New Horizons for CPAs

The current economic uncertainty brings new responsibility and opportunity for CPAs. After attending a recent meeting of the directors of the local chambers of commerce and economic development agencies and listening to their comments it started me thinking about what CPAs do and what we need to do.

People laid off from their jobs are starting new businesses without any sense of what to do or how to go about it. Existing small businesses are facing an unfriendly business environment never before encountered. On top of all this, retirees have seen their savings go down the tube. People contemplating retirement now have lost their dream of how they planned to spend their golden years.

Teaching CPE classes all across the country has brought me in contact with thousands of CPAs and provided me with a good understanding of where they focus as well as their strengths and weaknesses. For the most part the focus has been on taxes and accounting. While this may have been where clients needed help in the past, this isn’t what they need now. Clients need help just surviving and don’t have a lot of options.

As CPAs we have the training and ability to crunch the numbers. But what about strategy, operations, and financial management converted into business plans that become the life raft for staying afloat and surviving? At the meeting I mentioned earlier in this post, the regional director of the SBA said these people need help with all these issues and especially in developing sound cash flow plans and budgets.

I have heard people comment that CPAs will answer questions but not help you figure out what questions to ask. That is probably a reasonable perception in many, but not all, instances. This is the area where CPAs have a great opportunity to step up to the challenge. They need to learn more about sales and marketing and crafting a good strategy. Also, enhanced understanding on how to improve business operations is required. These steps will not only help a lot of businesses; it could provide an entire new direction for many accounting practices.

About fifteen years ago I reengineered myself to develop these skills. Then I developed CPE programs to teach topics such as lean accounting, strategy, change management, and how to conduct operational assessments. There is a whole basket of services that I utilized to help clients grow and build value for their businesses. In these troubling economic times, I think this represents a new responsibility for CPAs.

This is going to take extra effort and training before you feel completely comfortable delivering these added value services. However, stop and think about the significant impact you can have on a wide range of people who need your expertise and advice. CPAs are trusted advisors. Businesses and people need this trust to help them weather the storm, recover their confidence and rebuild their economic health.

This is my first of many blogs and it will set the stage for future blog posts that I will be bringing to you. I will be sharing a host of new ideas and opportunities that extend beyond traditional accounting and tax services. It is my goal to share with you the ideas and concepts that you will be able to take to your clients that will extend your practice development and for you to provide a new and higher level of service.

Some of the new concepts will include lean accounting and value stream costing. We will be talking about how to apply cash acceleration efficiency and other recession survival strategies. The challenges of diagnostic assessment, benchmarking, and minimization of audit risk represent some additional topics that will be covered.

One of my focus areas has been internal control and fraud so you will see some blog posts dealing with the challenges of auditing in an environment of economic uncertainty. I think this is will be eye opening and educational for all of us. Stay tuned as we’ll keep you challenged and focused in the process of making the transition from traditional accounting to nontraditional client service and business advisory support.

I hope you enjoy the journey we will be taking toward greater facilitation of client service and economic recovery.

This blog

Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM - Lynn's focus is on building business value for both family-owned businesses and other CPAs. I also specialize in lean accounting, process improvement, internal control, and assessment of audit risk. Other accomplishments include publishing two books, development of self study programs for Bisk Education, and an Adjunct Professorship at Villanova University. My wife Jessica and I live in southwestern Colorado and we look forward to contributing to the AccountingWEB community.

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