Reopening Practices

Kristen Rampe, CPA / May 25, 2020

As CPA firms wrestle with how they may change forever, and what they can’t wait to bring back, there are a wide variety of practices being considered.

Here are three ideas we’re seeing that highlight differences in reopening strategies within the accounting industry.

1. “How can we get more, or exclusively, remote-only clients?” More than just working from home temporarily, some firms are actively changing how they interact with clients, in the long-term.

Benefits

  • Making this kind of a shift, most likely to be considered for smaller firms, can require you to focus on one or a few niche industries. For many small firms, this has been “on the radar” but without a strong trigger, not implemented.
  • You can fit in 2 – 3 virtual client meetings in the time it would typically take to do one in-person meeting.
  • This model has been proven by firms who were already working 100% remote with all their clients before COVID-19.

What to watch out for

  • Not all clients, especially local ones, will be thrilled about never meeting face-to-face again.
  • Do you have what it takes, marketing-wise, to be able to grow and develop your practice virtually? Do you need to update your website? Do you have a strong video-meeting-presence and corresponding technology?
  • Your processes and systems may need to change to be most efficient in this arena. How will you handle clients who lack the technology and skills to send documents electronically? Of course, this could be the opportunity to decline these types of clients, which for some firms would be a long-overdue relief.

 

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2. “Let’s never go back to that much commuting.” Partners and staff alike are both enjoying the extra time available when commutes are eliminated.

Benefits

  • Many people report productivity benefits in working from home, though plenty (e.g. those with kids and without childcare) may need reduced or flexible work arrangements at least in the short-to-mid-term.
  • Partner and employee morale may be improved with the reduction in commute times and office annoyances (that fishy smell in the microwave, Barb who just won’t stop talking, no good place to take a true break, lack of my actual own refrigerator and kitchen at my fingertips).
  • Future lease considerations could reduce the amount of total space needed (with an emphasis on more conference areas).

What to watch out for

  • Is communication adapting to our needs? Are people being clear in their requests, messages, and review notes?
  • What meeting lengths, frequencies, and attendees make sense for what your firm needs? How many meetings are 1:1 vs. group?
  • What retention tactics (think culture here) will be prioritized to keep your team connected to one another and the firm?

 

3. “Let’s get back to work (in the office).” Some firms are in their offices already, or never left.

Benefits

  • Teams feel more ‘at home’ even though they are practicing social distancing for and navigating the awkwardness that comes with those efforts.
  • You’ll feel good making use of your space again, and having some semblance of old routines in place, even if it’s just the coffee. While it may seem trivial, these creature comforts have a positive effect on team cohesion when they mirror what worked well in the past.
  • The ability to gauge the temperature and know how people are feeling is also relatively effortless (except for those challenged in this area) compared to only seeing someone occasionally and via video. This improves communication and can benefit productivity.

What to watch out for

  • The need to keep everyone healthy by implementing necessary safety measures is Job #1, of course.
  • Undoubtedly there will be some team members who would in fact prefer to work from home more than you’re offering. These individuals will be closely watching their peers at other firms to see if a different employer might provide the work environment they’re after.

Whichever path you choose on these and other reopening topics, your job as a firm leader is to chart the course for your team and communicate it effectively.

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