August 24, 2020 Coronavirus en_US When unforeseen challenges arise—like economic uncertainty, and maybe even a global pandemic—bookkeepers are there to provide support and solutions. How one bookkeeper helped small businesses survive amid COVID-19

How one bookkeeper helped small businesses survive amid COVID-19

By Danielle Higley August 24, 2020

Deborah Plance has been bookkeeping since 1985. Like many bookkeepers, she’s proud of her work. And it shows in all the ways she goes above and beyond for her clients. From helping out with their marketing to working late whenever she’s needed, Plance’s priority has always been their success.

Plance opened her practice, Cents & CentsAbility Consulting, in 2009. Mostly she works out of a home office, though she also makes “house calls,” where she works on-site with her small business clients.

That stopped in March 2020 when COVID-19 concerns forced professionals like Plance to work entirely from home. It’s now been months since she’s been able to do her clients’ books in person, but working remotely full-time hasn’t slowed her down. If anything, she’s been busier than ever.

Being an essential resource for federal aid

On March 31, 2020, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The relief bill included the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has since granted financial relief to over 554,000 small businesses.

Plance, for her part, has been doing everything she can to help her clients get a piece of that $349 million pie.

“One of my clients has two companies. She was scrambling for cash,” Plance says. “It really hit her hard because she wanted to keep everybody employed.”

Plance’s client works in construction—an industry that saw heavy spending declines as a result of the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and, almost a million construction workers lost their jobs in May and June. And Plance’s client wasn’t inclined to be among those companies letting people go.

“She knew [the coronavirus] was affecting her business, as well as her employees’ lifestyles,” says Plance. “So she was desperate, really, for the PPP to help her out—to keep everybody employed, no matter what they were doing.”

But simply getting through the application process was an ordeal.

“She couldn’t have applied for the PPP loan on her own,” Plance says.

Like many business owners, Plance’s client was completely lost as to what forms she needed and how to apply. Fortunately, she had a bookkeeper on her side.

“I helped her pull reports from QuickBooks and gather all the information,” Plance says. “Even at 10 o’clock at night—whatever she needed—because I knew it was emotionally draining on her.”

As a result, Plance was the first to know when her client got the news: She’d been approved for a PPP loan. She’d soon have the funding she needed to keep her employees on the payroll.

Working backward as a creative means to find funds

Unfortunately, not all of Plance’s clients were able to receive PPP loan funding. One such client is a real estate agent and property manager. She owns a business complex that was ineligible to receive funding. That’s because, hypothetically, the business should have been receiving money from its tenants.

“But their tenants couldn’t pay because they were shut down—completely shut down,” says Plance. “So their rents weren’t coming in either.”

Plance and her client had to think outside the box. They came up with a plan that would help Plance’s client and her small business tenants.

“We sent the tenants an email—one we mulled it over for a long time,” Plance says.

It was not an easy email to draft, in part, because the “why” and the “how” of the message felt so important.

If Plance and her client could convince the tenants to apply for PPP loans, they might receive funding to support their businesses. Not only would that money cover employee salaries during the shutdown, but it would also help the business owners pay their rent. If they didn’t apply, those tenants might not have the resources to stay in business—let alone keep their lease agreements.

In the end, the plan worked. Several tenants received PPP loan funding. And in effect, Plance’s client received the rent payments she needed to take care of her bills.

Bookkeepers are financial advisors

Plance knows better than anyone how valuable a bookkeeper can be to their client. But she also understands why so many small business owners opt out of hiring a bookkeeper.

“Many of them look at it as just an added expense,” she says. “They don’t understand that, in the long run, there’s a lot of other decision-making to be done, [and] a bookkeeper can help.”

She wishes more business owners understood that the bookkeeper’s role isn’t just to balance the books. For Plance, it’s about being a financial advisor. It’s about taking all that advanced knowledge of the business’s cash flow and financial opportunities and using it to help a client succeed.

And when unforeseen challenges arise—like economic uncertainty, and maybe even a global pandemic—bookkeepers are there to provide support and solutions. It’s an ordinary job that, with the right person at your side, can result in extraordinary work.

Deborah Plance is also a QuickBooks Live Bookkeeper.

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Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She’s been a contributor to, FiveThirtyEight, and a variety of HR and business blogs where she can put her affinity for long-form storytelling to best use. Read more