My first thought for a 10th anniversary column was to describe the changes in the last 10 years. A second reaction was to recall my greatest columns. I then realized that looking back or even at the present were exercises in vanity and would not provide any takeaways. To be successful you need to look to the future and be anxious to adopt the changes that are quickly occurring.
Public accounting is rapidly moving into the future, and I believe anyone who doesn’t realize this will fail to remain competitive or viable. Those who will be the leaders will be the ones that change personally and professionally. Those remaining dormant will be done. Maybe not so quickly, but they will be losing ground and will head toward extinction. I think this sounds harsh, but I know many practices that are racing toward the future and others that are biding time. Choose which one you are.
Here are some steps that need to be considered:
- You need to be hungry. Complacency won’t hack it. Doing well right now can be a drag on a desire to learn more, try new things, or commit time and funds to integrating new processes, procedures and technology to your practice.
- You need a desire to learn and grow and understand what will be new.
- Work has to be smarter, with less stress.
- Clients pay our salaries, providing funds for our long-term financial security and to grow our infrastructure. To maintain this cash flow, we need to be better, quicker and provide real-time analysis of real-time data, and “to be there.” Perfunctory or obligatory calls no longer will get you by. We need to be a continuing presence for our clients and position ourselves to be the first person our clients call when they are considering any sort of change.
- Our work is performed by our staff people. Without them understanding our complete role and being able to perform at the elevated levels needed, it will not work for us. Our staff must be trained and at the table of innovation and implementation from the beginning, and fully engaged with our practice leaders.
Public accounting is growing and has an exciting future. Just attend any conference and listen to the variety of speakers on the wide range of new topics. Even how we price our services and get paid has changed. I’ve also noticed that the general age range of presenters are much younger. There are still plenty of experienced speakers thankfully sharing practice management innovations, but many of the new service offerings are being led by a younger group. Further, every leader today will be pretty much gone in 20 years, fully replaced by today’s innovators, who will not be mired down with a compliance mindset, but with an advisory, value-added mantra for every client interaction.
There are a lot of important and essential areas that are needed for practice stability that cannot be abandoned such as risk management, audit quality, regulatory compliance, technology expansion and where staff will sit, but the future will be with the exceptional value we deliver to clients and the skills and capabilities of the staff that will be doing that. The next 10 years will not be a continuation of the last 10 years; they will be greatly different!
You need to make a commitment to move into the future, and then to be focused on that commitment. And you need to start now.
I would like to thank Michael Cohn, the editor of my columns for the past 10 years, who has become a reliable and trusted collaborator and a friend.
Do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com with your practice management questions or about engagements you might not be able to perform.
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