He Said, She Said: Facing a tipping point

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“With challenge comes opportunity.” This saying has never been truer.

The COVID-19 global pandemic and the potential economic downturn have created an unprecedented level of business disruption. Navigating the challenges created by this disruption and turning them into opportunities will determine what our firms will look like after this crisis is over.

He said: We are facing a great unknown. The country has been through several crises. We know how to deal with them. We’re resilient. We worked our way through 9/11 and eventually became comfortable with travel and other restrictions. We got through the 2008 financial crisis. Now the COVID-19 pandemic, which presents both health and financial risks, is causing businesses to rapidly change. It’s too soon to know whether the changes will be long- or short-term, but we need to prepare for the future as best we can so we can continue to serve our employees, clients and prospective clients.

She said: I agree. Adapting is the key to dealing with the current situation. For example, tax preparers are using Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms to do some of the things they would have done in person just a few short weeks ago. They are using these tools to meet with their teams and their clients and even for hiring. The pandemic is forcing everyone to do things differently. Some of these changes are very positive. I see it as an opportunity to permanently transition how we operate.

He said: Yes! All professional service firms will have to learn how to implement virtual training for their staff, as well as virtual meetings with clients, potential clients and other advisors. We’ve been forced into this new operating model and we’ve adapted quickly. The truth is some or all of these changes are likely to become permanent.

She said: We’re at a tipping point. For the last several years, automation and artificial intelligence have been taking over more traditional accounting functions and pushed the profession toward more consulting and less compliance. The current situation is building on those changes by creating opportunities for CPAs to offer strategic guidance to their clients around the cash flow and projection issues caused by the pandemic. This is a good thing.

He said: Absolutely. It’s an opportunity all professionals can take advantage of. Once clients realize their CPAs can help them plan strategically during a crisis, they’ll begin to look to their CPAs in a more consultative way.

She said: Few firms saw this coming. It was a fast pivot.

They said: So, what are firms to do? We think the following ideas will help you through the next six months:

  • Protect your staff’s safety.
  • Train your staff to make sure they’re comfortable working with clients in a virtual setting.
  • Remote working requires flexibility and adaptation. Staff may not be working traditional hours because they’re balancing their work lives and their home lives in the same space. Be tolerant.
  • There are a lot of collaboration tools available, e.g., Zoom or Box. Pick one or two tools, learn how to use them proficiently and train your staff on them.
  • Keep an eye on your cash flow. While this is mainly a health issue now, it can soon become a financial problem. Plan accordingly.
  • Long-term opportunities exist. Look for them.
  • Work to remain agile and optimistic. This is an opportunity for innovating the way you work and serve clients.
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Coronavirus Practice management Employee engagement Strategic planning Cash management Work from home