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Coronavirus: Is Your Accounting Firm Prepared for a Pandemic?
Coronavirus has probably become the biggest threat to mankind in the last 100 years and so. It has not only impacted the health of individuals but businesses and the economy of every nation of the world. Talking about the accounting industry, it has been impacted by coronavirus in a similar way. This is the reason accounting firm owners are looking forward to developing a response plan to deal with natural disasters like these, including man-made challenges like Cybersecurity.
Such response plans should be followed by proper training for the employees, including tips to boost their immune system to stay strong against any kind of future disease. This way, they will be able to collaborate and communicate effectively with the help of tools like LogMeIn, GoToMyPC (small firms/solo practitioners) or, Windows Remote Desktop, Virtual Private Networks, Citrix, Cloud-based software (medium/large firms) amidst a crisis.
Firms who developed plans like this before the COVID-19 outbreak have been able to sustain themselves, and those who had no back-up plan are still struggling.
Positivities Arising out of COVID-19 for CPA firms
- Education: Such crises educate employees to look for different and innovative ways to communicate with clients in an engaging way.
- Merger: CPA firms get an opportunity to collaborate with other firms to boost their strength in fighting the coronavirus battle.
- Change: This provides CPA firms with an opportunity to enhance their capabilities of transforming into consulting firms.
- Alignment: Firms can realign their target clients and ways to persuade them into buying services from them during this crisis.
3 Business Development Pillars of CPA Firms
- Total Requirements: This includes the amount of new work needed to support their targets for growth and scalability.
- Selling Skills: Here, firms need to focus on the individuals who have the best selling skills.
- Defining Targets: Firms need to carefully choose potential prospects and refine communication channels for persuading them to get converted into clients.
Tips for Accounting Firms to Sustain against the Coronavirus Pandemic
1. Move and Secure Your Data with a Cloud-Based System
One of the best ways to secure your data amidst a crisis like this is to move it to a cloud-based system like QuickBooks Online (QBO). This will let you gain access to data from anywhere using the internet and make changes that will be backed up every time. You can do this by:
- Uploading your data to cloud storage like Google Drive, Box, OneDrive, Dropbox, etc., or downloading it to a portable drive.
- Uploading it directly to QBO. To access QuickBooks Desktop remotely, you need to either take your system home or first log in into your office network (via ConnectWise, TeamViewer, GoToMyPC, or a VPN)
2. Install Video Conferencing Software
Video conferencing software can help accounting professionals with smooth communication during the COVID-19 outbreak. Understanding the current situation, Zoom, Microsoft, and Google have extended the duration of their free trials for increased access to the premium version of their software.
So, make your team gets familiar with such software so that they can better communicate in a video. Try to mute yourself unless you have something to say to cut down on all external noises. These systems are effortless to install and use, and also, it is recommended to use a collaboration of Slack and Zoom for enhancing digital communication in real-time
3. Arrange Virtual Interactions with Your Tax Clients
Since the government is looking to extend the tax filing deadline, it is vital to interact with your tax clients virtually since physical communications are not possible at this point in time. Ensure an efficient communication set-up for uninterrupted communication between you and your client and avoid sharing essential information like social security numbers via email to avoid a data breach. Enhancing Security measures with SmartVault, TaxCaddy, and Box.com is a viable option.
If your clients had submitted documents to you earlier, ask them to send it again electronically, and in case you are bringing home the same, make sure you clean them appropriately to avoid contracting the virus. Ensure you are regularly updating yourself and your clients regarding tax extensions by the IRS so that you can work in advance to avoid last-minute tax preparations and mistakes.
4. Make Folder Structures and Lists for Access Control
It is extremely easy to search and locate files within electronic folders as compared to physical files. So, organize your folders on the system in a way you actually manage your firm. For instance, if you have 2 accountants, make 2 separate folders for them, with subfolders in both for dedicating to the individual clients they handle. You can even create more subfolders to categorize the documents submitted by each client like last year’s returns to make things sorted completed.
Even better, if you and your clients agree to share documents via docs, you can directly send a specific folder link to a client, and he can simply upload it there. Now, comes the security concern, and for this, you need to create a list of the people who can gain access to sensitive client information in these folders to keep a data breach at bay
5. Have a Virtual Mailbox in Place
Make sure you are using a professional email account to interact with your employees since mixing personal and professional accounts will lead to chaos. Most of the firms still use paper mails to receive payments from clients, which is not only an outdated method but not at all feasible in the current situation.
Instead, opt for VirtualPostMail or Earth Class Mail that can receive the mail, scan the mail, and conduct actions, set as default, by you like shredding sensitive data, forwarding documents, depositing checks, and more. In case you are already working remotely, you can take the help of TaskRabbit for executing the current mail tasks successfully
6. Collect Chargers, Notes, and Important items from your Desk
When looking to work remotely, you must gather everything that you might need at home at any point in time. This includes the notes you made on the physical notebook or the sticky notes on your system. Check each and every area of your desk like drawers, under the keyboard, behind the system for anything that you might have kept. Also, take everything along with you that you need to maintain and boost your productivity at home like chargers, mouse, auxiliary cables, power cords, and more.
In case you have already started working from home, you may visit the office again to collect essential items and wash them as per the WHO directions against coronavirus. Also, it is a great chance for you to switch to a more secure password manager like Keeper or LastPass, or Evernote (app for taking notes), all of which can be used with the help of the internet from anywhere.
7. Communicate with Your Team to Address Client Concerns
Effective communication becomes even more vital during a crisis. Make a plan in such a way that all grey areas are eliminated around schedules, deadlines, responsibilities, or expectations. Unlike office premises, you need to conduct more check-ins on the activities of the employees during the day to ensure proper efficiency and productivity is in place.
Also, you should be prepared for a lot of client calls during this time as they may call you in panic concerning the impact of stock market investments on their yearly or quarterly goals. So, make sure you communicate with your employees regarding client demands and get them prepared to address unexpected demands at the earliest during this situation.
8. Update Your Clients Regularly
You must update your clients on a regular basis during this time to ensure them of uninterrupted work quality and output. Send them an email that explains everything like how you and your team is going to work in this situation, along with providing additional access to them in the form of alternative email addresses, phone numbers, file folder location, and more.
Another effective method is to update the important and alternative information via social media channels and pin the same to the top section of the page to avoid getting it lost within your own feed.
Will Accounting Firms Prefer Remote Working after the Lockdown?
There is no denying remote working is solving all the problems amidst this coronavirus situation, and it has its own positives in comparison to physical offices:
Accounting firms can continue working like this with the use of software and communicate tools after the lockdown if they wish to do so and can manage their work without disrupting its efficiency.
As per Richard Metcalfe, CEO of ARKK, his staff has been telling him about all the positive things associated with remote working like work-life balance, saving on communicate expense and time, better communication, and more. Everyone starts working on time, and if things remain good like this and his clients also support him, he won’t mind continuing this practice.
According to Martin Bown, managing director and founder of My Management Accountant, although remote working comes with multiple benefits, there are other things that need to be considered before making a final decision.
Going by the statement of Alastair Barlow, partner and founder of Flinder, “We will even work more remotely and It also creates the opportunity of more time in the day saved from not travelling.”
As per Finn Houlihan, Arlo Group’s managing director in tax, remote working has promoted electronic saving and sharing of data that boosts security, which is one thing that is going to stay for sure after the lockdown is over.
Coronavirus has surely impacted the accounting industry to a great extent and firms are left with no option but to work remotely. The above-mentioned tips will practically help you in setting up remote working effectively to maintain work quality and productivity.
However, in case, your employees lack equipment in the form of a laptop/computer, face a poor internet speed, or you yourself find investing in multiple work and communication software to be expensive in this situation, you may consider seeking outsourcing accounting services as they have an expert accounting team and all the required technical set-up in place.
If you are also facing a similar situation and searching for the right outsourcing partner, joining hands with Cogneesol can benefit you at large. It has more than 13 years of experience in providing accurate and quality outsourcing services to accounting firms and businesses worldwide.
Get in touch to start your 14-day free trial today!
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