Michael Lodge –
“Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own. Charles de Gaulle”
On April 7th, a year ago from the day that I write this, my firm was hit with a major crisis that involved an employee and the IRS. It had nothing to do with the firm – the firm had not done anything, or my staff, it was just the alleged tax issue of one person. When a crisis hits you hard and you’re not prepared for it, so many concentrated issues are going through your mind. Your thought process becomes a storm inside your head – you have to calm the storm before it takes you over. No one expected that a crisis would happen, that your firms name and reputation would be put in question, even your own professionalism is questioned. You start to think and question if you are really going to make it through this crisis, a crisis becomes personal when you own the firm. You want to protect your staff from dirty remarks from people who are not even involved in the issue, nothing happened to them by the firm, but they want to make mean comments and post remarks about you. Remarks came on social media from people in foreign nations not even involved in the issue. I even received a long letter from someone, not even a client, that rambled on and on and stapled to the letter was a condom. That is how mean it becomes in a crisis. Crisis becomes dirty from those not even involved or knowing what is going on or connected to the problem at hand. Our firm was not under investigation, our staff were not under investigation, just one individual on tax issues from several years ago. But words flow from people who have no idea what the crisis is all about in truth, instead they follow what has been written about the individual and attack anyone they can. Even the government and press do the same.
What we did as a firm is meet as a group, we decided let people attack but it was up to us to be the professionals and move forward. We drafted our response to individuals calling the office and asking questions and we appointed only one individual to discuss the issue. We then created a statement and placed it on our blog page on our website. However, we did not stop our business, we continued on, we didn’t even pause. We responded to our clients tax issues and resolved any problem they may have had. Then we started to reach out to the public and our clients and began a teaching process through our blog page (www.icontaxgroup.org) on tax and business issues, as well as leadership, on what to do by providing them tax tips, we decided to teach instead of locking our office doors and giving up. We have tried to answer every question presented to us – but teaching was our focus for a year.
This tax season we have made it through one full year after the crises. Have we lost clients – sure. But we have also replaced prior clients with new clients. One thing that you learn is that every accounting firm in the world is faced with a crisis of some sort, but it is how you address the issue head on. Just google the news on accounting firms faced with crisis, it happens daily and every firm has to deal with it at some point. The other great learning experience, you really learn a lot about the people you serve. Those that believed in our firm and our ability stayed with us and referred new clients to us. The weak client, the one that said how much they loved you were the first to turn on you. A good example for me on a personal level is we use to prepare tax returns for a whole family, we would even shut down a weekend day just for them. Their tax preparation always was on my birthday. Every tax season on my birthday they would come to the office with a lot of food and a birthday cake. This year a family member sent me a text message and said they were canceling their appointment because they had talked to friends. Now, instead of believing in me, my firm and my staff, they decided to believe the lies of friends. Instead of coming to me direct with the issue, they decided to listen to other people. I learned that clients should always be kept at an arm’s length and that your relationship with clients can only be on a professional level, and that there are clients that will listen to others before listening to you. That is the human nature of people.
Since the crisis a year ago my firm has made its own way. We have pushed forward. Now there are going to be those days when you wonder if something else is going to fall on you. But you can’t do that, put it out of your mind quickly, keep moving forward. You can’t ever let remarks get you down or gossip be involved in your running of your business. Have a plan of action and move forward. The business has to make good business decissions on what is best for the firm.
“The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”
Use the Chinese meaning of “crisis”. You can either see it as your destruction and danger, or you can see an opportunity. In our case we saw an opportunity, the crisis cleaned out our weak clients and replaced them with new clients, we saw the opportunity to teach about taxation, business and leadership. We saw the opportunity to do better things through our firm. A great learning experience on crisis is that every single business needs a crisis plan, put it in writing, ask all of the what if’s, study on how to manage a crisis – there are great articles out there – read and learn. I can’t say this strong enough, have a crisis plan because at some point in your business life you will have a crises.
Crisis does not have to destroy you, it can make you much better. Every year on a crisis aniversary – remember what you have learned and become stronger.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
If your business is going through a crisis, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org Let’s talk about it.