Small business workload shock hits home

Managing my workload now as a small business service provider is unlike any challenge I’ve faced before in my work career. I hear the same from my accountant peers. Some days it seems like I just go from one life emergency to another life emergency, never even reaching normal work tasks. I find it almost impossible to finish one call or task without being interrupted by another new more urgent or critical one. So while it is important to remain clear-focused, logical and calm, I must also communicate the impact of the larger situation.
The largest portion of the workload comes from small businesses. Our local economy was hit harder than most, promised SBA and EDA never came, any now many business people are facing serious consequences like eviction and lawsuits, divorce, etc. A significant number of key workers in my organizations and client businesses died from COVID or other medical issues. Many more survived but are now operating at reduced capacity (mentally and physically). Meanwhile most government offices, including tax and business licensing agencies, are hopelessly backed up. Yet automated collections, enforcement actions and prosecutions are owing forward at a record pace. We all know it’s not fair. The public is outraged and sometimes taking it out on their accountants.
My response is that I plan to remain focused on my own mental and physical health and look for ways to systematically improve work process efficiency. (Writing this post is part of that analytical and reflective process). Sleep and exercise are priorities to boost work productivity. I’ve already doubled my fees in hopes of decreasing demand and am looking for a way to hire and train help. I do not yet see how this will be possible as most are not willing to do this work at this small business pricing level. The net financial effect of the pandemic era is a net financial loss of tens of thousands to me, mostly because a few large clients went out of business or have not reopened yet. So the financial stress also limits my response to new work demands.
So the bottom line, in mundane practical terms, is that I’ve almost never exceeded 20 work tasks in a work day and the average is more like 8-10 before fatigue sets in. I have a backlog well over 100 tasks. With the number of new task growing daily, that means a backlog for months.
Fortunately most people do understand and appreciate when I communicate that I am prioritizing emergencies and time critical tasks. But just making these communications takes a huge amount of time. Still, that seems like the best plan. Other people are not so understanding. Some people are telling me that their accountants just stopped communicating months ago. This week one guy wrote on Facebook that my business road sign was “false advertising” because one of the business remains closed since the pandemic under this ongoing work stress. I assume that at this point that the small business world is not getting back to “normal” any time soon.

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