Radio Shack, CPAs, and CITPs

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Many years ago, the company now known as Radio Shack, then known as Tandy Corp., sold business computers, not the low-end models remembered by some as Trash-80s, but a fully IBM compatible desktop, the Tandy 1000.

There was a problem. Customers did not want to buy business equipment at Radio Shack stores, where they could get components. So Tandy started the Tandy Computer Centers. Those were eventually sold and Tandy changed its name to Radio Shack, its predominant business.

The relevance of this story to accountants is that it represents branding problems. It’s the same kind of branding issue mentioned by Oregon CPA Brent Goodfellow when his CPA firm, BKR Fordham Goodfellow, formed OneTech to handle its technology reselling business. Goodfellow explained the change with the following observation.

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“I think people had a hard time with buying from an accounting firm,” he commented. “They say, ‘Don’t you do tax and audits?’”

Accountants simply are associated with their traditional businesses, and getting their firms identified with buyers as entities that can provide technology products and services remains difficult.

Difficult does not mean impossible. And that’s the issue associated with promoting the Certified Information Technology Professional credential, which was just saved from extinction by the AICPA. How can CPAs be established in the public’s mind as technologists?

It’s hard to say whether the CITP has value or not, because it’s up to the market to accept credentials, and it’s up to the credential holders to have patience until these designations reach critical mass.

This credential still may miss its mark. It has always appeared suitable for technologists with accounting backgrounds who are not CPAs, such as many of the people working at consulting and reselling firms. This is an approach that the AICPA rejected. However, an accommodation should be reached with this allied group. The CPA community has a lot to gain if it can find a way to embrace consultants and resellers more formally.

It has always seemed that some group like the Information Technology Alliance should have a role in supporting and monitoring the CITP program. We can hope that groups like this, which have a vested interest in supporting CPA technologists, also find a place at the table.

Six years ago, AIPCA president Barry Melancon articulated the vision of turning CPAs into what he called Premier Information Professionals. That term died quickly, but there’s an element to it that, while not applying to all CPAs, should be included in the concept of CITP.

With a bit more vision, just maybe we can convince more clients that CPAs do more than audit and tax.

Robert Scott — Editor

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