07 Jul July ’20
The best time to make changes? When everything you’ve ever known has been turned upside down.
“New normal” doesn’t seem to appropriately represent the current accounting landscape. I’m not sure the word normal should even be used to describe the state of the profession since the advent of the COVID crisis. In fact, it feels more like everything we’ve ever known to be true has been turned upside down—anything but normal.
In a heartbeat, we had to adapt to a whole new way of operating. This certainly was not by choice, but ordered. And, look, we did it! We were able to keep staff working and continue serving and advising our clients—virtually. The hard truth is that had change not been thrust upon us, some firms would likely still be operating under an outmoded business model—accepting paper, scanning source docs, and all the other manual tasks that have represented firm operations for years.
The accounting profession is forever changed, and I believe for the better. There should be no going back to the old way of doing business—only a continued move forward. We have an enormous opportunity to better serve our clients, further bolster staff satisfaction and be true advisors. It’s time to re-examine every level of firm operations to identify pain points and ways to resolve these challenges. It’s time to pivot.
Fear as a non-factor
I know from experience that fear is the biggest culprit in blocking firm advancement. We fear the unknown, so we submit to continuing with the way things have always been done. In fact, change only tends to occur when the pain of not implementing change outweighs the fear of it. And that’s no way to operate.
The current crisis made fear a non-factor because there was no time to give into it. Firms didn’t have the luxury of time to think through how to pivot business operations…we just had to do it. With fear out of the picture, why not keep the momentum going?
Here are a few ideas to keep you moving forward and help you realize the necessity of continuing to pivot:
- Identify your pivot points—Start by asking yourself, “What are my firm’s biggest challenges?” The goal here is to create a vision of what your firm could look like if you pivoted in needed areas. Take the time to complete a full evaluation of your business—from culture, communications, and new client onboarding to product service lines, technology stack, and your website platform.
- Understand that client expectations have changed—COVID-19 changed not only the business landscape but our personal lives as well. There is a heightened sensitivity to personal health and security that will not go away any time soon, if ever. Clients now expect us to offer a degree of “contactlessness” in service. This means upping our technology game to offer video meetings, end-to-end digital file exchange and delivery, and a web platform where clients (and prospects) can conduct business with our firms—all the way through to paying us. People, in general, have pivoted to this new way of life and will expect it of us as well.
- Understand that staff expectations have changed—A flexible work schedule has always been an added value for employees. But now, having been able to successfully work from home for an extended period, it will be hard to go back to five days a week in the office. The power of technology allows us to work remotely and get work done. There is no longer a need for regular onsite business hours. Your employees know this and will want to work from home more often. Keeping staff happy translates to a healthier firm culture, so be sure to consider pivoting in this area as well.
- See the opportunities in front of you—The current crisis drove us to take on a much bigger and more proactive advisor role. We stayed ahead of economic relief acts, educated clients on their options, coached them on application submission, guided and calmed their fears along the way, and are now helping track loans and calculate loan forgiveness. The door is wide open to elevate your advisor role and further strengthen client relationships. Step through the door!
Don’t waste this opportunity to advance your firm. The profession as a whole is smack dab in the middle of a monumental transformation. Be part of the movement forward to elevate the client experience, boost staff satisfaction, enhance culture and propel your firm to the vanguard of the profession. It’s a whole new accounting world. Secure your place in it.
Tax season is finally wrapping up on July 15, and we are in the middle of summer. We hope everyone had a happy and safe 4th of July! It is likely that priorities and goals have shifted over the last few months to focus on the immediate needs of your firm and clients, so now is the perfect time to take a deep breath and appreciate how far you and your team have come. If you are a firm owner and/or decision-maker, your staff is looking to you. Here are some ideas on how to connect and encourage connections within your team.
Say “Thank you!”
- What is your typical after-tax-season celebration? This year, it might look a little different…but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. If you have team members who are working remotely, plan a happy hour where everyone can join via Zoom.
- Send a gift card and a thank you note.
Continue regular staff meetings.
- Connection and interaction are critical to the culture of any company. If you have employees who are working from home or coming into the office on varying shifts, it is important to schedule meetings that give everyone the opportunity to see and talk to one another. Consider a post-tax season kick-off meeting to set the stage for expectations for the remainder of the year.
- Feedback is important. Provide staff with feedback on their performance, acknowledging the fact that this year is like no other tax season we have ever been through.
With millions of employees working in a new setting—remotely—it is becoming easier to target staff with phishing emails…and the numbers are proving that. In a recent report by Mimecast, their global customer threat intelligence data shows that 30% of respondents have seen an increase in impersonation over the first 100 days of COVID, and 60% of respondents reported being hit from an attack that was spread by a user to other employees.
Mimecast also reported that employees who do not participate in routine awareness training were five times more likely to fall victim to click on malicious links in emails.
It’s a new work environment. These changes break the routines and disciplines of security that may have been built into your company culture. It’s important that these disciplines be maintained in order to avoid having a staff member become an unwitting participant in a security or data breach in your organization.
Here are a few tips to keep your employees security-aware in new operating conditions:
- Move internal communications out of email. Slack and Microsoft Teams should be the default communication platforms between staff. If you’re communicating via email internally, lead your organization through this cultural shift now, and train staff to distrust any email that appears to come from another employee.
- Routine security discussion. Conduct routine security briefings within your standard meeting routines. If you have adopted Zoom or Teams as your default meeting technology, hold a meeting routinely with staff where security is a standard topic of conversation.
- Gamify threat identification. Make it a challenge for staff to identify potential scams and threats in email by encouraging staff to take screenshots and share them via Slack or Teams. This awareness will help prevent other staff from taking the bait, and fosters a sense of community, even if working in separate physical locations.
A: The short answer is, “It’s your attempt to envision the people represented by your marketing data.”
A buyer persona is a fictionalized representation or model of your ideal client that you create using research data and observations of the history and behaviors of your current clients. You might think of a persona as an amalgamation of clients with similar traits. And you’ll very likely, in fact, identify several distinct personas among your clients.
When drafting your personas, start by considering the key points of audience description or segmentation:
- Demographics: Quantifiable traits, such as age, gender, income and education levels, race, ethnicity, etc.
- Geographics: Describes where the person lives and/or conducts business. For example, your firm may serve clients in a ring of contiguous counties or perhaps in a larger regional market.
- Psychographics: Describes qualitative traits that are the basis of personality—beliefs, attitudes, aspirations, lifestyle, etc.
- Behavioristics: Purchase habits and drivers, such as frequency and timing of purchases, specific pain points to be relieved or benefits desired, price sensitivity, preference for delivery of services, etc.
You may also want to include additional descriptions, such as “technographics” (your clients’ habits, comfort levels and abilities with technology) and “firmographics” (descriptions of businesses, including items such as annual revenue, employee headcount, etc.).
Study the above aspects of your existing ideal clients, and create your own personas to help your team understand how to tailor marketing content for each one. Give each of your personas a name and identity and write a fictitious back story to put it into perspective (e.g. “Dr. Jane Smith is a 44-year-old dental practice owner living in suburban Columbus, Ohio…”), use a stock photo that represents the person’s demographic traits, and draw it all together in a fact sheet or infographic format to view at a glance. Do a Google image search of the key phrase “buyer persona” to see some examples and get inspiration.
Creating buyer personas weaves together the stories behind your ideal clients and can help you create marketing messaging and content that speaks to your prospects more genuinely and effectively.
Ask me anything! Have a marketing question? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll select a question to tackle in each of our upcoming editions.
What we’re working on:
- A new Loan Forgiveness FAQ fact sheet for member websites. Expect that to be done the first week of July.
- Our first Onvio webinar series (11 webinars) wraps up June 26. We’ll start round 2 of the Onvio webinars on August 4.
- Microsoft Teams vetting. We’ll give everyone a full report after we vet through Teams.
- ClientView updates:
- Products. You’ll be able to add your own products to ClientView by mid-July.
- QBO Integration. We expect to be able to connect into QBO by the end of July/early August.
- Reporting capabilities. We expect reporting to be available late August/early September.
- Website management from within Rootworks.com. For those firms moving to the new website model in 2020, you’ll be able to manage things like firm hours and office info from within Rootworks.com. You’ll also be able to add your own banner announcement that goes along the top of your website.
- Virtual Firm Retreats. We have six more as of now. Sign up and attend if you have not already. Use Firm Retreats as a vehicle to get your firm ‘together’ on what you’ll be working on.
- July 8 – Staff Training: Bookkeeping Processes
- July 10 – Academy Marketing Resources Training – Summer Webinar (for Academy members)
- July 22 – Staff Training: Video Conferencing Best Practices
- July 23 – Summer Cybersecurity Webinar
- July 29 – Staff Training: Using Proposable
Register at Rootworks.com under Resources > Events > Virtual Events.