CEO Foreword to Business World - Sept 2020

August 2020

When I wrote my foreword for the March edition of Business World, we didn’t know what was coming.  I spoke of so much happening at our award-winning international network and I was looking forward to our May conference in Bucharest, Romania.

I also recall writing it prior to embarking on a trip to New York and Boston for what, unbeknown to me at the time, was about to become my last trip for several weeks, months... maybe the rest of the year.

I ended my message with signs of global positivity, improvements on the horizon, and upcoming economic stability. What did I know?!?

The world changed.  Words such as lockdown, quarantine, social distancing, virtual meeting and their dreaded instigator, Covid-19 worked their way so effortlessly into our daily vocabulary.  It just shows how one can never know what is about to happen and yet be prepared for several types of occurrences.  And this is what I have seen.

The accounting profession was prepared, apparently and somewhat surprisingly.  Overnight, people became confined to their homes, immediately forced into remote working.  And it worked; we coped.  Technology said, ‘This is why you invested in us.’

Immediately, our Russell Bedford firms around the world had to react.  Communication became even more important than ever before; it had to be transparent, regular and effective - communicating with staff to ensure everyone was OK, and communicating proactively with clients to see how they could be helped through these unprecedented times.  There were numerous government financial support initiatives to deal with, cashflow issues, restructuring advice to be given, as much as (if not more than) the general compliance matters on which to focus.

Our firms offered free webinars, advised businesses, and delivered online regular and updated information.  I said, right at the start of all of this, that those firms who look after their clients will not only retain them, but will attract new business from those being neglected.  We are now seeing exactly that; our firms in all regions of the world are picking up a lot of new work and recruiting new people to perform this work.

For me, I’ll admit it has been a personal challenge.  Unable to travel and visit our members, I had to take a step back and see how we could adapt and adjust while continuing to offer considerable value and support to our member firms around the world.  My team at central office reacted amazingly and we have been working so hard under such unique circumstances, developing brand new offerings for our firms.  I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how successful our well-attended virtual meetings have been; reaching and engaging people at all levels of our practices.

The accounting profession was never renowned for being flexible, yet this period has shown to me how wrong that traditional reputation was.  The motivation, the dedication, and the efforts of our people throughout all regions have been tremendous.  Human nature at its best.

As I write this, we’re not through it yet.  Businesses shall continue to navigate through difficulty and uncertainty, needing guidance from trusted advisers, requiring an even greater level of advice as they enter the new normal and prepare for life post Covid-19.

Our firms and their people have shown resilience, adaptability and (more than anything) empathy and care.  I commend them all and, as an international network, we are proud of all the great work and support provided to businesses, globally.

(taken from the September 2020 edition of Business World, which can be found HERE)

Author: Stephen Hamlet

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