As we enter 2022, planning for the future has rarely been more challenging. How do you identify goals and set priorities when curveballs seem to be flying in from every direction? The ongoing pandemic and associated economic shifts have accelerated existing trends and intensified the dynamic nature of the financial landscape.
It’s not unreasonable to feel a bit besieged while struggling with price instability, supply chain snarls, and severe labor shortages, among other hurdles. But in tumultuous times it is more important than ever that leaders adapt to changing conditions. For small and mid-sized businesses and nonprofits across every industry, meeting these five challenges should be at the top of the priority list in 2022.
1. Coping with staffing limitations
Staffing shortages hit almost every industry hard in 2021, and the extremely tight labor market shows few signs of abating. The Great Resignation reflects not just short-term awareness of disease risk but a broader increased focus on priorities, lifestyle, and family needs. Providing remote work opportunities and other flexible benefits can help, but boosting compensation isn’t always the most effective strategy. Employers can often achieve increased efficiency and cost savings by outsourcing crucial jobs — or pieces of jobs — and adopting the right tech tools. Cloud-based accounting platforms, such as Xero, are ideal for remote teams, because they enable real-time visibility and collaboration with your outsourced accounting team and also connect with a number of other apps to create a streamlined accounting process. An app called Hubdoc, for example, acts as an electronic filing cabinet that can capture emailed bills as well as scanned paper versions, and push them through to the accounting system. Relay is another app that makes bill payment outsourcing easy and allows organizations to avoid handwriting checks.
2. Optimizing for a remote workforce
When COVID first hit, many organizations were unprepared for a sudden turn to fully remote work. Two years later it’s clear that remote work is here to stay — at least for some team members some of the time. Cloud-based accounting platforms let organization managers and employees perform many financial tasks from home, avoiding crowded offices and meeting the growing desire to spend more time with family (or the need to supervise children when schools are closed). Employees increasingly demand the option, and employers have recognized that allowing it where possible not only increases the candidate pool but also ups the odds of attracting and retaining top talent. The right tech stack means organizations can continue to operate, survive difficult times, and improve the quality of life for team members.
3. Complying with complex accounting rules
Accounting standards are evolving; the older model of collecting daily transactions or total sales is no longer adequate. A higher level of transactional detail is necessary as current regulations are often predicated on the assumption that all transactions are collected in detail, in real time, as close to the source of those transactions as possible. Everything from lease accounting standards to Affordable Care Act reporting rules relies on timely, detailed data, and compliance is critical: If you can’t produce appropriately detailed records when requested, you could face penalties reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The costs of outdated accounting processes can be steep even without an official penalty. Paycheck Protection Program loans helped organizations shore up balance sheets and meet payroll during widespread shutdowns early in the pandemic. These influxes of cash were forgivable, but only for entities that could produce detailed records of payroll and other eligible expenses. Organizations with the bookkeeping to support forgiveness are now in a stronger position than their less well-documented competitors. And with the IRS boosting enforcement efforts, implementing accounting and bookkeeping systems that create and track detailed transactional data in real time must be an urgent priority.
4. Gaining visibility and big-picture understanding
Modern accounting systems also offer deeper and more timely visibility into expenses, cash flow, and profitability, the building blocks that help you see how your organization is really performing. Dashboards are a helpful feature in many cutting-edge accounting platforms, allowing leaders to customize the information users see at a glance based on its relevance to the individual’s role within the organization. Businesses and nonprofits alike are moving much faster these days, and this enhanced understanding helps decision makers respond quickly when changes are in order — whether seizing an opportunity at the right moment or pivoting to address small issues before they become bigger problems. Does financial performance match expectations for the period? What’s the forecast for next month or next year? Knowing what’s going on right now puts you in a better position to make decisions that minimize risk and keep you on track to meet long-term goals.
5. Managing expenses in a time of rising costs
Clear visibility into revenue and expenses is especially important now, when inflation is higher than it’s been in decades and input costs are going up.
- Are sales or donations dropping?
- How much are labor costs rising relative to revenue?
- How will higher interest rates on loans impact monthly cash flow?
- Can you increase investment in some areas, or should you be looking for cost savings wherever possible?
No business owner or nonprofit executive wants to spend money that isn’t matched by revenue; solid insights into what’s happening today, this week, and this month allow you to manage cash flow in alignment with the reality of rising expenses.
Beyond rising interest rates and not-so-transitory inflation, there’s ample reason for leaders to maintain an agile stance. Whether it’s a fresh wave of COVID, another new regulation, or an opportunity for additional government support should the economy head south once again, seeing the relationship between financial expectations and results — and having detailed records to build on — can help you respond effectively.
Formulating a clear response to emerging trends and evolving conditions is difficult, especially when you have so many demands on your time. But though the future is unpredictable, focusing on these key needs for 2022 can help position your organization for peak performance no matter what the coming months and years may hold. Contact your CRI advisor for help.
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