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Toolbox For Surviving The COVID-19 Crisis

One of the biggest blessings of recovery that I have experienced thus far in my journey has been learning how to effectively manage stress. During my active addiction to opioids, I would heavily rely on them during periods of stress. I never needed an excuse, but I would always need extra to hide and forget about stress.

Well, here we are. The mother lode of stress is upon us! For me personally, our booming practice just experienced its best year in 2019, and the 1st quarter of 2020 further shattered profit records. But everything came to a screeching halt as the ADA, CDC, and NCBDE recommended all non-essential treatment to cease in mid-March. I needed a “Practice and Personal Financial Game Plan” to navigate COVID-19. I needed it to prepare for the worst and allow myself to be calm and ready for anything.

Luckily, in our toolbelt of recovery, there is an entire fleet of tools to manage stress and hurdles! Here are a few essential stress reducing tools that I used while seeking guidance, doing research, and choosing my game plan.

Tool #1 Stay Positive and Take Mental Breaks
I did not panic. Instead, I became focused on staying positive and preparing in every possible way in case we would be closed to emergencies only, closed all together for 2 weeks, 8 weeks, 20 weeks, or more. By staying positive, I was part of the solution, instead of being negative and adding to my current burden.

Tool #2 Exercise Regularly
Exercising daily improves mood and enhances physical and mental health. Research has shown that exercise can decrease fatigue, increase concentration, and improve overall cognitive function. Physical activity can help people sleep, improve self-esteem, and produce endorphins that reduce pain.

Tool #3 Eat Healthy Meals
Eating healthy meals and maintaining proper diet is an important aspect of recovery, not just stressful situations. Eating well-balanced, nutrient-heavy meals and energy-boosting snacks can help improve your mood. Additionally, caffeine and unhealthy meals can worsen anxiety and contribute to panic attacks.

Tool #4 Turn to Religion or Spirituality
Many people seek religion to find guidance during tough times. Research has shown that practicing religion and spirituality may increase the likelihood of staying sober during stressful times in recovery.

Tool #5 Seek Assistance; Social Support Promotes Mental Health
Numerous studies have shown that support from loved ones can reduce stress during difficult times. Family and friends can provide emotional support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging. I was not only in constant contact with CPA firms and attorneys, but my sponsor and sober friends.

Using those tools to navigate this stressful time, here is the financial game plan that we prepared and followed.
(Disclaimer: The following is just my opinion, and you should seek professional advice from your attorney and CPA.)

A- Gather Financial Documents: Make sure you have access to all typically required documents for refinancing/ loan application.

  1. 2017 and 2018 business and personal tax returns
  2. 2017, 2018, and 2019 W-2 forms
  3. 2019 Year End Balance Sheet and Income Statement for the practice
  4. YTD Income Statement for practice, perhaps through the end of February
  5. Personal Financial Statement
  6. Business Debt Schedule
  7. Most recent monthly checking account statement
  8. Most recent 2 months of Merchant Services statements

B- Apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan directly with the SBA: Talk to your CPA.

C- Determine Your Office Staffing Plan: During the time your dental office is closed, it is important that you determine who is a current employee and who is terminated. Talk to your CPA.

D- Cash Conservation: To preserve cash flow, talk to your landlord about rent abatements, reduce or stop all unnecessary business spending, request loan payment deferrals from your bank; including your practice loan, equipment loans, mortgage company, auto payments, student loans, etc., if needed.
Temporarily stop 2020 Federal and State withholding on your paycheck.
If needed, pause other non-essential monthly business services; Google and Yelp ads, office and window cleanings, etc., and non essential personal services.
Keep your front office billing manager working to collect funds, perform appropriate emergency dental services, offer discounts to patients who reschedule elective procedures but who pay now.

E- Devise a 3 Month Practice Cash Plan: Determine how much current cash you will need to cover business expenses during April, May, and June. Include your personal salary/ draw that you need to take from the business in these expenses. Monitor this plan monthly to compare Actual to Budget.

F- Devise a 3 Month Personal Cash Plan: Determine how much you and your family expect to spend over the next three months. Use this time to better understand your personal finances. As mentioned, use this projected monthly spending to determine your business need in Step E.

G- Apply for the SBA 7(a) Loan: This loan is part of CARES, and is sometimes referred to as a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Talk to your CPA.

H- Review Your Existing Loans: Take this time to understand the terms of each business and personal loan that you have. Consider refinancing your home and business debts if you can get more favorable terms that fit your personal and business circumstances.

I- Rehire Your Team: Once your 7(a) Loan is originated, you should make a plan to rehire your team so you can be at, or near, full capacity. Talk to your CPA.

J- Request Loan Forgiveness: Once your 7(a) Loan has been originated, you need to track your loan proceed usage for an eight week period. After this time, you may request loan forgiveness. This process will require paperwork and calculations that need to be performed accurately. Talk to your CPA.

K- Keep Taxes Current: With all that is going on, all taxpayers have been granted an extension of time to file and pay any 2019 Federal income taxes until July 15, 2020. Most states have taken similar measures. Make sure you still file your 2019 Business and Personal tax returns on time, including extensions. Talk to your CPA.

L- Smile and Be a Dentist: You may need to work a little longer, and extra days, once your office is allowed to return to normal. Be there for your patients who are dealing with the setbacks and effects of these unprecedented times.

Stress and your body’s physiological response to it can be effectively managed, leading to a successful navigation of this pandemic, not only for your business, but for your recovery. Come up with a game plan, remember your tools of recovery, and take one day at a time.

-submitted by a Dentist who is a Grateful Recovering Opioid Addict