Accounting Firm Coaching and Business Planning

The title of this article was the title of a webinar I recently delivered and I wanted to share with you a few of the highlights from it. While any form of prediction is fraught, I did quite a bit of reading and thinking about what I see unfolding. I also talked to many of my accounting firm clients about what is unfolding for them. Right now “post Coronavirus” probably feels a long way away for many of us, but even if that is true we are already seeing signs of what the “new norms” will be. (“new norm” has replaced “disruption” as the latest buzz word right?!)

Accountants are an important part of society and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of the role in helping businesses in particular. So if we are to consider what next for accountants it makes sense to consider what next for society and business. In the webinar I had a long list of what I believe are likely to become the new norms. Here are some of them:

For society

  • Design of housing and suburbs will have more emphasis on working from home or in the local neighbourhood
  • Redesign of toilet facilities in offices, schools and public buildings and spaces
  • Reduced appetite for long commutes
  • More interest in regional centres as places to live and work
  • Greater respect for first responders, teachers, nurses, doctors and scientists / medical research
  • Telehealth becomes another standard option
  • A shift in capability of schools, TAFEs, universities to offer more online options
  • Universities diversify their student base
  • Greater collaboration between government and business in critical areas
  • Inequality gets greater attention and homelessness is addressed (fingers crossed)
  • An increase in the Newstart allowance (but probably not kept at current uplifted level)
  • A heightened appreciation of relationships and a greater desire for more balance in our lives
  • Shaking hands is no longer expected
  • Valuing of face to face but a knowing that relationships don’t have to always be that way
  • Greater scrutiny of supply chains, particularly where inputs come from offshore – resilience, built in redundancy important to cover for failures
  • More local manufacturing
  • Pushback against globalisation
  • Less enthusiasm for international travel
  • Air travel is different
  • Cybersecurity importance heightened
  • The tech giants get stronger and more powerful but governments act in response
  • Some jobs may be gone forever and new services/industries may start
  • Growth in willingness to buy Australian brands


For business

  • Work will be defined by what you do not where you do it
  • Workplaces will have a much more flexible approach to flexible work practices – time, location
  • Acceleration of work anywhere
  • Office design and scale will get a re-think and office footprints will decrease
  • Neighbourhood co-working spaces will flourish – can still get out of the house but don’t have to battle with a long commute
  • Recognition that some tasks can be done better away from the office
  • More distributed teams
  • The good employers will be remembered and attract great people
  • Employer as social safety net – greater support for mental, physical, financial health
  • Social responsibility takes on greater importance
  • A greater appreciation of the value of communication
  • A greater focus on measuring performance based on outputs not inputs
  • Online training more popular
  • Technology’s place at the leadership table is cemented, if it was not already
  • Acceleration of digitisation and acceptance of it, including portals and signatures
  • Cashless payments almost universal
  • More video meetings and less business travel
  • Liquidity is king reinforced and greater interest in managing it
  • Greater appreciation of budgeting, forecasting and scenario modelling
  • Increased working capital in businesses
  • A focus on managing costs – more inclined to want to run lean – but apparent conflict with favouring resilience over efficiency
  • Lots of businesses don’t make it
  • Lots of startup businesses (historically they spike after a downturn)


Some of these are pretty obvious and there are probably some I’ve missed and some you don’t think should be included. Email me at [email protected] if you have some different views.


Opportunities with your team

Most firms I know have done a great job in looking after their team in difficult times. The opportunities I see include:

  • Getting to know your people better
  • Showing strong leadership
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Employ great people you may not have previously considered due to not having been open to flexible work arrangements
  • Continue all the positive things that have come out of the changed circumstances
  • Have them help you shape, and buy into, your post pandemic plan


Opportunities with your clients

I believe these opportunities have always been there to help your clients more, but the impact of the pandemic does appear to be bringing them more into focus.

  • Broader, deeper relationships
  • A greater appreciation of you!
  • Webinars for adding value to your clients and yourself
  • Scheduled check ins for no other reason than to say hello and ask “how you are going?”
  • Services:
    • Business planning
    • Budgets and cash forecasting, scenario modelling
    • Regular business review meetings
    • Business continuity planning
    • Bookkeeping and management accounting

There are loads of tools in the market to help you with these but the key to success in my view is building the right process for how you are going to price, market, sell and deliver each of these. It’s not about the tool, it’s about the process. If you’ve read much of my writings you will know that in my role as an accounting firm coach, consultant and mentor I’m a huge fan of systemised, standardised, documented ways of working.

I can also see that this will be different for different types of clients. You will have some clients where the focus is pure survival, or perhaps even how to have a dignified exit. I’d hope you’d also have clients who will continue to, or return to, prosper.

For many of you the work you have done with clients in dealing with the government stimulus packages will have helped you identify those that will benefit from additional support along the lines of the services I’ve listed above. Make no mistake there is some work in this. It will take effort, but I believe that your clients and your business will benefit as a result. Another classic win/win.