[IMGCAP(1)]There’s been a shift in our industry over the past 20 years to commoditize mainstream accounting services.

While it’s important for our clients to understand our offerings and their value, the accounting profession needs a long-term, high-level strategy to continue reaching for new heights in terms of client service. This means no more focusing solely on accounting and tax expertise. These six recommendations for creating top-tier, industry-leading CPA firms are the result of a study done on current and former managing partners from top firms.

Be a problem solver: In his book “The Go Giver,” Bob Burg states, "Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them." Find out what problems your clients, staff or community have and help build a solution. The solution may not be geared directly around a tax or accounting issue, but if there is a financial solution, the CPA should be involved in ensuring a positive result. To identify potential problems, read the local newspaper business section, trade journals or online news and see how the major issues affect your clients or staff.

Be a role model: Clients seek financial expertise. CPAs need to be modeling behaviors associated with being a financial expert. It doesn’t mean white-knuckling the pocketbook; it means having practical, realistic personal examples to share about how you use your time, opportunities and cash flow.

Be a team leader: CPAs typically have multiple teams focused on multiple tasks. Whether it’s with your internal staff working to complete a job or with your client and their staff to provide better service, you add value by leading your team. Leadership can take the form of knowledge, experience, attitude or ideas. Whatever your best quality is, give it to your team to help lead them to successful results.

Be objective: In the book “A Whole New Mind,” Daniel Pink stated, "Encourage people to look at their lives—in particular their work—and ask themselves whether they would still do what they're doing now if they had 20 million in the bank.” This is an incredibly powerful tool. Be objective with staff to ensure that they are meeting the goals in their personal and professional lives. And if they aren’t, question them to help them find their passion.  Be objective with your clients to ensure that they are 100 percent on board with their major investments. And if they aren’t, challenge them to mold their projects into their passions.

Be a communicator: The next time you consider writing a long email to a client or a colleague, consider picking up the phone instead, or even better, invite them to lunch or coffee. Change, advancement, collaboration and development rarely occur through passive mediums (such as email). It happens via face-to-face interaction. Find the mode of communication that works best for you and have others join you in those mediums.

Be a teacher: This goes for both staff and clients. Staff training is obvious, but it needs to be ongoing through the many phases of an employee’s career. Teaching clients when to counsel an accountant and how to recognize positive and negative business signals will create a more fluid, profitable relationship for both of you.

The leading CPA changes lives. It’s about making others better than what they were before. As a CPA, you have the opportunity to build a better future. Being a leading CPA is about taking all those hours you spent in accounting, tax, audit, financial analysis and economics courses and applying this knowledge to make your community a better place for your children to live. Go out today, and start making a difference.

Adam Blitz, CPA, is a manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek LLP in Fresno, Calif.

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