Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, business owners have started to turn their minds to what will happen after most of the vaccines have been adminstered and the world is able to return to some semblance of normality. Ian Khan offers five suggestions to accounting firm leaders to help ensure your firm emerges one of the winners.
For most of us, the last 12 months have been a rollercoaster, a fast-track MBA in change management and and definitely an era with a steep learning curve, particularly in terms of technology tools. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, I started bringing different communities within industries together, with the hope that collective dialogue between leaders, thinkers and change makers would add value to professionals across communities. One of the success factors in this initiative was that audiences were not yet facing what is now termed as “Zoom fatigue.”
Over the course of last year, I have heard numerous times that folks were not interested in more Zoom sessions, as they were overwhelmed. This is not just an accounting profession problem, but more of a generational issue. As an example, I found that more Baby Boomers and early Gen Xers fell into the category of people who disliked Zoom calls. Younger generations were okay with them and did not show much resistance. With that in mind, I decided to share some insights that are beyond just recommending more Zoom calls. These recommendations are foundational to any business and will help you address multiple growth and stability challenges in 2021 and beyond.
Here is my advice to SMB firms and the accounting profession in general.
- Progress is not a one-way street. Networks and associations are constantly trying to add value to member firms. However, unless accounting firms participate and play an active role in developing and working with networks and associations, the value is not created. Make sure you connect with your network frequently and engage actively in the process of helping them understand what you want them to learn.
- Pre-planning is key to success. Accounting firms undoubtedly get very busy during tax season. Other times, accountants are busy with planning and other tasks. In order to maximize your efficiency as an organization, whether its’s small, medium or large, pre-plan key initiatives at least a few months in advance. These could be things such as installing the new software, redesigning your website or attending a leadership or education course.
- Flexibility is much needed. Establish a clear path you would like to take your organization down. In the post-pandemic world, there will be many new business pressures that everyone will feel. These will include a general sense of confusion, lack of cash, lack of funding, lack of sales and so on. Working with clients and meeting them at a place where their needs are met and ensuring they are not abandoned are key steps.
- Keeping employees engaged takes effort. Connect with your employees who are working from home. This means regular check-ins and working within the environment of remote work for the foreseeable future. Ensure that you keep your employees engaged. This could include rolling out educational courses, training and other activities.
- Make technology the enabler. Update your technology stack, and use tools that help make business smoother and more efficient. You might have started a video conferencing with some clients on Zoom, but that is literally the tip off the iceberg when it comes to leveraging technology. Business efficiency tools for project planning, task management, calendar management, workflow management and others are key to creating efficiency and running your business or practice in a practical, lean and efficient manner.
2021 is expected to be different from 2020. Remote work is expected to stay prevalent, and although vaccines are currently being administered in many different countries until a significant portion of populations is inoculated, it will remain difficult to go back to normal.
Predictions for a Post-Pandemic World
I foresee organizations working in a blended mode of on-site and remote work, although I believe many companies will start bringing staff members back into a physical location as vaccine rollout happens. I also anticipate the business efficiency tools that I mentioned above to be adopted much more and at a consistent level across different industries. In 2020, we saw a surge and rapid adoption of technology by businesses, particularly video conferencing and collaboration tools. This trend will translate into deeper efficiency tools for the industry.
Overall, the state of business is likely to improve in the upcoming months, and despite current lockdowns and distractions due to rising cases of COVID-19, vaccinations are likely to help reduce the overload, provided people across the world adhere to the strict rules of social distancing and wearing masks.
Has your firm already enabled some of the recommendations above? Please feel free to share your experiences and lessons learned.