Looking back on 2020 we can reflect on a year of disruption like never before but a year when we all connected as one as we served clients, managed our own businesses and harnessed the talents of our staff. 2020 was unparalleled as we all faced this invisible killer we have all become accustomed to calling COVID-19.
In around about 3-5 days in March last year thousands and thousands of accountancy businesses around the world moved at lightning speed to comply with government stay at home regulations while many of our clients saw their businesses closed down. Many firms [generally driven by the more senior firm owners] had procrastinated over the years as to whether staff should be permitted to work remotely. Will they work a full week? Can we trust them? Who will be permitted to work from home? How long will we allow them? How will we manage our staff? How will this all work, or indeed, can we make it work? These were just some of the many questions over which partners had, for many a year, deliberated. Younger firm owners and senior staff members had, for some time, been advocating greater work practices and flexibility. So, in a matter of a few days in March 2020 the debate concluded as firms moved to adapt to this new, unwanted, world order. Some firms were prepared, others were left ruing their lack of preparedness for what was not even remotely on the horizon – other than for the very few who had heard news in early 2020 about this disease emanating from Wuhan – a city in China just over 500 miles west of Shanghai.
Along this short 72 hour plus journey, firms faced, and generally overcame issues such as security, bandwidth, Cloud service, access to client records, arrangements for job planning and reviewing. Meetings were transformed from face to face in the office onto the screens.
NONE OF US KNOW FOR CERTAIN WHAT LIES AHEAD
We all continue to live through still uncharted waters although the past 10 months has evidenced the resilience and capability of accountancy business owners to address the challenges that have come from nowhere and require speed of thought, communication and action.
While it is good to hear of client successes it is clear that many have sadly fallen by the wayside. Failures for small businesses are at record levels , especially in person-to-person service industries (think, hair salons, restaurants, gyms) while the formation of new businesses in many countries is reaching new highs – a trend likely to continue in 2021.
Charles Dickens in a “Tale of Two Cities” said it like this: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” I am reminded that sometimes what goes around, comes around.
There are those who, almost immediately, advocated that we were entering a battlefield. Some are saying “it feels like we’re going through a war.” Certainly, the British Prime Minister is one who took that view. He had, after all, authored his book “The Churchill Factor” and was steeped in the military prowess of this former British war time leader. Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace. To this day the hundreds of toy soldiers, that Winston role played military formations with as a child, are still on display. He well understood that military engagements require both tactical, strategic and adaptable plans.
NEW NORMS AROUND THE CORNER
2021? The reality is that surely, even if vaccines lessen the risk we all face, there will be the ongoing emergence of new norms. This bi-weekly Practice Management blog will provide both tactics and strategy for success in the ongoing “battle” ahead.