It’s 2017. Do you feel the world changing around you? What are you doing about it?

The world has changed. It’s true and it continues to change very rapidly. Are you keeping up? Would you describe your firm as relevant to today’s demanding customer?

I feel the changes in my own business and I know other managing partners do too. We have a choice on how we choose to react to the changes happening around us and in our firms. Do we move with the times or continue to do business as usual?

I would argue (and often do) that, to remain relevant, we need to evolve with the environment and cultural changes that surround us. Even when it’s painful. And especially when it’s uncomfortable.

However, I now believe that our lack of changing and reacting to the world around us is no longer just impacting our business but our customers’ businesses and regulatory compliance. To the point of malpractice.

Think about it: Who wants to go to a doctor who doesn’t use the latest technology, isn’t aware of new scientific discoveries, and who hasn’t tried the most cutting-edge procedures that will cure diseases faster with less pain?
The ability to use technology is one thing, but the bigger issue that I don’t see being addressed is our own bias. We need to look at how our lens of the world comes into play, leaving us with blind spots that can be damaging. Think about how we fail to ask the correct questions for our customers, and as a result, are missing regulatory compliance issues. It’s time to understand how we fail to recognize that our customers are working differently now and have made changes to their businesses, and therefore have different regulatory compliance issues altogether.

No one said being the CPA and advisor of a Web-based, mobile-driven workforce with multi-state and international compliance issues was going to be easy.

Who is updating the checklists in your firm?

Pay attention

Take as an example a certain “midsized firm” with 100 employees that missed the multi-state and foreign reporting requirements over the course of several years for its customer, a multi-million-dollar Web design firm that does all its work virtually. Why did this happen?

I can only assume the “old-school” partner-in-charge did not realize that over half of the world does virtual work. Maybe your CPA firm doesn’t but the rest of the world does. Why was the question never asked? Or why wasn’t the checklist updated? I know things happen, stuff gets missed. However, I would argue that too many old-school partners’ ideas of business do not match how the world works today. And then what happens? They don’t know the questions that need to be asked.

How have your checklists changed to reflect the right questions to uncover what the new mobile workforce requires? I wonder how old-school firms can even offer advisory services when their practices are lagging in today’s world.

How are we helping customers with the “business” of digital transformation when many firms think being digital means the new Web site created by their marketing department? Wrong answer!

I’m disgusted with our profession. We claim to be our customers’ most trusted advisors. But to what?

How can we speak in an educated manner to help our customers strategically when we are clueless about how we are reacting ourselves to the world changing around us? And yes, your customers sense your fear.

Show me the money

This is beyond the migration to cloud technology. It always has been.

It’s about business innovation and transformation. Not surprisingly, that old-school firm mentioned above lost the customer and the opportunity to sell accounting transformation to their customer. Not only did they blow the compliance piece, but the customer was looking for someone to lead them through their digital accounting transformation and the old-school firm failed to show up. This customer was a long-time client of the firm, through acquisition.

Had the midsized firm reviewed and understood the customer’s openness to change, they could have sold them a large outsourced accounting package and the transformation that comes along with it. Think tens of thousands of dollars. That money is sitting within your firm waiting to be harvested by the digital transformation expert. But instead that person leaves and goes to a “tech-savvy” firm that understands relevance.

Wake up and look around

I hear it all the time: “We’re so busy. We don’t like the cloud technology. We can’t watch our employees from remote locations.” These are old complaints. This is no longer a practice management issue. It is customer need, want and expectation. Years ago, it was the early adopters who pushed the change; today it is Main Street business.

If the loss of business is not a motivator, I don’t know what ever will be. What I do know is that there are a lot of cloud-based firms that are cherry-picking the good customers from the acquisitions the big firms are making. There is no reason for firms such as mine to buy anything as we are organically growing by leaps and bounds. As your customers leave, don’t think that your employees don’t see or understand why they are leaving. Employees are smarter than you think.

We are at pivotal time in our firms. If you are a frustrated employee, it is easy to jump ship and start a firm based in accounting digital transformation. If you are an old-school partner — wake up and start the process of digital transformation within your firm and learn how to sell it as an advisory service.

The world hasn’t ended. In fact, there’s a whole new world of profit waiting for those who understand the radical digital revolution. What are you waiting for?

Jody Padar

Jody Padar

Jody Padar, CPA, MST, is the chief executive officer and principal at New Vision CPA Group and the author of The Radical CPA.