Article written by:
Darci Congrove, CPA
“Everyone goes through adversity in life, but what matters is how you learn from it.” – Lou Holtz
On March 4, 2020, we sent our first firm-wide email about COVID-19 precautions in which we asked everyone to wash their hands and stay home if they were sick. One week later, we started getting serious about “operational preparedness” for something that was undefined and moving on a timeline that was unknown. Since then, it has been a wild ride for everyone, both in our business and in the world around us. As we wrapped up three full weeks of working in a 100% remote environment, our team has demonstrated collective adaptability and resiliency that makes us proud.
We decided to stop and assess what we have learned so far, and we shared it internally with all of our team members. As you continue to navigate these very uncertain times and face many of the same issues that we do, we thought that there might be something in our lessons that will benefit your business, too. We know that many more lessons will follow as we continue to adapt to a changing environment.
Here is what we have learned so far:
- Life sometimes comes at us very fast. Countries representing more than 50% of global GDP are currently in some form of shut down. The speed at which everything changed has caused us to think very differently about how we do strategic business planning for the future, and to make sure that it includes ample plans for playing defense as well as offense.
- Since that initial email on March 4, we have issued 25 “All GBQ” COVID update messages to our team. These have been entirely transparent, based on the information we have known at the time. People want to hear the truth, even when it is negative, from their leaders. They also want to know that the leaders have a plan, and to hear some expression of humanity. We have learned that clear, concise, and frequent communication has enhanced our mutual trust. This, in turn, has allowed our team to work better than ever together toward common goals.
- We have been proudly proclaiming that we had a “paperless” environment for a decade. The truth is that we still used a lot of paper, but not nearly as much now. We had no choice when everyone moved to working from home. Tools like SafeSend and DocuSign are taking us beyond the final barriers. These methods are faster, cheaper, and more secure. This is making us think about how to remove all remaining manual processes from our systems forever.
- The importance of high quality IT professionals and secure systems cannot be overstated. These systems are the foundation of our privilege to work remotely and to stay safe and healthy in our homes. We have learned that the IT team is our version of front-line workers. Cost-cutting measures should be directed somewhere other than IT – now and almost always.
- We can move a lot faster than we thought. Faced with an unprecedented amount of stimulus legislation and regulatory guidance, we found a way to divide and conquer the incoming information so that we could read, comprehend and share time-critical knowledge with our clients. Individually, we are staying in our lanes and counting on one another for help. As a result, we are learning a whole new kind of teamwork, cooperation and trust. This will make us better in an ever-evolving future landscape.
- We have intentionally built a business model that includes a lot of in-person engagement and social activities. We have had to think of new ways to maintain communication and nurture relationships. We are learning how to create and support a feeling of togetherness and community – even when we can’t be together. We are hearing from our clients and our team members that they appreciate this, and it is a valuable lesson for us to apply as we open new offices in new geographies and work with clients beyond our core footprint.
- Compassion and empathy are just as important – if not more so – than knowledge. The problems that we address and the solutions that we find during this time will strengthen the relationships that we have with one another and with you. We are learning how to improve our communication skills and our emotional IQ, which are invaluable for all aspects of life.
We are a work in progress, as individuals and as a business. The lessons that will come from this crisis have only just begun. The important part is to pay attention to the lessons as they come and to remember them when the crisis is over.
Meanwhile, here is what we pledge to provide to you, our clients:
- Knowledge. We are reading and reacting all day every day so that we can share important information with you quickly.
- Accessibility. We are not in the office, but we’re on high alert to help with whatever you need.
- Reliability. One of us may not know the answer, but our team will find it, whether inside or outside of GBQ. We will help you solve your problems. Even if what you need is not something that we do at GBQ, call us and we will save you time by using our network of relationships to find a resource for you.
- Empathy. We are learning every day, just like you. We are worried about our employees, our customers and our families, just like you. We know that owning a business can be lonely in times like these. We’re here if you just need to talk it through.
Take care of yourself, your family and your business. Stay safe, and let us know how we can help.