A year from now, what’s the story you’ll tell? Write it now. (Image Source: rf123)
There’s no doubt 2020 is off to a crazy start. The COVID-19 pandemic. The near-universal period of shelter in place and #WFH (Work From Home). Massive seasons of layoffs, a down economy, racial reform and a political election. For accountants, the need to support our clients as trusted advisors when guidelines and deadlines from authorities for tax deadlines and PPP loans evolved with modulation.

But as I’ve noted in previous articles, disruption creates opportunities.

There’s a leadership exercise I sometimes perform with teams that’s applicable now. Imagine yourself, your business and your situation a year from today. In the middle of 2021, as you tell the story of the unprecedented challenges you’ve faced and the lessons you’ve learned? Where will your company be and how will it resemble the one you are working within or leading today? Will it be stronger, better, greater? Will you have pivoted along with the needs of the market? What will be the outcomes attained?

The story you tell will be the one you are creating today. It will either be written by default as you allow yourself to be buffeted by a season of changes, or it will be the legend you create with intention and purpose.

Where do you begin? As decades of history have shown, you excel by investing in your upturn during the downturn. Instead of leaning away from the circumstances such as COVID-19, you lean in.

How can I say this? For starters, there are some life advantages in reaching the half-century mark. As I confer with my longtime friend and colleague (and webinar co-presenter) Jan Newman, who carries a leading role on our Avii Advisory Board, we realize that we have jointly endured and surpassed five major economy downturns prior to 2020 and COVID-19.

We’re here, we’re thriving and we have the benefit of the lessons we’ve learned in the prior downturns to draw upon now. So in that respect, we’re not over the hill. We’re up the hill and can draw upon the lessons we’ve learned.

Interestingly, as we survey the prior five downturns — Black Monday, in which the economy dropped by 20 percent in a day — the Kuwait invasion, the Dot.com bubble burst, the real estate implosion and bear market that reduced our collective market cap by 50 percent. Not every one of these downturns involved a recession. So far, the COVID-19 plunge has produced a market adjustment of 33 percent in the space of 5 weeks.

Invest in Upturn Examples

Some of us are people who prefer to avoid risk. Some of us have even attempted to avoid risk by our very career choices. The aspiring actor who decides to take a safer career route instead, perhaps, and says “I’ll become an accountant.”

  • Well, here we are. Here’s the way the current downturn has affected the business of accounting so far:
  • Remote workforce
  • Clients who are not prepared to be remote
  • Security risks
  • Tax deadline shifts
  • PPP questions and demands
  • Software file access and workflows
  • Change management mind shift

We’ve spoken about some of these issues in our last webinar on cost-cutting strategies, which is available here.
The final point above, change management is the biggest factor for us to consider right now. Whether we love change or hate it; whether we have learned to thrive within risk or avoid it, the biggest factor the current downturn has imposed upon us is that the focus on change management is universal. Tremendous change is upon us and the story we create, whether good, bad, thriving or even survival requires that we manage it well.

So where do you begin? If you’ve already begun, congratulations. If you haven’t, take heart –whatever you intend your future to look like, it is not too late to begin. You begin by leaning in.

As a note of inspiration, let us remember that a full 50 percent of the Fortune 100 and more than 50 percent of the companies on the S&P Index were begun during downturns.

Here’s a quick poll: Which of these successful companies was not begun in a downturn?

  • Groupon
  • Airbnb
  • Netflix
  • Uber
  • General Motors
  • Apple
  • MailChimp
  • Microsoft
  • MTV
  • Trader Joe’s
  • CNN
  • Square
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Venmo

Here’s what our webinar participants said: 40% said MailChimp. 40% said CNN. 20% said AirBNB. All wrong. Would you like a hint? The real answer is Apple.

So the point in all this is that the current downturn, while unprecedented in its circumstance is not unique. And it is surely not the last cataclysmic event we will face. But regardless of who you are, this has kicked us out of our comfort zone.

We’ve learned collectively (particularly those of us who have lived and surmounted the prior downturns) we can do this. We can excel. Like these great companies, we can invest in our upturn during the downturn to come out of this season with a story that finds us wiser and stronger than before.

But for many of us, and perhaps particularly for those of us in accounting, we’ve been trying to surmount our challenges to do more with less in the wrong ways and with the wrong tools.

Passion is perhaps the single factor that will help us succeed. It is our passion — coupled with our vision and confidence — that will allow us in the realm of accounting to create and fulfill the role of trusted advisor for our teams, for our companies and most importantly, for the clients we serve.

As we all have the same number of hours in the day, this requires that we use automation to advance our individual and collective worth for our clients. As a pioneer in the category of software automation for accounting, Avii suggests you begin your automation in the following three ways:

  1. Download the software calculator
  2. Request a free software audit
  3. Try Avii Workspace for analysis and trial free of charge

The Takeaways: How will you write your story?

In conclusion, here are the things we hope you will consider as you write your future story today and in the remaining seasons of 2020 to come:

  • Remember that doing more with less (or in a different way) requires strong automation. It is worth it. Whether you love change or you abhor it, your future business and your future career depend upon you doing this well.
  • Use the current disruption as an opportunity.
  • Let your passion help you emerge stronger.
  • Invest in your upturn (both personally and collectively) during the downturn.
  • Create a category…and become a trusted advisor.

WRITTEN BY

Lyle Ball

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