We’ve been hearing messages of doom for a long time about automation, according to accountancy’s Countess of Communication, CPA Geni Whitehouse.
“They’re going to simplify the tax code and make us obsolete,” she told the OfficeTools Accelerate conference in Las Vegas. “I’ve been hearing it since 1984 and it ain’t happened yet – but the world is changing around us.” Warming to the subject of “being human in a digital world,” she continued, “We’ve got the keys to the kingdom. The digital stuff is taking out the drudgery. We are uniquely human, and so are our clients.
“What’s the point of all this technology? It’s just data. We need to connect people to people,” she said.
Many years ago, Whitehouse turned her back on a partnership at a firm in Atlanta and moved to California, where she now works two days a week consulting with wineries. For the rest of the time she works the training and conference circuit, dispensing pearls of wisdom wrapped in a quirky blend of financial acumen and redneck humor.
Training is a core part of her marketing formula and she uses the Le Cou Rouge (French for “red neck”) Winery to demonstrate the importance of good financial discipline.
“I talk about my redneck background. They’re too busy laughing to be frightened about the concepts I’m covering,” she said. “That’s when it’s fun – when you can do something for them. That’s when we earn our value. It’s not from taking things off the box and moving it in Lacerate. Let ’em automate that stuff. Let’s be more human.”
During the Accelerate talk, she presented a few tools and ideas she uses with clients, including the key question: “Why are you in this business?” Turning to her own profession, she continued, “We want to make a difference. We want to help people and change the world through the transactions that keep it flowing.”
Having learned her lessons through trial, error, and stand-up comedy training, the Whitehouse formula is based around embracing what makes you unique and working with it. “I want you to strive and build a business by reaching clients who like you,” she said.
Tips for Being Human in a Digital World
Wrapping up the lecture, Whitehouse left behind a set of principles that other practitioners can apply to their own relationships with clients:
1. Be curious. “As accountants, we focus on telling people everything we know. We’re detail people – we’ve got to get it out, we’re detail people. Switch your main goal to leaving them wanting more,” she said.
2. Understand that timely is often better than perfect.
3. Make them feel smart rather than showing how smart you are. “My value drops the smarter I try to show them I am. Make them the smart ones,” she said.
4. Write like you speak so that when they meet you they get what they pay for. “I write like I speak, y’all. They don’t come to me if they want a Harvard person. You want to turn away the people who don’t want what you have to offer,” she said.
5. Accountants don’t have to be professional Supermen and Superwomen. “We can be underdog.”
6. To be a hero in the digital age, write a handwritten personal note. “That is one of the simplest, humanist things you can do that matter,” she said. “Because there’s so much digital stuff around, it can make a huge impression.”
AccountingWEB's Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.