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Building a Roadmap for the Future: Preparing to Face a Post-Pandemic Landscape

5/21/20 9:00 AM

path on grass and pavement

We want to make the right decisions and not waste more time and resources. It may seem safer to take a wait and see approach, but is that really a less risky strategy? 

I have read countless articles highlighting the changes taking place across the accounting profession, ranging from how offices need to reconfigure their office space, to implementing remote audit workflow procedures. Some firms are already designing services that deliver the value clients need today and in the future. When speaking about the future, Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, the AICPA’s CEO, often references the Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

The truth of this proverb has been punctuated by the events of COVID-19. We are seeing those firms who made prudent investments into cloud-based technology, and implemented standardized workflow processes to allow for remote and flex work prior to COVID-19 adapted with minimal interruptions to operations. Meanwhile, firms that had delayed making these decisions were forced to act fast and experienced significant delays.

The impact of COVID-19 doesn’t end with adjusting our work environment.

We are all asking what the “new normal” will look like, and none of us know for sure.  One response is to wait and see how people respond and begin making our plans then. However, some of our competitors are taking in the information available and being “preactive,” as Daniel Burrus describes it.

Burrus emphasizes being preactive because not every decision we make will be positive or right, and that is ok. We don’t have to get it right initially, a fact we all can probably identify with after the last couple of months. There have been many decisions that we had to adjust and tweak because we didn’t have all the information, and we couldn’t wait to respond. We should not waste precious time, now is our time to plant the trees for our future. “Your future view is your future you,” as Burrus says.

While none of us have a crystal ball, there are many trends we anticipate will take place. These trends include societal behavior changes regarding being in close quarters, legal requirements on sanitation schedules, and the use of more technology in businesses of all kinds to keep customers safe and engaged.

Let’s look at the restaurant industry as an example. Many of us are missing going out to eat, and are tired of home cooking, yet we know when restaurants reopen, the dining experience will not be the same. If restaurant owners are not planning how they will make up lost revenue from fewer tables, staffing for to-go orders, and managing customer expectations, some of our favorite restaurants may not relaunch and will be forced to close their doors. They need to start planning now how they will adjust their model when they are allowed to have customers enter their restaurants again, not react when customers don’t return out of fear.

The time to take a critical look at your own business is now. Much like the restaurant industry, what can you expect if you don’t pivot your organization?

Firms that are ready to work remotely are hiring top talent from across the nation. The forced transition to work from home has proven that this model can be successful. Granted, some staff are struggling with homeschooling children, but many are reporting higher productivity and maintaining the caliber of work. Clients are adjusting well to the virtual meetings and using the tools to collaborate through the technology. We lose our inhibitions to try something new when we have to. Though some are waiting for things to go back to “normal,” many more are realizing the opportunities these new methods present.

There are firms with deep industry specialties who no longer see geographic boundaries when it comes to acquiring clients across the country or globe. Technology is a great equalizer – it comes down to the vision you create and the plans you develop and execute.

Organizations that are waiting to “return to normal” will be met with objections from staff and clients. We have all experienced a new way of working and interacting and will want to maintain that convenience, sense of security, and value.   

Simon Sinek, known for his book “Start with Why,” points out that we should not be focused on our what (the deliverable), but why we do what we do. When we focus on the Why we will reinvent our what. We are at an inflection point. Focus on what you are great at and begin building that strategy. Many firms are ramping up their advisory services, not only to talk with clients about loan options but also to advise them on reopening strategies and plans.

To reiterate my recent advice on how to position your organization for the future, d. Look to hard trends to reduce the risk of your investments, and use this time to redefine what you do. Be part of the profession that is anticipating no decline in revenue as a result of this crisis. If you were in a reactive mode during the pandemic, you know the pain. Take this time to collaborate with peers and redefine your opportunities and future success.

We are in this together. Let’s collaborate, communicate, and innovate.

Mike Sabbatis

Written by Mike Sabbatis

Mike Sabbatis is XCM's CEO. He has extensive experience leading fast-paced, customer-focused organizations leveraging innovative, forward-looking technologies that disrupt the norm while sustaining long-term profitable growth. He has led and inspired global teams comprised of more than 2,500 employees, as well as divisional start-ups and joint ventures.