Build a Resilient Accountancy Firm for 2022

Happy New Year!

Lots of us will have been a bit more cautious than we were last New Year about sharing our certainty that 2022 will be the year where everything gets better! We all realise now that the way back to ‘normality’ is complex and actually it’s likely that we’ll need to change our expectations of normality rather than expect life to be just as it was in 2019.

But in this blog we wanted to focus on wishing you a resilient New Year. Alongside agility, resilience is probably the most important characteristic now in modern accounting firms so it’s only right that we help you understand how you can achieve it.

So what does being a resilient firm really mean? 

In a nutshell it’s a prepared business. We all know that we can’t plan for every possible scenario that might occur in a world where pandemics seemingly appear overnight. But we can prepare for a variety of consequences that these unlikely, but still possible events might create.

In many ways it’s a bit like how the healthcare system might prepare to be resilient enough to deal with pandemics. They can’t foresee exactly what it might look like but they can ensure that they have enough knowledge about how to manage a variety of symptoms and enough slack in the system to enable it’s people to do just that. Not something the NHS has historically had the capacity to do of course!

So using that pandemic planning scenario let’s consider the kinds of unlikely, but possible events that resilient firms will need to be prepared to handle:

Public health crises

Severe weather

Economic downturns

Skill gaps

Internal emergencies (incapacity of integral members of staff, damage to premises, cash flow crises or prolonged IT outages.)

You’ll probably be able to think of a few more.

And logistically, how on earth can accountancy firms prepare for such varied situations? 

Well a resilience framework is a great place to begin. Just like all of your standard policies and procedures this document should be easily accessible to, at the very least, the senior leadership team and should be a ‘go to’ manual that whoever is leading the firm at the time can pick up should they head into work one day to be greeted with any of the nightmare scenarios listed above.

What key information should your resilience framework contain? 

RESPOND: The first thing leaders will need to be able to do in a situation requiring business resilience is respond to the situation at hand and protect the firm as much as possible.

Initially leaders managing some kind of emergency will need a list of the core elements of the business that they need to stop everything and protect straight away. This should include reference to locations of critical equipment, or items that there can be no delay in locating (staff contact details, passwords to critical software, servers or the stopcock to turn off the water.)  There should be a flowchart or check list that the person leading the disaster can work through to make sure they don’t miss any key component of response.

Included in the business resilience plan should be a full list of helpful contacts. So, not only all of the details of staff who work directly within the practice but also third parties who can be called upon to help support the firm in a crisis (including out of hours). So a contact at the bank, a plumber, the number for the electricity board, the IT emergency number and a reliable recruiter – if your emergency means you need accountants at desks asap we’ll be able to help you find interims to ensure the wheels stay in motion at your firm.

But a plan is only one factor when it comes to resilient accountancy firms. What about recovery? 

The world is seeing first hand that the impacts of a disaster can last well beyond the initial shock and reaction stages. Some of the businesses who responded well initially haven’t made it through as they failed to put in place a long term recovery plan.

So how can accountancy firms make sure they’re not only ready for an emergency but also able to come out the other side thriving? 

Often the key when it comes to recovery lies deeply embedded into your business values. Is it all about financial gain for your firm or have you invested in your people and the long term strength or the services that you offer? Financial gain might make you a quick buck but it won’t build you a strong and resilient business that can thrive and provide for its employees, leaders and clients over a long period of time.

Some ideas of how you can bolster resilience through your business values;

  • Your firm needs to have a great and diverse selection of people within it. Create this via your diversity and inclusion policy.
  • Once recruited, these people need to feel like they’re part of the firm and buy in to its intrinsic values. They’ll need to feel loyalty from and towards their employer. This is all down to the employee value benefits package and the workplace culture.
  • Communication is also critical. To recover from a crisis leaders need to be able to maintain an honest and open line of communication with both staff and clients to ensure a swift recovery.

And on a purely practical level, firms who operate business as usual with a surplus of cash flow and workforce will clearly recover faster as there’s more slack in the system to cope.

‘Your workforce will play a massive part in how ready you are to ride the wave of a storm and how quickly your firm is able to recover from any damage to its ship. And at Public Practice Recruitment we’re here to help you build a solid vessel before you even set sail and to join you on your voyage patching up any damage as you head into the storm. Good recruitment decisions are linked to every aspect of your firm’s success and it’s the part of your business model you shy away from investing in at your peril. If my firm can support you to be ready for whatever modern life throws at you, reach out today for a no obligation chat.‘ 

Garry Howling, MD


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