Generational Viewpoint: Remaining Relevant

This edition of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from WellsColeman, a 34-employee firm located in Richmond, Va. We asked Generation X managing partner George Forsythe, born in 1974, and Millennial CPA Rachel Cassidy, born in 1991, to share their perspectives on ensuring sustainability and relevancy in the profession by answering the following question: “What changes would you like to see to ensure the relevancy of the CPA profession going forward?”


[IMGCAP(1)]The No. 1 issue facing most firms is finding qualified staff. We must think outside the box and break the mold of our traditional talent acquisition and retention methods to overcome this issue. Our profession has to be vigilant about our talent pipeline, making sure to increase qualified staff at all levels and simultaneously reduce leakage from the profession.

In anticipation of continual change and expectations of the next generation, I believe that the American Institute of CPAs’ plans to expand their joint venture with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants will allow our profession to stay ahead of demographic, business and marketplace trends and will place specific attention on the issues important to young CPAs, and I plan to support it. If we also embrace generational differences, leverage technology to overcome geographic barriers, and model work-life integration for all employees, we will begin a new foundation for the profession that will help ensure our relevancy for the future.

We also need to migrate away from the role of historian to that of a trusted advisor. Many CPAs struggle to transition from accounting for history to engineering for the future.

Staffing and proactive advice are directly related. Without proper leverage within our firms, we become more reactionary and operate less within Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II — tasks that are important, yet not urgent. We define Quadrant II tasks in our firm as those that meet our personal highest and best use. Examples include consulting with clients regarding what keeps them awake at night, coaching and mentoring staff to achieve their goals, and spending valuable time away from the office to create family memories. A major challenge to relevancy is the competing demands placed on busy professionals from work, home, community and self. Learning to integrate these aspects and modeling this behavior for staff, clients and family is one way I’m personally working to remain relevant professionally.



[IMGCAP(2)]CPAs need to be willing to adapt to a changing environment, improve tax and accounting education, and increase value-added services provided to clients.

Once CPAs adapt, they must make continual efforts to grow and remain dynamic. Although specific generational needs differ, one similarity exists: the desire for instant information and results. CPAs should provide online resources to clients, use portals that allow clients to access their information, and increase their social media presence. CPAs will provide higher-quality products to clients in a more efficient manner by leveraging technology.

The AICPA has announced that it will be changing the CPA Exam, effective 2017, meaning that the profession has already taken a step in the right direction. I believe the CPA Exam must continuously improve and evolve to ensure that the content and types of questions mirror the current accounting environment and needs of the profession.

There are other opportunities for bettering education. CPAs should give back to the profession by investing time in the classrooms of business and non-business students to increase the competency of future CPAs and enlighten students about the value of working with a trusted accountant. Additionally, firms need to invest in training for employees to ensure continued relevance. Another focus for CPAs should be on educating clients and serving as strategic partners who can help resolve client tax and accounting issues.

Each of these specific goals for ensuring the relevancy of our profession can be met by simply serving clients as a trusted advisor. Merely asking the questions, “How can I assist you or your company?” and “What else can I do to help you?” can instantly add value to the services already being provided to both internal clients (employees) and external clients. Having a go-giver attitude will ensure the relevancy of the CPA profession as all individuals have a desire to feel valued and provide exceptional value to those around them.

This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Marth, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner, of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success.

To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.