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Has the conversation changed?

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By Jody Padar
July 14, 2014

I’ve started to see in the Twitter feeds and hear at the trade shows that the idea of a new business model is percolating. That value pricing is a hot topic of conversation. And, that CPAs want to learn about cloud technologies. But where did it all start? With me, of course!

Four years ago I began to tweet about running a firm differently than a typical, traditional CPA. I also began to engage with other CPAs who were on Twitter. I was in the middle of taking over my father’s CPA firm and needed support and information. I couldn’t find anything suitable in my accounting publications or at any CPA society meetings that addressed the issues I was facing. I was in the middle of a succession plan with my partner–my Dad–and he was okay doing things status quo.

That was great, except the world around me had changed.  

Not only did I have to learn how to run a firm, I had to change all the practices and procedures that were instilled in me. The recession was in full force and there was new technology available that now allowed me to do work in two minutes that used to take two hours. I kept wondering how this was all going to work and yet I kept adapting to new ideas because, well, I could. I now had the freedom.

I was active with my smartphone and mobile was important to my lifestyle. So I took to Twitter to see if anyone “out there” understood or knew more than I did. There was a fellow CPA on Twitter who was tweeting as well. Tweets led to phone conversations, which led me to take a trip to South Carolina to talk about how we were doing things differently. We submitted a proposal to speak at the Accounting Today Growth & Profitability Summit and we were selected to present a workshop entitled, “You’ve Got Your Dad’s Firm, Now What?” where we would first talk publicly about our new ideas.

It was at that point I realized the power of social media. Ten CPAs, all who connected on Twitter, spent at least $3,000 to meet in person. During that conference, aside from our session, our small “group” attended few other sessions because we spent the whole time learning from each other. We were all doing similar yet unconventional activities in our respective firms. We were the trailblazers and needed each other to share and reinforce our newfangled ideas. We were a movement of next generation CPAs and we were coined such by the vice president of the American Institute of CPAs. Thus, the movement began.

A select few of AICPA executives and other industry influencers gave us exposure and strategically placed us where our movement message could percolate. I was given a stage and a platform to spread my perspective. However, there were many who challenged us because their way of being was being disrupted. I also never realized the politics in our movement’s endorsements and how these leaders, whom I now call friends, stood up for our ideas because they knew it was the right thing to do.  

I always thought about it from a lifestyle perspective, never from a money or power perspective. But what I soon found was the money came to follow my movement. And with that money and power came “meanness” of those non-believers. Disruption is scary!

If I couldn’t be endorsed at an event I made sure to attend and have a bigger influence and disruption via social media. No longer could the conversation be controlled; our next generation CPAs needed to be heard and have a voice.

In the meantime I had been blogging for Accounting Tomorrow and started to write longer articles for Accounting Today about what constitutes this “new firm.”

I started to win recognition for my influence, not really understanding it, but even with all of my awards, it still always seemed everything was moving too slow.

So why are we at a tipping point now? Easy. The corporate money has moved. Finally, the software vendors have realized that cloud software does not work in the old firm model. They have realized that in order to sell cloud software their message has to change to one of a “new firm” model. Is this a good thing?

I haven’t decided.

But I do know that the more the evangelists with money spread the word about a better firm culture – it can only make the world a better place for CPAs.

2 Comments

Great article! I wholeheartedly agree that CPAs need to evolve into the Firm of the Future, and need to embrace a collaborative model to fully serve their best clients. By doing so, they will eliminate their client retention risk and experience true organic growth. Financial advisors, who are generally seen as predators by CPAs can actually help CPAs solve complex issues themselves, without having to refer out. It is a model that we use at our firm, the Lombardi Group, quite successfully. Anthony Lombardi was interviewed on this model last year in Accounting Today.com, in an article titled "CPAs Team with Financial Advisors to Help the 'Perfect Client.'

Posted by: sjohnson19 | July 15, 2014 12:33 PM

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It is very interesting that you talk about disrupting the industry. As well as CPAs empowering each other, financial advisors and CPAs can work together to build a stronger brain trust and serve 'A' clients better. I know this sounds far from the norm, but since you are a revolutionary thinker, I thought you'd like to hear about another new model. CPAs and financial advisors no longer have to compete for clients in this new model. Check us out at myperfectclient.com.

Posted by: hapynzfaerie | July 15, 2014 11:08 AM

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