Back to Work, but Maybe Not at the Office
by L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist
I remember a book titled Work Sucks: and how to fix it written by Cali Kessler and Jody Thomson back in 2008. They correctly defined work as what you do and not where you go. They were employed by Best Buy and started the virtual work movement. For the past 12 years, we have had significant technological advancements that have improved productivity and the work experience. The pandemic finally brought a sense of reality, urgency and acceleration to the virtual workforce.
Today we hear from those who feel working from home increases productivity while reducing commute times and expenses. They want to continue working from home for a variety of reasons. At the same time, some can’t wait to get back to the office and the structure because working from home isn’t for them. Both are right, and firms need to envision a business model that leverages both types of workers as they plan for the future. The market will determine the economic differences.
This change alone will impact office size and design. It will also increase the importance of technology, including different applications, to work in a virtual rather than a physical world. Home offices are being redesigned with security and privacy in mind. Many people just weren’t prepared to work from home, while others were already prepared. For a few weeks, it was difficult to purchase microphones, monitors and vanity lights while people were upgrading their home offices and adjusting to Zoom or Teams. Some employees found they have better bandwidth at home than in the office while others needed to upgrade their bandwidth. A new trend is a bandwidth stipend for those working from home.
Question: Why didn’t firms use Zoom and Microsoft Teams before the pandemic? Why didn’t they upgrade their communications capabilities? Some firms and small businesses are using 20-year-old phone systems. Think about it: the same reasons they didn’t use document management and workflow in the early 2000s. They were resistant to change and held back by personal preferences and paper. Today, you must be digital and in the cloud just to survive.
Enough of the past, let’s get back to work, but not necessarily back to the office. Here are 10 steps to get you there that will assist in sustaining success and improve your future-readiness.
Develop a pivot plan or roadmap. This should include a vision for Today, 90 Days, and One Year. This may sound simple, but it’s critical to your future. Now is the time to focus on priorities and allocate resources accordingly.
Ensure the safety and health of employees and clients. Safety and health must be part of your messaging and value proposition.
Create value and trust. It is more important to create value than it is to capture value at the current time. Many new opportunities have already been identified.
Revive and create demand. The tendency in crisis is to isolate and worry rather than converse with peers and clients. Client conversations will present new opportunities and demand for your services. Focus on your best clients rather than trying to save all clients. This is a difficult concept for many technical minds to accept.
Reboot physical and virtual operations. The physical reboot is painful for firms in high rise office buildings and relatively easy for firms in stand-alone or smaller office buildings.
Explore the subscription business model. This will help reduce risk and improve cash flow. Packaging and pricing of multiple services will add value to your clients and improve cash flow for the firm. The subscription model works in today’s economy.
Evaluate IT and shift to restart mode. The cloud is mandatory. You may need to reprioritize your IT roadmap and budget.
Leverage opportunities created through crisis and reinvest. Many of these opportunities will require management skills and vision. Help your clients define and shape their future. This is an excellent opportunity for those who are more experienced and have technology skills.
Upskill your workforce. Now is a great time to learn. Define your requirements before hiring more accounting skills. Your greatest needs may be in project management, data analytics, technology, marketing and business development.
Evaluate within 90 days. A great plan requires accountability, and we are in a very fluid and dynamic situation.
Technical skills and silos within a firm may be the biggest challenges because many specialists focus on solving technical issues rather than looking at a holistic approach. Considering what is best for the client and how you can add value is the necessary mindset to survive and even thrive from a crisis. Technical skills and working more hours are not the solution to this crisis. The crisis has left many hopeless and without a clear future. Your greatest value as a trusted business advisor is to assist clients in developing their vision and future. This requires conversations, thinking and tough decisions.
It is often easier to start with the knowns and then predict the impact of some of the unknowns. Many call these hard and soft trends. Here are some of the hard trends.
The technology worked, and people can be productive from locations outside of the physical office.
Mindsets are often more important than skills and tools. (Winning: I am going to figure out how to make this work, rather than Losing: I am going to figure out why this won’t work.)
The cloud provides advantages over those who are still in the physical world with legacy technology.
The convergence of multiple technologies will continue to automate processes and improve the integrity of data.
Physical offices will need to be redesigned and, in some cases, repurposed.
The cloud provides improved access to resources and potential buyers.
Local currently has more loyalty.
Value is created from relationships, leadership and creativity.
Triage may be required (clients and employees).
Digital transformation has accelerated by at least two years.
Re-think IT projects and spending.
Working capital and cash flow will be critical.
While these hard trends can guide you in your vision, strategy and tactics, they still require execution. The Who is more important than the How. By that, I mean small businesses should focus on who can get it done rather than how. The whos know how or where to find the necessary resources. Now maybe the time to source, especially in those areas such as project management, data analytics, process automation, process improvement, marketing and sales. The alternative to sourcing is upskilling.
Now is a good time to learn, and people are finding new learning resources. Most small businesses will do a combination of sourcing and upskilling. Firms should do the same. The key is to be able to change and learn faster than the competition. Think-Plan-Grow
Do you want the tools and accountability to start from where you are now and get where you want to be?
The Boomer Certified Consultant Training program helps equip accounting professionals with the mindset and skills to become true trusted business advisors to clients. If you’re interested in learning more about this unique 3.5-day training program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org schedule a call today!
L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is recognized in the accounting profession as the leading authority on technology and firm management. He consults and speaks around the globe on several topics including strategic and technology planning; mindset, skillsets and toolsets for the future; change management and developing a training and learning culture. He also acts as a planning facilitator and coach to some of the accounting profession's top firms.