Running an accountancy practice through the COVID-19, and beyond

Chiene + Tait’s new Accounts and Business Support Partner, Dave Shadwell, was delighted to recently take part in an online discussion led by MyWorkPapers, with leaders from other accountancy practices. The event focused on experiences of running a practice through the COVID-19 crisis and how, in the future, firms may work differently. Here, Dave talks us through the main areas covered during the discussion.

COVID-19 has forced many accountancy practices to change or re-think technology requirements, but at Chiene + Tait, being a ‘digital first’ business is one of three key pillars of our strategy. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has reinforced the importance of this, but it hasn’t changed our direction. Indeed, I feel strongly that the lock down has given us an opportunity to make some significant changes in the business, addressing issues such as climate change and increased flexible working models. I envisage that we will see a hybrid model, when our office officially reopens, to ensure our people can achieve the best work/ life balance that suits them.

One of the things that the lock down has clearly shown, is that our team doesn’t need to be in a building all together to serve our clients. Although our people have told us that some of them miss the social aspect of the office, others are revelling in managing their time more effectively. Overall, we are determined to pick the model that works best for all, and collaborate to deliver this as a team. Fundamentally, we are our people. That’s why we continue to recognise and place huge value on the fact that our staff have an active growth mindset, curiosity and a willingness to learn new tools and techniques

Another key learning is the recognition that accountants aren’t bean counters, clients view our role as essential to their success – we help them understand and make sense of risk, uncertainty and opportunity to decide the best way forward to meet their ambitions.

There are, of course, other ‘positives’ for our business – forcing a change of mindset around the smarter use of technology to enhance what we do for clients, adopting an approach of welcoming change and challenging ourselves to constantly look for new and better ways to support our clients. At C+T, we want our team to benefit as much as possible from how we innovate and support our clients. This enhances our credibility when advising clients on how to adapt their businesses to change and technology. Indeed, our virtual CFO service has seen a huge surge in demand, to provide the higher-level, strategic, financial and commercial advice required to help clients deal with risks and opportunities. Cloud technology has made this offering far easier.

Over the next six months, the challenge will be to navigate ourselves, and our clients, through the huge economic uncertainty that will only reveal itself as we start to see the real economic landscape. We know times are going to be hard, but it’s still a massive unknown – I personally believe the UK’s future prosperity will depend on how well we can all adapt to technology. My advice to any practice, or other type of business, is to push forward with using cloud-based technology. You will wait indefinitely if you wait for perfection, or to be 100% ready – the sooner you jump, the sooner you will reap the benefits. By building in a 20% learning curve, you will build solid change management and structures to the implementation, resulting in an opportunity to gain the most from innovation and adapting to future change.