Advising Clients in Troubled Times

“Be calm. This will pass, and when it does, it will probably leave several scars, but we will be fine.”
—Doug Sleeter, Adviser and Pathfinder.

Richard and Julie Francis, founders of Spotlight Reporting

It is no secret that we are living through troubled times. But this is not Richard Francis’ first time working through a global crisis. These days, he’s first and foremost the CEO of Spotlight Reporting, but in a previous life he was a Chartered Accountant running his own boutique firm, and he worked through the GFC and 9/11. His leadership and experiences leave him uniquely positioned to offer advice to both accounting firms, businesses, and industry leaders, as we weather this storm together.

Here are a few summarised snippets from his most recent webinar, Advising Clients in Troubled Times:

25:15 minutes: Your Own Business

Health and safety videos on planes always instruct passengers to secure your own oxygen mask first, before helping the person next to you. Accounting firms should be no different. Don’t let the health of your business decline while you set about rescuing your clients. Carve out some time to sort out your own business. This includes getting clear on your own cashflow, for the short and medium-term, figuring out a fair fee to charge for your services, and remaining human—now, more than ever, is the time for careful communication and empathy.

28:33 minutes: Things To Do Now

Check out Richard’s “Next Week Checklist” for tips on immediate action you can take.

42:05 minutes: What Services Matter?

Richard says your clients will need you to be the bright, guiding lighthouse of the rough economic seas. The best thing you can do for them right now, is help them get used to the ‘new normal’ and plan ahead. Budgeting will be an important tool going forward, as you’ll need to figure out what is now coming into/going out of their business. Scenario planning is also key—what will the future look like for them, if you look at the good, the bad, and the ugliest outcomes?

Make sure your clients remain compliant, but also factor in updated government announcements regarding tax, and potential stimulus packages that your clients are eligible for. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and offer a one-off strategy session to get through the crisis, perhaps throwing in a Spotlight Report for added value.

We’re All On This Journey Together

Spotlight Reporting CSO Kristin Harris offers some wise words: “At such a difficult economic time it is important to remember why we got into business, and focus on those that we are here to serve and have a responsibility to. If we keep our clients, customers and people at the centre of our purpose we can be really proud of doing meaningful business.”

For more information, and more exploration of the topics outlined above, watch the webinar recording here. Spotlight Reporting will be here to help throughout the crisis, but it is ultimately up to all of us as to how we get through this trying time. With the right attitude, we can not only survive, but thrive, and turn opposition into opportunity.

Will you embrace the opportunity and act? Will you lead now or follow later? Will you create a legacy of positive outcomes for clients, transform your practice, and move forward with meaning, urgency, and purpose?...or not?

Wise Words From Other Industry Leaders:

Timothy Munro, ChangeGPS: “Do continuity planning for your own practice first. Maintain your cash ‘war chest’ and no matter how empathetic you feel, you do still need to charge for your work - and get paid up front.”
Viv Brownrigg, The Gap: “If I was still in practice now, I’d be gathering my clients ‘together’. Gather them online (webinar) and give them simple survival tips, not just about cashflow, but also about how to stay resilient.”
Mike Barnes, Advisor-E “Draft a 1st, 2nd and 3rd 'defensive line' plan; along with calculating quick position and worst case, the 3 lines plan helps your clients to see the interrelation of their decisions and actions.”
Paul Meissner, 5 Ways Group and Freedom Mentoring: "In good times and bad, clients need their Accountants. You're either helping save money or hide the money. Client relationships are key in a crisis. Practical advice delivered in a personable manner gives crucial reassurance to worried clients."
Colin Hewitt, FloatApp: “Make sure you proactively reach out to every single client. Ask them how you can be helpful, and arrange a follow-up if necessary. Even if the client is fine, they’ll appreciate the sentiment.”
Avril Hillind, Laurenson CA: “You can’t beat a personal conversation. Bulk emails are great to get a message out but your client is going to feel most supported and likely to work with you to the best end result if you pick up the phone and have a chat with them. It is very difficult to convey empathy in an email, it is best done with the human voice. Relationships count.”
Paul Gardner, Fresh Accounting, Hong Kong: “Advisory is more important than ever. Believe it or not, some clients and businesses can thrive and grow in uncertain times - it’s OK!  Look also to cloud-based strategies for your firm and for clients. We are now working in the new normal and things won’t get easier anytime soon. Look at how we can embrace best-of-breed technology and software to help ourselves and clients.”
David New, Practice Ignition (and Spotlight Alumni): “Know the equity you hold, seek better deals on borrowings, renegotiate with your current bank or consider switching to interest only, consider other access to credit you have, check out what may be available through your superannuation… and finally...start a budget and manage spending!”

Be sure to visit our Advisory Hub to find out what support we’re offering to the accounting community and our customers.

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