Sandra Wiley of Boomer Consulting is known for helping accouting professionals enhance their practice, and at the 2019 AICPA Engage conference in Las Vegas, she did exactly that by making a slightly unusual suggestion: Hire team members who aren't accountants at all.
The goal of accounting firms that want to remain successful in the foreseeable future should be developing a consultative business model, says Sandra. To that end, she recommends first committing yourself to doing something different. "All accountants are stuck in a rut. They hire the same people, they look for the same people and they think the same," she chided. Simply put, some of the people you need to be hiring are those who are outside your comfort zone. This will help you as you transition from a client-based to a consultant-based model.
But where might a non-accounting professional fit into your firm? Sandra noted that as the landscape changes for accounting firms due to technology and other factors, new roles and opportunities are opening up. For instance, accountants are finding themselves in need of sales experts and big data analysts, both of whom have different skillsets and no background in accounting.
So, where does she suggest starting? Sandra recommends ensuring the leadership at your practice is aligned in terms of future goals and understands what the firm needs. This will encourage meaningful change to take place.
Once you're sure everybody is on the same page, create a chart of the talent you have in the firm right now. Sandra remarked that senior partners might not actually be the best people to do this. Instead, you should ask managers, who are likely to be more in tune with the attributes of each individual employee. Also, write down all the services you offer, and be specific. "Avoid putting things in an 'other' category," Sandra warns. "This will only make things more vague."
After you've created this list, start to look for gaps. What needs at your firm aren't being fulfilled? Perhaps you could use an HR manager or supervisor, a compliance analyst to ensure clients are complying with the laws applicable to their particular industries, or a statistician or financial analyst who can give more substance to the financial data you give to your customers.
Then, go through the list of services you offered, looking for specific niches you fulfill as you review it. Niches, says Sandra, will help you stand apart from the competition and also give you ways to better serve your clients. If you have numerous customers who come to you looking for wealth management, for example, you might want to hire a personal financial advisor to round out your offerings. Maybe you work with clients who are opening their own businesses and want your help managing their startup. Seek out a business development expert who works specifically with this niche of individuals to help you.
Whatever results you come up with, you have to know where you are now to move into the future successfully, and it's all about finding the right people.