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As a small business owner, you’re probably keeping a close eye on every cent you spend. You need to have a good eye on your income and expenses to manage your cashflow, so that’s a good thing. However, it might mean that you are wasting time micro-managing your finances and not hiring people to help give your business a boost. Hiring a bookkeeper can be a great investment fro any small business.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

A Certified Bookkeeper will take care of your daily business financial management. They’ll make sure your books are up to date, balanced and reliable so they can support the best possible decision making. They’ll manage your invoicing (accounts receivable), track your receipts and general expenditure and reconcile your accounts payable.

All of the frustrating daily and weekly financial tasks that you hate or that just sucks up half your day, they love doing. Not only do they love that work, they are likely a lot faster and more efficient at doing it than you are.

Hiring a Bookkeeper Saves You Time

Unless you’re a bookkeeping whizz and love those debits and credits, you might find your bookkeeping to be a headache-inducing waste of time. Chances are, you’ll put off your bookkeeping until its a massive chore. This means it takes up more time and you like it even less. Even if you do enjoy it, doing this day-to-day book work is dragging you away from the parts of your business where you should be focusing your energy and passion. Your time is valuable. You’re much better investing your time in value-adding activities like sales, networking and marketing your business.

The time you spend trying to understand your financials could be better spent on tasks you’re good at. A Certified Bookkeeper will be more efficient than you, they won’t spend all day reconciling bank accounts and attaching invoices and receipts. They’ll have it done in minutes. They won’t have as many errors and overall, they will save you a mountain of stress.

Your time, and your sanity, are worth investing in a Certified Bookkeeper.

A Bookkeeper is on Top of Your Cashflow

Hiring a bookkeeper means that you’ll always have someone with an eye on your cashflow.

They’ll help you get paid. Many small business owners have a hundred things to get on and do. It’s easy for things like invoicing and accounts receivable t fall down the list. It is essential to your business survival that you send out invoices as soon as possible. It is equally as important to follow up with late payers to see what’s going on. These are harassing calls, just a friendly, personal reminder that the invoice is outstanding and due for payment. You might feel bad doing this, which is why its the perfect task for your friendly, professional bookkeeper.

Your bookkeeper will also ensure that you don’t end up getting any of those calls from your creditors. They’ll ensure that your bills are paid on time.

Id there any better investment in your business than one that makes sure you’ve always got cash flowing and money in the bank?

Hiring a Bookkeeper Prevents Costly Errors

A Certified Bookkeeper knows their stuff. They are committed to professional excellence and undergo ongoing professional development to make them experts in their field. They won’t make the same mistakes that you’ll make, either because you’re rushed or because you haven’t got around to reading the latest 53 page IRD tax bulletin.

Some mistakes might seem small and insignificant at first. However, data entry errors, mixing up expenses and mis-claiming GST, can all quickly add up. These mistakes cost you more time and more money.

If you are doing your bookkeeping and then relying on your accountant to clean things up a year-end, you’re burning money. What you are doing is then getting your accountant to be your bookkeeper, at accountant’s hourly rates! It also takes a lot longer to unpick and re-reconcile transactions that happened months or even years ago.

At the worst end of the scale, consistent mistakes, even little ones, could flag you for an IRD audit. An audit can cost thousands to resolve, and that’s even if things are nice and tidy!

It’s best, and cheapest, to get it right from day one. Get in an expert to keep your books in order.

Certified Bookkeepers are Experts

Are you up to date on every movement in tax law? Do you understand how small changes to the rules effect your business? A Certified Bookkeeper is. They can advise you about any changes that are coming that may impact on your business and can offer insight into how to prepare and minimise any impact or maximise any benefit.

Hiring a bookkeeper can also provide you with insight into your company’s financial position. If you’re short on cash, overspending in certain areas or struggling to collect accounts receivable, your bookkeeper will tell you. They can also work with you to help remedy these issues. If there is something you don’t understand about your business finances, your bookkeeper can help to explain it to you. Because they are slightly more human than accountants, they can even explain it all in plain English, not accountantese. So your business financials will never be a mystery again.

Hiring a Bookkeeper is an Investment in Your Business

With a Certified Bookkeeper on board, you can sleep easy knowing your business books are in the hands of a professional.

Not all bookkeepers are created equal. At MBP, all of our bookkeepers are trained professionals and are Certified Bookkeepers with the Institute of Certified New Zealand Bookkeepers (ICNZB). The ICNZB ensure that they are professionally competent and that they uphold the highest standards of continuing professional development and ethics. And the best part, our Ceritfied Bookkeepers are about half the cost of an accountant, so you get exceptional value from your investment.

Want some help with your bookkeeping? Get in touch with the team of Certified Bookkeepers at MBP, or book in a chat with us today.

New Zealand will move down to Alert Level 3 from start of business on Tuesday 28th April 2020. The change in the alert level will mark a shift from ‘essential’ business operations to ‘safe’ business operations, with many strict restrictions still in place. For hospitality at level 3, this means contactless takeaways only, provided specific heightened health and safety standards can be strictly adhered to.

We have had a number of discussions with our building and construction sector clients in recent days and know this will be very welcome news. To ensure that the last month (soon to be five weeks) of lock-down have not been a very expensive waste, it is essential to follow the new industry guidelines.

Is it Even Viable for you to Open?

The first thing you need to carefully consider is can you actually afford to open at Alert Level 3. For many businesses, the restrictions at level 3 make it more expensive to open than to stay closed, do you know if your business is one of those?

Do not rush and think that just because you can fire up the kitchen again that you’ll be better off. You need to have a plan and a high-level cashflow forecast for every scenario. Some key questions to ask yourself before even considering opening:

  • Do I have the ability to do takeaway?
  • How will customers order?
  • How will customers pay?
  • How will the orders get to the kitchen?
  • What is the likely demand?
  • How  many staff will I need?
  • How do we manage the staff we don’t need?
  • Is our kitchen big enough to allow safe operation and social distancing?

These are just a few of the essential questions you’ll need to ask yourself. If you need a hand running through these, book in a free 30 minute chat with one of our business advisors.

We also have a range of free and fully funded services to help you make informed cashflow decisions. You can access our free Business Continuity Plan (BCP) Guide here and download a copy of the free BCP template from there. That will help you with many of the decisions you need to make.

Preparing your Business to Open

In the lead up to the move from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3, you can start getting your business, premises and staff ready for work.

Talking with your staff is really important and should be one of the first things you do. Engaging with them is essential to making sure they are happy, healthy and safe to work. They will also need to be up-skilled on the new health and safety protocols and requirements that you will have in place.

Look at your menu. What items can be done with contactless delivery or pick-up? What things will be impractical to serve?

You should have completed a stock-take before shutdown and know what your need to reorder to get back up and running. If you haven’t, head in and get the stock take sorted so you know where you’re starting from with your stock. A lean stock flow will be essential. There is no knowing if we will go back into lock-down and customer demand is unpredictable so don’t carry more than just a couple of days of stock at a time.

It is likely you’ll also need to order in some extra take out containers and other items to facilitate a changed operating environment if takeaway is new for you. If takeaway is new, its even more important to have made a well informed decision on the viability of opening.

A key task to be undertaken in the lead up to opening will be a floor to ceiling clean of you premises. After more than a month of being closed, its likely the place will need more than just a vacuum and a wipe over. Set aside a day to get in there and give it a deep clean and sanitisation. Health and Safety has never been more important. The last thing any business needs is to become a center of a new cluster and the reason the entire country gets kicked back to level 4 and locked-down.

Health & Safety Guidelines for Hospitality at Level 3

Hospitality at Level 3 is not business as normal. However, you should already have most of what you need in place from before lock-down.

We’ve received many questions about the need for gloves to be work when working. If you did not previously wear gloves when working then there is no requirement for them to be worn now at level 3. While it might seem a smart move to use gloves, they can actually become a recipe for unsafe and unhygienic practices, especially if your staff are not used to working with them. Regular hand washing with soap and water is often your best option. Avoid relying on sanitizer as this is less effective than simply washing your hands properly (it’s also more expensive).

Similarly, people have been asking us about masks. These are probably a better protective option than gloves. It must be noted that they are most effective at preventing, or at least limiting, the chances of your staff contaminating the food you’re preparing rather than protecting staff from contamination from customers. Contactless processes and social distancing between your staff and customers is essential. Masks will be easy for front of house staff to utilise as long as they discard and change them regularly, especially after breaks. It may be harder to utilise them with staff in the hot confines of kitchens. Make them available for your staff and encourage their use.

The best thing you can do is to ensure that any staff returning to work have had no chance of contracting the virus and have had no symptoms at all over the previous week or more.

Every business in hospitality at Level 3 (or level 2 when we get there) should have a Covid-19 Control Plan and policies in place. The plan will guide how the business and its employees will manage work on their premises and the controls they will use to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission between each other and to customers.

WorkSafe has some great guides and template safety plans on their website. You can access them here.

Read the WorkSafe Guidance

Worksafe has some really good information for all businesses, including hospitality at level 3. It is well worth taking the time to run through this before you make any plans to open.

The governments dedicated COVID-19 website also has a wealth of information about what level 3 will look like overall. Click here to have a read through of all the info on covid19.govt.nz.

Remember, just because the cafe or restaurant down he street is opening, doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t make a knee-jerk reaction to open. Make a calm and well informed decision that is in the best interests of your business, your team and your customers. As a nation, we’ve all been really supportive of the lock-down and the extraordinary measures taken to preserve our health. Your customers will still be there in two weeks and you’ll be there, healthier than ever, to serve them.

Need some help getting your head around the new protocols and whether its worthwhile opening? Book in a chat here. We’re here to help.

Bootstrapping is figuring out how to reduce the cash you need to start or run your business, by eliminating any unnecessary overheads while finding out who will give you a hand.

If for whatever reason you’re not able to raise enough capital to start-up you might be able to get what you need by ‘bootstrapping’ (finding what you need through unconventional or low-cost methods).

Some Options to Consider When Bootstrapping

Can others lend you what you need?

You don’t have to purchase new equipment to start your business. Think about what items you might be able to borrow over the short term or do without until the business grows.

Draw up a list of your asset needs and make a determined effort to borrow from others what you can while searching online for second-hand items that will save your business money. Are there people you know that are already in business who could lend you what you need?

Call in favours

Time to talk to friends, other business owners’ and family to see which assets, time or money they can help with. It’s a common bootstrapping technique to save money and chances are there is more help out there than you realise.

Reduce your set up costs and overheads

Look at the bare minimum you’ll need for your own living expenses and cut your salary or work for no pay for a time. It’s quite common for business founders to put in this unpaid ‘sweat’ equity to start with.

Look around your home and decide what you can sell to raise the cash you need. If your business is that important to you then sell everything you can.

Harness free

Search online for what’s happening in your industry to see if there is any specific support in your industry.

Find willing volunteers

Tap into any family and friends that are willing to help which could be cash or just a helping hand setting up and spreading the word you’re in business. You’ll be surprised who in your circle of friends will help.

Work from home

Depending on the type of business you’re beginning, you may be able to work from home or use a workspace that costs little or even nothing. There are lots of shared office options and some businesses with spare capacity may rent out their spaces or equipment to save you signing up to long leases or buying equipment.

Harness social media

You don’t need a large marketing budget to build a customer base. The Internet can help you develop a strong presence for free.

Whether you decide to create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, regular interactions and postings are the keys to gaining customer awareness.

Use crowd funding to raise cash

Having gained popularity over the last few years, crowdfunding lets you receive donations on the Internet to help get your business idea off the ground. You can offer people incentives to encourage them to get behind your business.

Some examples include:

Each of these sites has great case studies and examples you can view.

Delay payment

Possibly you can negotiate with suppliers a much longer payment cycle, free trials or a number of months’ rent free in a new lease agreement.

Low cost marketing

Effective marketing can be creative rather than costly. Some ways you can get your brand in front of potential customers include:

  • Email campaigns – as you begin to sell to consumers’ you’ll want to get them coming back for repeat purchases. This is where building an email contact list and sending out regular deals with calls to action can keep your business going.
  • YouTube videos – images can speak louder than words, and video even more so. Whether you’re explaining what your business does or showing how a product works, videos are a cost-effective medium for getting your messages across to your target market.
  • If you sell direct to other businesses then use up some leather and go visit (walk, drive, call, fly). Face to face meetings don’t require an advertising budget.
  • Build word of mouth referrals by actively asking new customers to refer you. Don’t wait for word of mouth to build over time as it tends to be too slow.

In summary outline all the ways that you can save money by first reducing what you need and then from what you can borrow. Spend your time like a currency and do as much as you can yourself (with friends) before you start paying others.

Your next steps

Research your local industry to see if there is any specific start-up grants, subsidies or support that you may be able to tap into and talk to your trusted advisors (like your accountant) if you’re looking to fund from the crowd to make sure you’re doing the right thing.

List everything you need and brainstorm with others how you can get access without paying for it and be confident you’ve accumulated more goodwill than you think; if you don’t ask you won’t get.

Book in a chat with us to discuss your next steps. The chat is free, so is the coffee. We also have access to a range of 50% and 100% funded business services.

As we hit week four of the nationwide lock-down, it’s time to start actively thinking about how you will operate your business out of lock-down. We’ve already discussed developing your business continuity plan, so hopefully you’ve already started planning and putting some actions in place to come out of lock-down ready to thrive.

UPDATE (20th April 2020): New Zealand will move out of COVID-19 Alert Level 4 Lock-down and into Alert Level 3 at Midnight on the morning of Tuesday 28th April 2020. Businesses who need to will be able to use the week in the lead up to this to access their premises and prepare them to open. Strict social distancing and contact-less deliveries must be adhered to. It would be prudent to only allow minimal staff on to your premises to enable you to prepare for opening.

Shifting to Alert Level 3

Once cabinet deems that the Level 4 Lock-down has been successful, they will make an informed decision to lower the alert level. At this stage, the decision will be made on the 20th April. A lifting of the most severe restrictions is then expected for later in April.

Many of the specific details as to what level 3 will look like are still being worked on by the government. However, this level 3 will not be the same as the level 3 we spent 48 hours in before the level 4 lock-down began. We can expect more information on this over the coming days so keep an eye on the covid-19.govt.nz and MBIE websites for more information.

The Core Principles of Level 3

The following are the core government guidelines for level 3:

  • People instructed to stay home in their bubble other than for essential personal movement – including to go to work, school if they have to or for local recreation.
  • Physical distancing of two metres outside home (including on public transport), or one metre in controlled environments like schools and workplaces.
  • Bubbles must stay within their immediate household bubble, but can expand this to reconnect with close family/whānau, or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people. This extended bubble should remain exclusive.
  • Schools (years 1 to 10) and Early Childhood Education centres can safely open, but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible.
  • People must work from home unless that is not possible.
  • Businesses can open premises, but cannot physically interact with customers.
  • Low risk local recreation activities are allowed.
  • Public venues are closed, e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets.
  • Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures must be maintained.
  • Healthcare services use virtual, non-contact consultations where possible.
  • Inter-regional travel is highly limited, e.g. for essential workers, with limited exemptions for others.
  • People at high risk of severe illness (older people and those with existing medical conditions) are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work.

Key Considerations Before Bringing Your Business Out of Lock-down

The EMA has published some key questions to ask yourself before you bring your business out of lockdown:

  • Are there any risks arising from restarting your business or a business activity that has been shut down during alert level 4?
  • How will you ensure all your workers know how to keep themselves safe from exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you gather information on the wellness of your staff to ensure that they are safe to work?
  • How will you operate your business in a way that keeps workers and others safe from exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you manage an exposure or suspected exposure to COVID-19?
  • How will you evaluate whether your work processes or risk controls are effective?
  • How do these changes impact on the risks of the work that you do?

These questions are a great starting point for working through your plans to bring your business out of lock-down.

What Will Level 3 Look Like for Your Business out of Lock-down?

Now is the time to start planning what your business will look like at level 3. You’ll need to plan for a range of scenarios and be as prepared as you can be for whatever eventuality arises. As with this entire unprecedented situation, there are more unknowns than knowns and the government will change the operating rules as required to ensure public safety and make sure the the health gains we have made over the weeks of lock-down have not been an expensive waste.

Following government guidelines is essential. If you are able to operate safely within the limitations of level 3 outlined above, make sure you have updated your internal policies to reflect the necessary changes. At a minimum, you will need to look at your HR and Health, Safety and Wellness policies and make sure that your staff are fully aware of the new operating requirements.

Social distancing is still essential, even in the workplace. Large gatherings of more than 10 people are also likely to remain banned. These restrictions will likely be key factors when making your plans to reopen. You may need to operate with staggered start times, reduced staff numbers, a one in one out policy or similar measures. Limiting staff movement across areas of your business will also be essential. This all helps to preserve everyone’s ‘bubble’ to as small a number of people as possible.

Contact Tracing in Your Business out of Lock-down

For a fleeting moment before lock-down, we all started hearing about contact tracing. We’re pretty familiar with it now but we don’t have much experience working with it in place. For about 72 hours before we went into lock-down, hospitality businesses were required to keep records of who came into their establishments. This was quite a rushed process and like all things in those early days, it was a bit of a shambles.

The good news is that in this modern age, you have a lot of options when it comes to tracking people. Most of these options though pose some level of hygiene risk and will need to be properly managed in order to reduce this risk and keep track of the necessary data. Here are our top two recommendations:

  1. Pen & paper. A good old school visitors book and a pen. Just make sure to regularly sanitise the pen between visitors, or encourage them to use their own.
  2. Tablet & software. The modern solution to visitor management. Software like SwipedOn is a great way to interact with and track your visitors.

If you are doing click and collect orders only, keep the records of when people collect so you know the details without having to have extra interactions creating a potential point of contamination.

Forecast Your Options for Getting Your Business out of Lock-down

With the severe amount of unknowns, it is essential to run cashflow forecasts for a range of level 3 scenarios.

We recommend or clients use Float Cashflow Forecasting software. We currently have a number of free subscriptions to this software for the period through till 30th June 2020. If you could use the extra insight for your business, reach out to our team and we’ll have a chat about how we can get you set up with a free subscription.

Not all Businesses will be Able to Operate at Alert Level 3

It is really important to keep in mind that not all businesses will be able to operate out of lock-down in level 3. The government has made it clear that any move to level 3 will not be a return to business as usual. For many businesses, compliance will be far too difficult or cost prohibitive for opening to be worthwhile.

Many non-essential retail stores, services, offices and manufacturing businesses which involve close contact between staff or customers will not be able to operate. While not being able to open while other businesses do may be frustrating, you should still look to do as much as possible remotely.

Shifting to Alert Level 2 and Below

Eventually, we’ll drop to Alert Level 2. Slowly business will start to return to a new kind of normal.

At level 2, if you can, keep as many of your staff as possible working from home. It is likely that some staff may want to keep doing this as a new normal. If you can manage this, it is well worth considering and may reduce office overheads.

Keep in Contact with Your Customers

Before and after you get you business out of lock-down, it will be important to communicate with your customers so they know exactly what to expect at every level.

We have already advised all of our clients by email and via social media what our plans are at every level. We will use the same channels to advise of any updates. It is likely you have both an email database and a variety of social media channels to utilise for keeping in contact with your customers. There’s never been a better time to make use of those databases to ensure open communication and the safety of staff and customers is maintained.

The Regular Flu Season is Still Ahead

It is essential to remember that as we head out of ‘Covid-19 season’ we will be heading straight into our regular flu season. The good news is that maintaining many of your COVID-19 protocols for Health, Safety and Wellness will be beneficial for the regular flu season as well.

Getting flu shots for your staff is a tax deductible expense. Yes, really. We aim to get our team all jabbed every year. If you are able to, reach out to your local pharmacy or medical clinic and see if they can set up an in-workplace vaccination clinic. This is a great way to support another local business while also preventing your team from having to go into a place with a lot of other potential sick people.

Start Planning Now for Getting Your Business Out of Lock-down

There is no better time than now to start planning. Map out a few hypothetical scenarios for each alert level. What do you need for each scenario? How many staff? Do you need to order some new supplies now?

Get high-level cashflow projections sorted for each scenario. It may be that in some scenarios, it is more expensive to open than to stay closed. It is essential to know this in advance and avoid expensive mistakes.

There are no Guarantees

There are no guarantees that a move to Alert Level 3 and getting your business out of lock-down will be a permanent thing. Everything hinges on us collectively maintaining successful community management of COVID-19.

Be prepared for us to go back up to Alert Level 4 if the health situation worsens.

Get Access to our Free Business Continuity Resources.

We have developed a comprehensive guide to developing a business continuity plan for your business. This is an essential plan for navigating this current and all future challenges your business may face.

Click here to access the guide.

From the guide, you can access and download our free business continuity plan template. If you need a run-through of the guide and the plan template or if you want a complimentary 30 minute review once you’ve completed it, book in a chat with us here.

Reach out for Support

We’re here to help. Whether for help with your plans, your cashflow or simply for a friendly chat, reach out to the team at MBP. We’re all in this together.

We have a team of business advisors, accountants and HR specialists to help you plan to succeed.

Hardship Support

While many of our clients are not able to trade at all, we have rolled out our hardship assistance program so they never have to worry about our payment deadlines.

We can delay the due date on your invoices by up to 180 days. This means you can access the help and support you need and leave paying us until we’ve helped you back on your feet.

Fully Funded Services

Thanks to generous private funding and the support of our team, we are able to offer a range of our essential business support services free of charge to effected businesses. We’ll have a new page up and running in the coming days to outline the services and application process. In the meantime, reach out to your dedicated MBP Business Partner or simply email mailbox@mbponline.co.nz to start a conversation about how we can help.

If you’re a small business owner whose company hasn’t gone through hard times, that’s great but it’s likely to happen at some point. As much as we dream about being brilliant enough at business that we’ll never face slow times, there are many things beyond our control that can negatively affect our business. How you go about managing the impacts of unexpected events and getting your business through tough times will set you and your business up for success for years to come.

Here are our top four tips for getting your business through tough times.

Focus on your Existing Customers

When companies go through tough times, many owners turn their focus to bringing in new business. The downside is that existing customers are often forgotten, but those are the most efficient people to make sales to. You don’t need to stop marketing yourself to new customers, but make sure you give extra focus to the customers you already have, to ensure they remain loyal. Find out what their current needs are, how successful you are at meeting them, and what you can do to maintain an ongoing relationship. Communicate with them, and always provide exceptional customer service.

Reach out to Others

Chances are, you aren’t the first person in your industry to experience tough times. Talk to other people who have been in similar situations to learn how they navigated those challenges. Ask them what did and didn’t work for them, and what they learned from the experience. Some—if not all—of their answers could be applicable to your business, or could at least inspire a solution.

If you need a chat, a sounding board or someone to run through ideas in tough times, reach out to the team at MBP. Regardless of whether you’re a client or not, you can book a free 30 minute chat with one of our team here.

Examine your Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan brings in new customers. Now is the time to consider fresh marketing ideas to bring in new revenue. Is there an area of your business you haven’t promoted before but could bring in clients? Is there a new way to market yourself you haven’t tried?

Examine previous marketing efforts to determine how successful they were. If they weren’t successful, stop wasting your valuable time and money on them. Use your efforts on something new.

Improve your Cashflow

Assess your company’s financial health to see if there are ways to improve cash flow. Can you charge clients a deposit or encourage payment up front to increase cashflow? Are there products you sell or services you provide that bring in revenue more quickly than others? Are there ways to save money that won’t hurt your business in the long run?

It can be tempting to eliminate staff, but when things are good you’ll just need to hire employees again. Doing so costs time and money. See if you can find small ways to save money that won’t negatively affect your business when it starts booming. Cutting overtime, for example, can save you money without losing staff.

Make sure you can account for every dollar your business spends. Don’t hide from creditors, communicate with them to find out if you can restructure your debt or extend your terms. Free up as much money as you can without setting yourself up for failure when things turn around.

Final Thoughts

Chances are your business will go through tough times at least once. It’s important you take action to help get you through it, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping the difficulties pass.

The steps you take during these challenging periods will help you, but they can also help set you up for increased success in later years.

Got a question? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.