Mixed Messages for CPA Firms Re: Work Restrictions – How to PLAN (and Help Your Clients) through the Next Wave ….

The crazy ride that is the Coronavirus outbreak continues and, by now, most of you have read and heard about the U.S. President’s impending change of heart around the rigid restrictions that were put place just over a week ago for CPA and law firms having to shut their physical doors and necessitated remote access for all employees.

Instead of months it may now be mere weeks before some of you can open your doors again – as the President eluded to a re-evaluation after the 15 Day “quarantine”. And yet others of you may face closings in your state later…. read on…

As I listened to tonight’s white house briefing, I noted the strategy that was shared about how society should still maintain social distancing, making responsible choices regarding their personal health and potential exposure to others, honoring our high-risk population and still keeping a strong eye and offering aid to “hot spots” around the country. Of note is that the President said he will leave decisions about restrictions in each state to its reigning Governor.

Of course, I have lots of theories of why this change of heart – so may have you – but, considering this new plan moves forward (things can always change, of course) what does this mean NOW for you – and your clients?

Remote Access / Working from Home – Who gets to continue to work from home and who can’t?

In as little as two weeks, some of you will have choices to make about whether or not employees must report back into the office – despite the fact that some governors have already made the decision to shut schools down for the rest of the school year.

Many of my CPA firm clients have shared disgruntlement from their staff about not being able to come into the office – (children at home have reported as both a pro and a con) and some complain about  limited technology or a poor Wi-Fi signal at home. Certainly, many clients (individuals, seniors, small businesses and nonprofits) report also struggling from the lack of face to face contact with their service providers.

Deadline Extensions

Now that the filing and payment extensions have all been granted, will we get to slack off – or should we get back to it just the same – maybe we will get a new changed deadline from the U.S. Treasury?

Considering the above-mentioned confusion around remote access, the deadlines might come in handy – with less pressure all around on the accounting profession – between this, all the unemployment that’s already been filed and will be filed as businesses re-open and get started going back to a “new normal” these extensions will surely not be a bad thing.

What About All that Free Money that is Coming in the Mail?

The senate is in session trying to pass a huge economic stimulus bill (as I write this) that is supposed to provide comfort to all the Americans out of work and the small business owners who would be struggling – presumably for months … but now perhaps this will be our “payoff” for the discomfort of the few rough weeks we endured; perhaps it will secure those who have yet to face mandatory / temporary shut downs of physical offices and mandatory closings in states that yet to experience an outbreak – so much uncertainty… You will need to assume a role of Advisor on all of this to your colleagues and clients.

My advice is to be clear on the options; choices should be empowering.

Partners & Managing PartnersPlease Listen!

This is my strongest advice. Act like the Governor (instead of the state, think of your firm) – do what we know these politicians are doing – take polls / surveys – ASK your constituents (your fellow partners and staff) to tell you honestly all about what they can do, what they are comfortable with – and not – and empower them to work together to get done what has to be done. Be flexible and fair – we are all unique and should be honored and utilized as such. Together, we should complement and support each other – diminish areas of improvement and elevate areas of strength.

With regard to personal safety and choice, use of technology, adoption of flex time and remote access – these doors have been opened – and wisely / rightly so – options are fantastic for resolving issues – and, although I’m sorry to say it, I predict this will likely not be the last outbreak / pandemic to rear its ugly head – there are many technological improvements that can help serve our world moving forward, such as:

  • Adopting Telemedicine to reduce stress on the healthcare system, reducing costs of healthcare and enhancing efficiencies
  • Allowing Remote Access and Flex Time – it’s more than TIME to do this to attract and retain top talent
  • Technology to Facilitate Virtual meetings saves money, time and energy as well as decreases pollution and traffic / driving
  • Virtual Online Education reduces costs and reinforces choices for students of when and how they want to learn; it also evens the playing field around college tuition costs

Regarding clients, do the same – take that survey, start asking questions, make sure that you speak to the same clients in the various sectors (niches) and address the various needs and desires that are needed – everything is different and ever-evolving – the uncharted waters are still ebbing and flowing and will most likely continue to do so – as other countries experience staggered breakouts and we contemplate the seasonal flu that next year will bring.

The one thing that I am certain of that will ensure the success and longevity of your practice – and the businesses of your clients – will be the ABILITY TO ADAPT AND EVOLVE WITH THE CHANGING CLIMATE OF HOW THE WORLD DOES BUSINESS.  

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