The virtual reality of tomorrow’s CPA firm, today

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Are you telling your clients and potential new clients what you do, or are you explaining to them why you do it?

No one said it better than Simon Sinek, one of my favorite expositors on leadership, in his now famous TED Talk: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it!” Today’s millennial generation has grown up in the arms of Apple, Google and Amazon, three incredible companies that are very good at explaining why they do what they do. An entire generation has responded to why, not what. This demographic, these millennials, this virtual generation, has an appetite for why, so I ask you again: Are you telling your people what you do, or explaining to them why you do it? An entire generation is waiting for you to tell them why.

So, what is the virtual reality of tomorrow’s CPA? Why is it important? And how can that reality become yours today?

To expand upon the future, we must first go back and explore the past, specifically the evolution of the family office. With the single-family office, or SFO, one person or one office is charged with the responsibilities of managing the business of the ultra-affluent family it serves, up to and including the family business. Those responsibilities included hiring and developing the personnel necessary to serve as that family office while addressing the overall needs of the family on a multigenerational basis. As the FO or SFO evolved, the multiple-family office, or MFO, was born. This multi-family office model allowed the manager of the MFO the ability to manage the overall responsibilities of multiple families, all within one family office “suite.” Same basic drill as the SFO, except with the MFO, there was, realistically for the first time, actual leverage. No more having to put all your eggs into one basket. Fast-forward to today and that leveraged option has evolved into the virtual family office, or VFO.

I believe the answer to what tomorrow’s CPA firm will look like is a virtual answer. Both CPA and client alike will gravitate towards that virtual solution and that solution is the evolution of today’s family office, the VFO.

Yes, the virtual reality of tomorrow’s CPA firm looks a lot like a family office, only better. Instead of having to leave your firm and become attached to only one client as in the SFO model, or a handful of clients in the MFO model, you get to deliver the family office experience to your best and most important affluent families without ever having to leave your firm or stop being the CPA you always wanted to be. You can be the solution that tomorrow’s wealthiest clients are looking for, today. You can do all that and more virtually, as a VFO. This natural evolution from time sheets and hourly billing, to value billing, contractual agreement of fees and ultimately “significance billing” has you becoming your best clients’ best answer as their family office. This virtual platform is waiting to deliver. Are you in a position to do the same?

The VFO is just the natural progression from antiquated accounting and cloud-based services to a virtual solution. Being able to deliver the family office experience, virtually, has less to do with technology and more to do with the generation it will serve.

This is a generation that’s comfortable with having technology relationships that help them do many things. Because of the relationships they have with companies like Amazon, Apple and Google that bring them answers instantaneously, this virtual generation has learned to embrace the simplicity and efficiency of leveraged relationships. The virtual family office could help you, the CPA, be their next important relationship. Why? Because the audience that you’ll be serving, the generation that will be your most important clients, has an appetite for exactly that.

No, the family office is not new, but the time has come for the VFO. Being able to virtually deliver the family office experience to your most important clients puts you, the CPA, in a position to be the answer and the solution — the answer to what the firm of the future will look like and the solution that tomorrow’s most important clients will be looking for.

Tomorrow’s affluent generation doesn’t want you to move into their business. They don’t expect you to have all the answers, and they don’t need you to have an office full of experts. What they want is for you to be the answer to the answers. They need you to be the solution to the solutions. They expect you to be the one place they go first, and the only place they need to go. And a properly engineered VFO can help you do and be just that.

The key is the leveraged relationships you will develop. Amazon is leverage, Google is leverage, Apple is leverage. One relationship with any of those brings an abundance of opportunity and solutions. You need to find the Apple, the Amazon, the Google for you. Find the virtual family office footprint that best fits you, or develop one on you own.

You don’t need dozens of “someones.” You need someone who IS someone. You don’t need someone that does something, you need someone who IS something. You don’t need someone who has the answers, you need someone who IS the answer. You need to find people who have leverage behind them and develop that relationship. That leveraged relationship, coupled with the other leveraged relationships you’ve developed, will provide abundance for you and your best clients. This makes you different. This gives you an attractive story going forward. These leveraged situations are out there; you just need to look.

All you will need is a handful of strategic, “leveraged” relationships that can help you do what needs to be done. They don’t have to be in your office. This will be your virtual team. This is the beauty and efficiency of the VFO. Your most important clients don’t need them to be in your office. They just need you to be the place they go to get them. These leveraged relationships must be developed, and your commitment of the time to do so is key. Time is the issue. Time has always been the issue. Re-evaluate where you are investing your time and make good choices there.

Today’s Traditional Model

The Virtual Family Office Model

Remember what you are delivering. Remember your new job description: providing time and comfort. Yes, time and comfort, in that order. First you give them your time, then you make them feel comfortable operating in the sandbox their net worth has put them in. Your capacity to deliver on your job description falls firmly within the framework of the strength of the relationship you have with that client.

The future is truly a matter of relationships, intimacy and time.

Relationships: You must develop great ones! This is the engine that will drive the future significance of your profession.

Intimacy: You go nowhere without it! This is the oil that make the engine purr.

Time: It doesn’t require any more than you’re already investing today. This is the fuel you put in that sparks the engine into action.

This is a better story, this is a better way, and this is a better life, all driven by the needs of a new generation of ultra-affluent clients. This is the virtual reality of tomorrow’s CPA firm, today. Will you be ready? Are you willing to change?

Historically, the opportunities born out of radical change have shaped the future. The evolution of transportation, for example, was driven by agents of change and the future of transportation was limited only by the imagination. While people were still looking at their horse to be the answer, Henry Ford made the bold statement, “You don’t need a faster horse. You need a car!” And along came the automobile. Today’s CPA profession is changing, unrecognizably, at a feverish pace, driven by the desires and needs of a new generation that will be served by it. Today’s CPA doesn’t need a faster horse, they need a car, with a completely different engine that’s going to drive you forward, powered and fueled by relationships, intimacy and time, driven to be important relevant and significant in the lives of those who look to you to be the answer.

Your future awaits you. Now go and create it. An entirely new affluent generation waits in the balance, waiting for you to tell them why.

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