Look back at the past few years. What has changed? Of course, we can all point to many personal and professional changes. The real question is, will your future be better than the past? I believe it can be if you make an effort to build a better future for your firm by focusing on the following four areas.
Commit to remote/blended work
Many firms struggled to transition their teams to remote work in the early days of the pandemic—even if they already supported a handful of full-time remote workers. They’ve since realized people can be more productive at home than they’d ever dreamed possible.
Some team members want to be back in the office full-time, but many don’t want to go back to 100% on-site at all. Firm leaders must meet their talent wherever they fall on that spectrum and identify the tools and technologies to support them.
The firms already leveraging cloud technologies are doing very well. Cloud technology is table stakes at this point, so that’s a great place to start. If you’re already there, start looking into emerging technologies that will accelerate even more in the coming years: 5G, blockchain, the internet of things and sensors to collect the audit data remotely. Start thinking about what your firm will look like in the next two, five and ten years and invest in the technologies to support it.
How will you build and maintain relationships with clients and team members in a remote or blended firm? Building relationships is about more than video conferencing using Zoom or Microsoft Teams. You need a process for building relationships, whether you’re meeting with clients, onboarding a new employee or maintaining the culture of your existing team.
Positive relationships are critical to your firm’s success—they’re part of what sets you apart from DIY tax software and automated bookkeeping. Phone calls and emails aren’t enough to keep those connections strong. So much communication is non-verbal. Facial expressions and body language play an essential role in conveying the right message and catching subtle nuances. Expand your communication toolset and create a process for using the most appropriate tool for different situations.
Update your processes
No matter how well your paperless, digital processes worked when everyone was in the same physical location, you likely noticed a few breakdowns in those processes once everyone started working remotely.
Note what worked and what didn’t over the last two years, and look for ways to improve your technology and processes. Your team can be an excellent resource for this. They’re the ones doing the work every day, so they’re usually aware of issues you didn’t notice or have great ideas on how to fix broken processes.
Focus on mindset
To make remote work successful, the firm and the clients must share the same mindset. Servicing clients remotely requires clients that appreciate your use of technology and are willing to change some habits. If your clients refuse to use tools that support fully digital processes, consider whether they’re the right client for your firm.
Remote and blended work environments can provide quality service and strong relationships, as long as we’re willing to make it work. If we can accomplish that while reducing commute times and giving people a better quality of life, why would we ever return to the way things were?
Amanda Wilkie, Consultant at Boomer Consulting, Inc., has a computer science background, but she’s not your average geek. With two decades of technology experience, Amanda has spent 13 years driving change and process improvement through innovative technology solutions working across firms of varying sizes in the public accounting profession. She has held strategic leadership positions in firms ranging from Top 50 to Top 10 including her most recent role as CIO of a Top 30 firm. Amanda is a recognized expert in the profession who regularly speaks and writes on blockchain and cryptocurrency and their impact on the profession.