Firms Adapt in 2020-How COVID-19 has lit a fire under CPAs!

Poe Group Advisors

 

CPAs on fire (in a good way).

What a bizarre year it has been! Personally, I feel a bit like I’m in start-up mode again. When changes came last March, we kicked it into high gear and have been going strong since.

Luckily, our team gets to talk with CPAs every day all over the US and Canada. For the vast majority of owners that we’ve spoken with, everyone has been busy, busy, busy! For me, I feel like the dust is just beginning to settle and I can start to grasp the context of it all. (Hopefully there are no more surprises.)

Yesterday I walked to lunch with a couple of my team members and we were talking about how we’ve now adapted to all of the new circumstances that 2020 has brought. We’ve settled in a bit. Someone said, “will things ever go back?”

Someone else said, “Sure, the things we like and miss will pick right back up as soon as we can. The things that we’ve learned that we like we’ll keep.”

In a nutshell, that’s how we see things. When COVID-19 eventually passes, you’ll keep what you like, discard what you don’t. Innovation and change have accelerated in our industry more so than in many others. This has the potential to create a boom in the accounting industry. For an industry that notoriously resists change, this lit the proverbial fire under us!

 

Prediction: Big opportunities are on the horizon for CPA firms.

Let’s talk about the 3 R’s!  Remote, Reflect, Rebalance.

 

Remote Teams Done Right

The majority of firms have had to adopt technology to facilitate remote teams. What may have seemed daunting or even impossible suddenly became necessary and now this capability will endure.

For our team, we had the tech stack to switch to remote work instantly, but we had to adapt to collaborating as a team. That might have been the biggest adjustment we had to make. How do you keep your team engaged and motivated? How do check in and stay abreast of what’s going on? How do you keep people accountable and on task?

Our solution was an idea I got from the book Scaling Up called The Daily Huddle. By far, this has been the best thing for our ability to get results as a remote team. The 15-minute daily check-ins are a way to keep priorities top-of-mind and to help each other get “unstuck” to blast through any client or project obstacles. This is something we definitely will keep doing when everyone comes back to the office!

However – I don’t think 100% remote working will endure. Most teams will eventually go back to the office at least for the most part.

I could be wrong about this, because I’m basing this prediction almost entirely from my own experience. After the financial crisis in 2008, I started working from home. At first, I loved it. I felt a new freedom and was productive. As time went on though, my productivity suffered. I wanted the energy of people around me to help stay engaged and motivated. After about five years of working from home, I went back to an office and I’ll never go back. I’m personally more productive in a team.

 

Reflect – Change has been a necessity this year rather than a choice.

The disruptive nature of this year’s events naturally forced owners to abandon or seriously question the status quo. Do we need an office or an office this big? What can we automate? Do I want to go back to practicing and working the way we used to? Do I want to work this hard? Are we working with the right clients…the right team?

For many, this reflection was severely overdue and is extremely healthy. There are a lot of firm owners who are considering some major life changes. We anticipate that many will decide to finally sell in 2021. Others will decide to acquire and grow in order to transform their role in the firm or because they see opportunity.

We’d love to hear from you, what are your reflections so far this year? What will you keep, and what will you go back to as soon as you can?

 

Rebalance – Many of us have worked harder than ever in 2020.

I personally worked harder in 2020 than I’ve worked in over a decade. Several of my trips got cancelled this year and time off wasn’t enjoyable because there was not much else to do – so I thought, why not make 2020 a building year? I put in a lot of long hours.

Now though, I’m realizing I’m ready to take my business to the next level so I can focus on more of the activities in the business where I add the most value and build my team so they can take old duties from me to free up my time. I’m ready to work less post-COVID.  It’s also exciting to see my team empowered and excited to take on new challenges. (If you are ready to take your firm to the next level, while also learning to work less in 2021, check out APA.)

All in all, this is all going to be a recipe for tremendous opportunities in the accounting industry. Most firms have taken a leap in technology and remote work this year. That has caused you to innovate in ways you might not even yet be aware of. Which will make your practice more valuable when you go to sell. Many of your clients have done the same. Additionally, maybe now you realize just how reliant your business clients are on their CPAs! They need you to step up and play a more critical role for them. Are you ready?

There have been massive innovations taking place that will pay dividends for years to come. There is opportunity for real freedom and renewal.

 

Accounting Practice Scorecard

 

About Brannon Poe:  Brannon is the founder of Poe Group Advisors and has been facilitating successful accounting practice transitions throughout the US and Canada since 2003. He is also the creator of Accounting Practice Academy™ – a virtual workshop that helps established firms take their practices to the next level. Brannon is the author of the Accounting Practice Insights Blog and hosts the Accountant’s Flight Plan” podcast with other top thought-leaders in the accounting profession. Brannon is an E&Y alumnus. He has worked with some of the most successful and seasoned CPAs in the industry and has been privy to the behind-the-scenes methods that these clients have used to build highly profitable practices along with capable and independent teams. Brannon has authored multiple books, including “Accountant’s Flight Plan – Best Practices for Today’s Firms” (published by both the AICPA and CPA Canada) and “On Your Own: How to Start Your Own CPA Firm,” Second Edition (published by the AICPA). Brannon is passionate about entrepreneurship and is the president of EO Charleston (Entrepreneur’s Organization).