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Say goodbye to say hello

It’s time for a bit of tough love. The health crisis happened and will have ripple effects for months and years. But the time to start building for the future is today, and we need to be planting the green shoots of recovery at home.

We’ve collectively been talking about innovation and disruption for years—now it’s time to put that talk into action. We can’t do this by holding on to the past, and what we have lost in our businesses. Instead we should focus on what we have and how we can use this to build a successful future in a post-pandemic world. Look around you and consider your people, infrastructure, skills, networks and competitive advantages in isolation from your traditional business. How can these assets be redeployed to solve problems that other businesses and consumers now face?

What does this have to do with me, the accountant, you’re probably asking now. Surely innovation is for leadership, sales and product teams, and my job is to keep a tight rein on the purse strings making sure our cashflow is as healthy as possible.

Yes and no. As accountants we definitely need to protect business liquidity. But we are also a temperature gauge for the health of the business and can identify spare capacity, as well as areas of waste and inefficiency, and then put the processes and systems in place that enable the agility needed to innovate. We have the opportunity to step into a far more strategic role, balancing risk with the ability to quickly and responsibly make the changes required for our business to remain relevant.

If all you are doing is putting out fires and trying to hold on to how things used to be, thinking one day we’ll return to that, you are possibly limiting your ability to get through this disruption. You need to build something new in a world that has fundamentally changed.

In the same way that recessions become self-fulfilling prophecies, with cutbacks driving more cutbacks and shrinkage, this is also true of recoveries, especially given the multiplier effect when you broaden your ecosystem. The harsh truth is what is lost can never be regained, accept it, and grab hold of the far more exciting challenge of focusing on what you do have, and how this can be redeployed in new, creative and profitable ways. Plant the seeds, nurture them and watch the green shoots grow.

Tap into your team

One of your biggest assets is your people, especially the millennials and Gen-Zs who are rising through the ranks. Truth be told, and I’m one of the old guard too, they are far more in touch with current trends, and challenges and, more importantly, opportunities, in the marketplace than we are. I’ve often advised that companies tap into the coalface knowledge of their people when setting budgets in tough times, and this applies to growing and evolving today as well.

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