This post is being written in bursts between video uploads, legislative update emails, Zoom meetings, and many snacks for my 4-year-old who is at home with me all day. (I stopped counting screen time and glasses of wine on Quarantine Day 3). I don’t have all of the answers, but I have been giving thought to how I can best support my clients in helping you support YOUR clients through this terrible time. If you find a typo or grammatical error below, forgive me on this Friday afternoon. Also, yes the featured image is my little guy riding his bike… because one more photo of a virus is one too many this week.
Review everything in the queue
First things first, anything you had queued-up or planned needs to be reviewed and potentially stopped. What seemed OK in December would be appalling today and what seems OK today may seem tone-deaf next week. If you’re working from an editorial calendar developed at the beginning of the year, you’ll want to review it before publishing articles on autopilot. In doing this for my clients, I stopped an article in the queue for April for an estate planning law firm called “What to Expect as a Surviving Spouse”. EEK! That could have gone viral for the WRONG reasons!
Shorten your planning timeline
News is flying out of Washington and State Houses across the country. The advice you give clients today may be different from what you will say next week. While we might like to plan ahead for articles or third-party social posts or events to host in the late spring, now is not the time for long-range planning.
Consider this; a CPA firm client told me that he got a question from a business owner looking for a way to save cash and asked about delaying sales tax payments to the State. The CPA had to advise against it – until two days later when the State changed those exact rules!
It is important to stay agile because the news is moving fast. It’s OK to “plan” on something for a few weeks from now but I would be ready to delay or cancel any public announcements or publications depending on the mood of the community/country at that time.
E-V-E-R-Y company sent an email about their response to COVID-19. After the 12th one I stopped opening them. We’re past that phase. We know you’re working remotely and that your email and phones still work. Great. Now your communications can back to be substantive. Communicate often with clients about the ways in which they can count on you that maybe they didn’t need to before. Their needs have changed and your guidance is more important to them than ever.
One client of mine is doing daily videos both about the legislative changes and about how business owners can survive this turbulent time. We’re posting them on YouTube, the blog, social, and sending a daily aggregated email.
Synthesize information for your clients
A while back I wrote about the importance of professional services firm advisors being the information synthesizers for clients. There is too much data, but not enough understanding. Today that’s still true and ON TOP OF IT there is more misinformation in the world, facts are changing every day, emotions are running high, and everyone has TOO MUCH to do. If you can be the voice of reason and help find order in the swirling storm of options and priorities, you’ll have found yourself a client for life. Help your clients understand their options and take action. Business owners need to know what they should prioritize first and how to comply with new regulations.
Don’t just push out your version of the latest legislative announcement, tell your clients what it means for them. If it applies to more than one audience, break it down into sections. Or, better yet, if have (or can quickly) segment your database, you can send people just the information they need. With “too much” out there, people find great value in content that is relevant to them. (A quick note that this was GOING TO be my March article topic until, you know, the apocalypse.)
When you can, plan ahead
COVID-19 will eventually be under control. Just as it was important that you were agile during this crisis, it will also be important for you to help your clients see the path out. If you can take time to think through what questions you’ll get as we turn the corner, then you’ll be ready to provide guidance to clients as we transition back to the old normal. (Hopefully it will be sooner than later.) I predict “business as usual” will come sooner for some industries than others based on the ways in which they were impacted. Think about your niche areas. What might be different later than it was before? Unemployment? Company debt? Employees who want to work longer because their 401(k)s are down? Business owners who will decide to sell? Companies that will be forced to merge? Employees who refuse to go back to an in-office environment in favor of remote work?
Take care of yourself
You can’t advise others if you’re distracted, exhausted, and stressed out. It’s Friday. Those of you who can, take a weekend as a weekend. Challenge yourself to a full day without screens (and especially Twitter… there’s nothing good happening there!). My son and I went for a walk today to find evidence of Spring. It’s coming! Get outdoors, start your spring cleaning, read a book, breathe!
I’m here for you!
Whatever you need, we’re going to make it happen. You know how to reach me!
And just remember…. Pants are optional for video conferences (or video play dates with your grandparents)… not pictured – me on a Zoom meeting… wearing pants!