Smythe Adapts to Working from Home

As the world around us continues to adapt to a new sense of normal in light of COVID-19, we at Smythe LLP (Smythe), recently sat down (virtually) with Kendall Hanson from CHEK News to discuss how we’re adapting to working from home and what is means for us as a firm, as well as the communities we live and work in.

Although we may be smack dab in the middle of our busiest time of year, things at Smythe are still business as usual – with a few notable exceptions.

The first, and probably most obvious, is that nearly all our staff have now transitioned to working from home.

“The first week of office closures and having everyone work from home was definitely a week of transition, but I think everyone’s really quickly adapted to it and gotten used to it and a lot of people are really enjoying it,” said Partner, Trevor Topping.

During a time where our offices would normally be a buzz with client visits and meetings, our offices are now closed to the public and a skeleton crew has been put in place to ensure clients are able to safely drop off necessary files and mail is being received and sent out.

To read the full article and to hear what Trevor had to say about Smythe’s new normal, click here.

For more information on our response to COVID-19, or to learn what support is available to you, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre, or reach out to your Smythe Partner directly.

Cash Flow Management

Given the current economic uncertainty, effective cash flow management will be critical for the success of many businesses. This will likely involve a combination of:

Managing working capital levels
Managing discretionary expenses
Obtaining additional financing

Working capital management can take the form of:

Implementing Credit Policies
By implementing credit policies with your customers you can speed up the collection process. This could include requiring upfront deposits, reducing the credit terms or offering incentives for early payment. Always ensure you follow-up on overdue accounts.
Utilizing a Just-in-Time Inventory System
Unless it will hurt your ability to sell, don’t carry extra inventory.
Using Credit Terms to your Advantage
Unless they are offering worthwhile incentives, don’t pay your suppliers until it is necessary.

A tool that should be utilized to help with managements’ decision making, is a cash flow forecast. This will help you assess the impact of working capital and expense management decisions, as well as determine whether additional financing will be required.

If you decide that you need to obtain financing (see below), it is likely that the lender will require a forecast as part of the application process.
Obtaining Additional Financing

As part of the economic stimulus package, the Government of Canada is working to ensure businesses have access to traditional financing, from both the government and private lenders.

Among the products being targeted to COVID-19 relief are:

Working Capital Loans
Funds to provide working capital for the operations, and cover general operating expenses, as opposed to capital purchases or expansions. There are currently programs in place where loans can be approved within 48 hours or maybe available without any payments for the first six months. BDC loans of up to $100,000 can be applied for online.
Loan Guarantee for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
As part of the Business Credit Availability Program, EDC is partnering with financial institutions to guarantee 80% of new loans or credit requests up to $6.25 million for small and medium-sized enterprises. Financing is meant to be used for operating costs and is available to exporting and non-exporting companies. The idea behind the program is to encourage additional funding from banks as the EDC provides a re-payment guarantee of 80%. This program is now available through your bank or credit union.
Bridge Financing Program
Offered through BDC Capital, this special program may match (with a convertible note) a current financing round being raised through qualified existing and/or new investors made into eligible Canadian start-ups. This program is best suited for high-potential companies that have venture capital investors willing to support them. BDC will then invest alongside these groups. There are separate criteria for both companies and investors who wish to take advantage of this program – for full details, click here.
Term Loan and Lease Payment Relief
Ability to delay payment of principal for up to six months on existing loans.
Increases to Existing Line of Credit
Financial institutions are providing increases to the borrowing limits on existing lines of credit.
Purchase Order Financing
Flexible terms are being offered to ensure existing and future orders can be fulfilled.
Buyer Financing
Export Development Canada is providing buyer financing and direct financing for international sales to ensure Canadian businesses are able to participate in international trade opportunities.

If your business requires cash flow management or additional financing, please contact your Smythe Partner directly as additional reporting may be required. Our team can match your business with the appropriate product and guide you through the process and provide financial information to the lending institutions.

Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) Interest-Free Loans

the Government of Canada announced the Canada Emergency Business Account interest-free loans that provide up to $40,000 for small businesses and not-for-profits that have been financially impacted by COVID-19. On December 4, 2020, the program was expanded to offer an additional $20,000 to businesses that continue to be seriously impacted by the pandemic. The loans are available through eligible financial institutions, and businesses must apply through a financial institution where they had an existing relationship. The loans are interest-free, and 25% of the original $40,000 of the balance and 50% of the additional $20,000 of the balance is forgivable if the business repays the loan by the end of 2022. Businesses are required to have had an annual payroll of $20,000 to $1,500,000 or non-deferrable expenses of at least $40,000 in 2019 to qualify.

Businesses have until March 31, 2021, to apply for a loan or the $20,000 expansion. In the case where applicants are waiting for their financial institution to finalize the submission of additional information, they will have until May 7, 2021, to complete the submission.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Finance Department

The activities expected from a finance department cover a wide range from basic bookkeeping to providing information to assisting managers in making strategic decisions. What to expect from your finance department will depend largely on factors such as how much involvement the owner/manager has in the organization.

At the base level, your bookkeeper will be responsible for all the day-to-day transactional accounting for the business. This will include the tracking of all transactions and the management of any government reporting. In very small owner-managed businesses, this role is often filled by a family member with accounting experience. An outside accounting firm is usually used for annual financial statements and returns. In larger organizations this role will extend right through to preparing the financial statements with an external auditor engaged for assurance purposes.

To talk to one of our trusted advisors today contact us here, or continue reading below.

The finance department is also responsible for management of the organization’s cashflow and ensuring there are enough funds available to meet the day-to-day payments. This area also encompasses the credit and collections policies for the company’s customers, to ensure the organization is paid on time, and that there is a payment policy for the company’s suppliers. In most organizations there will be some form of forecast prepared on a regular basis to systematically calculate the ongoing cash needs.

Where there are cash needs beyond the day to day working capital, the finance department is responsible for advising and sourcing longer term financing. Financing may be obtained though bank or private lender debt or, in applicable firms, share issues to private investors. If the organization is ready to target angel investors or venture capitalists the finance department will be key in preparing the documents required for these presentations and may work with outside consultants on a company valuation. In larger firms considering public share offerings the finance department will assist with the preparation of the offering documents but will likely also use outside consultants to advise on this complicated process.

With the must-do’s taken care of, the finance department can now start to contribute to the management and improvement of the operations by measuring and reporting regularly on key numbers crucial to the success of the organization. Management accounting information is information that managers can use to monitor the operations and decide where further attention may be required. It will likely include some non-financial information and should be communicated to managers in a way that is easy to understand. In smaller owner-managed businesses this resource, though extremely important, is often overlooked or ignored.

Looking forward, the finance department will work with managers to prepare the organization’s budgets and forecasts, and to report back on the progress against these throughout the year. This information can be used to plan staffing levels, asset purchases and expansions and cash needs, before they become necessary. Some organizations often ‘plan’ by the seat of their pants, while organizations know it is important to have some idea of where you want to go before you start going there.

Finally, the finance department should be called upon to provide information to assist managers in making key strategic decisions, such as which markets or projects to pursue or the payback periods for large capital purchases. The finance department can often contribute an objective perspective based on special financial assessment techniques.

In summary, some organizations know the finance department should be considered a resource to assist managers in the running of the business. With the growing popularity of outsourced finance departments, it is possible for even small businesses to have access to all of the benefits of a full finance department, through part time professionals, at a fraction of the cost of employing a full time finance department.

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