Your Firm is Virtual

May 28, 2020
Your Firm Is Virtual … Like It or Not

By Adam Blitz, CPA
I wrote an article for California CPA in August 2019 called “Remotely Close.” The purpose of the that article was to bring to light the opportunities and accessibility of working remotely, while highlighting the inefficiencies and complexity of being away from the office. 

As we sit here in May 2020, I’m assuming you and most of your colleagues are working remotely. While I hope your firm has been able to transition as smoothly as possible to a remote workforce, I would guess that each firm is facing its own challenges.

Last year I explored the problems (real financial cost and time inefficiencies) caused by working remotely; today, I want to highlight the permanent technology changes that I expect to change the way the profession operates. As we move forward, firms will identify that much of what was perceived as value in the past has no worth anymore. So, too, there will be costs associated with a virtual firm that you previously were able to minimize with a one location firm. 

So here is a brief review of some “sacred cows” that held our firms from going completely virtual.

We Must Give Our Clients Paper Copies
Remember when you gave your client a hard copy of their tax return? In the new world, that paper copy has been touched by too many people with too many germs. And, guess what? The time and effort it takes to package that paper copy (not just the hard cost of the paper and folders) can be reduced. Now your clients value the electronic copy— which costs you less and reduces firm time on the project.

Our IT Security Is Fool Proof
This may be true in your office, but what about your staff who lives in the 10-story apartment complex and uses the “free” apartment wifi. Going virtual is not free or easy. New challenges arrive and one of those is ensuring each firm has secure IT infrastructure for all of its network users. Now is the time to make sure your IT team educates and installs the firm’s preferred networking solutions at all of your company’s locations (including staff homes).

Staff Must Be Able to Drive to the Office
Congratulations! If your firm was struggling to find talent in your local area, your firm can now easily hire wherever the talent is. Since your firm is now virtual, your talent has no need to be close to your office. As accountants, we typically complete our work independently and therefore should be able to work from wherever we want to live. Shameless plug for Fresno: YOU can afford to buy a house here!

You Need to Shake Your Clients’ Hands or Clients Want to See Our Office
Remember the days when you and your staff would drive or travel to meet your clients. Well, expect your travel budget to go straight to zero. Awesome, another increase to your firm’s bottom line! Once the pandemic is over, clients and staff alike will be used to ZOOM and telephone conference calls. It’s not that we don’t want to see our clients, but we would rather reduce the cost and increase the productivity to our bottom line.

While we discuss clients, I should mention that, historically, 95 percent of your clientele is headquartered in your geographic area. Well, guess what? It doesn’t matter where your clients are anymore because you never have to shake their hand! Clients moving forward will be more willing to build an online accounting relationship then ever before. To further this point, clients may be driven to remote CPA firms in a bid to remove the natural instinct of meeting and shaking another person’s hand.

It’s Not Our Job to Install New Technology for Clients
The last couple months have brought a lot of changes and challenges to the ways our firms and out clients operate. If you have not implemented new accounting technology solutions into a service your firm can 
provide to your clients, now is the time to do so. If you were looking for a simple way to boost your firms revenues as some of your clients go out of business, this is a new service that many of your clients will seek 
out with open arms.

In the future, our firms will likely return to our office spaces, but we will not go back to our old processes. Clients will phase out, new clients will replace those old clients. Staff will move, but that doesnt mean they have to leave your firms. The quicker you can adapt to the new reality the more successful you will be! 

Please keep yourself, your families, colleagues and friends healthy and safe. Be patient as we will persevere through these challenges—as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
Adam Blitz, CPA is the owner at StreamlineCPA.

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