The circumstances of individual businesses across the world are changing at an alarming rate. As governments implement nationwide lockdowns, many businesses—including accounting firms—have had to make the transition from office life to working from home. Others still, due to the nature of the industry they operate in, have had to close up shop. With so many changes happening so quickly, the demands on accounting firms have increased exponentially.
Daniel Harper, our UK Account Manager, recently hosted a webinar with Carl Reader, Practice Ignition Ambassador, and Phil Hobden, Head of Education at Capitalise, to discuss ways accountants and advisors could cope in the current crisis. Here are just five of the many points they touched upon:
1. Analyse your firm's transition to working from home.
There are many different aspects to working from home that can be optimised for increased team motivation and productivity. Firstly, does your remote team have all the technology they require? This means both hardware, like laptops, and software, like apps and programs. You might have scrambled to send your workers home with gear that was “good enough”—but now’s the time to improve on that. Talk to your staff, find out what’s working and what isn’t, and make sure they are comfortable with the new normal.
2.Use video conferencing to communicate effectively.
With everyone working from home, video conferences have become normalised. Now that everyone is Zooming into work from their home setups, office culture has become more human. Most of us are juggling multiple responsibilities, and we’re all more forgiving about the occasional meeting interruption by irritated children demanding attention, or a spouse delivering much-deserved coffee. This glimpse into the personal lives of coworkers and clients is a unique byproduct of the times we live in, and is bringing us all closer together. Take advantage of the new culture of video conferences, and communicate more effectively than through a simple phone call.
3. Utilise your staff to share the workload.
Your biggest assets are your employees. But are they all working to their full potential? In quiet times, having 20 people in the office, and 5 client-facing staff, might have been optimal. However, as work picks up, having all 25 communicating with clients might be invaluable. Take some time out to multi-skill your staff. Allow individual employees to step into leadership roles, and get everyone invested in the future of the firm. A team who are engaged, supported, and working with purpose and direction, are more likely to see the firm through a crisis than one that’s floundering.
There’s no negating the fact that right now, we’re all in this together. Every individual has a part to play in the outcome of the economy, and we can do our bit by making sure we don’t take more than we need. Across the world, government subsidies and aid has been snapped up by businesses who weren’t in dire need, but who were worried about running out of cash down the line. The problem with this is there is sometimes nothing left for the businesses who are running out of cash now.
5. Don’t go back to business as usual.
There are some good changes to come out of this crisis. Take the time to make them permanent, and then incorporate them into your firm’s strategy if and when you transition back to office life.Businesses across the globe are learning that working from home doesn’t mean less productivity, giving rise to questions about more flexible working arrangements for parents and caregivers. Adopting cloud-based technology means new ways of connecting, encouraging more collaboration than ever before. As for accounting firms, the spotlight has been firmly placed on advisory services. Businesses of all shapes and stripes are now requesting cashflow forecasts, and are realising just how useful these forecasts are. Demand should remain high for advisory even as businesses recover, and the accounting industry will have an important part to play in getting the economy back on its feet.
Don’t go back to the way things were as soon as you have the chance. As the dust begins to settle, take the time out to evaluate and debrief. Survey your staff, and factor in their input. What worked well? What could we do better next time? Keep moving forward to brighter and better horizons.