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COVID-19 and the new business imperatives for CPA firms

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Highs, lows, curveballs and surprises are routine for every business, including accounting firms. Pandemics, however, are not routine (thankfully!). This crisis tests and provokes us all to the extreme.

Business for CPA firms is usually tied to four primary channels: client service, business development, knowledge and financial prudence. The more you continue to keep your primary channels healthy, the better you will do — no matter the disruption. Here are some new business imperatives to address each of the primary channels at your practice.

Client service

Attentiveness and connectivity to your clients builds loyalty and brand. Clients are more aware of what technology means to the service delivery process, so firms must always strive to be leading edge in tech efficiencies and data analytics. During difficult times, firms must be ultra-focused on prioritizing the service to their better clients and be aware of the concerns at hand. Here, too, technology is important; polling, surveying and chat groups need to be highly active.

The more robust your service offerings are, the better. In good times and bad, clients want the edge over their competitors. Advisory services need to become deeper and more meaningful. Being able to offer technology advances, efficiency and cost-cutting analytics, due diligence, recapitalization modeling and compensation studies are just a few of the disruption-ready services many firms are focused on. The more your firm is compliance-based means the more vulnerable you are to a continuity collapse — and to cost-cutting measures.

Business development

CPA firms are sustained by having good clients who are loyal and ready to use the firm in many important ways. Normally there is some level of client attrition and, during this pandemic, the odds are greater that turnover will increase. Business development and marketing need to be in higher gear now than ever before.

The messaging and the deliverables require a lot of updated assessment. Businesses are in pain and you are the firm to remove that pain. Show them how to manage their pain — or how to design a whole new health plan! If you are a firm that makes compliance your hallmark, your business development efforts will focus on factors such as cost, timing, presentation, efficiency and technical expertise.

Knowledge

The crucial dimension to knowledge is people — no matter what the climate or external circumstances. You should always strive to upgrade the expertise of — and stimulate and challenge — your team. The pandemic is no exception.

Determine what services and what clients are to be in your sweet spot and update the job profiles and performance expectations for all of your staff. Formal and informal training should be ongoing. Listening and questioning skills need to be advanced. Ramp up skills and performance potential assessments. Recalibrate coaching and mentoring.

Deploying people to their highest and best use can’t stop and helping them get better year-round is going to create more deep-rooted knowledge and more realistic intellectual sustainability.

Finances

Budgeting and investment are routine best practices and must be regular actions for CPA firms and businesses of all kinds, no matter the size and no matter the economy.

Many firms have been injected with PPP funds during the pandemic, so there is a head start on being able to set aside funds to invest and then reinvest. Each year, firms should have a line item for research and development, whether internally driven or through outside parties. R&D into new and deeper advisory services is worth significant consideration.

A growing number of firms are using packaged- and value-based pricing. If this is something you’re doing as well, it’s a good time to reassess the packages, including payment terms, to make sure they appeal to your clients. The current conditions may warrant changes to your packages and will open the door for value-based pricing. Pricing and value are year-round priorities. However, they become even more of a focus in tough times.

The more consistently you operate on a business-as-usual platform, the better you will not only perform in unusual circumstances like a pandemic but in more normal, fluid circumstances as well.

Entrepreneurs seize opportunity, and there are many opportunities even today. Keep disciplined about the core best practices for your main channels and make the pursuit of opportunities part of your new business as usual to sustain your CPA firm for what’s to come.

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