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Recognising the advisors supporting small businesses through COVID-19

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Trent Innes

Apr 15, 2020

There’s no denying that our world looks very different than it did just a few short months ago. In these uncertain times, there’s one thing that remains clear: every business and every person in Australia has been affected in some way by COVID-19. And as business owners struggle to make their way through – questioning everything from how to stay afloat to whether they’re eligible for government aid – their advisors have become the first line of support.

As we move into an economic environment unlike anything that’s come before, trusted accountants and bookkeepers have ultimately taken on the role of an essential service. Now more than ever, they’re critical to the survival of small business. From predicting cash flow to advising on the importance of business continuity planning and unpacking the ins and outs of the latest government stimulus plan, this is what the new normal looks like. 

In the words of small business advisor Don Grgic from Business Boost Centre, “The game is about business survival. With each client we’re working through their risks, mitigation plans and possible opportunities to make sure they make it through this period of uncertainty.”

Keeping up and cutting through the confusion

Not only have the services that advisors offer never been more crucial to their clients, they’re key players in keeping Australia’s economy moving. Accountants and bookkeepers are acting as a bridge between government and small businesses – a role that has never been more essential with the ATO using Single Touch Payroll to help process JobKeeper payments and possible future stimulus.

As information on everything from aid to operating restrictions have filtered through, it often falls to advisors to translate what it all means for their clients. Amidst all of the confusion of such a fast-moving situation, accountants and bookkeepers are being called upon to operate as quickly as possible just to keep up. 

As TGF Accounting’s Kylie Gove explains, “My clients are incredibly stressed and doing everything they can to earn a living. They can’t cope with the information overload, so I’m sifting through everything to determine what’s relevant. Our help is needed more than ever during these uncertain times”.

“At the moment, we’re working seven days a week trying to absorb phenomenal rates of information and data”, adds accountant Kerrie Flood from Gilroy Barnes and Associates. “We’re faced with a lot of people asking questions that we don’t yet know the answers to. So every time there’s a government announcement, I break it down into layman’s terms, try and inject a little bit of humor into it and share the details with my clients.”

Drawing on quiet strength and offering a source of support

Beyond offering financial guidance, advisors are also providing complete emotional support during this challenging period. With many business owners having no choice but to make difficult decisions such as letting staff go, their advisors are right there beside them. As bookkeeper Claire Grimes of Paper Plane explains, “We are so attached to our clients. We’ve watched their small businesses grow, and it has been heartbreaking to see them suffer.”

But that’s not to say all hope is lost – far from it. In these trying times, the leadership that has long been key to the accounting and bookkeeping industries is now what’s holding them together. And as trusted advisors, they’re in the perfect position to lead the charge – whether that’s by talking supply chain disruption or checking in to make sure their clients are looking after their personal wellbeing and that of their employees. 

As accountant Electra Frost says, “Panic isn’t the answer right now. When dealing with unexpected change, the more anxious we get, the less likely we are to find a way through it. The solution lies in gathering the information you need to make a decision and considering which steps will help you reach your goal (even if that goal is simply making it through).”

Staying connected and looking to each other for guidance

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been reminded that nothing is more important than people connecting with people. At a time when phones have likely been ringing off the hook, we’ve watched as our Xero partner community have turned to each other for support – with average weekly engagement on the official Facebook group having jumped from roughly 1,000 to a staggering 9,000.

As our partners come together in times of need, the team at Xero is working hard to listen and respond to support the needs of our advisor community in turn. As well as updating our payroll product to connect customers to JobKeeper payments, we have released new features that make payroll work easier, faster and more efficient for the advisors supporting their small business clients through these times.

While the challenges certainly remain, we know that accountants and bookkeepers across the country are united by the shared goal of supporting small businesses through the implications of COVID-19. No one says it better than bookkeeper Tracey Rubens of Jog Consulting: “Some days I feel like a superhero fighting off a dastardly villain named bankruptcy. Now, where did I put that cape?”

The Xero team is committed to supporting our community, which is why we’ve pulled together the latest information, tools and resources to help guide you through these challenging times. As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, you can find the government support details you need on the ATO’s dedicated page.

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