New network focuses on closing gap between old and young accountants

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Jason Blumer believes that technological advancements and new workflow strategies have caused a gap between old-school accounting professionals and the younger generation of CPAs. Jason Bramwell reports.

In an effort to close that gap, the 39-year-old managing shareholder of Greenville, SC-based Blumer & Associates, CPAs, PC, recently launched THRIVEal +CPA Network – a CPA/accountancy network and consultancy for young and young-minded professionals who are ready to tackle firm ownership and who support a new way of doing business.

Blumer said he started the network because a new generation of clients was asking for services that a traditional accounting firm could not provide. He believes that New Firms – managed by a new generation of accountants who use cloud technology and innovative practices – will close the gap between older and younger professionals, while meeting the needs of a younger client base.

"I think a New Firm – and a network of New Firms – was called for where new- generation CPAs could belong and prosper", Blumer told AccountingWEB. "I believe we need to develop a new way to run a firm, something I’ve been working on the past seven-and-a-half years that I’ve managed my own firm. Though technical expertise is a cornerstone of our industry, we are failing to identify with younger clients.

"Many seasoned, veteran CPAs have the technical expertise to work in a CPA firm, but they don’t necessarily have what it takes to serve younger generations in today’s marketplace", Blumer said. "They need to know what is expected of them as they continue to grow their firms for a new market. I truly think we can all sharpen one another and accomplish these goals within the context of the network."

THRIVEal +CPA Network represents a global forum for professionals interested in the four fundamental tenets of today’s New Firms: collaboration, community, innovation, and technology, according to Blumer. He also identifies four foundational aspects in the development of a New Firm as New Management, New Marketing, New Processes, and New Technology.

"These four aspects of a firm come out of some continuing professional education (CPE) classes I’ve taught on developing the New Firm and how to transition a traditional or transactional firm into a firm run by a new generation, with new-generation staff [that are] focused on serving new-generation clients", he said.

Sporting the tagline",cloud people", network members focus heavily on the value of cloud technology in streamlining workflow and implementing paperless, highly efficient processes firm-wide.

"The road to transitioning my own firm from a traditional model into a firm that serves [clients] virtually all over the world has been a hard one, to be honest", Blumer said. "I’ve had to discover all of the cloud technology I’ve needed on my own and develop the internal processes to allow our firm to work with clients in a more systematic way.

"I’ve also had to learn how to challenge staff that were initially unsure about the vision and direction of a New Firm", he continued. "Then I’ve had to sell my thoughts for the future to a legacy base of clients who were not used to being served in this manner. With the great sharpening that goes on in group coaching, all of the network’s members will grow exponentially just by working alongside one another."

Since officially launching November 5, THRIVEal +CPA Network’s Web site has received 326 hits as of November 9, with an average time visited of more than three minutes per person, according to Blumer. The network will hold its first orientation webinar at 11 a.m. (EST) December 10. At that time, accountants and CPAs will be invited to join the network.

"Our goal is to have 50 member firms by July 2011, and we already have more than that registered for our first webinar", Blumer said. "I hope most of the individuals [participating in] this first webinar will become members after I explain the vision and future of the network. We will be focused on the small firm that is agile and interested in changing. With that being said, not all firms will find this network appealing, and that is fine."

For the first year, the network will focus on building a community around its members, Blumer added.

"We will also build the brand of the network among the industry and work on the internal community so that the network grows organically", he said. "Once the organic growth of the network is secure, we will hopefully branch out into more serious conferences, meetings, coaching, podcasts, and uses of online collaborative tools that will allow us to work as one network instead of sole practitioners."

Blumer said there is no initial cost to join the network; however, fees might be implemented as the need arises for new online collaborative tools, online conferences, live conferences, and group CPE. There also will be a cost to enroll in a 12-week online coaching course, Pioneering the New Firm, that will be conducted in July 2011.

"This course, with up to eight members in each group, will challenge the young professional with new thoughts on how to build their firm to serve new generations, while sharpening each other in the group", said Blumer, who added that the cost of the course has not yet been determined.

Blumer’s hope is that the THRIVEal +CPA Network will be a hotbed of innovation and collaboration among a diverse group of members, while promoting the importance of New Firms for the accounting industry.

"Many leave our industry worn out, and I believe it is because community was not built around those individuals", he said. "But if we look at what newer-generation clients and newer-generation staff are asking of us, we will see that they are allowing us to serve them in ways that offer great joy for our work/life balance.

"I believe there is a need for a New Firm because I believe our marketplace wants a New Firm. I’m not trying to create something I like; I believe it is time to create what is needed", Blumer continued. "The THRIVEal +CPA Network can be a place to build real community, collaborate with like-minded CPAs, grapple with the ever-changing world of cloud technology, and thrive in an open forum that allows us to innovate for the ultimate benefit of our clients."

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