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Adapting your firm in a time of a pandemic

How COVID-19 is changing business

By August J. Aquila, Ph.D.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that we don’t have control over everything and, clearly, we are not invincible against the laws of nature. That doesn’t mean we need to give up. Yes, this is a time of great disruption, but it is also a time of great opportunity.
 
The pandemic has hit us fast and furious. This crisis is forcing us to change the way we live and work. If you are reading this article, you are probably in a professional services firm. The suggestions that follow apply to many other sections of the economy as well.
 
Here are 10 actions you can take immediately in the face of the pandemic:
  1. Your most important asset are your employees. You need to protect them and make sure they are safe.
  2. If you are a leader in the firm, now is the time to rethink your view of technology. Technology won’t be a cost, but rather a driver of business growth and, yes, profitability.
  3. So much information and knowledge are digitized, automated and commoditized. Our clients have access to this material and are constantly questioning the value of our services. Clients won’t accept the traditional billable hour fee. Now is the time to start charging for the value of the services you provide.
  4. You are most likely going to have most of your employees work from home. This takes more than just telling them not to come into the office. You will need to train them in working remotely and make them comfortable. Working remotely requires a certain adaptation; it’s not the same as being in an office.
  5. New communication and technology skills are needed when we work with clients in a virtual setting. Your people will have to learn how to engage with clients when they are not face-to-face. We will see a rising share of work being delivered via digital engagement models.
  6. If you have not used any of the collaboration tools available, you are going to have to do some homework. There are tools for remote project management, team meetings and so on.  Take one or two and teach everyone how to use them. Clients may also need training.
  7. Studies have shown that people who work remotely are more productive. So, take a longer-term view about keeping more people working remotely.
  8. Large firms are starting to rethink their business models. According to Sebastian Hartman, global head of technology strategy at KPMG: “The next wave of business models opens a completely new ... set of management levers. These levers enable PSFs to leverage digital technologies, new value chains and harness the power of network/platform effects to maintain desired growth rates or even move to the next level of scalability. Many of these levers are well-known disciplines and functions in other industries, but they have seen less explicit application or have only been treated as a side hobby of some partners in PSFs.”
  9. Update or create your crisis communication plan. This would include your work-from-home policy, key telephone numbers, emails, etc. Make sure all key members of your firm, know the role they are going to play during this crisis.
  10. While this is a health issue today, it will quickly turn into a financial one. Cashflow will quickly become a major issue. If you have a line of credit, use it now. It may not be available in the future.
It doesn’t look like this will be business as usual. Start now to prepare for the new normal.

August Aquila is CEO of AQUILA Global Advisors, LLC, located in Minnetonka, Minn. He is a well-known professional service firm consultant, speaker and author. He may be reached at 952-930-1295 or at aaquila@aquilaadvisors.com. Visit www.AquilaAdvisors.com for more information.