During a global pandemic affecting not only your business but all aspects of everyday life, it can be difficult to adapt, especially when circumstances evolve by the hour. For the vast majority of small business and accounting firms, it is anything but business as usual. On Twitter, we recently chatted with an expert panel about how accountants and small businesses are adapting and responding to the changes resulting from COVID-19.
The discussion included the following panelists:
- Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded
- Tom Hood, president and CEO of Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute
- Rafael Casas, Sage senior accountant advocate
- L. Gary Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting
- Garrett Wagner, founder and CEO of C3 Evolution Group
- Blake Oliver, executive producer of Cloud Accounting Podcast
- Tripp Braden, CEO speechwriter, Strategic Performance Partners
- Brian Tenkersley, director of strategic relationships, K2 Enterprises
Here is an edited transcript of what they discussed with us.
How have you adjusted to not having face-to-face interactions with customers?
“Modern consumers have never JUST been in person. They have been online in a variety of ways and the COVID-19 crisis has pushed businesses to enhance their social media strategies more so than ever before.” Nicole Leinbach Reyhle @RetailMinded
“Visual comms technology like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype allow me to have several meetings per day which would have been impossible before. The amazing thing about these visual technologies is that they are almost as good as face to face and 10x better than traditional voice-only methods.” Tom Hood @TomHood
How will the July 15 tax deadline extension impact your clients and your business?
“It was much needed and we advocated hard for that to happen with [the] Treasury and Maryland Comptroller so that CPAs had time to help businesses file for all of the relief and loans coming from the federal and state COVID packages. CPAs and firms are prioritizing those who are getting refunds from those who need the most help filing for help.” Tom Hood @TomHood
“The COVID-19 quarantine and the July 15th tax deadline mean that many practitioners will be busy completing client work this summer, so I plan to take advantage of more opportunities to do consulting and writing. Change always creates new opportunities.” Brian Tankersley @bftcpa
What are some key considerations for brick and mortar businesses transitioning to a fully online/virtual model?
“Reevaluating customer communication and care is critical amidst COVID-19. This includes evaluating selling avenues, new opportunities and ways in which customers want to be supported. Making sure all technology easily connects with each other is key, as well.” Nicole Leinbach Reyhle @RetailMinded
“I encourage everyone to invest in a high-quality webcam, headset, and lighting so you can make the best impression with clients.” Blake Oliver @BlakeTOliver
What opportunities does the CARES Act create for your business and your customers?
“A needed lifeline in a time of need and a planning opportunity.” Garrett Wagner @garrettwagner37
“The new and updated SBA programs in the stimulus package are driving increased demand for forecasting and planning. Some of these loans require a relatively long-term cash forecast, and businesses are looking to accounting pros to help them with that and other paperwork.” Blake Oliver @BlakeTOliver
What changes to mindset are required for business owners during this period of uncertainty?
“Business owners and entrepreneurs have an opportunity to reset customers’ expectations in what to expect from their providers. Learn how to leverage various cloud-based collaboration platforms to monitor business activities on a regular basis. Become more agile and anticipatory in your leadership capabilities. Use this time as an opportunity to develop your future leaders.” Tripp Braden @TrippBraden
“Gratitude is also an important mindset that can motivate and get you moving. We are recommending all of our clients do a 90-Day Pivot Plan for themselves and their firms. We also recommend focusing on only three issues or projects. This plan should then be followed with a plan to take advantage of the 3 best opportunities when we come out of this crisis.” L. Gary Boomer @lgboomer
What are some impressive business adaptions that you have seen from your clients?
“I’ve been impressed with how Knoxville restaurants Ham N Goodys, Chick Fil A, and Yassin Falafel have cooked thousands of meals for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley while keeping their employees working. Their sacrifice to protect children makes our city stronger.” Brian F. Tankersley @bftcpa
“Remote, flexible work, cloud computing and workflow and project applications to name a few. Many CFOs polled say they expect to stay with some significant degree of remote work after this ends.” Tom Hood @TomHood
What lasting business process changes do you think may result from this period?
“Processes are being automated with Remote Process Automation. Therefore, it requires convergence of leadership, processes, technology, talent and growth in order to have an advantage in the market. Some processes we see changing rapidly in firms are: Billing and collections, meeting management in a virtual setting, workflow with a focus on aggregation of client data, audit, and tax preparation.” L. Gary Boomer @lgboomer
“The push to the cloud, and remote working.” Garrett Wagner @garrettwagner37
What are you doing to ensure your company’s morale and productivity remain high?
“Making sure everyone is taking time to support their own mental health and to show support for each other. This can be activities like virtual happy hours or meditation schedules.” Rafael Casas @SageRafaelCasas
“I created a YouTube channel to allow employees and partners to see what’s happening when they have time. I’m working with managers to make sure they understand they are the company for their teams… This includes leveraging a wide range of low-cost training options to help keep people growing.” Tripp Braden @TrippBraden
How has this period of uncertainty affected your view of the business value of cloud-connected technologies?
“You must be in the cloud to survive and thrive in the future. My opinion – its importance has only increased. The firms and businesses who made the decision to move to the cloud before the crisis are receiving the dividends from their investments in technology, people and processes.” L. Gary Boomer @lgboomer
“Cloud technology is essential to business continuity. It always has been for small business.” Rafael Casas. @SageRafaelCasas