Eric Dufour
Vice-President, Partner | FCPA, FCA | Management consulting

Now more than ever, businesses should step up their communications with stakeholders and look past the current conditions.

Quebec businesses are facing unprecedented challenges as the province grinds to a halt in a concerted effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Attention, speed and agility: that’s what small and mid-size businesses need to lessen the impact on their finances, workforce, strategy and operations.

Financial assistance programs

Several government programs have already been introduced to help businesses through the crisis. This has left people wondering:

  • What programs is my business eligible for?
  • What is the application process?
  • Can I get additional help?
  • How can I prove that my business will be viable once the COVID-19 outbreak is over?

Since these are new programs, you may want to get help to make sure you apply for all available opportunities. More aid means your business takes less of a financial hit.

Take care of your employees

Action needs to be taken quickly, but this can put a lot of pressure on companies and workers.

As recently as a few weeks ago, one of the main factors holding businesses back was the skilled labour shortage.

This issue may no longer be making headlines, but it’s sure to resurface once the coronavirus crisis subsides.
Many companies are being forced to temporarily layoff staff. How can they make sure their top talent returns once business resumes?

Communication is the key. Businesses need to establish open lines of communication, maintain contact, provide reassurance and take care of their laid-off workers with initiatives such as helping them with employment insurance applications.

Since we have every reason to believe that staffing will still be a critical issue after the crisis blows over, business owners should develop an effective internal communications plan that will help them retain the employees they’ve had to temporarily let go.

Keep in touch with partners and suppliers

Your partners and suppliers deserve to know where you’re at. To do so, develop and implement a carefully planned stakeholder communications strategy. Maintaining relationships by providing helpful information and reassurance is sure to benefit your business today and tomorrow.

Modernize your work practices

The way we work is changing. Even before the crisis, thousands of Quebeckers had already started working from home.

Various studies have shown that workers are more productive when they don’t have to come into the office. In order to make telework a success, businesses need powerful tools that make it easy and efficient for employees to do carry out their tasks remotely.

Of course, working from home isn’t a realistic option for everyone. But many businesses should prepare for the future by setting up services that could help you keep employee on board, even if they’re working from home.

One such example is e-commerce. In Quebec’s Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, businesses haven’t kept up with the e-commerce and transactional website trend. But the crisis has spurred a number of companies to take action. As a result, they’re now able to continue serving customers and hold on to some of their staff, despite the closure of their brick-and-mortar locations.

Take action today

The government-imposed closures won’t last forever. Smart business owners know that the time to act is now if they want to be ready for action once things get back to normal. Companies should try to restore stability as quickly as possible by focussing on:

  • Managing cash flows
  • Supporting employees
  • Stabilizing and boosting revenues
  • Managing procurement
  • Maintaining operations
  • Keeping IT systems secure
  • Monitoring performance
  • Reassuring stakeholders

To give you a hand, our team created Solution PME – COVID-19, which includes concrete customizable interventions and fast-track action plan.

Find out how our entrepreneurial values and standards of excellence can support your business. By leveraging our tactics, shared leadership, complementary skills and professionalism, you can find quiet in the eye of the storm and start planning for a brighter future.

30 Mar 2020  |  Written by :

Éric Dufour is a vice-president at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. He is your expert in management...

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Eugène Gilbert
Senior Manager | CPA, CMA | Management consulting

In order to adapt in these uncertain times due to the coronavirus, it is essential for a business to have a clear vision of its activities.

Fast operational diagnostics are now more important than ever. This involves analyzing your financial position, future operations, profitability and break-even point.

Here are some strategies to help you meet the challenge.

Examine your financial situation

To assess your business’ financial health, you need to look at your working capital, credit options, securities and other assets.

Then prepare a list of your priority creditors, assess your risks and negotiate payment agreements as needed.

Adjust your financial projections

Since the current crisis is a total game-changer, you’ll probably need to adjust your plan. It’s important to be realistic and base your projections on an effective short-term plan.

Forecast operations and earnings

Again, be realistic. Assumptions that made sense yesterday may no longer apply. Business volumes may be down, but there may be opportunities ahead. For example, consider re-purposing your production line to meet the needs of an industry facing shortages.

Don’t forget to check your supply chain. Many businesses are currently grappling with supply disruptions leading to a shortage of parts and pieces. If this is the case for your company, you may not be able to reach your production targets.

Align your workforce with projected needs

Once you’ve established new production forecasts, it’s time to adjust your workforce planning accordingly.

Make sure the environment is safe for workers.

Create temporary staff reduction strategies.

Be creative

Revisit all variable costs. You might find interesting opportunities.

Convert fixed costs into variable costs whenever possible.

Assess and test several different scenarios. Prepare a cash budget to properly evaluate your financial needs. It’s important to plan out the disruption period, as well as the revitalization period.

Calculate your break-even point

You need to know your break-even point in order to develop a short-term action plan.

Make sure your production forecasts and costs are equal to your projected earnings.

If the scale doesn’t balance, see if you can adjust operations or find ways to cut costs. Be conservative in your estimates.

Set indicators and keep your eye on the goal

You now have a plan. It may not be your dream scenario, but at least it’s realistic and carefully thought-out. Your next task is to make sure your plan can be implemented and tracked effectively.

This involves setting key indicators. You don’t need to define the whole set. Instead, focus on those that are crucial to your plan’s success, such as:

  • Cash levels;
  • Sales;
  • Backlog;
  • Inventory;
  • Employee numbers;
  • Hourly productivity;
  • Profit per order.

Analyze profitability and fine-tune your plan

It never makes sense to sell products or services at a loss. This is doubly true today, especially if you’re short on material or human resources. To get the most from what you have, you should:

  • Assess product and customer profitability based on historical data, and update your priorities based on these insights;
  • Reassess your sales prospects by focusing on your most profitable products and clients.

A healthy dose of optimism is good for business, especially when times are tough. By carefully assessing your situation and developing a solid plan of action, you’ll be able to make informed decisions no matter what comes up. And if you need a hand, we’re here to help.

30 Mar 2020  |  Written by :

Eugène Gilbert is a management consulting expert at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton.

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Sébastien Roy
Partner | CPA, CA, EEE, M.Sc. | Financial advisory

Managing cash flows is always a key concern for business leaders. Companies need capital to meet their financial obligations, such as payroll, accounts payable, loan repayments and business investments.

Having sufficient cash on hand is more important than ever when a crisis arises. Your business’ survival depends on it. In turbulent times, your cash budget can come to the rescue by preventing critical operations from being hard hit.

That’s why it’s crucial for all companies to develop a cash budget and have a clear understanding of its liquidities.
Cash budgets are typically calculated monthly. But in the event of a major crisis, you might want to review your cash assets as often as weekly.

Here’s how to prepare a cash budget in four steps:

1. Project your accounts receivable realistically

Review your payment requirements and realities. For example, even if you require payment within 30 days, you might have a client who typically takes 45 days to pay invoices. This is an important factor to consider when projecting your accounts receivable.

In other words, an invoice issued in July might not translate into a deposit until September. Also, during a crisis, some clients may take longer than usual to pay invoices.

2. Review other cash sources

You may be expecting income from other sources, such as:

  • Deposits from clients for upcoming work;
  • The sale of fixed assets;
  • Grants, government assistance or tax credits for which your company is eligible;
  • New loans or deposits from an available line of credit.

3. List all your expenses and other cash outflows

The easiest way to do this is to look at your expenses from the previous period (month, quarter or year). You may find it helpful to categorize expenses based on whether they are fixed or variable.

Fixed expenses—like administrative salaries, rent, insurance, travel expenses and utilities—are those that you have to pay regardless of the business’ earnings. They are the largest source of pressure on a company’s cash flow.

Variable expenses (or cash outflows)—like raw materials, direct workforce wages and royalties—are subject to change, depending on the company’s earnings. Typically, these expenses are scaled back as revenues decrease.

At this stage, you should also take into account the company’s loan payments (capital and interest). Loan deferrals or other relief measures may be available, particularly now with the coronavirus crisis in full swing. It’s certainly something worth looking into.

4. Analyze your accounts payable (suppliers, taxes, payroll, etc.) for the previous month, quarter or year

What payment terms apply? When will you be able to make your payments? It’s very important to know exactly when you plan to make these payments so that you can compare them to your projected deposits for the same period. That’s how you predict a cash shortfall or surplus for a given period.

By following these four steps, you’ll have a better understanding of your business’ cash flow situation and be better prepared to take proactive measures as needed.

25 Mar 2020  |  Written by :

Sébastien Roy is an expert in business valuation and financial litigation. Contact him today!

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Suzanne Breton
Senior Manager | MBA | Management consulting

The coronavirus crisis is having a serious impact on many SMEs. It’s a stressful situation, but it’s also an opportunity to change the way we do business.

Countless businesses have had to slow their operations or even close as a health precaution, which cuts them off from their main source of income. But the lull has also freed up extra time. This is a good chance to rethink your business strategy and find new ways to deliver your services or generate revenue. Here are a few things you should consider when reassessing your business model.

Promote online sales

Self-isolation has boosted e-commerce, so it makes sense for companies to include online sales in their overall strategy. If you already have an online shop:

  • Introduce deals or discounts to promote sales;
  • Cut shipping costs to remove this disincentive;
  • Offer freebies to get your name out there and boost sales of your other products or services.

Choose alternative sales methods

If your company doesn’t have a transactional website, see if you can use existing platforms or other means to liquidate stocks. For example:

  • Partner websites;
  • Secure sales portals;
  • Telephone sales with products available for a scheduled pick-up or delivery by an external partner.

No matter which method you choose, make a point of promoting gift cards, which are a good short-term cash source.

Use technology to provide your services

There are great tools available to help professional service companies manage their customer relations and accounts:

  • Turn to tech platforms like Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts to keep in touch with clients and offer virtual support;
  • Create content like webinars and live videos to keep relationships alive and maybe even generate new revenues.

Your business could benefit from support measures, such as the government’s initiative Le Panier Bleu, the City of Montreal’s urban delivery and digital shift support, as well as a Québec program to help update the skills of your employees. Consult the summary of available support measures, updated on a regular basis on our website.

Innovate today to prepare for tomorrow

In the current context, customer needs are changing all the time. It stands to reason that the services they require today will be different from those they need tomorrow. How can you prepare for new expectations? It’s time to start innovating by developing new value-added products and services.

This is a time for renewal, so seize the opportunity to make adjustments so that your business will be stronger than ever when the crisis ends.

This is also a good time to review your business model and client journey so that you can determine how to protect business continuity in the future, no matter what happens.

For example, you might want to add new technologies for offering and distributing products or services.

Maintain your customer relations

No matter what happens, keep the lines of communication open with your customers:

  • Remain present on traditional and online media;
  • Send relevant information in your customer newsletter;
  • Engage with customers on social media.

Use all channels and methods to strengthen relationships with current customers and be seen by prospects.

Share insights about the things you and your team are doing. Ask your customers about what things are like for them. Maintain close ties with your audience.

Be creative and engaged. When things get back to normal, you’ll be in a better position to resume operations.

Provide top-level service

Your business has slowed down, but you still have loyal customers? Take this opportunity to coddle them. By going the extra mile for certain clients, you’ll strengthen their fidelity and secure them as your ambassadors when the economy picks up.

As hard as things may be right now, this period presents an opportunity to reinvent your business, find new ways to create value for clients and expand your offer to generate income and keep your clients.

It’s not always easy to know which avenues to pursue. Our experts are there for you. They can help you reassess your business model and develop a winning strategy.

25 Mar 2020  |  Written by :

Suzanne Breton is a senior manager at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton. She is your expert in...

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