The recession isn’t over and many firms are still struggling to keep pace with not only economic changes, but a rapidly evolving technology and regulatory environment as well, and if they do not learn how to adapt they will be left behind.

This was the primary message given in a morning keynote speech by Maryland Association of CPAs executive director Tom Hood at the Accounting Today Growth & Profitability Summit, here.

In his session on what he described as succeeding in “the new normal,” Hood explained five key areas of the current business environment — or “the five Cs” — that will not slow down any time soon and that firms need to learn how to address. These include the pace of overall change, competition, complexity, compliance with new standards and regulations, and convergence of globalization and technology.

“We are not going to be able to stop the waves [of change] from coming, but we can learn how to surf. There are new ways of thinking about our firms, our clients, and our people,” said Hood. “What leadership does has not changed; what’s different is how leadership gets it done. It’s about connecting and collaborating [with your staff]. I know there is a lot to learn, but your rate of learning has to be greater than or equal to the rate of change.”

Hood explained that there are several things firms must do to succeed in this “new normal,” including continuous strategic planning, developing a collaborative environment, establishing a culture that focuses on people, seeking opportunities and building on strengths, harnessing new skills, and investing in new tools.

There were also a few key research points made about the current business environment that CPAs were urged to take note. For one, the Aspen Institute found that the current rate of change is likely to be four to seven times faster than in the last decade.

In addition, at a recent American Institute of CPAs Major Firms Group meeting — which comprises members of the top 100 firms in the country — one of the top concerns was rethinking their own business models.

“When new technology hits, old business models collapse, and while it’s going to be disruptive going through it, there will be bright spots,” said Hood, who advised decision-makers at CPA firms to stay current with technology trends, particularly with cloud computing, mobile applications and social media. To achieve this, he advised them to listen to the growing number of younger staff members.

“A changeover of generations is happening, maybe not as fast as some think because ‘the Boomers’ are staying longer,” said Hood. “But if you are not developing the pipeline [of younger accountants], you will be at a disadvantage.”

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