How this CA and entrepreneur husband-wife duo in Dubai confidently navigated through the COVID-19 crisis
- The COVID-19 outbreak has had a significant impact on everyone’s life. While a lot of people are “working from home” and are being diligent with “social distancing”, others have been furloughed or laid off.
- The CA Story caught up with Arshi Kaura, Chartered Accountant and Founder of Legends Accounting a Dubai based firm having a team of nearly 25, to understand how they have been managing during the current crisis.
What was your immediate "reflex thought" with the announcement of complete lockdown?
Initially, when the pandemic started, it was scary. We were jolted with a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity.
We feared that the global canvas will slip into a “déjà vu" of 2008 – 2009 recession and people might start losing their jobs.
Another concern which we had was ‘how could we work from home if there is a lockdown’ just like most business owners, we could not imagine working from home in totality.
Most of all, we were concerned about how our clientele would be affected, our services, the overall cascading effect, impact on our revenues and cohesiveness with our staff members.
Several such questions crossed my mind as business owners and leaders.
Fortunately, good sense prevailed; we calmed our nerves over the panic. We charted out our worst-case scenarios and our plan of action against all odds. We were ready to do our best with a positive frame of mind!
How did you keep the team motivated? Were there any jobs or salary cuts?
One of the most important things we did was gathering everyone in the team, and holding a company-wide meeting and decided to be 100% transparent. We totally realized that we needed to support and motivate our team.
We expressed our intention of surviving this pandemic with them; assured them that they were in safe hands, and we were nowhere looking at reducing salaries.
It was primarily important for us to wave out this panic and uncertainty mode, only then, they would render their best service with an eased mindset.
I remember, we decided that as a Company, we would refrain from posting negative jokes and rather would be hand and glove throughout, share positive news and be strong in such times.
I am elated to share that we have been able to pay all our employees on time and without any deduction across our offices.
How did you manage WFH? Especially from your office in India, considering the large team size?
Managing work from home for our office in Dubai was not that big a challenge as we use cloud-based technologies and our staff members are used to working from multiple locations.
The big challenge was handling remote work for our office in India which is a KPO setup.
The shutdown was all of a sudden and gave us very little time on our hands to plan come to terms with “work from home”.
Fortunately, with whatever resources we had in hand and with the cooperation of our team, we seamlessly and proactively managed IT connections and equipment.
Teamwork helped all of us achieve this and we would like to give the entire credit to our team.
Is the situation better now? Any plan to recuperate from the economic slowdown?
Many countries are still embracing stringent lockdown norms yet again, so the uncertainty prevails.
Even after the lockdown has eased, we decided to continue working from home as much as possible considering the health and wellbeing of our employees. It seems that they are really happy, more productive, and effective.
We will continue focusing on our team and supporting our clients. Needless to say, we ensure that we shall pass these uncertain times together and come out stronger.
With all these precautions, unbridled efforts of our team and immense support and cooperation of our clients; we have been able to manage it well.
In short, it is business as usual; what has changed is our thinking and way of working!
One thing that really is our focus: “Prepare for the worst but do your best”.
Could you please share on how immediate operating expenses are being managed - Salaries, maintenance, the line up of debtors.
Needless to say, in such situations, cash flows do become a huge challenge.
However, we have persistently ensured our employees are of apex importance and that salaries will always be paid on time without any cuts. And even in times like these, with God’s grace, we are able to manage well.
How did we manage this? We learnt long back (and this applies to everyone): to keep aside a portion as savings for a rainy day. As a business, you should aim to keep 3 to 6 months working capital aside always. It was this habit or strategy I would say that helped us.
We did ensure regular follow-ups with our customers to ensure that the charges are paid well in time and many have been kind enough to pay us on time!
There were some clients whose businesses were hit really hard and who wanted financial support, we could even provide the same.
Both Vikas and I believe that our behavior during these times with people around us will create life-long relationships. Those who will be together in these times and support each other will make lifelong relationships.
How are you capitalizing on opportunities in these tough times?
As I mentioned earlier, every problem brings an opportunity with it.
We understood that our clients needed us more now, amidst these uncertainties.
They wanted more support whether it was for cash flow forecast, budget revisions, reforecast, cost controls, or just mere intangibles like emotional support to talk with them. Moreover, certain clients even needed financial support and we actually provided that as well.
In fact, Legends was started after the 2009 recession. Everyone thought it was ‘not’ the right time to start a business but when I look back it was the best decision we made.
It was also the right time as businesses were looking for cost-cutting and outsourcing their finance team. I am sure we will have the same opportunity this time as well.
What do you think are the best ways to deal with C-19 stress?
When I get disturbed or stressed, in order to keep myself sane I think about the families who have lost their loved ones, those who are in hospitals with mounting medical bills, those who are on the streets, and those whose businesses have completely stopped.
When I think of all this and I count my blessings twice, I not only feel sane but also more thankful and grateful to God.
Also, accepting the reality that circumstances have changed, and we need to change too has helped me.
Having a victim mentality will not help, just stay positive, and do our best.
Could you highlight your key takeaways as a Business Owner?
- Adapt to changes quickly: Just a few months back, the concept of “work from home” was outrightly rejected, something that always seemingly looked tough. Today it is a reality for all and big cultural waves.
- Technology is the way forward: Accept that technology is a great enabler and adapt to digital transformation.
- Diversify your business: Have a diversified set of clients.
- Keep aside a portion as savings for a rainy day ideally 3-6 months working capital.
- Look after your team and clients.
- In case of problems think outside the problem. When you disconnect from the problem and think like a 3rd party you not only get solutions but you can see opportunities in that problem also. Take the help of your peers when required.
- Lastly, have faith in God, do your best, and leave the rest to God!
In 2011, Arshi Kaura started Legends Accounting against all odds. Her intent was to support businesses that needed a Finance Partner to provide tailor-made solutions. In early 2015, Vikas Takhtani, her husband who is also a CA quit his job to join the business as a Managing Partner. Today Legends is an Award-Winning Accounting firm with offices in three countries and a staff size of almost 25. You can find the details here.
Now It's Your Turn...
How has your business managed the current crisis? Comment below and let us know.
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