It was Gandhi who famously counseled that we must “be the change we want to see in the world,” and while it’s probably safe to assume that he was not thinking about, say, the move to value-added services or managing millennials, this is one of those rare pieces of advice that’s fractal: It is valuable and applicable at whatever level you are operating on. Whether you’re trying to free a nation from colonialism or get your kids to do their chores, Gandhi’s advice holds up — and it’s also true for trying to survive the waves of change that are engulfing the accounting profession.
For change is coming, no doubt about it — these days, this publication sometimes seems like little more than a record of all of those changes. Like so many other parts of the modern economy, the accounting profession faces a wide and deep restructuring of its foundations. This can be overwhelming, particularly when you have no say in or control over the changes. But there are ways you can begin to come to grips with it, to internalize it and act on it so that you can actually come out ahead of it — if you’re willing to make the investment of time and resources now.
Here are a handful of ways to begin:
- Start thinking about the future. Spend an hour a week researching some change that’s coming your way, or your clients’. Dig deep until you understand it and what its impact is likely to be — then move on to another change.
- Then start talking about it. Share what you’ve learned with your clients and your staff. Encourage them to look forward, and to think forward; to engage with the future, rather than just letting it wash over them.
- Mentor someone. Even if your firm doesn’t require it, spending regular time listening to and advising younger staff will be as valuable for you as it is for them. If there are no staff for you to mentor, look to the accounting students at local colleges.
- Start cold-calling your clients. That means out of the blue, and unconnected with any current deliverables. Begin by asking them strategic, blue-sky kind of questions, to elevate your understanding of them, then move on to sharing useful information about their industry. Last, start offering them bits of high-level advice — all in service of preparing them to think of you as a high-level advisor, not a compliance provider.
- Engage with technology. Become familiar with your firm’s systems — how they run, how they’re protected, how they’re backed up. Find the most tech-savvy person in your firm and ask them for tips. It’s a commonplace that most users only take advantage of a small portion of any given software’s capabilities; aim to up your percentage on every solution you use.
- Wrap your head around blockchain. It’s not as complex as you might think, and an hour or two of reading will put you ahead of most of the people you know. Then you can bring them up to speed, and start figuring out how it’s going to impact accounting.
- Work remotely one day a week. This will help you test your firm’s capabilities to make sure they function properly, and almost as important, it will give cover to those staff members who really want to (or have to) work outside the office.
- Imagine yourself in the future. Outline specific ways your day, your practice and your firm will be different. Pick the ones that excite you the most and figure out how to start working toward them.
Remember, you can watch the change — and potentially be engulfed by it — or you can be the change.