Change is the one certainty in all industries. Progress in technology, changes in policy, and changes public opinion are a few of the factors that impact CPA firms and how they work within their team and with clients.
Many preventative measures can be taken to ‘future-proof’ your firm, making certain you will not be left behind as changes occur. But what it truly comes down to is keeping your firm flexible, agile, and adaptable to whatever changes may occur while also finding a balance between change and staying true to your identity as a firm and as individuals.
Change your mindset
Before getting into specifics, a large part of preparing your firm for the future and for change comes from how you view certain aspects of your business: your clients, technology and yourself.
How you view yourself
Preparing your firm for the future starts with one major question: how does your firm provide the most value to others? This can be applied to your employees, clients, and network.
Beginning with your clients, how can your firm provide value to its customers? What does your firm do to differentiate itself from competitors?
To answer these questions, start by identifying what you do well as a firm. It is also beneficial to identify what areas of expertise you are not using for your clients.
One way to prepare your firm for the future is diversifying your offerings.
How you think about your clients
Many clients today are looking at DIY solutions around tax season. For this reason, firms are tasked with proving their value to potential clients. Building connections and relationship instead of transactions is important in today’s tax landscape.
It is also important to look at what is important to your customers. Many customers will have diverse needs and priorities based on what stage of life they are in. Baby boomers are looking toward retirement and are financially comfortable, meaning they probably care less about income taxes.
Different demographics also have different preferences when it comes to technology and interactions. For example, Millennials prefer tech driven solutions but still appreciate face to face interaction with their tax advisor.
Understanding your customer is an important part of making sure your firm is ready for all business.
How you think about technology
The rise of DIY tax software is fueling the commoditization of tax preparation and placing pressure on firms to differentiate. At the same time, client expectations are growing increasingly demanding. While the tax field has not been the most innovative field over the past few hundred years, new tech solutions coming out recently offer many opportunities for firms to take a step forward. Staying up to date with the newest technology is a crucial step forward for firms to remain competitive and improve their flexibility and efficiency.
It is important to understand that technology is a means not an end. Bad software can have negative impacts on your firm. But when used correctly it is the strongest tool at your disposal. It is also important to remember that staying up to date with new software and updates, as well as how to use it, is an important, never-ending process to keeping your firm prepared for the future.
Four tips for helping your firm stay ready for the future
1. Utilize the cloud
Do not underestimate the need for the cloud among your clients and competitors. The cloud makes processes much more convenient for clients and puts your firm at a competitive disadvantage if you are using the cloud while competitors are. The cloud allows for easier collaboration, higher levels of service and helps improve customer retention.
Some major benefits include:
- Remote access
- Being able to access information from anywhere including mobile phones is convenient for you as well as your customers.
- Data security
- With files saved on the cloud, your firm is protected against catastrophe including theft, damages, fires, etc.
- Reduced cost
- Save time and money fixing and administering software locally on your computers.
- Increased efficiency
- The ability to share data between teammates and with clients in real time allows for a much more efficient process.
2. Weed out inefficiencies
Cut out mundane and repetitive tasks, like manual data entry or physical recording. Automating these tasks will save an innumerable amount of time energy, allowing your firm to increase productivity and efficiency.
3. Maximize research capabilities
There are often changes and complexities in tax laws. Being able to stay on top of all the changes and pivot accordingly makes your firm even more valuable to its clients and gives you an edge on the competition. Having strong research capabilities on your team allows your firm to stay ahead of the curve with new complex
4. Attract and retain top talent
According to 2019 PCPS CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, sponsored by the AICPA, attracting and retaining top talent is the largest concern for firms when looking at the future.
When looking at the next generation of accounting professionals, work-life balance is one of the most crucial factors in well-being that influence employment decisions. Having the most up to date technology is an important enabler for allowing flexibility around the work schedule and aids work-life balance.
Staying flexible, adaptable and introspective are all important mindsets to have when getting your firm ready for the future. With the uncertainty and perpetual changes of the future, having the proper attitude and mindset are extremely important, but there are concrete steps you can take now.