  • Entities normally ineligible for SBA loans in general, except for nonprofits and religious organizations
  • Political organizations and lobbyists
  • Entities affiliated with entities in the People’s Republic of China
  • Registrants under the Foreign Agents Registration Act
  • Publicly traded companies

The entire program is extended to March 31, 2021.

There are also special provisions for these types of businesses:

  • Venues
  • Farmers and Ranchers
  • Housing Cooperatives
  • News Organizations
  • 501(c)(6) and Destination Marketing Organizations
  • Businesses in bankruptcy proceedings

The disclosures have also gotten stronger, with specific provisions for collection of demographic information and required disclosures for leaders in government to publicize their receipt of PPP forgiveness as well as prohibition of them receiving PPP loans in the future.

The law gives SBA a deadline to act, which varies from 10-24 days depending on the section. The next course of action for businesses that want to apply for these funds is:

  • Continue gathering your documents,
  • Make your calculations,
  • Check with your accountant if you need help,
  • Select your SBA-approved bank, and
  • Wait for both
    • The SBA guidance and
    • Your bank to open the application portal

The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act starts on page 2042 of the 5593-page bill in case you want to see for yourself. And if not, know we’re here as your tax law interpreter, so feel free to reach out anytime.

One of the biggest tax issues of 2020 has been clarified with the signing of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, (CAA 2021), and that was whether expenses that are normally deductible and that were paid with the proceeds of a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan that is forgiven are truly deductible.

The CARES Act, which became law on March 27, 2020, was drafted so quickly that the question of deductibility was left out, but several members of Congress made it clear that deductibility was the intent all along. The IRS went the other way, publishing a notice (2020-32), a revenue ruling (2020-27), and a revenue procedure (2020-51), that took the opposite stance: PPP-related expenses that were forgiven were not deductible, therefore potentially causing business’s taxes to become much higher.

Congress has now reversed the IRS’s position with CAA 2021 in Section 276 (PPP) and 278 (EIDL). Gross income does not include forgiveness of PPP loans and emergency EIDL grants. Deductions are allowed for normally deductible expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds that were forgiven. It also provides deductibility for Second Draw PPP loans. This is all good news for taxpayers with PPP loans.

However, there could be timing issues that could reduce the deductibility of the full amount of the PPP expenses. There could also be amounts “at risk,” which is a tax term that limits your deductions in certain cases.

All of these issues need to be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. Your tax professional is your best source to help you review all of these factors so that both your PPP loan forgiveness and allowable deductions are timed to reduce your tax bill.

The 13-Week Cash Flow Forecast

If you’re having ups and downs in your cash balance, the 13-week cash flow forecast is the perfect tool to help gain clarity around your cash needs. It will help a business owner predict what their cash balance will be 13 weeks (one calendar quarter) in the future.

The forecast calculations start with entering cash receipts and cash disbursements into a spreadsheet. Start with actual spending and receipts for the first week, then use estimates for the remaining weeks. Include planned expenditures such as overhead, payroll, and loan payments. Add in inventory purchases. Project your receipts based on history or recent changes in your business.

Once you’ve completed your forecast, you can make changes and do what-if scenario planning.  For example, if the forecast shows that you will run out of cash in week seven, you have some time to decide what you need to do to remedy the shortfall. Options might be:

  • Accelerate the collection of your receivables.
  • Dip into your line of credit to cover a portion the shortfall.
  • Furlough some of your workers.

Plug your selected scenario into the forecast to see how much that relieves your shortfall.

The benefits of creating a 13-week cash flow forecast are many. You can see what actions need to be taken and when to take them well ahead of time. You can also see how much of an action you need to take. For example, instead of furloughing 50 percent of your staff, you may only need to furlough 25 percent.  Or instead of borrowing $50,000, you might only need $20,000.

The cash flow forecast can also save time when developing your annual budget. Budgets are especially useful when business conditions are volatile or when business owners need all the clarity they can get.

Try your hand creating a 13-week cash flow forecast for your business, or reach out to us for help any time.

At the beginning of 2020, developing a business continuity plan may not have been a top priority. Or maybe you thought it was only for large businesses. Fast forward to today, and a business continuity plan has become an essential staple in business planning.

There are more business risks than ever before to consider that can affect business continuity. Businesses are being shuttered, reopened and shuttered again from the pandemic, fires, hurricanes and damage from riots, just to mention a few of the more common issues in this unusual year.

The biggest benefit of a business continuity plan is the process of developing it. It helps you think through the steps you should take if a business interruption occurs. If you have a disaster recovery plan – or even a few steps jotted down of what you’d do – then you have already started a portion of the process.

Here are some of the major pieces of a business continuity plan to consider developing for your business.

Roles and Responsibilities

In this section, the business stakeholders should be identified and listed. On a high level, questions like these should be answered:

  • What is each person’s role within the company, and how would that change if the business is interrupted?
  • What new skillsets should be acquired in the case of a disruption?

Potential Impacts to Your Business

This part of the continuity plan lists major scenarios where something could go wrong with your business.  It should include things like weather events, fire, riots, theft, leadership interruptions, cash flow shortages, and the long-term impact of the pandemic. For each event, an analysis should be made as to how it will affect the business and what possible outcomes could occur. This part is also called a Business Impact Analysis.

Recovery Strategies

Once you’ve identified impacts, the next set of questions covers how to most effectively recover from them.  These remedies might include seeking additional financing, selecting backup locations, checking IT department functionality, creating alternate supply chain and distribution sources, and identifying many more actions along these lines.

As we’ve seen this year, this is just as important to think through for small businesses as it is large businesses.

When owners and employees are not in the middle of an actual disaster, they can better map out a recovery strategy that’s optimal and cost-effective for the business.

Implementation

A good plan should be implemented through distribution, testing, and training. All stakeholders should read and understand the contents of the business continuity plan. The plan should be tested in drills and exercises when possible. Employees should be trained so they know their part and feel comfortable carrying it out if under high stress.

The long-term viability of your business is important, and it can be strengthened when you put a business continuity plan in place.  If we can help, feel free to reach out any time.

You no longer need professionals to create quality videos. Video creation has gotten so easy that anyone can do it with the right tools. Many smartphones can take quality video, and the best news is you don’t need expensive video editing software. All you need is an app and your imagination.

There are many reasons to create a video:

  • Web pages that include video rank higher than those that don’t have video
  • Because people love to watch video, videos will often reach more people than text articles
  • Video is often the best way to educate people
  • Your message comes more alive when you use more senses: sight and sound

The first step is to figure out what you want to say.  Here are some video topic ideas for your business:

  • A customer service tip
  • Your company mission, vision, and values
  • Your company’s origin story
  • Behind the scenes look into a production process
  • An event, sale, or service promotion
  • An employee spotlight
  • A customer spotlight
  • A product spotlight
  • A how-to
  • A deadline reminder
  • A new product or service announcement

The next thing you need is a rough script of what you want the video to say, as well as graphics you can use to illustrate your points.

The final thing you need is a video creation app. Kristen our Marketing Manager recommends using InShot for easy yet comprehensive mobile video editing. When searching for video editing apps on your phone, there are free and paid plans to choose from. Other popular video apps include Adobe Spark and Magisto.

With most video apps, you have hundreds of templates you can choose from to help you get started. You can easily replace your text, graphics, and sound with your own items, or ones that the software provides.

Have a favorite video editing app? Let us know!

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at video creation.  It’s an easy way to impress your customers.

The purpose of marketing is to create relationships with customers and prospects. Since people may receive hundreds of marketing messages per day, it’s a good idea to get creative with marketing efforts. So why not have some fun with it? Here are some unique ways to grow your relationship with your customers.

  1. Celebrate an obscure or fun holiday.

For example, August 27 is National Just Because Day.  It’s a day to do random things, which can be pretty easily tied to whatever your service or product is. You can do something as small as send an email or as big as hosting a live event on the holiday you choose.

  1. Feature a customer or staff member.

A great way for customers to get to know your team and for your team to get to know your customers is to feature them in a short write-up that you post or send out.

Make this fun by sharing things like favorite ice cream, activity they would love to do, country they want to visit most, most fun responsibility they have at work, and more.

  1. Highlight community work.

Does your organization have a favorite charity?  If so, share experiences with your customers.  Many customers value and prefer to support businesses that make community contributions. Go as far as holding a volunteer day or do a write-up for donations in your newsletter.

  1. Take a survey.

When is the last time you’ve been asked a “deep” question?  Send a survey that asks your colleagues and customers a question like what inspires them.  Then share the results, with their permission, of course.

This type of activity can lead to meaningful conversations and a deeper connection with your customers.  It may also provide great insight into how you can connect with what’s important to your clients.

  1. Provide a gift guide.

Is it close to Christmas or another holiday where gifts are exchanged?  If so, your customer might benefit from a gift guide you can put together.

You don’t have to own a retail store to benefit from this idea.  Service organizations can provide gift certificate and other ideas in their gift guides.  And you don’t always have to list only your own items. Add your customers’ and suppliers’ items and make it one big “business family” affair.

  1. Tell people a story.

Do you remember your first sale?  Write a story about it, or the first day you opened your new location, your first hire, or another fun business milestone.

People love hearing stories about how others got started.  Don’t be so private that you miss out on this wonderful way to connect with clients.

Try these six fresh marketing ideas to create a meaningful connection with your customers and prospects, and watch your relationships blossom.

Many families and small business owners may have seen decreases in income over the last several months. Money struggles can cause us to experience stress and worry, and none of us need that right now. Instead we need to boost our immune systems and decrease stress.

Here are some tips on how we can take back control of our finances and reduce our stress around money.

  1. Assess your situation.

Take an inventory of your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts.  This helps you to see the entire picture. You can be financially healthy in different ways. For example, you might be low on income, but if you have healthy savings or plenty of assets, you might be just fine.

  1. Track your spending.

When you can see where the money is going, you can make good decisions about what changes you need to make. Using software like QuickBooks or simply a spreadsheet can help you see how much you really need for things like the rent or mortgage, food, utilities, and other necessities.

  1. Make any changes that you need to.

If you have more expenses than income, here are several ways to get back in balance:

  • Cut any unnecessary spending. For example, trade the expensive $100+ cable bill for a $15 Netflix subscription, at least for a while.
  • File your taxes early, especially if you have a refund coming.
  • Avoid temptation spending if you don’t have enough for the basics. Remember what’s important and find the will to curb impulses.
  • Sell some of the items you own that you no longer need to raise money.
  • Get a second job.
  • Get support from local nonprofits that can help you if you qualify.
  • If you must, dip into your savings or 401(k).
  • Ask family members to help.
  1. Build a budget and stick with it.

Making a plan helps some people reduce their stress a great deal. They feel good that they now have goals and can develop new habits that will work for their lifestyle.

In your software or spreadsheet, commit to monthly spending limits for each major category: housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, savings, paying off debt, and other.

Each month, track how you did by comparing your actual spending with your planned spending.  Give yourself a grade on how you did, and either reward yourself or make the changes you need to.

  1. Pay off debt.

If you have debt, make a plan to pay it off systematically.  Here are some ways you can speed that up:

  • Pay down the debt that has the highest interest rates. You might even be able to consolidate and refinance your debt to a lower rate.
  • Make a payment every single month, even if it’s small.
  • See a credit counselor for more ideas on how to get out of debt faster.
  1. Build a cushion for the future.

If your spending and income is balanced, but you don’t have a savings cushion, that can also be stressful. You need a safety net to fall back on for times just like these.

Decide on an amount that you can put away for a “rainy day” fund, and stick to it.  It’s also never too early to start saving for your retirement years.  The younger you start, the more your money will grow into a significant nest egg, providing comfort and flexibility in your final years.

  1. Identify any other stressors related to money.

Perhaps a relative constantly asks you for money, and this causes you stress. In this case, you may have to make a “tough love” decision to reduce your stress while maintaining family relationships. These are very personal, individual decisions that include factors far beyond finance.  But if they are causing stress, some kind of action should be taken.

  1. Make your accounts work for you.

If possible, select credit cards that give cash back, miles, or other perks. Keep your bank balance high enough so that you don’t get charged a monthly fee, and try to get an account that pays interest.  You won’t get rich from these things, but they are fun perks that help you save.

  1. Invest wisely so you can sleep at night no matter what happens.

Understand your risk tolerance level when it comes to investments, and avoid investments that are too risky.  You’ll sleep better at night knowing your money is safe.

Hopefully, these tips will help you decrease your money stress and improve your control over your finances.