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How to prepare for the next crisis

Practice Management Crisis planning

Approximately every 10 years , there has been an economic crisis with lasting effects. With each crisis — including 9/11, the 2008 stock market crash, and now COVID-19 — we must take away key learnings to help prepare us for the next.

As tax and accounting professionals, we not only need to prepare ourselves and our business, but also our clients. We must help them through each hurdle and set them up for success in the future. Below are a few key takeaways from past experiences to help not only clients, but your firm, handle unforeseen situations.

Instill a forward-thinking mindset in your clients

As we continue to see this pattern of major economic crises, instill a forward-thinking and crisis-ready mindset into your clients. Remind them that being informed and prepared is the best way to rise above unexpected situations. This is a tricky conversation to have, as it requires clients to think about worst-case scenarios. Being honest and showing your clients you are taking initiative to think beyond the next year, into the next five or 10, goes a long way, especially when that mindset helps them survive the next crisis.

Create a contingency playbook

It’s very important to not only have the forward-thinking mindset, but also do everything you can to be well-prepared. In order to take thoughtful and strategic steps to address the problem at hand, work with your clients to create a contingency playbook for their business. Set up time to walk through a few scenarios and come up with an informed response that allows your clients to assess the situation and pivot to work through the issues, instead of struggling through last-minute decisions. By doing so, your clients will be able to see the full picture more clearly, and be more level-headed when adapting to the situation and finding the best solution.

Be proactive in adopting new technology

Contingency planning doesn’t have to take affect after the crisis starts; it can start now by ensuring your firm has the right tools in place to manage through any potential crises. For example, a lot of companies are now utilizing the cloud to store and share information, which was not the case a few years ago. Many made this shift as a result of COVID, when sharing information via the cloud became, at times, the best way to stay connected.

When it comes to being prepared, make sure you are also adopting the right technology. Take the time to test out new technology as it comes, and make sure it not only makes sense for your firm and your clients, but that it adds value to both. You want to have time to analyze to ensure you’re making an informed choice and have the right tools in place before a crisis hits, not after.

Take the right steps to address when the unexpected arises

While contingency plans will prepare you for the right business steps during a crisis, it’s critical to remember that crises don’t just affect businesses; they affect people. Take the right first steps in a crisis, by checking in with those around you. If you can help them survive and thrive, you can help your business do the same.

At the end of the day, being prepared helps immensely when faced with the unexpected. Sit down with your clients and have honest conversations about how you can help set them up for success in every way, including the unforeseen circumstances. The same goes for your own business: Check in on the people that work alongside you every day and make sure everyone is ready for the next crisis.

Think first about staff and families at the business. Assess their emotional capacity to deal with the situation, and ensure they have the right tools and training to help work through it with their team members.

Turn to your clients. No matter what business you are running, clients are important to keep top of mind. Check in on them; ask how they are feeling, what is worrying them most, and offer assistance where you can. Your feedback on financial and business situations in the moment, as well as reminding them of their contingency plans, can help when making decisions in a crisis.

The business comes after the people. Overall, your staff and clients come before the health of the business. Without them, there would be no business to speak of. Make sure you have a handle on how the workers behind the scenes are doing and how you can help before you start worrying about business health. After all, your contingency planning should have helped prepare your business for this moment. 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Accounting Today.

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