As 2020 comes to a close, COVID-19 continues to grip the globe. Industries everywhere are developing new workflows and processes for royalty compliance to better fit today’s circumstances, including prolonged travel restrictions and health and safety concerns. But, even more pertinently, business leaders should be thinking about what they can do to better prepare for the next unexpected turn. Here at Connor, we’ve boiled down our learnings from the last year into three top lessons.
Lesson 1: Local Expertise is Essential
When it comes to global versus local talent models, striking a balance between the two has always been easier said than done. Most professional services (with the exception of boutiques) have made somewhat of an effort, but generally end up favoring one end of the spectrum over the other. In the case of the Big Four, keeping experts centralized, ready to fly around the globe at a moment’s notice and collaborate with local translators, has been the go-to approach.
Before the pandemic this model was passable, but not ideal. Firms were spending exorbitant amounts of money on T&E budgets to assemble teams with little to no knowledge of local cultures, languages, or customs. The resulting lineup was typically a pool of highly talented individuals who got the job done, but at a high cost, on inflexible schedules, and without the ability to create a truly welcoming experience for the client.
Four years before COVID-19 stopped business in its tracks, we recognized the weaknesses in the old way and began building out complete teams in all of our key regions. This has allowed us to think about the client from the very outset and structure the best resources for them from day one. It’s an entirely different mindset for royalty compliance, and it means we’re the only global firm that doesn’t deal with resource competition, or translation issues.
2020 has made it abundantly clear that this switch in strategy has been a much-needed adjustment. Since travel bans began impacting business-as-usual, we’ve continued to deliver at the same pace as usual, if not faster. We’re saving time, we’re saving money, and by diversifying our investment in geographies, we’re sending the message that no one region is more important than the other. And regardless of how the rest of the pandemic plays out, vaccine or no vaccine, we’ll continue with this global-local method going forward. The way we think about the work/life balance and health and safety of our employees has decisively and permanently changed.
Lesson 2: Prioritize Agility Over Predictability
Building out local teams, or what we call the one-firm model, turned out to be ideal for pandemic-era business for obvious reasons: during a time when things are changing from moment to moment and limiting face-to-face interactions is a priority, having access to local resources and problem-free scheduling has helped us keep pace with our clients’ evolving needs. We’ve had the flexibility to modify appointments up to the last minute, and haven’t needed to worry about potentially losing a network firm due to the crisis.
But the less obvious is perhaps more important. While other firms have become dependent on remote-only audits, which are a strange, complicated, and extremely time-consuming experience for everyone, we’ve been able to safely deliver the human touch that’s sorely missing from our field. In addition to helping us navigate travel issues and health and safety concerns without a hitch, prioritizing agility has allowed us to provide the level of personalization our clients deserve. Instead of wasting time bringing non-local consultants up to speed on colloquialisms, we’ve been able to engage right away: we speak their language, understand their business, and provide the high-level execution they expect.
Agility has been absolutely critical to not only surviving, but thriving during this time. We’re faster than we would be if we were forced to communicate via translators, and we’ve had the flexibility to not just roll with the punches of 2020, but to continue delivering exceptional service.
Lesson 3: The Status Quo for Royalty Compliance as we Know it is Over
The truth is, future-proofing is a bit of a misnomer. We’re never going to be able to completely predict what lies ahead, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for being unprepared. Today, that means thinking beyond temporary fixes. It means letting go of what’s always been done and starting fresh. It means tossing out assumptions and being open to the possibility of anything.
Hesitancy to change at this level (at any level, really) is natural, especially in long-established industries, but 2020 isn’t waiting for anyone. This year has forever shifted the way all major businesses operate. In 2021 we’re going to see an urgent focus on amping up digitization, on improving communications, and on spotting inefficiencies long before they have a chance to become significantly impactful. Those who take the time to develop new strategies centered around the agility and flexibility required to achieve this, rather than continuing to trust in what’s always worked, will be the leaders of the next generation of business.