The world has been scrambling to deal with the outbreak of Coronavirus. Governments are limiting travel and imposing quarantines to curb the spread of the Virus. Conferences and meetings are being cancelled. Key supply chains around the world are disrupted. Many businesses are struggling, releasing staff, or just shuttering their doors.
Accounting firms are operating in a difficult environment with understanding and advising on a raft of never ending new tax incentives related to their clients in the SME business community, and there will be many and frequent difficult conversations Australian accountants will have on how their SME client base can continue to survive in revenue constrained operating periods.
These SME discussions will revolve around reduced operating times, reduced wages for employees, encouraging annual leave, bringing forward long service leave, advancing next years’ annual leave at half pay, managing cash flows, pushing for accounts receivable to be paid promptly, reduced remuneration for owners, and even shuttering businesses temporarily or otherwise.
The mental strain on the SME community will be immense.
Now is the time for Australian accountants to step up to the plate and make direct contact with their clients to support the long term viability of the SME business community. That conversation needs to happen real time, at an appropriate social distance.
It’s time to forget about the Compliance work
Anything that isn’t supporting the survival of Australian businesses at this point in time should probably take a back seat.
Many accounting firms are developing new policies for halting staff travel, staggered off-peak commuting, modified paid sick leave, and working from home. For the majority of those firms who are cloud based, the switch to “at home” work will be relatively easy, though the ongoing health issues related to longer term isolation are yet to be fully understood.
Visiting offshore workers and conducting face-to-face training will be impossible with the recent and unprecedented travel advice warnings from the Australian government.
And productivity in “at home” situations is not yet fully understood. With kids, dogs and whatever happening in the background, there are unknown changes afoot. Many people will become socially closer to their workers through seeing their workers living rooms, dogs, pets, children etc. But at the same time productivity will be more difficult in this new isolated working environment.
The Black Swan event is here – what to focus on during these difficult situations?
Now, more than ever in the past 100 years, Australian accounting firms need to be in constant contact with their SME clients, and supporting their long term viability. Australian accounting firms know more about their clients than just about any other profession.
Do not wait until the ongoing restrictions fully affects your business. Do more research on what governments outside Australia are doing, to have some idea of what may happen in Australia. Advise your clients. Look at what solutions are being implemented worldwide.
Who would have though Tasmania would quarantine all people arriving into the state? Also, expect the unexpected. Will all international flights be stopped, affecting all air cargo?
What’s happening offshore?
As for the Australian market, make sure you are keeping up to date what is happening in the environment your offshore partner is working in, and also in other countries that provide Australian compliance outsourcing services.
With the recent offshore suspension of many businesses, and the long term understood recognition that “at home” working offers potential risks for confidential client data (especially when at home workers utilize their personal computer), there is a sudden and urgent need to ensure data is tightly controlled.
Sadly, there are many malevolent opportunists who see the Coronavirus situation as an opportunity to scam/hack/infect business computers, and steal data. We’re already seeing opportunists in the news stories. It’s time to ensure your offshore partner is deploying extra security in the home environment.
And the Compliance?
In case of onshore or offshore staff being unavailable or less productive for any reason, it’s time for Australian accounting firms to put in place a Plan B supplier.
Make sure you have a backup provider to ensure your compliance works are done efficiently:
- Find a multi-experienced outsourced partner – A good outsourced company, at this time, is the one that has fully trained staff who are able to work on any jobs, systems that allow for any one staff to pick up a job at any stage.
- Understand the Flexibility of Ad hoc Model – Ad hoc offering allows you the highest level of flexibility and control on a “job by job” basis. Start and stop any job, anytime.
Updated situation from Odyssey Operations Centre in Vietnam
It’s worth doing some background checking on the Vietnamese authorities approach to managing this Coronavirus epidemic, to understand the environment in which we operate.
At Odyssey, we are continuously working hard to ensure our staff’s wellbeing and safety against the infection of coronavirus:
- Health checks and status surveys for employees including adding provisions on-site; obligatory face masks, using disinfectants and alcohol in the offices.
- Internal cleaning and sanitizing procedures at access points—ensuring consistent hygiene of all facilities.
- Real-time monitoring of the global situation and daily meetings with executive teams to review status and take immediate actions.
- Implementation of best practice cybersecurity protection in case of requirement to work from home.
- Odyssey’s IT department has deployed Odyssey “home computers” for our entire workforce, to ensure there is no risk of infection of the computers which our staff are using for compliance work.
Drop us a line if you would like to chat more about how we might be able to assist.