How do you keep your firm competitive in a world where technology and social media change and evolve almost daily? And how do you determine what you really need to keep current in the profession and serve your clients’ needs—without becoming overwhelmed?
There’s no denying these two questions can be difficult to answer. But they’re questions you need to consider sooner rather than later—and preferably now, because continuous disruptive innovation is changing our profession at an unprecedented rate.
Let me start with a definition of disruptive innovation, as originally defined by Professor Clayton M. Christensen of the Harvard Business School:
Disruptive innovation is a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market, and then relentlessly moves up the marketing, eventually displacing established competitors.
So what’s disrupting the tax and accounting profession? Well, for a start, the changing workforce, with baby boomers retiring and younger people—the tech generation, which is fast becoming the largest percentage of the overall workforce—shifting the tide. A similar shift is happening on the client side, too, with that same new generation demanding the technology and services that are as natural to them as breathing. And then there’s new technology and social media. Keeping up with the rapid pace of change in that area can be a full-time job on its own.
All these changes mean it’s imperative to stay relevant. If you don’t start embracing innovation now, your firm will be sorely challenged to keep up. It’s a challenge new accounting firm Squires and Lee, PLLC of Campbellsville, KY is determined to meet head-on.
“We’re starting a brand new firm with brand new technology in all aspects,” says partner Spring M. Squires. “We want our office to be efficient, we want our clients to have a remarkable experience at our office and with our portals and website, and we want to save time and money in the process.”
What Squires and Lee’s management gets is something that all firms need to understand: that technology is a partner in and of itself—and one of the most helpful partners you’ll ever have. Technology enables your firm to become more efficient in its day-to-day operational work so you can focus on other important business functions like development of products and services, sales and marketing and firm management, keeping your firm competitive with the upstarts working their way up the market.
Becoming more efficient through technology also allows you and your staff to focus your energy on giving your clients a more customer-centered experience, something that’s quickly becoming the key to client retention for firms. Your existing and prospective customers have many options for their accounting and tax work. So isn’t it time to set yourself apart in ways that go above and beyond their expectations?
Here are some key points to consider as you work to keep your edge:
- Work smarter not harder—”In today’s world, where tax laws and regulations change almost daily, everyone has to work faster and more efficiently than ever to keep up,” says Squires. By analyzing where you’re spending time in operations, you’ll be able to identify areas where you can apply more efficient processes. The best way to do an analysis is to get your entire staff involved in a discussion to talk through the steps of your current processes. You’ll be surprised how many steps you can eliminate when you all work together. Invite your customers into the conversation, too—it’s a great way to embrace transparency and make changes that positively affect everyone.
- Use technology to your advantage, not your detriment—Once you’ve identified areas where you can become more efficient, ask yourself if there’s any technology out there that can help you attain your goals. For instance, integrated software reduces redundant data entry by only requiring you to enter data once. The data is then updated automatically in other areas of the application, or in other products depending on the programs you own. Eliminating duplicate data entry is a goal all firms should strive for. What other areas can you identify where a technological solution might work?
- Leverage social media to help you through the disruption—Social media visibility not only keeps your firm relevant, it helps you stay on top of trends and even attract new talent. It’s also one of the best ways to see how other firms stay efficient and marketable. Why reinvent the wheel when there are some great examples and best practices already out there? So take a close look at firm websites, LinkedIn accounts and tweets that appeal to you, and see how you can leverage their innovative ideas and messages for your own firm.
Staying focused on your customers’ experience with your firm is one of the best ways to cut through the noise of change. When you trust them to guide you to the technologies you should be adopting, you’re creating not only a great customer experience, but a space for success!