Back in December, I was invited to attend the AICPA first ever task force for the NextGen CPA Firm. It was my first trip ever to Raleigh, North Carolina which if you know me, I love to travel. I didn’t get much time to sightsee. It was a quick trip. On the way there I couldn’t help but feeling like I was going to pay homage to the CPA world, the profession that has brought so much opportunity and joy to my life. It was a strange experience to walk through the doors…. I admit I have been numbed a little over time the hard work and skill that it took to get there. I was about to be reminded.
Approximately 20 CPA’s sat in the big board room (mine only fits 6 or 7 on a good day) with one goal in mind. Define key areas the Next Generation CPA firm would need help while navigating a fast and complex world. The PCPS section of the AICPA works with small firms but this could mean firms in size up to 160 professionals. I was overwhelmed. The room was diverse. Auditors, Tax Specialties, IT Consultants from manager positions to firm owners, we all had one goal. To help practitioners be relevant.
Relevance is a broad term but essentially firms and the CPA brand has to keep up with all the changes. We need to not only attract young people to come and work for us but also keep them long term. Succession planning a major issue in my profession is fast becoming one of the major topics. How do older practitioners retire and leave firms with a stable new management team without the skills ever being taught? How do we handle the desire to balance family time and work time? Diversity and Technology also high on the list of issues to be discussed over the next number of months.
As a small firm practitioner I have a different perspective and have been able to be more nibble due to my size to the changes. It takes work to change and fix but it is easier in a smaller organization. It’s a smaller bus for sure. Our profession has to overcome some major challenges and I hope that by the end we will have helped provide more tools to help our clients and successors.
We had multiple breakout sessions over the course of the day. I could hear the frustrations of both large and small firms and they were basically the same. The message. We are ready to change this profession.
Our options are to stay where we are and slowly change, start our own firm or join a more progressive firm to begin with. I realized that I was no longer a cliff jumper but an established firm. I am progressive in my ideas….. and those were hard to find. I was the third option. The responsibilities of that third option were great. We are true pilgrims with no map in which to find the end destination and a map wouldn’t work anyways because there is never an end. Now until the day I retire I have to be relevant.
Next, I observed that we were still talking about women and diversity in the work place. It’s 2014. Over and over again the topic of family/life balance came up. A topic that is generally contributed to women but men were saying they wanted it. So why is this still considered a female issue? Women in leadership. What? Should we let them lead? What? Leadership is not a female or male issue. There is no definition that says a leader is a male or female. Ok I get it many women want to have kids BUT so do men. Many women stay home with their children but so do men. I get the traditional roles I do. I started my business after I had my daughter and wanted to work from home BUT what does that have to do with my leadership skills?
Which now leads me to this final statement….. Technical skill does not equate to good leadership. We have mixed this up somehow in the CPA world. One gets promoted based upon the number of hours billed, skill level and maybe the book of business they have acquired. None of these require someone to learn leadership skills, soft skill training or even ethics. Practice management is a learned skill but very few staff are included in what that is.
After a full day of discussing the world’s problems with 20 other CPA’s I was worn out….. but hopeful. These 20 CPA’s are shaping the future of my profession. I get to participate, inspire and speak into others’ lives in a way I never imagined.
As I was leaving I saw in the hallway a long line of plaques of all the AICPA logo’s over the years. It reminded me of the length of time our profession has remained and all the change our predecessors had to endure. It’s a changing of the guard again, a time for a new generation to come into our own and be leaders.
Our mission is to continue to make sense of an ever-changing, fast and complex world. Relevant to the world we live in.
If you’re looking for a relevant and progressive CPA firm please contact us. We would love to help you grow your business, save you money and educate you on simplifying your financials.