Where were you on New Year’s Eve 2019? Chances are, you were gathered with friends and family, not social distancing, not wearing a mask, and possibly making witty remarks about 2020 and “perfect vision” for the coming year.
Well, we all know how 2020 has turned out — “slightly less than perfect” would be a massive understatement. A nearly year-long global pandemic accompanied by a summer of civil unrest, a record-breaking hurricane season and a divisive general election has left businesses frustrated, frazzled and yearning for some sense of normalcy as they try to adjust to life in the time of coronavirus. As we wait for a Covid-19 vaccine, there are some ways to reclaim control over our lives and livelihoods. One of them is financial planning.
Henry Gonzalez, Beach Bank’s Tampa Bay market president, is a firm believer in conducting a thorough risk assessment. He says businesses can take easily manageable steps to ensure they are ready for further economic disruptions, and even unknown threats that we can’t yet anticipate.
As you think about how to plan for the future and whatever crises it might bring, Gonzalez says, ask yourself a few key questions: “Can you access your financial documentation? Does your CPA have it? Do you have the ability to work online? Is your company set up to convert from a physical to online presence? An online presence is key.”
Headquartered in Fort Walton Beach, but with a strong and growing presence in the Tampa Bay region, Beach Bank has seen it all during its decades of experience as a leading community bank in Florida. Gonzalez and the bank’s leadership team have monitored some of the financial planning issues that have sprung up during the pandemic and have a few more tips to share:
- Supply chain. “Consider your vendors and suppliers,” Gonzalez says. “Everyone has had to work with vendors during this downturn. You have to remember that you are a customer of a vendor and they want you to be as healthy as possible.” For example, Gonzalez says many restaurants, while already hit hard by the pandemic, were often forced to accept previously placed orders, but were able to get their vendors to work with them. The vendors realized that holding customers to their word could put them out of business.
- Communications. “Have a professional emergency communications plan thought out well in advance,” Gonzalez says. “I think a lot of mom-and-pop restaurants wish they had done that. You could even hire someone to help get the word out that you are still open, still functioning … sometimes the way you react to something is more important than the bottom line.”
- Insurance. Review your coverages before the next economic disaster hits, Gonzalez advises. Many companies were caught off guard because they thought their business disruption insurance would bail them out, but many such policies don’t include coverage in the case of a pandemic. “Some major insurance company will jump into the breach and offer pandemic insurance,” he says. But until that time comes, be sure you know what is and isn’t covered.
Beach Bank has also observed another notable consequence of 2020’s upheaval: the acceleration of the transition from physical, in-person banking to mobile, online banking.
“I really can’t imagine any further investment in physical locations unless it’s to cover a certain market,” Gonzalez says.
Financial institutions like Beach Bank offer a range of services that can help people do business online quickly and safely. ACH payments, for example, are becoming commonplace, as are automatic check readers that are often provided free of charge to business banking clients. These devices scan paper checks and route payment info directly to the bank.
“That’s a big development,” Gonzalez says. “It lessens the need for people to come into a branch.”
Finally, businesses should consider taking out at least a small line of credit to cover emergency expenses during a disaster. Gonzalez cites the example of a school that opened such an account solely to cover its insurance policy deductible in the event of a disaster.
“That way,” he says, “there’s no delay in an insurance company helping them get back on their feet.”
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