A financial advisor breaking down the financial healthy and strategy for two people at their business.
Growing Your Firm

3 tips to keep you and your firm on track

At the writing of this article, as a global community, we sit squarely in a current and oncoming economic crisis. I was slated to write something else to end this series on the “6 things I’ve learned from leading a firm for more than 15 years,” but here we are, and I feel I need to change directions from my original content.

There is one thing I’ve learned from being an entrepreneur for almost 20 years – that this will not last forever. It doesn’t feel that way, but this is a truth I have been forced to learn. In the midst of hard things that feel so crushing, there can be such fear as you walk roads alone. But, this will not last forever, and I hope this fact is some comfort to you.

You know this is true because you have had hard experiences. Maybe it hasn’t been a pandemic, but it could have been sickness that you or a loved one faced, or a different financial crisis. Can you look back and say what you’ve learned about those hard things? Much! I want to point out that the struggle from that crisis you went through in the past has become a historical event now. The results, the learning, or even the baggage may still be with you – but the event is gone into history, now, so we know this pandemic and economic crisis will also pass into history.

I saw this great quote on twitter recently:

As accountants, this is our reality right now. So, as you walk through this difficulty, please raise your head high, set your shoulders back, and stand very tall. It is your time to shine as an accountant or accounting firm owner, where you not only get to help people through their numbers, but also turn that knowledge into action that can lead to health. As I’m reminding you, please remind your clients that this will not last forever. They need to hear that message, too.

My partner and I are worried. It seems the hardest hits to the gut are still to come. If you want to make it through this – so that you can look back one day and state the things you learned from all of this – here are three things you do NOT want to do now:

  1. Don’t React. You must plan right now. Those who plan will be able to weather this storm. The hits come daily, and you never know what the news may bring. In very uncertain times like this, you need a plan to fall back on. Emotions are high right now. Making long-term decisions in the midst of heavy emotions is never wise. My partner and I have written down a three-tiered strategy of the difficulties that will force us to make cuts in our businesses. It was emotional to make the plan, but we brought the emotions from the future into the present during the planning, instead of letting the emotions linger in the future when the next punch to the gut comes. The three timing tiers we wrote down, where we plan to make various cuts in our businesses, include six weeks, three months, and one year.
  2. Don’t Go Polar. I’ve already done this and I’m asking you not to do what I’ve done. In times like this, leaders and entrepreneurs tend to flip to polar sides of decision making – “Fire everyone!,” “I’m freaking out, let’s shut it all down,” or “I need to make payroll so I’m going to take a $50,000 draw on my line of credit.” These are polar ways of thinking, and it’s common for entrepreneurs to flip into these mindsets when they hit hard times – but don’t do it. The answers lie somewhere in between the two varying poles of your thinking. This is the same concept as, “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” You still need to market your services, lead your team in team meetings, and get your tax returns done for your clients. None of the foundational core things have changed about your firm. You just may need to look at all of it with a different perspective. You need to broaden what you do and what you sell. Don’t discount or start serving in unprofitable ways; just start to think about doing different things, as you stick to the core things that made you a healthy firm in the first place. Stay the course, and don’t go polar.
  3. Don’t Disappear. Now for the mental health point. Mental health is a serious matter for firm owners during this time. Seriously. We all find wanting to run away in a time like this. We may move toward binging Netflix and hiding, but please don’t disappear. You need people in your life now more than ever. You need people reminding you of what you are doing, and that you can keep going. Communities such as Thriveal are here to remind you that you are not alone in this journey. We are here to remind you that this will become a historical event one day, with a ton of learning for all of us who made it through. So, get up, wash your face, and go to work. Give your time to other people so you’ll see and feel what it’s like to serve others in this difficult time, and don’t run away from your community. Don’t disappear in this crisis.

I trust these reminders were helpful, as they’re all things I’ve learned in close to 20 years of running a firm. I didn’t realize that I’ve been trained for this. I’ve already faced hard things. We’re still here, and so are you. The coronavirus and economic crisis will also go the way of history.

“Maybe life isn’t about avoiding the bruises. Maybe it’s about collecting the scars to prove that we showed up for it.” – Hannah Brencher

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