Helping Clients in Changing Times


The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “change is the only constant in life.” It doesn’t matter why, when changing times occur, your clients will need your help and your advice. It could be another global pandemic (let’s hope not!), a downturn in the economy, a major disaster, or anything else you can imagine. As their financial advisor, the information, help, and advice you can offer are essential, and the data must be on point.  Your client will be using the information you provide to make crucial business decisions. Now is your time to shine! Use the opportunity to show your clients you care about them, your skills as a CPA, and how valuable your services are to them. 

When our clients’ world turns upside down, there are four steps we can take to help them lighten their load and reduce confusion. 

1. Study the changing times and gather information

The current situation is COVID-19, but your clients could be in a myriad of conditions that you will need to understand. Do your due diligence; study, read, and gather all the data you can get your hands on for the current climate. Find industry-specific information for each of your clients. 

For example, hospitality, travel, beauty and salon, restaurants, gyms, and religious institutions have taken an especially hard blow due to COVID-19. These types of clients will need a jolt of hope and a plan to stay afloat. They will be interested in their cash flow, to know how long they can hold on—readjusting their budgets and how to trim expenses. 

Other industries, such as those that support remote working, healthcare, and cleaning companies, have been through unmeasurable growth due to the current economic climate. They have a different situation, yet still as vital of a need for help and advice.  Do your homework! 

2. Reach out during challenging times

Once you have done your research and made a plan, it’s time to reach out to your clients. Give them a call! It is a good idea to go with a few talking points, instead of just winging it. 

First, show compassion. Don’t jump right in with advice, plans, and a to-do checklist. Check on their well being, their family, and their employees. People should always come first before business. Second, ask how you can help them, what they need from you right now. They may have immediate questions that they need to be answered right away. Or they may be so overwhelmed they are not sure where to start and what questions even to ask. Lastly, make it abundantly clear you are available to help them and are ready and willing to answer any questions they encounter. So when they figure out what questions to ask, they trust they can contact you for the answers. 

The purpose of this first call is to make contact, check on their well being, and answer any immediate questions. Let them know you have been working on a plan for their business and schedule a time to go over the options with them.

3. Make a plan and share it. 

This step is when all your homework pays off. Present your clients with options for their situation. Be bold, and be honest. Changing economic times is not the time to be timid with the data, and with your ideas. No one benefits when numbers are fudged, and plans are not presented. Tell them the REAL story of their financial situation. Honesty may lead to some uncomfortable conversations that need to happen. In the long term, your clients will be grateful for your honesty during changing times. 

Remember those “Chose Your Own Adventure” books from the ’70s and ’80s? (Yes, I am that old!) Keep those in mind while you consult with your clients. Your job is to be the storyteller, but remember that the final decision is up to your client; you are the advisor. They get to chose where they go next. Give them some options and then be ready and open to their suggestions and choices. 

4. Stay connected

Changing economic times is no time for “one and done” contact with your clients. Your ongoing communication with your clients is a vital step in genuinely helping them through changing and challenging times.  Be sure and take notes about what you talked about, what choices were made, and plans to connect again. Keeping records will help you remember what you spoke about and is especially crucial if you are more than a one-person office. Keeping your partners, assistants, and other office staff in the loop will lead to better communication with your clients. 

Be sure and check in regularly to answer the questions they had that needed more time to respond. See if they have any new concerns and remind them you are there to help, and you have their back!  You don’t always have to call; email, video chat, and text work well too! Forward them an article you read that may be of interest to them or share a success story from another client. Technology these days make it easier than ever to stay in touch. 

As you help your clients navigate changing times, whether for good or bad, you will position yourself as a valuable resource they always want on their side. Your clients need you during changing times. Be their greatest cheerleader, their honest financial advisor, and an asset they trust.

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