Bushfires, floods and a pandemic. Most people could never have imagined just how challenging the start to 2020 would be. The hot topic right now is of course COVID-19 / Corona Virus with the situation very fluid. I was involved in quite a detailed conversation with some firm leaders about how they are responding to this extraordinary situation and have looked at communications from multiple sources. Here are some observations from me you might find useful.
As humans one thing we generally don’t like is uncertainty. And of course that is exactly what we are getting bucket loads of right now. So if there is anything you can do to give yourself, your family, your team members and your clients greater certainty that can only be a good thing. A key part of this is communication. There are some things each of us can control and of course quite a few that we cannot. Work on what you can control and think about how you might respond to things you can’t.
Looking after yourself and your firm
- The number one message coming from the health experts is about hygiene. It’s time to be fastidious about it. Enough said.
- Assess daily the impact on you, your firm and your clients and communicate with your team daily. Share what is expected of them and what you are doing.
- Prepare for all your team to work from home. This means each person taking home every evening the tools they need to work at home and each person testing at least once that it works ok for them.
- Have all contact details up to date for team members, including home address and private email and phone numbers.
- Consider the impact on any casual employees.
- Consider what constitutes working from home versus being on personal (sick) leave.
- Provide some guidance on travel restrictions, if any, you are putting in place.
- Focus on your workflow for a rolling two weeks ahead so you are clear about what needs to be done.
- Consider how you will respond to requests from team members not to come to work, which may come for a range of reasons.
Looking after your clients
- Communicate in simple terms the stimulus measures being taken be the Federal Government and how they can take advantage of them.
- Offer to talk individually about actions each client can take to reduce their costs or protect revenue. This might include how they are managing their team, their supply chain and banking/finance relationships and of course their cashflow.
- Offer to help with budgeting and cashflow forecasting.
- Explain what you are doing to maintain your services for clients.
- Remind them that the scammers and hackers will be trying to take advantage of the crisis and therefore to be alert.
- Do clients have a business continuity or crisis management plan? Could you help with scenario planning?
- Remind them to check insurance policies in case there may be some coverage – if they have a broker they should ring them. (You should do the same).
Clearly we are in a period of great uncertainty. As business leaders others will look to us to be calm and considered in how we respond to the Corona Virus challenge and to be effectively communicating how we are responding. There will be a lot of change in the short term for how we lead out lives and run our businesses. Here is a brief, but very good article from Ken Blanchard in which he talks about seven responses we have to change. Worth a look.
Remember APES 325?
For those accountants who have forgotten, APES 325 Risk Management for Firms, is a good source of high level guidance on developing a risk management framework. An additional useful tool is the CAANZ Risk Management Tool for Small Firms which members can download from the CAANZ website. I think CPA Australia has the same tool. The tool helps firms identify potential risks and the likelihood of occurrence and the impact they might have. Not sure if many firms would have identified a pandemic as a risk but I suggest this will become a permanent part of the plan now. The reality is that many firms don’t pay a lot of attention to thinking about risks. Let’s get through the Corona Virus issue then use our learnings from that to apply in our future planning.