How has COVID-19 transformed your firm?

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Who could have predicted that something such as COVID-19 would occur, let alone make such a huge impact to our personal lives and businesses? While some tax and accounting professionals recently finished up tax season and are determining when to return to their offices, many are still working remotely. Either way, you’re turning the traditional work model upside down.

How has COVID-19 transformed your firm? We asked several of our Intuit® Tax Pro Center authors for their feedback. Here’s what they had to say.

Joe Abesamis, CPABaCo Group

We have been more focused on what matters: our value to the client. This means being present, whether we helped with Paycheck Protection Program loans or helped pivot their business model to stay alive. We led with empathy and compassion. COVID-19 has made our client service better because it helped us understand that our value is more than being able to provide accounting or tax advice; it’s to have a relationship with our clients.

Ford Baker, CPABaCo Group and BaCo Tech

As we had to change our working environment, there are two valuable things I believe our firm gained over the last year:

  1. Prior to March 2020, I was more resistant to take on clients who we could not have an in-person relationship with because I doubted what kinds of benefits virtual platforms could deliver. Now, thanks to Slack, meeting software, and communications tools we use to answer client questions, I am confident we can deliver a high level of personal service to our clients, no matter where they are located.
  2. The workflows we’ve invested in over the last year allow us to automate putting last year’s numbers on last year’s forms, with the degree of control we need to ensure the numbers are correct. In turn, this opened up our time to better serve all of our clients on the pressing issues that happen year to year. In 2020, that was more important than ever.

Elcorese Brown Charis Business Solutions LLC

COVID-19 transformed my firm in a way that I would have never attempted had the pandemic not existed. Not only has my firm had the opportunity to grow, but it has also flourished because I’m no longer isolated to a specific location. I have had many opportunities to meet and network with business owners from all over the country through virtual coffee meetings. This has given me a new innovative way of thinking to transcend my profession. It is different from March 2020. I was able to leave my corporate job to pursue my business full time. I have learned how to use technology to maximize my efficiency and productivity, as well as multitask.

Cassidy Jakovickas, CPAMBS Accountancy Corporation

Despite the challenges we’ve endured, COVID-19 was one of the best things to happen to our firm. That being said, in no way do I diminish the loss of life and the impact on the world’s economy, and I wish COVID-19 would have never happened.

COVID-19 forced us to face systemic issues in our firm, and change our service model and client base:

  • We’ve embraced a hybrid work-from-home model to the delight of our team.
  • We are now the first place clients turn for all questions about their business.
  • We eliminated all once-a-year 1040 tax clients, so we can focus on deeper relationships with our business and nonprofit clients.
  • We’re in the process of converting all annual business tax clients to a quarterly accounting review and tax projection service model, so we can be more proactive for our non-recurring client accounting/advisory services customers. Clients who aren’t willing to commit to this close partnership model – and higher fees – will be finding a new CPA firm.
  • To gain more traction with our clients and let them know we’re here for them, we upped our outbound communication, including email blasts and social media by 500% in 2020, and will continue this trend.
  • We committed early on to be experts in the various COVID relief programs, and have helped put literally tens of millions of financial relief dollars in our struggling clients’ bank accounts to support them during these tough times.

I believe we have differentiated ourselves as a firm that helps its clients look forward, and I’m incredibly excited about the future of our firm.

Debra KilsheimerBehind the Scenes Financial Services

Challenges always create opportunities. COVID-19 allowed us to really show clients the benefits of cloud-based services, with QuickBooks® Online, Melio, receipt capture, secure document sharing, Zoom, and other tools. Anything that was done previously in person can now be done remotely. It forced those clients who said, “Yeah, one day I’ll use all those tools you talk about,” to “Right now!” Having the technologies in place, it was pretty painless to move those stragglers, and we could let our staff work at home. That freed up office space and gave them a raise because there was no commute time! Our business has never been better.

Bob M. Metty, Ed.D., JD, LLM – TaxExceptional Assistance, LLC

At Exceptional Assistance, we’ve always intended the “exceptional” to be our service motto, as well as our name. So, we’ve always been very flexible with our clients, willing to travel to them – even on nights and weekends – for interviews, document collection, and tax return preparation. Strangely for us, COVID-19 had a bit of what is likely an opposite effect than what most people experienced. We found ourselves spending more time in the office, albeit interacting remotely.

Of course, like everyone else, we implemented Zoom, as well as the secure document upload portal feature in Intuit ProSeries® Tax, which remains a must. We also developed a monitored client document drop point to allow for social distancing, while keeping private tax documents secure for clients who aren’t tech savvy and often don’t want to be. We’ve tried to improvise to roll with the changes, and even though remote preparation services are the new normal, we remain a client service-focused firm devoted to developing long-term relationships with our clients.

Bhairavi Parikh, CPAAnalytix Solutions

For our outsourced accounting firm, COVID-19 brought a major consumer-driven shift to our service offerings. As small businesses try to survive in a difficult market, the need for advisory services, such as cash management and data analytics, has taken priority over routine transactional activities. Post-COVID-19, traditional accounting firms not only have the opportunity, but will also be required to be transformed into advisory practices. COVID-19 has left all of us no choice but to transform our beliefs and values, and adapt to the new world.”

Andrea Parness CPA, CTCA. Parness Company

One of our favorite sayings is, “It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity.” In March 2020, we called our IT firm and had them ship each of our staff a complete setup, so their home office would be fully operational and comfortable. We installed a voice over IP telephone system, and made sure that each home office space had a really good scanner, desk, and chair.

By pivoting so quickly, no one was laid off. In fact, their hours and responsibilities increased. Now that their commuting time is “me” time, everyone has a more positive attitude when they start work. We have been using video chat software for more than five years to “show and tell” our clients about their financial situation, but with our upgraded telephone system, they are able to contact us and work together on their strategic stimulus projects as if we were still all at our Queens location.

COVID-19 validated our business model and gave me the opportunity to evaluate employee strengths, escalating their role in our office as appropriate. From the beginning, and during the recent tax season’s exit appointments, every telephone call starts with at least one comment about how grateful our clients are that we have been there for them, and how wonderful and caring our staff is. I believe that is a reflection of good management, processes that we evaluated and tweaked as needed, and great communication.

Susan Tinel, EAApril 15 Taxes, Inc.

COVID-19 has made us be even better. We were already a cloud firm, so while the pandemic didn’t disrupt our tax season, it did refine our processes and redefined our clientele. We work even smarter now. Clients who weren’t on board with our systems were shed and easily replaced by others who wanted to survive and grow.

Editor’s note: How did COVID-19 transform your firm? Leave us a comment below to share your experiences with others.

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