Art of Accounting: Authors panel

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Last Thursday, I was on an authors panel hosted by the Accountants Club of America. Along with me was Becky Livingston, author of The Accountant’s Social Media Handbook, and Hitendra Patil, author of Accountaneur: The Entrepreneurial Accountant. The moderator was Accounting Today editor Michael Cohn, who wrote a pretty complete article later that day. An accompanying photo of me taking notes caught my eye and I want to comment on that here.

Rick Telberg of CPA Trendlines suggested Becky and Hitendra for the panel. While I’ve spoken extensively with Hitendra on the phone, we had never met, and I never spoke to or met Becky beforehand. We had preparatory calls with Michael for that panel so there was some familiarity. Becky also had worked with my Withum partner Jim Bourke, who speaks very highly of her.

Since I did not know them well, I prepared by reading their books and making notes of talking points should I have needed to ask them questions. I also wanted some familiarity about what they would say. Further, I prepared some notes for myself of some points I wanted to be sure I got to mention. At the presentation, I took notes and didn’t realize how many I had until I saw the photo of me writing them. Likewise, I take extensive notes whenever I can and find that it makes it easier for me later on when I write an article or prepare for a speech or want to follow up on something new that I’ve heard about. The many pages of accumulated notes also serve as an idea factory for me.

Here are a few comments I took away from the panel in addition to what was in Michael’s article:

  • Social media cannot be ignored — it is here, will be here, is growing and is replacing earlier forms of communication, networking and client engagement. I believe it was obvious from Becky’s and Hitendra’s comments that effective use of social media needs dedicated and knowledgeable leaders. Many of the large firms, like mine, have in-house social media specialists, but smaller practices can easily engage consultants as an outsourced service.
  • Automation, technology, the cloud, AI, blockchain, robotics, machine learning, virtual assistants and whatever else is out there are no longer new and are becoming ubiquitous, and in some cases, a necessity. However, while many firms say they are aggressively pursuing what’s out there, in some cases it is just lip service because an informal show of hands indicated to me that some basic IT hasn’t yet been adopted by many of the firms represented at the breakfast meeting.
  • Some of the ideas presented indicated that much of the traditional thinking no longer is relevant, and to be competitive we need to rethink how we fulfill our roles as trusted advisors. Accountants are still the premier advisors to our clients, but we need to be steps ahead of the rapidly changing business and financial landscape and the accelerated growth of client-generated use of analytical data.
  • I got a ton of useful tips from Becky and Hitendra, and also from some of the comments from attendees. I am resisting the temptation to list some here, but as I get to use them I’ll likely find a way to present them in the context of the benefits of enhanced client services and practice management in future columns. Many of the ideas can also be found in Becky’s and Hitendra’s books.

It was an enjoyable and highly educational meeting for me and, from the comments I received, for my colleagues. There was also great networking as usual at these meetings. The Accountants Club of America is a 90-year-old social organization of accountants and related professionals that meets about five times a year. Speakers include the top leaders in the profession and current thought drivers. Our next speaker is AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon on Feb. 13, 2019. Barry is an annual fixture at our beginning of year meetings and he usually speaks to a sold-out group. The club’s website is http://accountantsclubofamerica.org/

Any of my, Becky’s or Hitendra’s books can be purchased at www.cpatrendlines.com, and you can get a 25 percent discount on these and any of the books they sell by using discount code: EdSentMe.

A link to last week’s article about the authors panel is available here.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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Practice management Social media Ed Mendlowitz