Over the last six months, COVID-19 has turned the business world upside down. Shelter-in-place mandates and travel bans have caused the market to get uncomfortably creative with how they navigate substituting remote processes, while other aspects of the typical day-to-day have been ground entirely to a halt. With no end to this so-called new normal in sight, success depends on deep consideration of what isn’t working, why it isn’t working, and employing new strategies that enable a level of flexibility not previously seen in the professional services industry. In other words, we need to figure out how to be ready for anything.
Navigating Shelter-In-Place Mandates and Travel Bans
When you boil it down, both the Big Four and boutique agencies have been struggling with these unprecedented times for the same reason: centralized talent.
With resources based in the U.S. and air travel no longer deemed safe, the Big Four are stuck with expertise in one region and work that needs to happen in another. For the sake of example, let’s say there’s an audit that needs to happen in Taipei. Rather than pull in senior resources, these firms are having to ask local, junior resources to serve as translators or data gatherers.
Meanwhile, U.S. experts that would’ve gone had the travel bans not been in place, work through the night in order to communicate with those in Taipei, hoping to glean enough from their conversation with the local licensee to identify the right issues and collect the data. This approach is entirely reliant on junior resources on the ground accurately disseminating what info might be key and what might be missing.
Boutique agencies have it the worst, as they don’t have global presence and must move to a remote-only engagement model.
The Promise of Remote-Hybrid Engagement
Here at Connor we’re changing the status quo in a few ways. Four years ago we realized that flying key talent out to perform engagements was a huge inefficiency: it takes time away from auditors and their loved ones, it leaves very little room for logistical changes, it’s an impersonal experience for the client, and T&E costs were outrageous.
In order to solve this travel dilemma, we started to employ fully-capable teams in all of our key regions. Today, our experts are dispersed around the globe. Each team could stand alone if needed, and rather than rely on a partner network, we operate as one global team.
The one-team approach means we’re thinking about the client from the very outset and structuring the best resources for them from day one. It’s an entirely different mindset than anyone in our space is using, and it means we’re the only global firm that doesn’t deal with resource competition, or translation issues. Our auditors in every region have 12 years of experience on average, as well as a native understanding of cultural nuances and language. This makes the entire process more comfortable for the client, which makes it easier for us to get the data we need.
Since COVID-19 began impacting business-as-usual, we’ve continued to deliver at the same pace, if not faster. We’ve had the flexibility to modify and often shorten schedules because we don’t need to worry about flying people out, and we haven’t needed to worry about potentially losing a network firm due to the crisis, which is another common concern for the Big Four. Essentially, we’ve removed all logistical challenges and lowered auditing costs at the same time.
Winning Beyond 2020 with One-Team and Remote-Hybrid
Connor’s switch in strategy turned out to be ideal for a pandemic-stricken market, but the reason we adopted it in the first place had nothing to do with COVID-19. Operating as one team is simply smarter work. It allows us to easily share knowledge across regions, so there’s a cross pollination of best practices and industry insights that’s constantly taking place in the background and keeping us relevant.
Moreover, there was less of a willingness to spend too much time on planes long before the travel bans. In addition to operating in a more sustainable way, this approach allows us to be cognizant of lifestyle changes occurring within younger generations.
The general market might not have been paying attention to these shifts before, but COVID-19 will certainly change that. For the foreseeable future, we’re not going to have folks flying out to do audits, and even if travel becomes a possibility there will be a 14-day quarantine period. This year, no business can afford to squander resources on inefficient consulting solutions.
And our hybrid approach is here to ensure that they don’t.