Written by Cassidy Jakovickas CPA
Ironically, 2020 — a year that implies the idea of visibility and clear-sightedness — was filled with unforeseen changes occurring at whiplash-inducing speeds. As my CPA firm continues to wade through numerous tax law changes and assess their impacts on our clients, I’m looking back on 2020 in search of lessons it can teach my team and I so we’re successful in 2021.
In the face of challenges, be agile & resilient
One poignant highlight that stands out to me as I glance back on 2020 is the remarkable resilience of the amazing people working with me at MBS Accountancy. A seemingly never-ending tax season in 2020 meant that we all had to work long hours, sacrificing our usual break after tax-season busyness, to keep our clients informed and aligned with the rapidly changing tax updates and business loan opportunities.
As many companies scrambled to stay operational with work-from-home setups, my team and I were flooded with questions from our clients about the financial ramifications and feasibility of adapting or innovating their business model. My team rose to the occasion, however, and together we learned many valuable lessons that will serve us well in the years to come.
As you work to improve or recover your company in 2021, consider how you can make your company more agile and resilient. The concept of taking steps now to guard against disaster or disruption in the future has become known as “future-proofing” in the business world and it applies to all companies, whether you sell products or services.
Here are some tips to future-proof your company:
— Focus on keeping existing customers by delivering great work.
— Improve business operations by cutting costs and saving time.
— Determine how you can use technology to improve processes.
Communication is a rewarding skill to practice
At my accounting firm, the value of clear, timely communication was repeatedly affirmed throughout 2020. Amid an environment where tax changes occurred on an almost daily basis and relief loans rapidly became available, our clients greatly appreciated our prompt communication.
Because I decided early on to invest in our accounting firm’s technology stack, switching to remote work was a relatively seamless transition on an operational level. However, remote work was not without its challenges.
Switching to a remote work environment meant that communication throughout our firm was no longer as easy as getting up and walking to a desk. My team and I quickly learned to choose video calls over emails to ensure clarity on both sides, which paid massive dividends in our client relationships and co-worker collaboration.
While it can be a tricky skill to master, clear workplace communication is critical to remaining unified as a company, no matter what challenges lie ahead. Here are some recommendations for improving collaboration and communication among your executive team and staff members:
— Make a habit of talking for 5-10 minutes every day with one of your team members.
— Practice giving and receiving negative feedback in a project or presentation.
— Shorten meetings and save time for everyone by establishing a “one meeting, one goal” rule.
Work-life balance is critical to our wellbeing.
Throughout 2020, my CPA firm quickly learned the importance and challenges involved in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I personally found that alternating workdays between the office and my home office helped to improve my productivity tremendously. Mindfulness also played a vital role in keeping me centered and focused on what truly mattered in that moment, whether it was spending time with my family or powering through my daily to-do list. Being present isn’t hype: it’s a survival skill.
Balancing our personal and professional lives is no easy feat, but it can be made easier by starting with simple habits that are easy for you to do quickly. Here are some suggestions for balancing your work life with your personal life:
— Use Downtime (iPhone) or Digital Wellbeing (Android) to limit how often you use your email app and any other work-related apps when you’re not in the office.
— Start every day by acknowledging five things that you are grateful to have in your life. This anchors you and helps you keep the proper perspective throughout your day.
— Set boundaries for yourself with your loved ones that you will honor, even if you have to say no to work projects. For example, you could agree to be home by six every workday for dinner.
Staying strong means being vulnerable
In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article entitled “What Bosses Gain by Being Vulnerable,” Emma Seppälä tells the story of a time when Archana Patchirajan, a startup founder, had to tell her team that she could no longer afford to pay them. Surprisingly, her team agreed to stay with her, choosing to work for 50% of their normal wages instead of finding another employer.
When asked why they chose to stay with Patchirajan, her team replied that she always treated them as family, respecting them and patiently supporting them as they learned from their mistakes.
This kind of exemplary leadership comes from balancing transparency and openness with respect for each employee as a human being, not a cog in your company’s machinery.
Throughout 2020, I constantly assessed and re-assessed every decision I’ve made as I endeavored to navigate compliance with the foresight that my clients want from me. As leaders, we have a responsibility to act in a way that aligns with our values and what is best for those we lead, whether it’s our employees or our family. Lead by example, showing those around you that you care and that you will do what’s necessary to help them. I hope you too have a chance to reflect on 2020’s lessons for your own life and use them as momentum to propel you forward.
Cassidy Jakovickas, CPA, is president and CEO of MBS Accountancy Corp. in Downtown Fresno.