For several years now, the specter of change has hovered over the accounting profession, driven largely by shifts in how its clients work and, of course, in technology and processes. But what haunts the profession most these days is not just change itself, but change management.
This was one of the main themes on accountants’ minds and discussed by CPA profession leaders, including AICPA Chairman Barry Melancon, here at the association’s Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference.
In his own words, “change management, not just change itself, has become a major concern among CPAs,” said Melancon. He also stressed that, for small firms in particular, the AICPA and CPA.com were doing their best to ensure they enable relevancy in the marketplace.
As for how firms can best adapt and specifically manage the changes impacting the profession the most, Melancon advised that “the evolution of CPA core services is a must in order to keep position of trust relevant in a changing world.”
It has been hammered on accountants time and time again that simply providing compliance services may not be enough to sustain their relevancy to clients. But what tools are they given outside of trying out new products that will, in theory, help expand their service offering and “evolve,” as Melancon noted? This is likely where so-called “soft skills” or “success skills,” as some are calling it here at the conference, comes into play.
Author, speaker, and CPA Bill Reeb of the Succession Institute regularly works with accountants on the aforementioned skills and took the time to address attendees in a keynote here at the event. He touted CPAs as “natural overachievers” who often can’t get out of their own way and, ultimately, “get stuck.”
“Common wisdom is to develop your strengths and surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses,” said Reeb. “You can’t go through an evaluation of things you do when you are frustrated. As soon as you think I should be further along or I’m failing, that’s when you get stuck.”
Reeb went on to note that accountants need to take the time to understand what they are trying to achieve, and more importantly, if they do decide to make changes in their firm, to be realistic regarding expectations.
“If you are not failing at the things you try, you aren’t getting better,” said Reeb. “There will never be a ‘right time’ to make the changes you need for your firm.”
Useful sound bites aside, the fact still stands that no one in the profession is coming to a conference to say the same. In the same right, accountants don’t necessarily want to be constantly told “to change.” They want to know how and, moreover, how to manage that change. This again was a major theme here at the conference and I suspect at more to come.
As ever, your thoughts on the issue are what matter most.