Taking Care of Business: W.I.N. for Your Firm and Clients in Any Circumstances
One of the best parts of being a CPA, in my opinion, is the role of being my client’s trusted advisor. For many of us in the accounting profession, the Covid-19 pandemic has provided us with a unique and, let’s face it, sometimes stressful opportunity to step even further into this role by providing guidance and services for Payroll Protection Program loans, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and all of the tax and financial issues related to The CARES Act and other pandemic-produced issues. Yes, during Covid many of us have had a chance to truly shine and remind our clients just how valuable our advisory capabilities are.
I believe that the pandemic has set us up with a once-in-a-career opportunity to leverage our trusted advisor position and truly help our clients W.I.N. by helping them take better care of their businesses while also positioning our firms for future advisory services revenue.
What does a W.I.N. mean for your firm and your clients?
What do I mean by W.I.N., you might be wondering? Those three letters create an acronym which I was taught by the current Head Coach of Women’s Softball at Eastern Connecticut State University, Diana Pepin during the time I have been an assistant coach alongside her. When it comes to helping your clients navigate the pandemic and beyond it, I can’t—quite frankly—think of a better philosophy to subscribe to.
W.I.N. stands for What’s Important Now, which translates, at the highest level to helping our clients think about what they should be doing right now to take care of their businesses and ensure their business continuity from a financial and operational perspective. We need to do the same for our own businesses of course, and we can lead our clients by example to implement continuity strategies designed to both sustain and grow their businesses.
Introducing your clients to the W.I.N. philosophy and adopting it for your own firm can go a long way to help alleviate anxieties related to the pandemic. Here are some key considerations to help you do so:
W.I.N. by creating business continuity in the cloud. Ensuring your clients are working in the cloud with your firm and within their own operations is a critical part of the W.I.N. Without being able to run their business (or access your firm’s services) remotely, they will not be able to compete or survive long-term.
W.I.N. by bulletproofing your technology infrastructure. For my clients, helping them W.I.N. also includes the technologies they use to work with our firm, because What’s Important Now when it comes to serving their needs also relates to how we can deliver a mutually efficient workflow and rewarding service experience.
W.I.N. by committing to utmost data security. In addition to having appropriate data access controls on your electronic data, it is important that your clients and your firm are also being proactive in protecting themselves against the rise in cyber crimes brought about by the pandemic. Higher levels of security should be a priority in the context of “What’s Important Now.” The use of a secure document management platform such as SmartVault, is a sure way to head off these issues and score a W.I.N.
To highlight a personal example from my own firm as we head into tax season, I have had to educate many of my clients about not sending their tax documentation via unsecured email—to use the portals available in SmartVault instead. Now, if a client refuses to do so I have to kindly decline working with them. The security risk is just too high, and and it can become a breeding ground for unpleasant situations for both of you in the future..
W.I.N. by meeting client service expectations. Expanding on the point above, during the pandemic, the way that clients interact with your firm has changed significantly out of concerns of their personal safety and yours. Your clients expect changes such as no in-person meetings and secure online document exchange. This is where you really can W.I.N. by creating the cloud-based, collaborative infrastructure to that reduces anxiety while increasing convenience and efficiency for your clients, who want the same level of services but done in a completely virtual and remote environment, and your firm.
Another example from my firm that I implemented to enhance our ability to meet prospective client expectations was an advanced, cloud-based quoting application (Quotient) which made providing quotes for services to new clients much easier and efficient. Our clients love it, too, a total W.I.N. for us in our when we integrated it into our tech stack.
W.I.N. by making remote work a priority. If you are promoting a virtual client experience as part of your pandemic response and business continuity strategy—both are W.I.N.s in my book—then you’ll also need to make remote work capabilities a priority. This starts by centralizing all of your data in the cloud and ensuring that everyone on your team has the appropriate access to files, in real-time, again by using a cloud-based technology stack with virtual document management and e-signature capabilities as a key part of the workflow. You may also want to use an internal instant messaging system such as Slack to help with communication, too.
W.I.N. by being prepared now.
As we gear up for another tax season (after navigating one that seemed to never end), I encourage you to consider how to take control of the current Covid-centric operational environment. Use the W.I.N. philosophy to help your firm and your clients implement a solid business continuity plan while also meeting the expectations your clients have for pandemic-proof service from you, their trusted advisor.