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Going Remote as a CPA Firm During a Pandemic


Mar 17, 2020
How Transitioning to a Distributed Model Might Save & Help Your Firm


The Coronavirus is rapidly changing the way we live and work in the United States and around the world. For many CPA Firms, “social distancing” may seem impossible with the piles of work in the office that need to be done and the upcoming tax deadlines. But what if your employees start getting sick? What will the lost time and productivity do to your business? No one knows for sure how long the voluntary social distancing might last or if a lockdown is in our near future.

Fortunately, Summit CPA Group is a prime example of how a CPA firm can thrive with a team of accountants working from home. We are huge advocates of remote work in normal times, but especially during this pandemic we believe that transitioning to a distributed model will help keep your employees healthy and might even save your business.

"As Americans are closing themselves off more during this time of uncertainty and we dive deeper into the digital age, we suggest that you give the possibility of leading an all-virtual team some serious thought."

So, what does it mean to be distributed? At Summit CPA, all of our employees work remotely, and all of our client interactions take place virtually through video conferencing. As one of the first businesses to adopt a distributed model in 2014, we have learned a lot about how to successfully implement this kind of work environment.

After investing in the appropriate technology and developing procedures that have allowed our company to run smoothly in a virtual setting, we’ve experienced a range of benefits that are very clearly associated with operating under a distributed model. Therefore, if you’re on the fence about shutting down your brick-and-mortar firm in favor of a home office, read on to learn more about a few of the advantages of overseeing a completely remote staff.

Better Communication Between Your Staff

Putting physical distance between yourself and a co-worker, although now recommended for health reasons, may seem like a surefire way to exacerbate any underlying issues concerning communication. However, in our experience, the distributed model has actually strengthened communication between employees. Because the bulk of our interactions take place over video chat and email, we’ve found that our colleagues are more likely to be fully present during meetings, as active listening and participation are at an all-time high.

Furthermore, as many companies begin to allow their employees to work from home one or multiple days a week, there is a growing divide between on-site and remote employees. Under the distributed model, this cultural divide no longer exists because everyone works within the same virtual setting and is, therefore, given the same opportunity to engage accordingly.

A More Efficient Workplace

Going fully remote also promotes a more efficient workplace. Navigating a physical work environment often means that unscheduled conversations about work-related tasks (and even personal events) regularly occur. However, in our experience, staff members who are part of a virtual office tend to be more intentional about their conversations because they usually have to schedule a time to speak with another employee. This intentionality also makes for more productive meetings because the environment is no longer conducive to side conversations, and the attendees are more focused on the task at hand.

An Increase in Quality Candidates

Transitioning to a distributed model has allowed us to expand our business without having to worry about the restrictions that come with owning office space. Before becoming a completely virtual enterprise, we were operating out of a newly renovated office space that could comfortably fit up to 30 employees. However, we soon realized that while this new space gave us some room to grow, we would eventually hit a wall with how many staff we could hire before we had to move into a bigger office.

With a virtual team, we’ve been able to add members to our team as we see fit. We’re also no longer restricted to hiring local talent. A distributed model has allowed us to expand our reach, in that we’re now capable of considering clients who live anywhere in the continental U.S. Therefore, we have a wider pool of qualified candidates to choose from and can select candidates who best fit the carefully cultivated culture of our firm.

While the distributed model may not be the right fit for every firm long-term, the reality is that it may be necessary in these next few weeks as commuting to work (i.e. via bus or train) and gathering in groups is currently not recommended. The good news is, working remotely is 100% possible for accounting firms. At Summit CPA, we have created a smoothly run, virtual operation, and we’ve experienced many benefits associated with this kind of work environment. You may be surprised to find out that a few weeks of “thinking outside the box” in your firm may lead to a more remote-friendly work environment for your team.

As Americans are closing themselves off more during this time of uncertainty and we dive deeper into the digital age, we suggest that you give the possibility of leading an all-virtual team some serious thought.

For more INCPAS COVID-19 updates and resources, visit incpas.org/Coronavirus.

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Summit CPA Group is a fully distributed accounting firm with a non-traditional approach to accounting providing Virtual CFO Services, 401(k) Audits, and CPA Firm Augmentation. Operating under a profit-focused model, Summit CPA uses dynamic forecasting and key performance indicators with their clients to help them transcend their focus from simply “being in the black” to longer-term financial health and wealth. With the mission statement, “Changing the way people think about accounting,” the next big step for the Summit CPA Group is to help make this level of service a norm rather than an exception within other accounting firms.