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Better Every Day: It’s time for firms to pivot

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“New normal” doesn’t seem to appropriately represent the current accounting landscape. I’m not sure the word “normal” should even be used to describe the state of the profession since the advent of the COVID crisis. In fact, it feels more like everything we’ve ever known to be true has been turned upside down — anything but normal.

In a heartbeat, firms had to adapt to a whole new way of operating. This certainly was not by choice, but ordered. And, look, we did it! We were able to keep staff working and continue serving and advising our clients — virtually. The hard truth is that had change not been thrust upon us, some firms would likely still be operating under an outmoded business model — accepting paper, scanning source docs, and all the other manual tasks that have represented firm operations for years.

The accounting profession is forever changed, and for the better. There should be no going back to the old way of doing business — only a continued move forward. We have an enormous opportunity to better serve our clients, further bolster staff satisfaction and be true advisors. It’s time to re-examine every level of firm operations to identify pain points and ways to resolve these challenges. It’s time to pivot.

Fear as a non-factor

I know from experience that fear is the biggest culprit in blocking firm advancement. We fear the unknown, so we submit to continuing with the way things have always been done. In fact, change only tends to occur when the pain of not implementing change outweighs the fear of it. And that’s no way to operate.

The current crisis made fear a non-factor because there was no time to give into it. Firms didn’t have the luxury of time to think through how to pivot business operations … we just had to do it. With fear out of the picture, why not keep the momentum going?

Here are a few ideas to keep you moving forward and the necessity of continuing to pivot:
1. Identify your pivot points. Start by asking yourself, “What are my firm’s biggest challenges?” The goal here is to create a vision of what your firm could look like if you pivoted in needed areas. Take the time to complete a full evaluation of your business — from culture, communications and new client onboarding to product service lines, technology stack and your website platform.
2. Understand that client expectations have changed. COVID-19 changed not only the business landscape but our personal lives as well. There is a heightened sensitivity to personal health and security that will not go away any time soon, if ever. Clients now expect us to offer a degree of “contactlessness” in service. This means upping our technology game to offer video meetings, end-to-end digital file exchange and delivery, and a web platform where clients (and prospects) can conduct business with our firms — all the way through to paying us. People, in general, have pivoted to this new way of life and will expect it of us as well.
3. Understand that staff expectations have changed. A flexible work schedule has always been an added value for employees. But now, having been able to successfully work from home for an extended period, it will be hard to go back to five days a week in the office. The power of technology allows us to work remotely and get work done. There is no longer a need for regular onsite business hours. Your employees know this and will want to work from home more often. Keeping staff happy translates to a healthier firm culture, so be sure to consider pivoting in this area as well.
4. See the opportunities in front of you. The current crisis drove us to take on a much bigger and more proactive advisor role. We stayed ahead of economic relief acts, educated clients on their options, coached them on application submissions, guided and calmed their fears along the way, and are now helping track loans and calculate loan forgiveness. The door is wide open to elevate your advisor role and further strengthen client relationships. Step through the door!

Final thoughts …

Don’t waste this opportunity to advance your firm. The profession as a whole is smack dab in the middle of a monumental transformation. Be part of the movement forward to elevate the client experience, boost staff satisfaction, enhance culture and propel your firm to the vanguard of the profession. It’s a whole new accounting world. Secure your place in it.

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