In March 2020, staff meetings, client appointments and so many other aspects of our business came to a screeching halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. And since conducting business in person was largely ruled out at that time, we had to find new ways to be together without physically being together.
In the past two years, as working from home became standard practice, the new normal became virtual. Enter Zoom, Microsoft Teams and a slew of other digital services.
Now with vaccines widely distributed and many professionals returned to their offices or preparing for that transition, we get to decide what the post-pandemic working world will look like. We have a choice to start back up the way things were before or run a few updates in our models as we look to the future. This is a unique opportunity to choose how we turn back “on.”
Some aspects of my business became far more effective under virtual conditions. My sales team used to operate only in person before the pandemic, meeting infrequently. Now they meet more regularly, albeit virtually, and they have developed a better rapport with one another. Interns I used to have minimal interaction with are now much more accessible to me and others over Zoom. Their mentoring experience improvements help them, our business and our industry. Others feel the same way: A Remote Work Survey conducted by PwC reported that 75% of financial services employees said their ability to collaborate was the same or improved during the pandemic.
Improvements in the workplace spurred by new technology are not limited to office management. The option of virtual meetings created an opportunity to broaden the scope of client meetings as well. For example, we can now include the children of current clients in conversations about generational wealth transfer, even when those children are out of state or even out of the country. Meetings such as that would have been exceptionally challenging to coordinate in person.
In my experience, it seems as though many advisors have defaulted to the headspace of “we did it that way before, so we’ll do it that way again” without giving it a second thought. But I advocate for a more thoughtful approach to our return to a “normal” work environment.
Conduct a thorough review of your professional habits, as well as your business. What changes were beneficial to your business during the lockdown? What aspects didn’t work as well? If there was something you were able to do for your clients more effectively using new virtual tools during the pandemic, then keep some version of that moving forward while dropping the things that went poorly. It does not have to be a zero-sum game.
Consider Clients Amid Transition
The most important factor to consider while determining how to navigate the return to the office is asking what the client wants. To continue developing your client relationships, ask them what new aspects of your business they would like to see continue after the pandemic and what they would like to see return to “normal.” Balance the external feedback you receive with your own attitude on how you would like to run your business. Perhaps that will mean reassessing your future with particular clients and even parting ways with some. Taking an honest and transparent approach to the transition, however, will ultimately benefit both you and your clients.
I often talk about making extra deposits into the “benefit-of-the-doubt account.” What I mean by that is that you should invest heavily in the relationships you have with your clients. Listen to them, respond to them and be someone they will want to stick with, no matter the circumstance.
That sort of proactive support helped us navigate the pandemic when it started, and that same type of support will help us all navigate a fluid, new normal.
Be brave enough to honestly answer questions about what worked better during the pandemic. Recognize that not everything has to revert to the way it used to be because we have a unique opportunity to pick and choose now.
In March 2020, everyone’s routine abruptly stopped, and we were all jammed up. But like driving home at the end of a beach vacation when everyone departs at different times, the roads are not quite as busy this time around. We all have the power to transition back to regular life at our own pace and in our own way, and that opportunity should not be ignored.