More Accounting Tomorrow Posts

Do People Leave Public Accounting? More than Likely, it's the Culture!

December 20, 2010

I have spent the last decade working within small and midsized accounting firms. Most of my accounting career has been ruled by strict deadlines and chaotic work processes - where clients impose their own procrastination on the firm's internal schedule and working crazy hours is mandatory.


These negative cultural elements have not only been a part of my career, but continue to plague the profession overall. I know many accountants who have left the profession due to burnout during tax season and overall bad firm management. It's a culture all to common - long hours, clients defining the workflow process, and partners who just don't understand that things need to change.

What if we could change the culture? One thing is for certain: we would be a stronger profession. So, what can be done to alleviate the chaos and create a positive, efficient firm culture? Here are just a few suggestions:

* Saas technology. Get to know it...use it. SaaS innovations support real-time collaboration with staff and clients. This technology also enables firm leaders to create remote offices and expand their reach across the country to clients and qualified staff. Saas technology provides your firm with the necessary tools to compete in an ever-changing, technology-driven profession.

* Bring an end to the billable hour. Don't waste time tracking minutes. The beauty of SaaS is that it's so easy and efficient that you can transition to billing clients based on the value of your work, not the hours spent producing it.

* Look to the youngsters. Baby Boomers still represent the majority of wealth in this nation, but look out for those Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials. These tech-savvy groups are our future clients. They expect paperless and online communication. Following the innovative lead of these groups will certainly help change a firm's culture for the better.

One last thought.

I recently returned from a "culture" tour of Zappos - the online shoe company. I found the company's culture to be phenomenally positive, to say the least. Zappos encourages the development and empowerment of its employees. The company has established a "trusting" culture, where employees are allowed to do their jobs without being micro-managed and with an assurance that creativity is welcomed. From creativity comes innovation...and Zappos has it in spades! What I learned is that the Zappos culture can be applied to any business, including public accounting. So here's one last tip: empower your very competent and creative employees to bring innovation to your firm. Opening this door can help change a firm's cultures very quickly...and stop some very good people from leaving.

Comments (3)
Makes you feel like you need to think outside the box. Very good article.
Posted by rkane | Monday, January 03 2011 at 12:26PM ET

Great post. I wonder how we can respond to critics in the CPA profession who say, "You can't use retail best practices in our business"? Like you, I think there's a great deal to be learned from OUTSIDE the profession, and one can immediately tell if a group of partners is open and curious to better ideas...or shut down and jaded.

My New Years Wish for all CPAs is that they find a firm where they can feel good (maybe even great?) about coming to work and serving clients in proactive, sustainable way.

Nice post. (How'd you land that Zappos tour?_

Rebecca Ryan
Posted by Rebecca R | Wednesday, December 29 2010 at 8:05AM ET
Excellent article
Posted by Mike | Tuesday, December 21 2010 at 3:52PM ET
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