A mini-boom for accountants might be coming soon – and it’s not the insolvency practitioners
Richard Murphy adds a contrarian voice to the despair wrought by COVID-19 and encourages accountants to get ready for a post-virus wave of new businesses.
Like many, I am still reeling in shock from the coronavirus crisis. Partly that’s because I am quite sure I have had it, although I have not been tested to prove the fact. But I can advise that it’s not a fun experience as a consequence, although I am fully recovered now.
In addition, that’s because like many others I am facing a loss of business activity: latest survey data shows that most of us are. I suspect I have the resilience to survive this. I am only too well aware that many small businesses will not.
And, like so many, I am wondering where all this will end. That issue is generically too big to consider here. So let me offer some thoughts in the context of accountancy, and most especially the accountancy practice.
I am only too aware of tales of falling profits, closed M&A practices, an absence of audit work and furloughed staff at present from right across the profession. Even compliance work may be reduced as clients fail, payroll sizes fall and the number of VAT returns decline. All my tax investigations are on hold right now as well.
A post-virus boom
The result is significant stress. But, I want to offer a contrarian voice to all those who see only despair in this.
It’s true that things are bleak and money is going to be tight, but precisely because of that there is going to be a mass of small business startups this year. And by a mass, I mean that there might be literally millions of micro or very small business startups this year as people are forced out of work, or having seen their old enterprises collapse, face the reality that finding employment is going to be tough and strike out afresh on their own.
After all, what else are people desperate to earn a living and who face mass unemployment going to do, not least when there will also be a pent up demand to spend this summer?
I do not wish to be too prescriptive, because no one knows the future, but it’s not too hard to imagine what some of these new businesses might be.
First, there will be a rash of new restaurants to replace those that have gone bust, driven by landlords seeking to secure new tenants at almost any rent. Pop-ups and street food moving indoors will fuel this.
Expect a host of new coffee shops too; people are desperate to go out and talk.
What else? Vast numbers of small service and hobby focused businesses will start. After a crisis people want to make changes without spending a fortune: incremental products that make people feel better about the homes they will have been cooped up in for too long, and whose faults they will have now seen, will be in big demand. And small businesses created by people who have never used their hobby based skills commercially before will be ideally placed to service this need.
There will be ample others: expect new technology businesses based on 3D printing to flourish, for example. I know those that are already.
And what this all means is that very large numbers of people who have never considered self employment before might be doing so before this summer is out.
Accountants need to be ready
It may not feel like the right time for accountants to be reviewing their new business product offerings and services, but I suggest that it is. Those accountants who are ready to offer a package of now business support services to those heading into this great unknown for many who will be facing it will reap the rewards from doing so.
What to do then? Get the marketing thought through now, I suggest.
- Make sure a slick web site is ready.
- Have the free online advice that lures people in but leaves questions still needing answers all ready to go.
- Make sure that the training for signing up significant numbers of new clients has been done. Get the pricing menu done, and test it.
- Have the app ready.
- But most of all, get people who can deliver this kind of client service in the right mindset very soon.
It’s easy to be despondent right now. For some that mood might never go. But overall people are remarkably resilient. They want to survive. They will survive. And they will fall back on their own resources to do so. New businesses will result. Accountants need to be ready for that, very soon.
There is then no time to sit around now. If you do you will be too late. A mini-boom for some accountants might be coming very soon.
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Richard Murphy is a practising chartered accountant and director of the Corporate Accountability Network. After twenty years in industry and commerce, he co-founded the Tax Justice Network and Fair Tax Mark before moving into academia as a professor of political economy. He co-authored the original Green New Deal in 2008 and is still engaged on...