Advising Clients When the Only Certainty Is Uncertainty

In our March 12 blog, “Are You Prepared to Help Clients in Uncertain Times,” Sarah Dobek shared important ideas for “advising through uncertainty,” including communicating with clients quickly and being proactive with ideas to help their businesses. Here we are, only about two weeks after that blog post, and we have learned that the only certainty IS uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

Many of us are struggling with creating our new “business-as-usual” environment while at the same time keeping ourselves and others informed of the frequent updates coming from a variety of sources. As I’m sure you can imagine, your clients are feeling the same way. This is the time they turn to their business advisors to guide them on next steps. So, what else can we do as business advisors and thought leaders to help our clients?

Provide Timely Updates on Legislative Changes and Other Government Regulations

With federal and state sites now dedicating valuable pages to COVID-19 updates and legislative changes, they continue to be the best direct resource for understanding what is happening across the nation and in your own state. But a lot of the information can be incredibly technical and complex. As CPAs, one of your top skills is interpreting technical and complex information for your business and individual clients. We recommend identifying one or two technical partners or managers who can quickly interpret and provide opinions and guidance on the bulk of new information coming from government announcements. In particular, clients want to hear from you regarding impacts to tax deadlines, employment laws and other requirements that have been evolving from the federal and state governments’ responses to COVID-19.

Learn and Share How Industries Are Responding to COVID-19

Many of you have developed practice groups related to industry specialization. It becomes increasingly important that you have information that your clients can use to navigate the current markets and forecast what may be ahead. Fortunately, many third-party research companies are beginning to post studies and forecasts for how they think various industries will respond to COVID-19. Now is the time for your practice group leaders to be scouring their industry groups, talking to clients and developing a way to help industry clients navigate the next few months. Everything matters – from revenue generation and keeping the business running to employee benefits and how to meet payroll.

Increase and Expedite Communication, Even in a Virtual Environment

In times of uncertainty, communication is a critical component of successful relationships with clients and employees. Communication needs will vary. Some clients may be seeking reassurance that you will still be able to help them. Other clients may be hoping for more insights into recent impacts on their industries or forecasting the impact to their business. Employees want security and flexibility. And all audiences are concerned about health and safety.

Communication becomes increasingly challenging when most firms and businesses are moving to a virtual environment. Fortunately, the profession has been advancing to include more types of technology that make collaboration with remote employees and clients easier. As a completely virtual company since our founding, we have our own experiences in how to help with a virtual client or employee experience. Now is the time to think of ways to scale your technology solutions to maintain connections.

From our perspective, it is important to continue to think about the future of your firm, even while you are focused heavily on managing the next few days or weeks. We recommend dedicating time each day to reaching out to all the relationships you have been nurturing over the past few months, including current clients and others who you would like to work with. By just inquiring about how they are doing or offering ways to help immediately (for free if it makes sense) will demonstrate your genuine interest in their well-being and will build goodwill once the dust settles. Internal communication is also critical to the future of your firm. Help employees feel connected through regular phone calls or virtual meetings. You can create video messages from leaders to keep employees informed as you make changes to your business in reaction to the market. Any personal touch will let employees know you are looking out for them and are focused on the business.

Where to Go for Help

We have created a webpage where we will be posting links to helpful resources, and we plan to continue adding more as we find them. We have also created an FFCRA Toolkit+ designed to help firms expedite their communications to clients and within their firms.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions on advising clients through uncertainty or need help with any of these ideas.

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