Accounting firms applauded for being Covid-19 heroes
Since the country went into lockdown, accountancy firms worked around the clock to safeguard businesses with a range of initiatives such as webinars, cashflow support and altruistic aid. These efforts are set to be praised with three new Covid-19 awards.
To recognise the profession’s hard work during the coronavirus outbreak, Accounting Excellence Awards has opened for entries on three new awards which applauds firms and individuals for their response. The bookkeeping category has opened back up again, with added criteria relating to the firms' response to crisis and how the experience will shape their firm in the future.
The ‘Covid-19 Hero Awards’ are three new categories for Accounting firms, suppliers and for an individual. The winners of each award will be announced at the Accounting Excellence Awards evening on 2 February 2021 along with the other categories, including the small, medium and large-sized firm of the year.
Judges of the awards expect these to be three hard-fought categories, as the last few months have surfaced many examples of accountancy firms going above and beyond to safeguard their clients’ businesses.
In this article, we’re going to look back at some of the key initiatives accounting firms have implemented to help guide their clients through the crisis.
Communicating with clients
Accounting firms have used the work they've done in building an online community to broadcast the latest government updates. Alan Davidson from Pentins, for example, started the Canterbury Covid-19 Business Support Group on Facebook for Clients and Canterbury Business Community to share updates and to give advice and answer questions.
Similarly, AccountingWEB member Glenn Martin explained on our Coronavirus Q&A how he created a WhatsApp group to update everybody instantly with the recent developments. “When someone sees an update they can share it with the rest of the group, so everybody is working together,” he said.
The idea of getting the information to clients as fast as possible was a tactic many firms took. Paul Layte, the 2019 small firm winner, created a single place of truth on his firm’s website. “It gave clients multiple ways to talk to us and it leveraged our time so clients felt like they have our support without us responding 100 times to the same email,” he said.
In addition, accountants have also performed the role of counsellor and a shoulder to cry on. AEA medium firm finalist Inspire, for example, acted as “a sounding board” for every client.
Webinars and newsletters
Another tool firms turned towards to broadcast advice and news was newsletters. Andy Sullivan, a 2020 sole practitioner finalist, at CompleteHQ, provided daily updates via Mailchimp, which included video commentating on the latest announcements.
And as the remote working world discovered Zoom, accountancy firms pivoted their newfound love of online conferencing into regular webinars with clients. Pentins ran a weekly business survival webinar with their clients, with the aim of helping business owners build the mindset required to see their business survive the pandemic.
A common lifeline offered by firms to their clients was hours upon hours of free advice. The extent to which firms offered this free service became hotly debated on AccountingWEB as the furlough scheme ramped up the workload.
AccountingWEB member Sheepy306 was one AccountingWEB member who didn’t feel right in sending a client an invoice at such tough times. “I see it as an investment in our ongoing and future client relationship, it cements what is hopefully a good existing relationship,” said the reader.
Sullivan echoed this sentiment. “A business that we can help survive the current turmoil will be a client for life, whereas additional cashflow burdens for them right now, however justified they are, may lead to issues within their business and/or underlying financial issues.”
As an example of the work accountants did without a charge, Sarah Sallis from AEA finalist the Accountancy Office did lots of cash flow forecasting, submitted CJRS claims free of charge, free personalised estimates of how much self-employed clients’ can expect to receive under the SEISS, support and advice with CBILS and Small Business Grants.
One of the main services (often for free) that practitioners used to help clients was cashflow forecasting.
Firms armed their clients with tools to help them monitor their cashflow. CompleteHQ’s Sullivan supplied clients with a forecasting sheet to assist with planning their short term business cashflow, while Pentins created a cashflow helper tool – both these were free for all their clients.
Cashflow remains an issue close to accountants’ hearts, as seen by the number of firms backing a recent campaign led by Kirsty McGregor to ensure no business is left behind without a plan.
The altruistic help of accountants didn’t stop with free advice. Many firms looked at how they can help the wider community beyond their client base. Recognising the pressure frontline staff were under, Accounting Excellence finalist Scholes wrote and launched a small business "Coronavirus Survival Guide" which was available to download for £1.99 with all proceeds are going to go to the NHS.
AEA Medium firm finalist Inspire saw the importance of putting clients in touch with one another where there was a mutual benefit and a common cause. With the peak of the pandemic applying pressure the key workforce, Inspire worked as a bridge between two clients in relieving one of the biggest strains for care homes.
“Last month we had a distillery client who had switched production to making hand sanitiser, keen to provide for local NHS and care homes, but couldn't access appropriate dispensers,” explained Warren Munson, Inspire’s founder and managing director. “We had another client who makes bicycle cleaning products, so had an abundance of pump dispensers, perfect for large volumes of hand sanitizer. Working together, they produced and delivered a brilliant product to where it was needed most.”
These are just a handful of stories from accountancy’s coronavirus response. The Covid-19 awards will surface many more stories like this now registrations are open.
Understanding that the entry period coincided with an inconvenient time for many, we have released three new categories to specifically recognise firms and individuals for their response to the coronavirus outbreak. Please head to the Accounting Excellence website to enter the awards.