November 1, 2018

Breaking Free of the Past

November 1, 2018


Breaking Free of the Past
By Garrett Wagner, CPA.CITP
Entrepreneurial CPA/Founder C3 Evolution Group

Unless this is your first time reading any accounting blog, magazine, or you normally just read the IRS tax code, you know about the major changes coming to the public accounting profession.  Artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, IBM’s Watson, talent shortages, fee compression, succession challenges and more are expected to drastically change our profession and further erode, or worse yet, fully replace components of traditional compliance services the profession was built upon.  The profession has been told that in order to counteract this oncoming change, organizations need to shift from backwards looking compliance work and shift dramatically into forward looking advisory services.  The lure of advisory services is compelling, with higher fees, less seasonal compression, and higher realizations. 

Yet, few CPAs in the country have made this shift - what is holding us back? 

That is the ultimate question, how do we break out of the traditional CPA box and become advisors, consultants, coaches?  How do we evolve and change what we have always been and what does this new accountant look like?

Before you begin this journey, you first need to realize the change that is about to take place.  The skills, services offerings, and organizational structures that we have been following since our profession began, need to change.  You cannot underestimate the major shift you will need to undertake.  From how your brand is marketed, connects with clients, engages its customers, how you engage your employees, the services you offer, and how you price them are all changing dramatically and can be broken down into three main areas; vision, technology, and people.

You need a clear plan for where you are going and what your value proposition is to your customers, your brand.  These points need to be clear to your current customers, future customers, and employees.

When it comes to technology, we are faced with two major changes.  The first is the need to embrace technology.  We are not just talking about using a document management system anymore, we are talking about embracing artificial intelligence, blockchain, and non-traditional software solutions.  These solutions will drive our shift into an advisory role and the sooner you start to make the major shift at your organization and your team starts to understand and think about how to use these new skills, the better you and your team will become. 

The second point in regard to technology, is realizing we work in a drastically different climate from even ten years ago in terms of technology.  The future leaders of this profession, from the millennials to the newly arriving Gen-Z, look at technology in a completely different way and have totally different expectations of technology in the workplace.  Allow these generations to help drive your tech change, work with customers, and communicate technology strategies both inside and outside of the organization.

An Entrepreneurial CPA isn’t trapped in the box just doing audits and tax returns anymore!  They leverage their vision and problem-solving ability to motivate and collaborate with others.  They adapt every day to the new challenges they are faced with and they love to learn.  They use these new skills in combination with their accounting knowledge to become better.  It’s the combination of these entrepreneurial skills and accounting knowledge that allow CPAs and accounting professionals to transition into advisory services. 

It may sound odd to say, but the thing that is holding most accountants back is they are afraid to fail.  That is right, we need to be willing and able to fail at what we do.  It is easy and comfortable to cling to the old ways. After all, no change is required and there is a reason we have that comfy pair of socks from fifteen years ago full of holes, they are comfortable and a safe bet!  But don’t be afraid to fail. Make your organization stronger by learning, growing and gaining valuable insight when things don’t go quite right. 

If we truly want to avoid the growing list of challenges our industry is faced with, we need to change.  Because with change comes failure - and not everything we do will result in 100% perfect success. Yet the willingness to embrace failure is the final piece that we need as a profession in order to make the shift into advisory services.  The goal is not just to fail, we fail so that we can learn and keep moving forward

Embrace the entrepreneurial drive, mindset, and willingness to fail fast and fail forward.  Every quarter try something new, break out of the box, and punch above your weight.  If missteps occur - adjust, learn, and keep pushing forward. It is an exciting time in the accounting profession! Take the first step to a ensuring your organization’s vitality by committing to a future-ready mindset (free of fear of failure!) and prepared to open the door to new opportunities as they arise. 

What are you waiting for to make this change?  Remember, one of Yoda’s greatest lessons that he taught Luke Skywalker was, “The greater teacher, failure is.” It's time to embrace the greatest teacher and make a change.  Fail fast and fail forward! 

If you’re ready to ignite your approach to advisory services and a future-ready mindset, I invite you join me and your accounting colleagues in the discussion at the 68th Annual Kansas Tax Conference in Wichita (November 15-16). I’ll be presenting "Death of an Accountant - Pathway to Advisory Services" and "Power Your Firm with AI and Big Data" to add insight to your arsenal and engage your inner entrepreneurial CPA! Register here!

Going Deeper: Breaking Free of the Past

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