By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read April 2020 — Accounting and consultancy firm RSM’s Orlando practice had little problem migrating its operation to remote after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state. The company’s managing partner for the Central Florida city’s practice, Clay Worden, shares his views on how his company and small business will adapt and learn from the contingency.
What specific markets does your Orlando office focus on?
Hospitality and real estate are key components of the Central Florida economy, and we spend quite a bit of energy serving these sectors. Food and beverage is also an important sector for us. Agriculture is one of the key economic drivers in the state and we serve a lot of Ag-based organizations.
We also serve SEC clients, nonprofit organizations and manufacturing companies. Our tax practice is incredibly robust and growing. We seem to be firing on most cylinders.
Which area of your practice has seen the largest demand in recent years?
We are seeing a lot of demand related to digital transformation. Organizations, even before the COVID-19 situation, are looking at their systems, especially their legacy systems and saying, “Hey, is this the platform that is going to get us where we need to be?” From a technology consulting standpoint, I think that is one of the areas where we’ve had some exponential growth.
Another area where we continue to see organizations focusing on is the internal audit and risk advisory functions. When the economy is robust and companies are generally profitable, they want to make sure their systems, controls and policies are functioning as designed to safeguard their assets.
What challenges has the firm faced in dealing with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We recognize that our younger folks embrace technology and want to use technology. With that in mind, our audit practice and consulting practice has been primarily remote for the past several years. We visit clients and still have to access systems and software to be able to work, but we were pretty much prepared for the fact that we might not be at the office and prepared to work from home.
Our tax practice was traditionally people going to the office and to some client locations, so it was important to have the technology that provides them with access and to give them the tools they need, which included a little more bandwidth in the system to get to their tools. We started that process and were quickly able to get it to them. For us, it really hasn’t changed much. You still have access to all the data and everything we need to serve our clients.
One of the opportunities that we are seeing from this is that we are helping businesses access the stimulus that is being offered, making sure they qualify, follow the rules, and are taking advantage of the tax benefits that are available today. We’ve quickly mobilized people who are or are becoming experts in helping clients navigate these government programs.
Another area where we are seeing some changes is travel. We were to hold a firmwide leadership meeting with about 100 firm leaders going to Chicago in April. Instead, we held that meeting virtually. From my perspective it was very effective. We missed the reception and cocktail hour to talk face to face with some of our colleagues we have not connected with for a while, but in terms of disseminating information and communicating, it was very effective.
What is your outlook for the Orlando area in the near term?
My cup is always half full. I am confident that our firm and Orlando, Florida, and the country as a whole will come out of this stronger and more equipped than we were going in.
I think that certainly the pain is going to be probably worse, and longer, than most people would like. When you live in Central Florida, which is primarily built on hospitality and entertainment, I don’t know how quickly people are going to hop back on a plane and come right back.
I do have some serious concerns for the smaller businesses. I don’t know that the smaller businesses, like restaurants, have the capital to withstand being with limited customers for an extended period of time. Big and small, companies are going to have to rethink how they do business in the future.
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