In the sad absence of having seen you all in person for our usual round tables, it seems appropriate to now offer some positives from the past year, (yes, there were some), and some pointers for 2021.
As with all such varied groups, the relevance of ideas will also vary a great deal, but our commonality lies in the fact that the major impact of 2020 has been the pandemic, and to that we are focusing here on ideas to inspire recoveries, and offer some practical suggestions for the coming year.
Change is uncomfortable, and yet it is the only constant in our lives. The added concern of facing the unknown has increased the stress we feel, but indeed we have never known what the future brings, we have merely planned as if we did.
Here are a few thoughts on dealing with this once in a generation event of 2020:
2021 Getting back on Track:
Firstly, accept that nothing will go back to how it was, and the ability to adapt quickly and effectively is paramount. You can do it, so remain static at your peril. This has always been true, but now we have been forced to confront it. This is a good thing, because if Covid has been the cause, the effects to be seen in 2021 will bring more massive changes and they are on our doorstep now. So be receptive and open to new ways of conducting your workplace.
The Train Already on the Track: Predictions for 2021
It’s a new world so get ready for it. Governments around the globe are reacting to the current crisis in a bid to support business, balance of trade, and the provision of jobs.
This and the changing political map, equate to new trade relationships, changed tax thresholds and policies, new employment regulations, pressure on markets and property, and the lifting of temporary safe guards on rental markets, and banking.
Where applicable, the lifting of temporary restraints on debt proceedings will add to a spike in bankruptcies, but also in services offering management of debt, to ameliorate the loss of businesses that will resuscitate in better times.
Interest rates are at their lowest and predicted to stay low for the foreseeable future, stimulating growth in the retail and property markets. Infrastructure projects will put demands on supply of raw materials and labour. The pressure on fossil fuels in favour of green energy sources will put the spotlight on innovation in renewables. Student enrolments, visas and migration will reignite.
Should we get a rollout of a vaccine as predicted for mid to late 2021, it will be the game changer. Suppressed markets in tourism, travel industries, the arts and hospitality will see a rapid rush back to increased revenues.
Employment issues for both; demand in some sectors, and loss in others, will continue to have a domino effect across the board.
What has this got to do with Practice Management:
Practice Management is Business Management, and requires foresight, flexibility and decisiveness in a rapidly changing business environment.
Consider the above, how it fits in your industry and jurisdiction, and how this could affect your client base. The goal posts are moving, and change creates work opportunities putting your services in demand. Make sure your services fit these new changed demands.
Work places have changed forever. Open plan offices may remain problematic for the foreseeable future.
Employees and employers have discovered that work from home has advantages, with consensus showing increased productivity in many circumstances. Consider on-going regimes of flexi-work procedures as the new normal, with perhaps a combination of workplace and home on rotating schedules. The benefits are savings in travel costs for workers, and a re-think on how much office space you require with the possibility of reduced rental overheads, or opportunities for sub-letting.
The standout of the past months has been the adoption of improved technology, levelling the playing field for smaller firms competing with larger ones. Demand for tech driven communications will escalate, and is the greatest cost cutting exercise you can initiate.
With the installation of the best you can manage in high powered servers and audio-visual equipment, the world will come back into access for you, fellow practitioners, and clients. Make sure the client can see and hear you clearly. Do not create the “turn-off” of making the communication a challenge.
Efficiencies include: eliminated commuting times; reduced need for on-site meetings/presentations; conducting of on-line AGM’s, client consultations, court attendances and mediations; as well as cuts in the need for distance travelling. The savings in cost to both clients and advisors is massive, and
the better allocation of time spent on actual work is a bottom line bonus.
Pushback on the uptake of technology is a recipe to be quickly left behind. In those areas where access to on-line services is not as freely available, do your best to source even small options to make your practice more efficient, more connected, more profitable. Where you can access the support, don’t use domestic AVL platforms, professional ones are essential, and you can seek advice on how best to achieve this.
Learn: Solicit your staff as to what roadblocks they are facing to their work and attempt to better facilitate their smooth workflow. Be open to new ideas. There is a plethora of on-line material, so sift through that which is relevant to you. They make a difference and help you to take the next steps to updating your business platforms.
Be seen: In offices where many or all staff are working from home, consider the adoption of an internal intranet if you can. Small cameras are inexpensive and can be provided for those who do not have an inbuilt one on their PCs, and the ability to “see” one another is essential. Otherwise it
is just a phone call on speaker. So turn your cameras on, you look fine, and people want and need to see one another. Consider a daily on-line meeting with all staff to touch base, allocate work, and exchange any concerns. A few minutes will do, and it is a huge morale booster and maintains a
team spirit in times of upheaval.
Be Available: Turning on the answering machine as you close the office door for the day is inadequate, and cuts off your opportunities for the next job.
We are all service providers. Provide your mobile/cell phone number on all your communications and be contactable 24/7. Being a global network means that it might be a holiday where you are, but to a client it may not. Incoming calls to the office line should be automatically patched through
to practitioners who seamlessly pick up as if from their usual office. It is business as usual.
Keep up communication lines with your client base, and confirm how you can be contacted. If you have information that may be useful to them as to the changing business landscape, take the time to forward it on to them. Your client’s needs are changing too.
Everyone is a bit “at sea”, you are not alone, but if you are in management, you need to step up and show that you are there, making decisions, and giving positive direction to both your team and your clients. Stay connected with your colleagues and fellow staff members. This is vital for both smooth
workflow, cohesiveness, productivity and maintaining team spirit. As a manager, you need to be a constant for your staff providing clear instructions, and the sense that you are in control, even on days when nothing could be further from the truth.
The lessons of 2020 have been the ability of people to adapt and re-invent their services. Cash is as ever, king, and the ability to keep the tap running may mean that you re-consider the services you offer, or how you apply them. Consider what is happening in your jurisdiction. Government support programs, and dramatically changing business opportunities will spring like mushrooms in the coming year. The consideration of a tutoring, lecturing or mediation role could be viable. So much will be new, and clients will need guidance.
Take advantage of the support systems that are there for your mental and physical well-being. No one is Superman/Superwoman, and that is just fine. This is true for your staff as well, who may be struggling. Keeping strong, fit and positively focused, goes a long way toward running a wellmanaged business.
We know that what has been set out in this report is not a “one size fits all”. The intent is to provide practical concepts, inspiration, and food for thought for better management in the year ahead.
To our friends and colleagues in IR Global, we wish you the best for the coming year. Hopefully a buoyant 2021, when we will look forward to those round table discussions once again. (Tech can’t replace everything!)
Julia Koffel, for and on behalf of, The IR Global Practice Management Committee 2020.