Surviving and Thriving in the COVID-19 Crisis: A Roadmap for Lawyers, Accountants and Financial Advisors
“The best way to predict the future is to create it” (Peter F. Drucker)
The COVID-19 crisis has left many businesses reeling – and lawyers, accountants and financial advisors are no exception.
Read on for some thoughts on how to create your own roadmap to not only cope with the crisis, but to profit from it. Your first priority will of course be bare survival, but “just trying to survive”, whilst a great and indeed essential focus in the short-term, courts failure in the longer term.
Keeping your eyes focused on your post-pandemic future is the key here – and that’s where your roadmap comes in.
Building your roadmap to the future; before you begin…
Some fundamentals to bear in mind –
- Denial is Disaster: We humans instinctively react to major shocks by plunging into a state of denial – a total waste of our resources at the very moment that we need them the most. Let’s rather base our roadmap on a clear, calm, accurate assessment of our current reality.
- Stop Complaining: We also have an instinct to complain: “This lockdown is crazy, that’s what is hurting me”, “It isn’t fair” and so on. Again, a total diversion of valuable resources. The reality – “It Is What It Is”. Let’s get used to it, adapt to it, and use it to our advantage.
- Adapting to Constant Change: As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus pointed out two and a half millennia ago: “The only constant in life is change”. Now here we are in 2020 having to deal with a landscape replete with even more constant flux and ever-present danger than before. Hardly a day goes by without something changing – that will continue so plan your journey around it.
- Predicting the unpredictable? Forecasting of any sort is a hit-and-miss affair, but we can be pretty certain of a few things. The pandemic will get a lot worse, and soon. Our economy’s massive woes are only just starting. “Normal” will never be the same again. There will be many more near-certainties in your particular industry.
- Teamwork: Bring your whole team into this planning process from Day One. The greater the diversity of backgrounds, experience and world views you can include in your brainstorming sessions, the more likely you are to come up with a winning plan. The bonus – everyone will be fully invested in the plan because they helped create it! Read an article like “19 Top Brainstorming Techniques to Generate Ideas for Every Situation” here for ideas on how to get the most out of these sessions.
Moving on …
Step 1: Scenarios, and Beyond
Clem Sunter’s “Scenarios, Flags and Probabilities” here is a useful framework for this step. List all the possible future scenarios you and your brainstorming team can come up with – include them all, positive and negative, unlikely and likely. Assign levels of probability to each scenario and prioritise. Sunter’s 21 April “The coronavirus scenarios: walking the tightrope” on News24 has very pertinent insights and is also a great example of how quickly everything is changing – it has already dated in some respects!
Have a plan to manage any and all of your scenarios! As Darwin may have put it, it is not the strongest that survive and thrive but the most adaptable.
Step 2: Start Your SWOT Analysis
The “SWOT Analysis” idea has been around forever and for good reason – by determining your firm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats you lay the groundwork for your final roadmap.
At this stage, work only on your Strengths and Weaknesses – they are important tools that you will refer to in Steps 3 and 4 below. Later on, use your Step 3 matrix to complete your Threats section and your Step 4 matrix for the Opportunities section.
For ideas on how to get started read “How to Do a SWOT Analysis for Your Small Business (with Examples)” here.
Step 3: Create a Risk Matrix
A “Risk Matrix” is a great tool even in times of stability to identify what risks are out there for your firm, and to help you decide which demand your most immediate attention and your greatest expenditure of resources.
Use your scenario planning results from Step 1 to create your own risk matrix – see how here.
Step 4: The Nub – Create Your Own Weighted Opportunity Matrix
As always “With Great Change Comes Great Opportunity” and if you and your team keep your eyes peeled for any and every potential opportunity you will very soon end up with a long list of possibilities.
How to decide which to take further? List in hand, create a weighted matrix with a table of columns and weightings to help you sort the wheat from the chaff – read Allon Raiz’s “Lockdown advice #2 – Building an opportunity matrix” here for more.
Use your scenario planning from Step 1 to identify opportunities specific to your field – what can you provide that clients will want and need in each scenario?
If you are a law firm for example, projections are that a huge amount of litigation and mediation will result from the lockdown; that many clients will want to urgently review their wills and estate planning; that employment law disputes will rocket; that demand for divorce services will increase; – there will be many more
On the property side, it seems likely that a lot of new residential properties will come on to the market with owners downscaling and selling second homes; that more commercial properties will be selling at fire-sale prices; that more millennials will be in the market for a property with prices down and savings up (e.g. no more overseas holidays for a while!); that a weak Rand will again entice overseas buyers, etc.
- Accountancy firms will no doubt be particularly busy with advice on cash flow and business planning, with restructuring exercises, with helping clients access the tax and financial relief packages available, and the like.
- And financial advisors will be holding the hands of many clients desperate to ride out (or profit from!) the volatile stock markets and the retirement plans under threat. Estate planning reviews will be in demand. Life and disability cover portfolios will need review. Short term insurance and medical aid claims and queries are bound to surge.
Every firm will be different, so encourage your team to be totally open and totally creative here – it is in many ways the nub of this whole process.
Step 5: The Final Touches – Building Your Roadmap
Here’s where it all comes together –
- Prioritise risks from your SWOT analysis to be addressed.
- Prioritise opportunities (again use your SWOT analysis).
Last but certainly not least – create your detailed business plan, your roadmap to the future. Make it a fun and positive team exercise – it’s all your futures at stake, and this is where you create those futures!
Be specific, be detailed, make sure every member of your team is onboard and clear on their part in the plan.
Who will do what to establish the viability of your chosen opportunities? Do you need to beef up your resources? Who will your target market be and how will you reach it? (Tip – it needn’t cost a fortune, read our blog post “How to Market Your Accountancy or Law Firm on a Shoestring Budget” here for a detailed plan). Set goals, assign tasks, tell your clients what you are doing – the list is endless, and the really exciting thing about it all is this –
It’s up to you to create your own post-pandemic future – so have fun doing it!