How to reinvent yourself for the AI-driven world

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My mother-in-law, Merri, is a master seamstress. She spent her entire career perfecting her craft to achieve a mastery of needle and thread, working for Patagonia for many years. Then, about four years ago, Merri was laid off from her job. At the time, her role was redundant to what could be accomplished by machines.

Her profession was disrupted several times — first by the invention of the sewing machine, followed by the assembly line, then automated robotics and artificial intelligence technology.

You might be wondering what my mother-in-law has to do with the accounting profession or AI. AI is the talk of the town these days, and its application to the tax and accounting profession means automating tasks that we are accustomed to billing for by the hour or form.

There are three key skills you’ll want to start building right now to propel you into the future:

  • Building a vision and strategy for your firm, as well as helping your clients do the same for their businesses.
  • Becoming a personal business coach, leveraging your vast experience and the data you have access to as your clients’ tax and accounting professional; and
  • Thinking differently about client relationship management.

Strategic thinking: Create a vision and strategy for your firm

Your vision and strategy is your desired destination, and your plan is your roadmap to get there. Step back and ask how you’re going to move forward as a firm.

Three steps for creating vision and strategy include the following:

  • Bring in thought partners: trusted clients, staff, mentors and key contacts.
  • Think “ideal state” first.
  • Balance ambiguity and specificity.

Coaching using data insights

To coach, you are using all of the elements available to you to offer guidance, including data from your client’s financials, experience working with other similar and not-so-similar clients, the tax and accounting profession and technology. This starts with building your own capabilities around developing a vision, strategy and plan for your own firm to help your clients build one for theirs, and then continue to evolve it as you learn and grow.

Use tools and technology to help you gain data insights, pair that with your expertise and coach your clients to success.

Client relationship management

You’ll want to move away from giving tax advice with the tax return to giving advice at the point of need, letting the tax return become more of an “afterthought,” if you will. Now think about the cadence in which you meet with these clients. Once or twice a year is not enough. You can’t possibly have an ongoing coaching relationship with them if it’s not at least monthly, bi-weekly or even weekly.

It all starts with establishing the clients’ goals, hopes and dreams, which feeds your strategy. Then, help them build a plan to get there. After that, meet regularly to review how they are performing against that plan. You hold them accountable to the steps you both agreed to in the creation of the plan, or adjust the strategy based on what might have changed since you built it.

Use regular meetings to ensure they are adhering to budgets and that business performance is trending in the right direction. This is what they really want and need. They just don’t typically have the internal discipline to actually do it — that’s where you come in.

If it’s possible for Merri, at 62 years young, to reinvent herself for this new world, then it’s possible for you. Start building these skills today.

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