I think this is a question with which many of us will need to grapple in the near future. The alternative is to be selfish or to put others above ourselves for longer than our own businesses can sustain.
By demonstrating your support in times of distress your relationships will no doubt be strengthened when we come out the other side. For me this is not a time for selling additional services, rather a time for extra humanity. I appreciate that not everyone wants or feels able to take that approach. And some people just haven’t considered this yet.
Have you thought about what you will do to help your clients, friends and colleagues who may need your help in these unprecedented times?
My main speaking business has dried up. Bookings cancelled, conferences postponed and no immediate likelihood of things picking up.
I know dozens of other speakers, trainers, and magicians in a similar position. Fortunately I do have a couple of small retainers, limited outgoings and some savings. So I’m in a better position than many.
I want to help those people I can by sharing ideas about how to weather the storm. I anticipate offering a degree of free advice – over the phone as well as via virtual/video meetings. To an extent this is not different to what I have long done with accountants who wanted to pick my brains.
Equally I need to find ways in which I can generate income to replace that which has disappeared from my projections. I’ll be looking at more collaborations to mutual benefit. Fortunately I am experienced at delivering webinars and virtual presentations, coaching and training sessions. I can put these skills to good effect and I have experience of promoting, pitching and pricing these too.
I may even offer some ad-hoc mentoring and business-support sessions. let me know if this might be of interest.
What will you be doing?
I’ve already seen a number of generic messages from accountancy firms of all sizes. These seem intended to reassure clients that the firm is able to continue working and remains available to advise clients – all be it more by phone and video than face to face in the office for the time being.
I would encourage you to be proactive. Don’t wait to be asked for help. Grab the opportunity to show you can talk about business with those clients who think of you as someone who simply prepares accounts and tax returns. This will stand you in good stead for that time in the future when you need to be able to charge clients for delivering Business advice.
Be careful you don’t over commit to help the smallest clients who won’t be able to pay you vs those who can access funding to cover your fees for professional advice.
Dependent on your client base and how badly their businesses are affected you may want to offer some or all of the following:
- Free business advice (vs medical advice) – limited to phone/video vs meetings. You might make a specific number of slots available to avoid being inundated and over committed – as I do. See below.
- Financial contingency planning and help with (revised) cash flow projections, to manage their finances and to secure funding (from banks or alternative lenders) – do you have links with any of the major players here yet?
- A reminder to communicate with their clients, customers, staff, workers and suppliers about what they are doing to protect their people and customers etc.
- Reduced rates for your advice – rather than offering to do work for free. Whichever way you go, please ensure you set clear boundaries to avoid problems and disagreements down the line.
- Time to pay your fees – within reason. But I would suggest it’s better to help them secure access to finance than to become their bank/lender by default!
- Advice to help them how to survive short-term lock down and whether they can avoid making layoffs and reducing staff working hours.
- Advice to help them understand the consequences for themselves and their teams if they are not used to working remotely.
- Tips and advice they can share with their teams to help keep them motivated and connected while working from home.
- Advice as to the best ways to preserve value and keep the business running.
- Help them to appreciate all the risks they face, the need for a full business continuity plan and to focus on things that they can control.
- A listening ear for second opinions so that they don’t act out of fear and instead plan as best they can for all eventualities and remain agile.
- Advice on moving to more of a fluid work system that takes account of staff absences and accepts that other unknowns will have an impact.
- Advice for the more optimistic of clients who may see this as a time to innovate, review and act on opportunities as they arise.
- Tax advice for those telling staff to work from home. They may not think to ask so you could be proactive in telling them which expenses, reimbursements and allowances are tax free and those which will be subject to tax; and whether the employer or employee will be on the hook for the tax.