[IMGCAP(1)]Last September, Accounting Today published the thoughts shared by “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” in an in-depth article, “T100 Extra: The Most Important Issues Facing the Profession.” From the more than 18,000 words expressed by the influencers, I identified the 31 most critical words that truly reflect their wisdom about the real “challenges” facing the Accounting profession today.
These words are so powerful that they could very well become the “Strategic and Tactical Practice Development Blueprint in Just 31 Words” for any firm for years to come.
Here are those 31 words:
Look again, very carefully.
These 31 words are differently sized because they carry different weights depending upon the severity of the challenge.
For example, the words “generation” and “talent” have the strongest emphasis. It indicates that the Top 100 Influencers feel that all firms will need to create strategies to deal with generational changes in behavior and aspirations and almost fight a war to attract talent to their firms. Other words in this list convey different factors that you want to think about.
I consciously omitted the word "technology" from this list because the word “disruption” is the result of technological innovation we are experiencing in recent times. As we all know, technology is only a means to an end. Technology is indeed causing a disruption to the traditional business models of Accounting firms.
Take an even closer look at these 31 words again. You will find some of those words to be more relevant to the situations specific to your practice. I am keen to learn if there are any other words that you would want to include in this list. Please share your thoughts.
The Most Important Question for Every Accounting Firm to Answer
I then discussed, debated, deciphered and concluded that from all of this brainstorming, there emerges a “do-or-die” question that every firm must find an answer, if it wants to avoid extinction and grow sustainably. Here is the do-or-die question.
“HOW will Accounting firms
remain SUSTAINABLY RELEVANT,
in the wake of DISRUPTION of business models,
to INNOVATIVELY CREATE and COMMUNICATE
NEW VALUE that the NEXT GENERATIONS
will EXPERIENCE and APPRECIATE?”
The 11 Commandments:
That one question leads to a "Future-Readiness" checklist of 11 things that any accounting firm will need to focus on.
1. How: You would need to create a list of the ground level actions or to-dos.
2. Sustainably: Not just finding new things or new ways to do things at your firm, it is critically important for you to envision if those actions will be sustainable in the long run.
3. Relevant: Whatever you will do in future has to be relevant to your clients' future, your future clients and employees.
4. Disruption: It is not a question of "whether" it will affect your practice; the real question is "when." Answering the "when" will tell you how much time you have to transform your practice.
5. Innovatively: It is not enough to do new things or do old things in new ways. It is important to do them innovatively because every firm worth its salt will probably do the same things that you will do in the future.
6. Create: It will not be enough to add new services to your mix. You will need to create new offerings that fill particular gaps in the market. It will give you a head-start that your competitors will take some time to catch up with.
7. Communicate: Of course, it is not enough to just create new services and processes. You will need to communicate them in such a way that people (prospects, clients and employees) understand the value.
8. New Value: How will your clients differentiate between the value you have delivered so far and that you will deliver in future? They need to be able to "sense" the new value.
9. Next Generations: You want to be with your clients for their lifetime. The new clients coming in will more and more come from the next generations. Your "value" and "new value" has to address their specific challenges and aspirations.
10. Experience: As technology totally disrupts the way accounting is being done, your accounting services will become an "experience" for clients. From a simple phone call to discussions about their most complex financial situations, your interactions with them will create and nurture (or destroy) that "customer experience."
11. Appreciate: All of the above is not enough if clients don't appreciate what you do for them. They must get the feeling that they have been in your sincere care for them to "appreciate" (and hence pay for) the value.
What is the Answer?
Each comparable firm (in terms of size, location, expertise, service mix and experience) will find more or less similar answers to this question. But the difference between “distinct and extinct” will be one word.
Action. Rather, two words: nimble action.
Do you agree?
Hitendra R. Patil is chief operating officer of Pransform, a firm that focuses on providing life-liberating work choices for accountants, helping “practice transformation”, “process transformation” and “profit transformation.”
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