How the profession withstood the turmoil of 2020
Accounting Excellence finalists reveal how they stepped up to the challenge of Covid-19 and went above and beyond for their clients.
In honour of the work and dedication so many have made throughout the pandemic despite unfathomable circumstances, Accounting Excellence has introduced a new category: the Covid-19 Hero Award.
This commendation specifically aims to recognise firms and individuals for their response to the coronavirus outbreak, with three categories: supplier, accounting firm, and individual. It celebrates the proactive response many endeavoured (and continue) to give to those who were struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic.
This doesn’t just include economic or financial help - accountants have strived to deliver personal and emotional support to their clients. We caught up with a few of our Accounting Excellence small and medium firm finalists to explore what makes them a Covid-19 Hero.
Above and beyond
While a lot of small firms were understandably panicked for their own survival, director of Scholes CA Ivan Houston stressed the importance of looking outwards to the clients.
“We kept going right through lockdown,” said Houston. “We made a lot of effort to reassure our clients we were there for them - as much as we were worried about our business we were more worried for them.”
A large number of clients sought out the support with Scholes CA that they had been lacking with other practices this year.
Director of Pentins Business Advisors, Alan Davidson was also unconcerned with profiteering off this situation; the key for them was building good relationships. They did not lose a single client during the entirety of this year.
Free services were a huge priority: “They don’t need extra charges at this point,” Davidson commented. “If you’ve got someone who’s been hit with a hard time, you don’t hit them - you help them.”
The importance of the client’s mental stability was kept at the heart of their service. “Half the work is about giving these owner managed businesses the confidence to keep going - the support and the mental rigidity.”
The power of communication
Each and every firm placed communication as a top priority in supporting stressed out clients.
de Jong Phillips, another one of this year’s small firm finalists, highlighted the importance of delivering information quickly. “When furlough was first announced we phoned up every single client and talked them through what support was available,” said co-founder and managing director Pamela Phillips.
She also encouraged maintaining strong interpersonal team relationships: “Make sure you’ve still got that culture and nice atmosphere you had in the office - you have to work out ways to make that carry on remotely.”
Pentins Business Advisers also made sure to source as much information as possible: “The key part was getting the team informed enough to answer all the questions to the clients.”
“You’ve got to keep the team together,” said Davidson. “If we’re a strong team then we can be strong for our clients.”
Through the early stages of lockdown when the government was bringing out new schemes and grants almost every day, Scholes CA made sure that communication was at the forefront of the team’s motivation.
“Our whole philosophy is the communication aspect,” said Houston. “We did a huge client communication programme to keep all our clients advised and informed of these changes, and an extra weekly newsletter that detailed the various schemes.”
They also made a resource hub on their website which was religiously updated every single day for three months straight.
Rewards of remote
de Jong Phillips had taken the remote route prior to the pandemic and were already well equipped with cloud technology to tackle home-working head on.
“We’ve been working with [businesses] holistically for quite some time pre-Covid, helping them to make sure that they were resilient and well positioned to grow,” commented Phillips.
Houston also praised the tech investments they had made as a company, which allowed them to be prepared and ready to talk and work remotely throughout the pandemic. “For small firms who are behind the curve with their communication and technology, it’s probably a bit of a wake up call.”
The pandemic has really shown the profession that proximity is unimportant to successful business relationships. “It’s much more important to find an accountant who is responsive and agile, has the right tech and people,” said Houston.
With working from home steadily becoming the norm, the world is waking up to the possibilities remote business can bring. Finding the right person for you has never been more accessible, or more rewarding.
The future for finance
With more restrictions and lockdowns coming into place, there is a growing fear of what the next year will hold for the profession.
“This time there’s a lot less support,” commented Davidson. “People have had their loans, furlough’s ending - we’re trying to get people to plan ahead. It’s better for them to come out of this with half the business they had before and be able to build, than no business.”
With the ever-growing uncertainty of what’s to come, having supportive practices like these casts some light in the shadows of an uncertain economic future.
If you’ve been inspired by these firms, why not enter our Covid-19 Heroes Awards this year? Entries close on the 26th October 2020.