According to the Office for National Statistics, 59 percent of UK businesses are not confident about surviving COVID-19. The Coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the globe since December 2019 has destabilised economies, taken down businesses and drastically altered daily life as we know it. The UK accounting industry is also feeling the ripple effect.
The situation is particularly concerning for small to mid-sized accounting firms as their resources are often more limited than those of larger accounting practices and are therefore more vulnerable to volatile market conditions.
In addition, it is predicted that a fifth of smaller UK firms ‘will run out of cash.’ Accountants, in particular, have stated that 18 percent of their clients are unlikely to get access to the cash they need to survive a lengthy lockdown.
If your accounting firm is navigating its boat in rough waters at this time, it is more crucial than ever to strengthen the core of your business and to adapt how you operate to suit the current times. Here are six best practices from Team Stellaripe to keep in mind:
1. Inclusive management
When working from home is the new norm, staff members may feel isolated from the decision-making process. At these times, it is more important than ever for the management to help everyone feel included in executive decisions.
Promote ‘diversity of thought’ by encouraging your employees to share their opinions, and be frank about sharing news with them, whether it’s good or bad.
Don’t forget the humane side of the crisis, and include everyone in the managerial processes at the firm level. This will help to enhance your credibility as an employer and also increase employee loyalty by boosting their morale.
2. Value Addition
Providing top-notch client support to retain your accounting business during the slowdown is crucial. Think of tasks you can do for your clients for free. The list could include advisory services or top-level admin work.
You should also manage your clients’ expectations so that they know their investment is safe with the understanding that things will take more time than usual. This way, you can continue to operate realistically and also protect your revenue.
Alternatively, utilise the time to pivot to a new business, make changes to your operating model or save initiatives for the recovery. For example, if your accounting firm has taken a significant hit, do you plan to consider accounting outsourcing moving forward?
What does your business partner suggest? Is laying off and hiring outsourced accountants at a low cost the right option for you?
Now more than ever, businesses need to build resilience, embrace digitisation and adopt agile practices to ride the wave of change. Successful remote work calls for a new reliance on technology and automation.
If your accounting firm did not rely on such technology earlier – including tools like Slack, Trello or Zoom that facilitate working from anywhere – now is the time to bring them in. You should also encourage your employees to actively use these tools and provide them with training if necessary.
Besides, if your clients are struggling with using these tech-forward collaboration and communication tools, you can also lend them a helping hand for free.
For those used to working at an office and with the company of team members, productivity during the lockdown can take a hit. As a firm, now is the time for your top managers to show your teams how to remain at the top of the game while working remotely.
An excellent way to do this is by implementing a work routine that everyone can follow comfortably. Set aside time for team discussions on Slack and one-on-one calls, and provide flexibility to workers who may have family commitments at home.
Now more than ever, the focus should be on getting things done, not on the number of hours logged in.
5. Digital client experience
While in-person client meetings are no longer possible, there is still plenty of scope to foster a strong connection with your clients. Video conferencing technology makes it easy for the client to get personally acquainted with the relationship manager at your firm.
There can be meetings scheduled to discuss work commitments as well as to bond informally. Moreover, regular old-fashioned telephone calls are still a must to build and foster client relationships.
One cannot underestimate the power of a quick check-in call to answer a question that the client may have raised or simply to ask how they are doing. Your accounting firm can also become creative with their emails and share advice related specifically to business during the pandemic.
If done correctly, digital client experiences can have as much impact as face-to-face meetings and engender a solid bond that lasts well after the lockdown lifts.
Going back to point #2, another best practice that many accounting firms overlook is the power of outsourcing. By delegating routine tasks to third-party accounting service providers, you can save a great deal of time and money.
This will help you remain financially steady and also lets you focus on client services for which you need support, such as tailored consulting and strategy planning.
Summing it up
At some point, this crisis will run its course. Until that happens, make sure your accounting firm plans to survive or better, to emerge stronger and ready to grow again.
If you are looking to shorten your to-do list and want to spend time making tweaks to your operating model, bonding with staff and clients or focusing on growing your advisory department, you can count on us.
Ring us at 020 3475 3537 for a free consultation around how Stellaripe can help you during the crisis and after it. You can also contact us here. Speak soon!