Oct 27th 2011
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By AccountingWEB Staff
It didn't take long for Patti Scharf, CPA, to see a trend developing among her small business clients: She was handing out monthly financial statements, but her clients didn't seem all that interested in the information she was providing.
So Scharf began rethinking the traditional ways of operating an accounting business. "It seemed like that model wasn't really working," she said. Scharf is redesigning her Parker, Colorado–based practice to incorporate cloud technologies so she can provide more comprehensive and useful services to her clients.
"I've always been drawn to technology and doing things in a smart, easy way, and I like working with small business owners to help them do things in smart, easy ways," Scharf said. But she was doing all the research on different technologies on her own. Although she unearthed lots of technical information online, she wasn't able to find a community.
That was until about six months ago, when she ran across the THRIVEal+CPA Network Web site and discovered a collection of like-minded professionals who are also looking for a better way to do business. She recalls thinking, "Oh, this is exactly what I was looking for, because they were the people who were already doing the things that I wanted to do."
She joined THRIVEal's network of young professionals who are embracing cloud technologies and new business models, sharing their knowledge and brainstorming solutions. "I'm kind of amazed," she said. "I've gotten a ton out of it."
Jason Blumer, owner of the CPA firm of Blumer & Associates, started THRIVEal "for the young and the young at heart" who aren't afraid to make mistakes and try new things. "The profession is basically broken," he said. "That's my opinion. I really think creativity and innovation have no place in the accountancy profession right now, and we're trying to change that."
Blumer said all accounting firms brand themselves in the same way (as trusted advisors), with services priced roughly the same way. THRIVEal encourages members to take more control of their businesses, perhaps by delving deeper into specialty niches and becoming empowered to provide different services to clients. For example, Blumer serves customers in creative industries. Needing more than payroll and tax help, his clients also want to learn how to operate their businesses effectively and efficiently.
Blumer says the network is made up of 180 people in five countries. The group communicates through podcasts, LinkedIn discussions, and six community calls per year. Members of the network sign confidentiality agreements so the conversations can be more free-flowing. Blumer facilitates the conversations that cover such topics as owning one's own business, new pricing models, cloud computing, and more. THRIVEal also offers a coaching course that focuses on entrepreneurship and management strategies.
THRIVEal will host the Firm of the Future Symposium, featuring Ron Baker and Ed Kless, October 28 and 29 in Greenville, South Carolina. Baker and Kless will talk about eliminating the billable hour and making accounting shops into professional knowledge firms. Scharf is planning to attend.
Scharf would like to get more involved in clients' business processes "so they can use their resources more effectively." She believes small business owners are starting to demand more from their accounting firms. They're now accustomed to getting real-time information on their smartphones, and they're no longer satisfied with paper income and expense statements that are three months old. "The small business owners are saying there's got to be someone who can do this." Scharf and the THRIVEal+CPA Network plan to fill that need.
It's not too late! Register online for the Firm of the Future Symposium.