The accounting firm of the future looks something like this: no dress code, no walls over four feet high throughout the office with the exception of a few conference rooms, and no billable hours.
Let me say that again: no billable hours!
Relax, unwind, and be open-minded about the future of the accounting firm.
NO DRESS CODE
Hopefully you have hired employees not because of the way they look, but rather because of their education, future potential, productivity history and experience. With that being said, why do I as the employer need to tell my staff what to wear and when to wear it? If I am giving responsibility to my employees, I should at least be able to trust that they can determine for themselves what to wear!
But what if a client comes in the office and sees a bunch of people in shorts and T-shirts, what would they think of these professional services? Your culture dictates your client's expectations. If you incorporate the No Dress Code concept into your firm, you can tell your client that not having a dress code fosters diversity and enhances your employees' ability to challenge one another for greater results and efficiency, among other things. Plus, we are comfortable, happy and productive!
Sorry to you, "manager with 15 years of experience" -- get over it! For too long, you have been holed up in your office telling people you are unable to have a two-minute powwow because you are too busy with an overloaded client project list.
There is very little that goes on in the office that is confidential inside the walls of an firm. Yes, information that is discussed inside the office should not be discussed in public locations, but very rarely when a team is working on a project together is it efficient to have the team split up by paper-thin walls.
With the accessibility of laptop plugins, the firm of the future will have user stations around large desks so that teams that are working on projects together can sit together, communicate, listen and hear all of the conversation surrounding a specific client. Discussions no longer have to happen multiple times as everybody hears real time about what the clients' needs and expectations are.
For those occasional private discussions, the firm of the future should ensure that they have enough private meeting spaces or conference areas.
NO BILLABLE HOURS
When a client comes to you with a problem, they rarely ask, "How many billable hours do I need to purchase to fix the problem?" They probably ask, "How much will the project cost?" which should be entirely dependent on the value you provide, rather than the time it will take you to complete the project.
Rather than discuss the disadvantages of the billable hour, I want to focus on the opportunities that not having billable hours creates. No billable hours means that everyone in your office can stop timing themselves on each project, giving your team more time to be productive in creating something of value. In addition, by focusing on the project, you end up concentrating on improving the process of the project, which is the point that creates the most value for your firm.
Furthermore, the No Billable Hour concept sets the stage for creative thinking and action. The shift to creative problem-solving alleviates the stagnation that occurs when CPAs just follow last year's inefficient process and hope for the best.
The future of the accounting firm should focus on changing the world working with one client at a time, not worrying about one's billable hour goals. In this age of constant distraction, concentrate on efficiencies that your firm can generate and have fun at the same time.
Adam Blitz, CPA, is a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek LLP in Fresno, Calif. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @getblitzed.
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