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Managing the CPA Firm of Today


As many firms are grappling with how to manage employees and clients amidst a pandemic and shifting work environments, they must remember that leadership and flexibility are key. In this article, Sandra Wiley of Boomer Consulting discusses the truths that firms must embrace in order to remain successful in today's shifting landscape. 

Dec 7th 2021
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Workplace trends had been moving toward a remote and hybrid workplace for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated that shift exponentially. The needs of your firm and each individual may be unique, but there’s a universal need for people who know how to balance today's demands while leading their teams to success. The following truths will help you form strategies for managing and engaging in a CPA firm of today. 

Running a firm is a team sport

Anyone managing a firm needs to understand that it’s a team sport. In the past, a firm’s partners were the stars of the show. Today, the C-suite is more important than the firm’s partners. That idea may freak some people out, but it’s the truth. Your firm’s COO, CHRO, CIO, CMO and so on are essential to helping the managing partner navigate challenges and run the firm.

Innovation must become a strategy

Innovation has become a bit of a buzzword in the profession, and people are using it to describe ideas that aren’t truly innovative. To beat the competition, innovation must be more than a buzzword at your firm —it needs to become part of your overall strategy. Find ways to allow innovation to bubble up from all over the firm —not just from partners. This will involve giving people time and space to innovate, encouraging collaboration across departments, rewarding employees for ideas and becoming comfortable with failure.

You can’t ignore the client experience

Many firms pride themselves on client service, but they don’t understand the client experience or spend any time thinking about it. Client service is focused on human interaction and directly supporting clients, but client experience is the sum of the client’s entire journey with your firm—a journey that starts before the client even engages with your firm and continues long after you deliver the service. The client experience should be consistent regardless of the person or department your client works with at your firm. Our Client Experience Discovery white paper can help you address the client experience in your firm.

Find the right people and get them in the right roles

Everyone wants to hire the best talent, but utilizing that talent is about more than hiring. It’s about inspiring people to work to their highest potential as soon as possible. Many entrepreneurial people have been driven away from the profession because they were forced to spend years of their careers doing routine work, with little client interaction or opportunity to forge their own paths. Now, much of that manual, time-intensive work can be automated, giving firms more capacity. Rather than using that capacity to do more of the same, elevate people’s roles in the firm. Not everyone you hire needs to be on the CPA path or even have an accounting degree. People who can become consultants to your niche market might have backgrounds as wealth managers, technology consultants or business owners. Professionals you never considered could become a very important part of your firm.

Pricing by the hour is becoming obsolete

Accountants tend to shut down when we tell them that pricing by the hour is obsolete because they use “billable hours” as a management tool, but tracking how people spend their time can still be done without billing clients based on those hours. As your firm moves toward offering more advisory and consulting services, pricing by the hour simply doesn’t work. If saving your client $500,000 or growing their revenues by the same amount takes you only one hour, is the value of that service really one billable hour? If you invest in technology that can complete a complicated tax return in a quarter of the time it usually takes, should you reduce your rates by 75 percent? Your firm would be out of business in no time. Download our Guide to Pricing for Value to help your revenues grow rather than shrink.

In the CPA firm of today, your mantra should be make more, work less. Focus on having a life rather than simply doing the work. This is what people have wanted to hear from their firms for a long time. Now, it has to become a reality. Otherwise, your firm will struggle to attract and retain talent, hold on to clients and stay ahead of the competition.

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