Does it seem like everywhere you turn there's a new issue or problem bearing down on you and your firm? A new piece of software that's going to sap the value of everything you do? A new demographic trend that's going to destroy your business? A new piece of legislation that's going to wreak havoc with your service offerings? A new technology you can't survive without?

If it feels that way, it's because it's true.

I've mentioned in this space before that the accounting profession is facing unprecedented waves of change, which we have proceeded to cover month after month. And the more we cover it, the more I realize that it's got to feel a little overwhelming. You're being told to change the way you recruit and retain the staff who deliver the services you're supposed to radically reinvent to the clients you're supposed to fire, or at least offer much better service by using technology tools that you should have adopted yesterday, before new regulations and legislation render the whole mess obsolete and ruin the succession plan you haven't begun to develop, let alone implement. Oh, and you're supposed to write a blog about it, or at least tweet it out.

The temptation to ignore it all and focus on your day-to-day work must be enormous. But that won't work -- these issues won't go away.

Instead, the answer lies in a little triage. Look at your firm, and look at the issues, and decide which are most likely to affect you, your staff, and your clients, and on what time frame.

Here are a few examples:

  • Social media. Are you blessed with stodgy clients in old-school industries? While you can't ignore social media entirely, it may mean that you don't have to focus on it as intensely as if your clients were all in Silicon Valley.
  • Succession planning. How old are you and your partners? If you're a relatively young firm, you can put it off -- though not for too long. If you're a relatively old firm, maybe you can focus on getting bought, or just plan to turn out the lights.
  • The cloud. Start-ups and very small firms need to think about the cloud right now, because it offers them both cost-savings and tremendous leverage in terms of capabilities. Larger firms, especially those with significant sunk costs in software and hardware, can afford to take their time and ease into the cloud -- maybe with a backup and disaster recovery plan, which you should have anyway.
  • Recruitment and retention. How desperately do you really need people, and over what kind of time period? If you've got too much work, can you outsource it, hire temps, find a way to automate it, or just fire the client? Then use the time you've bought yourself to figure out a solid long-term staffing plan.
  • Client service. Yes, you have to be much more high-touch with your clients -- but not necessarily all of them. Start your new regime with your very best clients; they're the ones who bring in the money.

Look at every issue that may affect you and your firm through the same lenses -- how important is to me, my staff and my clients? Is it urgent? Can I pay someone else to take care of it, or find a workaround? Whittle the list down to only those things that are both important to you and yours, and that can't be put off. Then pick two or three of those that remain (if there are less than two or three, you're either going out of business or scoring too leniently).
Really focus on dealing with those few issues -- and while you do, pay attention to your process, what works and what doesn't. That way, when you're finished, you'll be better prepared to move on to the next few issues, and the next few, and the next few after that ... .

I did mention that they're not going away, didn't I?

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