How to Develop a Sanitation Plan for Employee and Customer Safety

How to Develop a Sanitation Plan for Employee and Customer SafetyAs part of a comprehensive strategy to cope with COVID-19 and reduce the risk of spreading it, developing a sanitation plan is a necessary tool that businesses can implement during the reopening process.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a thorough approach for cleaning and disinfecting. The first thing to do to reduce the amount of COVID-19 virus on exterior surfaces and items handled by individuals is to wash them with soap and water.

When it comes to items handled by many individuals, using appropriate disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protect Agency that contains active ingredients such as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, and sodium chlorite is another way to lower the chances of people being exposed to the virus.

The CDC lists a few examples of items that exist in offices and/or retail outlets that need to be disinfected – not just cleaned. Examples include touch screens, phones, handles, light switches, tables, doorknobs, toilets, shopping carts, and anything that’s likely to be touched by multiple people throughout the day. Keeping doors open can reduce the need for employees or customers to constantly touch the door.

When it comes to soft or spongy items, such as rugs or seating, the CDC recommends to first remove any unnecessary items. For things that must remain such as carpeting, they should be washed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, using hot water and letting them dry fully.

Another way to increase workplace and retail hygiene is to improve air quality. Other recommendations include running air filtration and exchanges 24/7. It also includes maintaining fresh filters and ensuring they’re installed properly and increasing the level of air filtration to maintain clean and healthy airflow.

Encouraging employees to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol is also recommended. Reminding employees verbally or through written means (including signage posted throughout the building) to wash their hands throughout the day, including before and after work, when they use the restroom, and after touching their workspace or work materials is also recommended.   

While every office and retail space is different, taking steps to reduce the chance of COVID-19 infection is a great way to stay safe and create goodwill with employees and customers.


IRS Gears Up for Aggressive Enforcement

IRS Gears Up for Aggressive EnforcementRecently, the IRS Commissioner testified before the Senate Finance Committee, sending the message that the IRS is committed to catching intentional tax evaders. There was no ambiguity in the message of his testimony to Congress; he noted that under his watch, the IRS will aggressively pursue those purposely evading their tax obligations with civil and criminal enforcement. The commissioner made sure to mention that those who were not defrauding the system intentionally had nothing to worry about; they are not the target of stepped-up enforcement.

The IRS will be targeting five major enforcement initiatives:

  1. Technology – The IRS will put a new focus on their use of technology as an enforcement tool; specifically, advanced data and analytical strategies. With this data-driven approach, the IRS believes it will be able to catch tax fraud impossible to spot even just a few years ago.
  2. Offshore Tax Evasion – Offshore tax reporting enforcement is a long-standing priority of the IRS, but the current commissioner reiterated the focus on this area, so don’t expect to see any easing here.
  3. Tax Shelters – The IRS believes many taxpayers are abusing two tax shelters, syndicated conservation easements, and micro-captive insurance arrangements. They plan on stepped-up enforcement on both those who arrange these shelters and taxpayers who participate in them.
  4. Cryptocurrency – The IRS believes there is mass non-compliance in the world of cryptocurrencies through either underreporting or nonreporting of taxable transactions.
  5. Wealthy Taxpayers – Enforcement actions take time and are resource-intensive, so it should be no surprise that the IRS is going after non-compliant taxpayers with the biggest ROI. The IRS is considering anyone with an income level of over $100,000 to be high-income. 

Expect to see increased tax enforcement efforts ahead, with a focus on those who are intentionally evading the system. If you haven’t purposely defrauded the system, you have little to worry about.

How Businesses Can Help Protect Themselves Against Civil Unrest

How Businesses Can Help Protect Themselves Against Civil UnrestIf the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a big enough strain on businesses trying to engage in commerce, whether it’s retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, or those in the service sector, civil unrest puts another strain on surviving the downturn. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Small Business Administration, businesses can prepare for civil unrest.

While the British firm Verisk Maplecroft predicts that 75 countries will see civil unrest in 2020, the United States has already seen its fair share recently. While the future intensity of civil unrest can’t be predicted, businesses can take steps to plan and mitigate such events.

For businesses, the first priority is to ensure employees and customers are not put in harm’s way. If a dangerous situation happens quickly and without warning, there are some steps business owners can take to mitigate the threat.

  • Plan ahead for travel disruptions by keeping an eye on local media reports and online/social media. This information can be helpful for informing employees and customers not to go to work or order online if a retail outlet or office location is subject to civil unrest.
  • Ensure that all workers are familiar with emergency and security plans. This might include having current contact information to reach employees before they go to work or giving them time to leave before the situation escalates.

Another recommendation is to take steps against arson, break-ins, and damage sustained to the property. Examples include maintaining employee vigilance against the out-of-the-ordinary activity. Review security and fire protection systems, how alarm companies will notify business owners, and what steps the monitoring companies will take to mitigate against burglary and/or fire. Reinforce locks and board up areas vulnerable to damage or provide easy points of access during civil riots (e.g., protect glass doors and windows).

If first responders take longer than normal to arrive, it’s important to take measures to reduce the chance of serious and unintended damages from the civil unrest. Be it water, gas, electrical or related systems, turning off all but necessary utilities (e.g., water for sprinklers; enough heat to prevent freezing pipes; power for an alarm system) could reduce the risk of additional damage.

Along with having a commercial insurance policy that includes looting as a covered peril, one other important part of a business continuity plan is how important documents are stored. Will they be stored on-premises in a safe? Will they be stored online, in the cloud and encrypted? Will they be stored offsite in a secure location?

Much like other disasters that often happen with little to no warning, businesses that prepare before civil unrest occurs can help reduce the amount of property damaged and help get their operations back to pre-crisis levels.


Payroll Protection Program Loan Forgiveness is Here

The first Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans were made over eight weeks ago, which means they may be forgivable if the guidelines set forth by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the United States Treasury Department are met.

In order to have a loan forgiven, borrowers need to complete the 11-page application made available by the Treasury Department.  Applicants can complete the forms either in hard copy or via an online platform if provided by their lender.  Large borrowers, those who took out more than $2 million from the PPP program are required to file even more paperwork.

Along with the application, borrowers also need to submit a Forgiveness Amount Calculation. This calculation discloses the total eligible payroll costs paid during the program.  Applicants will also need documentation such as tax filing statements, utilities, their PPP loan contract, EIDL contract, and any supporting documents you used when applying for the PPP loan. 

Certification of the loan forgiveness amount requested is necessary to prove it was truly used to pay eligible costs such as payroll, business mortgage interest, rent or lease payments, and utilities. Further, borrowers must report any declines in the number of full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and/or wage reductions over twenty-five percent. Failing to retain pre-program FTE headcount or wage reductions over this threshold will reduce the eligible amount of loan forgiveness.

The amount of paperwork necessary to substantiate the application can be daunting, especially for many “main street” businesses. In order to help you complete the application, the SBA has issued formal guidance which can be found here.  As a more user-friendly guide giving detailed instructions on how to fill out your PPP forgiveness application form guide can be found here provided by Bench. We can assist you with the application process itself and the required documentation. Give us a call to see how we can help instead of struggling through the process on your own.

COVID-19 Recovery Responses are Crucial for Companies to Thrive in the Future

With the coronavirus spreading across the globe, catching individuals and governments off guard, business owners have not fared any better. While the virus is having a grave impact on the health of millions across the globe, businesses have seen an equally serious impact on their bottom line. The virus is projected to hit businesses’ cash-flow and the ability to stay open post-pandemic.  

While different parts of the country have been hit harder than others, the nation’s businesses, their owners, and employees are all dependent on the national and global economy. Looking to those who have survived past crises, business owners are now tasked with guiding their organizations through the coronavirus pandemic.

Effective Attributes and Responses to Help with Recovery

Right now, more than ever, it is equally important that business owners empathize with their clients’ expectations and their employees’ needs while also taking steps to maintain their financial health.

Other attributes of effective business owners include making sound judgments in light of limited or incomplete data, along with providing a positive but realistic forecast of the situation to keep the employees motivated and productive. Lastly, leaders who see crises like the coronavirus as opportunities to identify trends for innovation and ways to problem solve can look to brighter days in the future.  

Protecting the Business’ Bottom-Line

Like other sustained business interruption events, there’s a three-pronged approach that businesses can implement to increase their chances of survival. The first is to manage the shock from the initial impact and establish a protocol for the new normal in order to preserve continuity. The next step is to learn from what has occurred and adapt to the way work is now being performed to serve clients as effectively as before. The final step is to identify future opportunities to operate differently, more efficiently, and gear up for the post-crisis new normal.  

To better mitigate major effects from a crisis and begin the adaptation process, the following are practical steps to emerge leaner and more efficient as the reopening process begins. Two primary actions that businesses must take is to first protect the well-being of workers, while also protecting the business financially.

  1. Making decisions should be streamlined because a lack of certainty can give decision-makers analysis paralysis. This can slow down important steps needing to be made faster than during non-crisis times. Moving from a chain of command to collaborative teams to make decisions can increase speed by having fewer steps and faster decision-making processes.
  2. Documenting all cash the business holds, along with committed and uncommitted lines of credit, also is suggested. Be sure to include lines that are pre-established with banks or credit unions, plus any existing borrowing limits from lenders; this will provide a baseline for businesses to make crisis projections. Other liquidity measures might be negotiating to extend better payment terms and refinancing existing lines of credit for better short-term payments, potential new equity injections, etc.
  3. Quickly modeling different economic outlooks for existing markets that are served, depending on how mild, moderate, or severe the crisis impacts that business, can provide greater insight on a business’ financials. As conditions change, it will become evident how much cash is needed and what areas of a business might need to be scaled back or cut. Leaders should also look at the likelihood of not being able to serve outstanding debt, primarily as they look at liquidity and the profitability of the business’ operations.
  4. Determine the business’ mission-critical business segments. This looks at which services or products are most profitable and/or resource-intensive. This will help determine which ones are important to current and future cash flow and which segments could be impacted based on the length and severity of the crisis.
  5. Evaluate what businesses can do to reduce non-essential or discretionary expenses to positively impact its finances. This can be accomplished by reducing or forgoing landscaping a business’ exterior or holding off on repainting a building. It can also come in the form of reducing one shift or reducing spending on employee training.  

Since the coronavirus is a fluid crisis and there are many possible outcomes, business owners will implement different practices based on how this crisis evolves. Depending on the severity of the actual impact, different products or services can be stopped temporarily, employees’ hours can be reduced or a hiring freeze can be implemented.

Understanding Three Revenue Metrics

Understanding Three Revenue MetricsAccording to the 2019 Small Business Profile, a project from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, there are 30.2 million small businesses, making up 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses. With 59.9 million of these small business employees making up 47.3 percent of workers in the United States, it’s clear that this is an important segment of the American economy. With small businesses striving for profitability, the following are some examples of how they can measure their revenue targets, helping them increase their chances of profitability.

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

This ratio can also be referred to as an average revenue per unit to measure how much revenue can be generated by each customer. The ARPU is calculated as follows:

ARPU = Total Revenue / Average Subscribers

As the name implies, Total Revenue is how much revenue a business earned over a certain period. Average Subscribers refers to the average number of subscribers over a certain time frame.

If a business wants to analyze how much revenue their business is generating per individual/customer, it can be over a month, a single year or over multiple years. To calculate how many Average Subscribers exist for a 12-month period, the business would measure their customer base at the beginning and ending of the year. That summation would then be divided by two. The following would occur:

Year 1: $1,000,000 / (100,000 + 200,000 / 2) = 6.7

Year 2: $4,000,000 / (200,000 + 400,000 / 2) = 13.33

Based on this two-year analysis, the company has become more profitable over time. Along with a company comparing its internal statistics, this measurement can show investors or financial analysts which company is more profitable depending on which business has a better ratio.

Average Revenue Per Paying User

Businesses use this ratio to determine how much revenue, on average, the organization receives from each paying patron. While this sounds close to the ARPU, the main difference is that with this ratio, only customers who have made a payment are factored. It shows a business how profitable the customer is and what the customer’s average contribution is toward the business’ revenue. It’s calculated as follows:

ARPPU = Total Revenue / Average Number of Paying Users

The top part of the metric consists of all revenue earned by a company over a set period. The bottom part is the weighted average of all of the paying users during the same time frame the Total Revenue is earned. Depending on the time frame, it could be measured as average revenue per paying daily active user or the average revenue per paying monthly active user.

A real-world example illustrates the concept:

If a company has 1,800,000 customers for its total user base and 60 percent of these are a paying user base (or 1,080,000 have paid), the paying user base would be used to determine its ARPPU over a 12-month period. Assuming a company made $2,000,000 in total revenue for the same 12-month period, the calculation is as follows:

$2,000,000 / 1,080,000 = $1.85

Along with helping to determine how to increase sales to increase the average ARPPU, it also helps separate the non-revenue paying customers. This segment can be identified and targeted through emails, surveys, calls, etc., to see what’s holding them back from becoming a paying customer. Unmet need such as new payment options, or different subscriptions can be identified through customer inquiries.

Average Revenue Per Account (ARPA)

This type of financial measurement helps businesses know how much revenue each client’s account generates over a specific period of time, generally done per month or every 12 months. This metric determines which account and the associated product or service related to the account loses money, breaks even or is profitable.  

It’s noteworthy to point out that an individual customer might have more than one account. While it’s not recognized by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), it is usually included on a company’s financial statements and often goes into discussions with potential and existing investors.

This metric is calculated as follows:

ARPA = Total Revenue over a certain period (1 month or 1 year) / Number of accounts held over the same period

If a company is generating $2,000,000 in revenue per month and has 2,000 accounts, the ARPA is $1,000

Some considerations for this metric include measuring customer accounts accurately. For example, if a new product or service is introduced in the following year, it’s good to separate one year from the next to see if one year’s product is better than last year’s product, or if the new product is underperforming compared to the previous product generation.

While these are only a few examples of measuring profitability, it’s a good start to see how a business is performing on a regular basis.


Why eSignatures Are Better Than Handwritten Signatures

Signatures play an important role in authenticating a document or binding an individual by the provisions contained in a document. And sometimes, a handwritten signature can slow down the process. This is because it’s dependent on the availability of the parties that are involved. It also includes the exchange of paper. You can imagine if you are doing business with an overseas company and have to wait for the documents to be delivered before you can continue with the transaction.

Many business processes have now been automated – and the signing of documents is one of these processes that has been streamlined.

Here are some reasons that make e-signatures better than handwritten ones:

  • More secure: With handwritten signatures, you are never 100 percent sure that the signature has not been forged. To the contrary, with an e-signature you can always track it to see if the document was tampered with.
  • Reduces costs: E-signatures eliminate the cost of printing documents and the postage incurred with handwritten signed documents.
  • Speeds up processes: E-signatures speed up business processes, considering that today almost all documents can be delivered online in an instant.
  • You can do it for free: Some online programs provide signing digital documents for free. To prevent forgery, online signatures are protected through verification methods and security audits.
  • Integrates with modern business: Technology has helped businesses evolve to be automated, saving time and speeding up processes.
  • Easy to use: Users can sign documents online by tracing their handwritten signature using a stylus or with the click of a mouse button.
  • Easy to track documents: Unlike tracking a physical document, it’s easy to track documents signed online using most of the available e-signature software. This eliminates lost paperwork problems.

Clearly, electronic signatures now play a big role in businesses today due to their convenience. And with the growing trend for businesses to go paperless, anyone who wants to enhance the efficiency of their business has no choice but to use e-signatures.