You can't read any industry publication today without hearing about the movement to, and the "crazy" practitioners who are celebrating, a new way of doing business. This cadre of crazy accounting professionals is calling for others to redefine their firms (and lives) by moving away from the traditional business model. These professionals are pushing a holistic approach to accomplish this and help their fellow practitioners create the "new firm."
First and foremost, it's important to understand what all the thought leaders are saying about a new model, and then understand that all the conversations are still a bit disjointed. Those who have been preaching a new way of doing business are just now starting to understand how it all comes together, and how today's new firm should operate. We are all still learning, and there is no perfect model yet, but we are much farther along the path than we were just a few years ago.
I see many firms, from big to small, that have started the transformation and are at various stages ... while there are still others that don't know how to react to change, and stagnate. No matter the stage of the journey, all firms can move forward. These columns are dedicated to providing you with the elements required to create your own "new" firm - from a practice management perspective. I can offer advice based on my own firm transformation, including information on how outside forces are challenging me to find new solutions for my small-business services and other issues encountered in running a new-age practice.
I would like to start with the most popular new-age topics in the profession: the cloud, value pricing and social media. There are a lot of thought leaders selling all these things and the necessity of each for running a successful practice. I submit that it's not about the technology, pricing model or social media! Don't get me wrong, all of these items are part of the transformation, but what it's really about is the pace of information sharing within the world today. This is what has rocked the boat and disrupted the "old firm model." The old way of doing business doesn't meet today's customers' needs or the needs of today's accounting professionals. This means that the firm model is broken and requires a rebuild from the ground up -- which includes changes in technology, pricing models and social media integration. You see the flow?
I believe the model has been broken for many years. The mere quantity of work and a compressed tax season are key reasons why it has yet to be fixed. Who has the time, right? However, with all the new mandates and workload issues, the time couldn't be more perfect for change.
We as professionals already feel the pain. We now have the level of technology required to create a better working and personal life. We also have access to multiple online learning forums that make it easy to collaborate with other professionals and access the experience and knowledge of our peers. The questions to be asked now are: Why do we want to change? Why do we need to change? Why do we need to do this now?
I'm going to challenge you to answer these questions. While I don't know your specific answers, I can offer my own. I know why I started my journey to the "new" firm six years ago. I knew there was a better way. Although I joined my father's firm (figuratively and literally!) and inherited some legacy clients, I still didn't have the baggage most firms do. I essentially had a blank slate ... free to transform the firm as needed. And that's exactly what I did. So I ask you, if you had a blank slate, what would be the first thing you told a new client about how you run your firm?
We need to implement change more than ever ... build the new firm that will meet the needs of clients now and into the future. And yes, there are ways to bring kicking and screaming partners and clients along, but the key to that is you. Technology and other elements allow us to create firms to meet the accelerating needs of today's clients (and our increasingly younger, tech-savvy staffers). We need to be social, mobile and global in order to remain relevant in the coming years. Why do we need to make this change now? Because it's going to take us some time to make the journey. Be your firm's change-maker, and start your transformation today.
Jody Padar, CPA, MST, is CEO and principal of New Vision CPA Group, as well as an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College. She is part of the Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various technologies and taxation.
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