CPA comedian Greg Kyte and accounting firm consultant Gale Crosley suggested ways for accountants to grow their practices during keynote addresses kicking off Accounting Today’s Growth & Profitability Summit 2014 on Sunday in Boca Raton, Fla.

Kyte’s theme was overcoming the risk-averse culture of the accounting profession. In an entertaining talk, he urged accountants to regularly take risks, including the risks that he has taken pursuing his passion for standup comedy while still working as an accountant. “Risk has become a dirty word in our profession,” he said.

Kyte described how he took various risks, including how he took his brother’s prized car for a joy ride as a teenager and once did an opening act for musical parodist Weird Al Yankovic, contending with hostile fans of Weird Al.

“You need to regularly and intentionally take risks at your firm because profits come from risk, passion is discovered through risk, and culture is crafted by risk,” he said. “And you can structure your risks in such a way that you cannot lose.”

Kyte noted that accountants are used to dealing with change, including constantly changing regulations. “Accountants have a superhuman power of dealing with change, as long as it’s rammed down your throat,” he said.

He cited examples of how accountants can overcome constant changes, such as new tax laws. “You guys are accountants and when the fiscal cliff came, it was a rough busy season, but we made it,” he recalled. “That’s regulatory change. We didn’t know what it was going to be. We knew it was probably coming, but we developed systems and we handled it like pros. Regulatory change is like a basketball, and accountants are the Harlem Globetrotters.”

Gale Crosley, CPA, of Crosley Company, described how markets are becoming more competitive for accountants now that the economy has emerged from the recession. “Today we’re going to talk about the markets as they are now unfolding and not the markets as we used to know them,” she said. “This place is heating up.”

She noted that many factors are converging to cause complexity for accountants, including standards and regulations. The number one indicator of a good market is whether it is big enough. “Competition has shrunk our market so the number of buyers is fewer,” said Crosley.

“Our local markets have come under attack,” she added. “They’re shrinking.”

She noted that traditional tactics for winning new clients won’t create as much growth anymore, such as banker breakfasts, lawyer lunches and client cocktails in the evening.

“The new model is strategic, leader driven and specialist-driven,” she said.

She advised accountants to use a revenue segmentation model and to investigate from the outside in, adopting a persona in the style of the TV detective Columbo.

“Show up with a whole different persona: an investigator or a reporter,” she said. “It’s time to get strategic. The key is to find a unique strategy combination in terms of services, distribution channels and target buyer groups. Align your interests with your channel.”

She advised accountants to be more aware of the actual market, matching their services with distribution channels and target buyer groups.

“Create a leader-driven approach,” she said. “This is the first foundational step. A leader-driven approach is one that takes into account that we will have leaders leading growth and not just doers doing growth.”

Crosley also emphasized the role of using new technology. “This next decade belongs to the technologists and tech consultants,” she said. “Technology is the game changer.”

Crosley advised accountants to surround themselves with potential. “The role of the segment leader is to be responsible for the strategic health of your firm,” she said. “A winning combination is growth enablers, innovation, specialization and technology.”

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