Helping Accountants prepare for what comes next
As accountants adapt to working away from traditional office-based environments, remote communication with clients during the pandemic has become the norm.
For many accountants, the current pandemic has meant that they have found themselves answering queries relating to a far wider range of business advice than usual. Furloughing, government loans, tax deferral and how to survive the next three months seem to be top of the list. The accountant, for many small and medium sized businesses, is the first port of call; a trusted advisor who is naturally the first person clients turn to for advice and guidance, particularly at the moment when government schemes and incentives change on a daily basis. According to a recent poll by Sage (UK) Ltd 63% of SMEs believe accountants will be key in helping them through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accountants admit that they are sometimes struggling to keep up to date with the changing guidance and financial support mechanisms. Many are conscious that their clients may still be in panic mode and it is important for the accountant to keep a positive mindset to provide the best possible support. Whilst they can sympathise with the predicaments many clients find themselves facing, the important thing is to help the clients focus on the steps they can take to help keep them afloat.
We talked to different accountants to hear how they are approaching the situation, one who has SME clients in the North West, uses proactive and structured conversation with clients to support them in the road to recovery. She says, “we have to move away from a kind of crisis mode, into looking ahead past survival, back into growth strategies”.
Maintaining regular communication is vital for clients who may be struggling to make sense of the current situation and to maintain an ongoing accountant/client relationship. Accountants point out that helping their clients adjust to the current situation is often the first step. Many traditional clients struggle with online technology such as digital invoice processing and are having to adapt quickly.
For the accountant, offering broader business advice, developing a client relationship and initiating sometimes difficult conversations about their business is key, but this does not always come naturally to them.
Another accountant we talked to who has a practice based in London says, “it's quite interesting, because there is a case of what clients ‘goals were’, and what the ‘reality is’, which are now completely far apart.” He adds “Some people are able to work agilely and adapt. Some people aren't. It's a case of let's help them move forward”
Supporting accountants to improve their conversations with clients has never been more important. Using simple coaching frameworks and extensive support tools, accountants can feel confident in engaging in better conversations with their clients to build and strengthen client relationships, increase engagement and ultimately improve sustainability as we all adapt to a new business context.
Northumbria University, in partnership with Sage, are offering free one to one coaching for accountants via coaching conversation webinars and online support tools as part of the Making Accountants Digital Enablers project. To take advantage of this offer and online support tools please contact us.