Business Development Manager Intuit Accountants
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What's Different About Millennials as Accounting Firm Clients?

Let’s accept that Millennials will probably not always look like your father’s tax client. Many things are more widely accepted than they used to be. So, who exactly are we as clients?

Dec 6th 2019
Business Development Manager Intuit Accountants
Columnist
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Put your money where your love is. - Grateful Dead, Loser

The term “Millennial” is widely used to refer to people under 40; however, it is technically defined as those who are currently between 23 and 38 years old. I am a 33-year-old Millennial and frequently have to help folks my age through the acceptance process of allowing themselves to be defined by the term, which has gotten a negative rap. But exactly who are we Millennials, specifically as it relates to being business owners and clients in the accounting/consulting fields?

First, let’s accept that Millennials will probably not always look like your father’s tax client. Many things are more widely accepted than they used to be, like colorful hair and tattoos. Conformity is boring, and with changes in technology, many of us may not even have to interact with that many people day to day to run our businesses.

When I was in my business full time, I trained my staff to interact with clients the way THEY want to be interacted with, not the way you think you should act as an “accounting professional.” The approach we take in having a conversation with, say, a hair stylist vs. a contractor, a church board vs. a cannabis shop, should be different if we are really trying to serve the needs of those clients.

This is easier when you are working with small/medium-sized businesses and individual tax clients, as you likely only have one point of contact. Once you get into the room with larger boards and executive groups, there are more challenges to be aware of.

Millennials see inadvertent (or intentional) age and gender discrimination. Through the years we were in school, emphasis has been placed on diversity, inclusion and acceptance. On my fifth birthday, congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991. As children, the way we were taught equality made it seem like the world was already that way, and we were being taught to join its progress (I know this is not true everywhere in the United States, I was raised on West Coast). As an adult, I see now how much we actually struggle with these things, both as an industry as a nation.

We have been trained to see it so as to avoid doing it, and when someone makes the choice to address the man, elder or white person as opposed to the group, we see them. Diversity training exists in required HR coursework for most business-degree programs nowadays, so we have been trained to identify and rectify these types of situations. There is a stigma that Millennials are too sensitive, but remember: We have literally been trained to be sensitive to these issues and enforce equality. I will come back to this in a future article when we talk about Millennials as employees.

I bring this up in this article about us as your clients because you may be catering to the demographic that has you retained today and pays your invoice, but who will that be tomorrow? What happens when the straight white male managing partner you play golf with retires? There is no way to bring this up to a person and have it not be awkward, so my recommendation is to take responsibility for your own unrecognized biases and be aware of how you are setting the stage to retain your client relationships through change.

Now that we have the uncomfortable part out of the way, let’s talk about how Millennials view the way we work. Being raised with technology has led to the expectation that everything can be better, faster and more efficient. Most of the time, we aren’t wrong! The creativity that flourishes in this demographic is outstanding. There are plenty of tech tycoons that are Millennials, and the products developed by these teams have changed the way the world interacts (Facebook, for example). Millennials know that no matter what we are doing, there will likely be a new and better way coming.

The caveat to this as an accounting firm is that you have a lot to keep up on so your clients don’t outsmart you. Your clients are going to trade shows for their industry and talking with their competitors about the solutions they use. They are receiving marketing services from people who have great solutions for their business/industry. The rise of easily available online software for niche markets, combined with readily available consumer tax products, is transforming the way that accountants need to think about their firms. Millennials will take the easy way, researching products online and choosing what is best from their research.

Here’s what you should be asking yourself: Where do you fit into that? Are you accessible, informative and providing value that isn’t already being solved by an algorithm?

We Millennials already know that anything is possible, and we will grow our dreams accordingly. As our advisors, we want you to know our dreams and be a step ahead in helping us make them a reality. To get there, your firm needs alignment on why you do what you do, what you really want to do and how you are going to do it. It sounds simple, but if you are reading this and are a partner or manager, well…you know that it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Once you’ve made it past that step, aligning your mission with clients should be much easier, enabling you to provide the real value that cannot be offered by a robot (yet).

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By [email protected]
Dec 9th 2019 18:44

Another excellent article by Kaydee. I particular thought that one paragraph brought it all home —-“ Here’s what you should be asking yourself: Where do you fit into that? Are you accessible, informative and providing value that isn’t already being solved by an algorithm?”

As a millennial in a Baby Boomer's body I continue to want to learn new things and be able to relate to everyone and make sure what I do matters to the people I interact with and not just me.

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