Q&A: Dan Fortman On Meeting Clients’ Needs During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Weiss remains committed to providing the best service possible to its clients during this uncertain time. Managing partner Dan Fortman recently sat down to talk about Weiss’s operations, how they are helping their clients navigate this new reality, and what the future holds.
How did the initial COVID-19 shutdown impact Weiss’s operations?
When the two-week shutdown was mandated by Governor J.B. Pritzker on March 20th, we immediately sent most of our staff home. Since we already had a work from home policy, the transition to a remote work environment was mostly seamless. At that time, we were substantialy complete with our 2019 client field work so fortunately we didn’t have to be on-site at our clients’ offices. The Governor’s mandate also deemed CPA firms essential businesses, so in April, we asked our team about their work-from-home preferences. For those staff members who wanted to come in to the office a couple of days a week, we set up a schedule that minimized the number of people in the office at a time.
How has COVID-19 affected your work with your clients?
There has been no change in service for our clients; we’ve taken measures to ensure that we continue to deliver the same high standard of service we always have. We’ve reconfigured our reception area to allow clients to drop off or pick up documents safely. We have work-flow management software that allows our team to work 24/7 anywhere they have internet access, and we’ve been using videoconferencing and other tools to keep our teams together and focused. But in the end, it’s all about the dedication of our team. They remain committed to our deep-rooted service culture and really want to take care of our clients.
How have your clients fared?
It depends on the industry. More of our clients are faring surprisingly better than I thought they would be at the start of the shutdown. They are learning how to adapt to the “new normal,” manage expenses, and make quick decisions. The PPP loan program really allowed many of them to take the time to manage their response and navigate challenges. We have also been guiding our clients on how the CARES Act has affected their business and their taxes. It’s a shifting landscape, and we keep them all up to date as more information comes to light.
What do you think 2021 will bring?
We’ve had many discussions about that topic, as you might expect. Since we service so many clients in such a wide range of industries, we have a deeper understanding and insight as to how the pandemic is impacting businesses and how we can best help them going forward. Whether we do audits in the field or virtually is going to be determined on a case-by-case basis, based on client and staff concerns. Some clients will have us come to an isolated conference room for short field work stints, and others prefer we don’t come into the office at all. We plan to continue to take a hybrid approach to staffing in the office, and we have no plans to bring the majority of our team back to the office anytime soon. We want to ensure both our employees and our clients remain safe as we continue to work together through these challenging times.
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