The COVID-19 crisis has raised significant, interrelated challenges for small businesses. The finance and accounting professionals who serve these businesses are critical leaders for developing and implementing recovery plans. Because small businesses around the world may be particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak, the IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) Small Business Committee (SBC) is offering resources to respond to the emergency.

Open Discussion for IMA Members on myIMA Network

The SBC invites IMA members to join the discussion about small business challenges and responses to the emergency. The discussion is taking place in the myIMA Network. Log into your member account to participate.

IMA President and CEO Jeffrey Thomson observes that, “The COVID-19 crisis currently engulfing the world is requiring tough decisions for many accounting and finance professionals. I can’t think of a better example of the way that IMA fulfills its mission to members than the way our SBC is responding.  IMA as an organization is here to support the small business community with tools and resources to navigate these troubling times.”

“We are making history in these unprecedented times,” says Heather Bain, CMA, CPA, SBC Committee Chair. “Small businesses are vulnerable and need help developing and implementing emergency responses and recovery plans.”


The SBC has published its guide, Small Business Planning during COVID-19. With an emphasis on cash flow considerations, the report provides guidance on how small businesses can apply a three-step assess-build-communicate (ABC) recovery planning framework which includes:

A: Assess the current situation, preferably with a team of experts
B: Build a plan by brainstorming with your team of experts (and an alternative plan B if resources are available)
C: Communicate calmly, clearly and continuously

While not all inclusive, this report can provide focus and resource information during this time of crisis.

The time horizon of impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is unknown, but it is relatively certain that the economic effects will reach across the next six months or longer. The best place to start is an assessment of cash flow. Small businesses must ask the following questions: 

  • Based on our cash flows, can we function for six months? 
  • If not, is it time to shut down operations (or segments of our operations)? 
  • Based on cash flow, is continuation of the business or segment for the next 12 months probable? Some businesses have enough cash to survive for six months, but a lagging business recovery would erode all available cash before positive cash flow is generated.

The process of assessing cash flow—the “A” in the ABC recovery framework—allows the finance professional, along with the right experts, to build the plan. In other words, once a business has evaluated its cash position, leaders must gather all financially relevant data points to create a clear picture of reality vs. expectation. Many of the safeguards that business leaders have used for risk management are ineffective in the case of a pandemic.

Once planning has been developed to a reasonable amount of detail, communicate the plan while identifying each initiative, the person accountable for the initiative, and the actions and budgeted cash flow for the initiative. Specify the goals and objectives of each initiative.

CARES Act:  New US Programs for Small Business

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act became federal law on March 27, 2020 with the intent to assist small business owners. This Act provides for new Small Business Administration backed loans to support American small businesses during the crisis. The most notable new form of financing is the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers that maintain their payroll during the emergency along with forgiveness provisions based on employee retention.  

For information on details of the CARES Act that pertain to small business relief, refer to:


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