A Message From Our President
As an accounting firm, our work used to revolve around one date: April 15. However, that was before 2020. Virtually everything – from the manner we conduct business to the rules, regulations and deadlines associated with it – changed. It’s hard to sit back and reflect on such a tough year but many valuable lessons were learned along the way, which, in retrospect, made for a true (and unexpected) learning experience.
Now, as an end to this pandemic is in sight, I feel our firm is in a great place with a renewed sense of optimism.
ANOTHER UNIQUE TAX SEASON
Technology has been crucial for many of us over the past year and half with the introduction of working remotely as a regular staple of our lives. Be it good fortune, foresight or a little bit of both, the transition was about as smooth as we could have hoped for at Rudler. This is partially due to the fact that several of our team members already lived and worked remotely. However, making this transition for tax season presented a new set of unique challenges for both our staff and clients.
Maintaining the office experience our clients expect while keeping everyone’s safety in mind was a delicate balance. We often needed to meet in new “office” locations, such as a local coffee shop or a client’s home to finalize returns.
Our receptionists, Gail and Lisa, became the face of the firm at a time when many of our team members were still working remotely. They were there when clients would come to drop off and pick up documents, providing a sense of the familiar in the most unfamiliar times. They did the same for us internally, often completing tasks outside of their typical workload since they were in the office. This kept us cohesive and efficient with every new wrinkle we faced as we did our best to reduce the risk for all. I cannot thank our staff and clients enough for their willingness to adapt and trust us to work through this together.
INSPIRATION THROUGH ADVERSITY
In addition to the virtual adjustments our team made this tax season, there were an outstanding number of federal and state tax laws and regulations that were passed in the past year and half. We had an excellent group spearheading an initiative to help us navigate through it all. From Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications and updates to tax laws included in the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) they were constantly regrouping to forecast, adjust and plan. I can’t thank this team enough for the extra hours they put in to ensure our staff stayed on top of all the changes, keeping our clients engaged and informed as well.
Another one of the most inspiring things from the past year was our ability to continue to build and maintain our staff from within, even during extreme times. For example, our co-op program has worked well in bringing us new talent in years’ past; this past tax season brought us an excellent mix of freshmen to juniors from our local universities. Eager to learn, engage and keep up with a fast-paced environment, the young talent on display was essential in getting us through tax season. I am excited at the prospect of watching these young people gain experience and develop over the next few years. We also gained valuable insights from them regarding ways we can improve our training and other functions of our business.
BETTER DAYS AHEAD
Going forward, the big question is also the most obvious one: What’s next? We are currently in the process of determining those answers as we begin to adjust policies in accordance with CDC guidelines to give our staff and clients the option of returning to the office.
The flexibility of being home was great for many on our team. It eliminated long commutes, provided morning people with opportunities to accomplish much of their day by early afternoon (providing more time with family and friends), and night owls were able to work at a pace better suited to their internal clock.
On the other hand, the battle to balance work and family responsibilities could leave some feeling as if they were always on call, the lack of separation between the two increasing the risk of burnout. Additionally, as a firm with a strong culture we know Zoom and Microsoft Teams video chats aren’t substitutes for the true office experience.
Striking a balance between remote work and an in-office environment will be key to our culture’s success moving forward. For now, it’s safe to say that remote work will be a part of our post-pandemic arrangements and remains a topic of conversation internally. Our new office space was even built with this in mind – we have rotating desks for those who would like to work from home but still have a few days in the office.
Speaking of company culture, our team recently had the chance to enjoy an outdoor, end of tax season party. This event was a great opportunity for us to see all those we’ve missed in person over the past year in a safe environment. Following the party, we hosted our annual strategic planning meeting. The meeting provides our firm with time to review things such as our training and procedures to see where the most opportunity for improvement and growth exist in upcoming years.
I feel good about the future. Our staff has proven they can overcome adversity and adapt and excel under difficult circumstances. Now, we simply need to maintain our pace and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We have the right people in place; it’s important that we continue to support our team’s development and growth. This will allow for them to not only work at the highest levels in helping our clients, but also build the careers and culture that have made our firm successful for so many years.
In closing, my biggest takeaway is that this is a time of transition. Never fear the future. Embrace it. The last year has proven we can do both. While our firm may look and function differently moving forward our commitment to serving our clients will never waver.