The survey results on page 6 of the April Accounting Today are telling.

The survey question: What do you plan to do after the end of tax season?

Almost two thirds of respondents said they planned to take one day off or no days off, while 31% said they would take a week or longer vacation.

First, my congratulations to those CPAs able to grab some down time…

And my condolences to those unable to take a breather.

Whatever camp you’re in, have you ever questioned an industry that, year after year, pushes its professionals to the point of exhaustion?

How many years have you been enduring tax season?

How many years will you continue?

Is it getting easier or harder?

How does it make you feel to know that the grind begins anew in 280 short days?

A couple weeks ago, I asked a CPA how tax season was going.

His response: “Have you ever seen the movie Network, when Peter Finch is screaming out his apartment window, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!’ That’s how I feel.”

Turns out he was mostly mad at himself. Because every year he swears he’s not going to tolerate tax season anymore.
Then next year it’s more of the same.

Sound familiar?

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “Why does it have to be this way?”

Because we’re accountants, you idiot. It goes with the territory.

But what if it didn’t?

What if 50% of your firm revenues came from advisory services instead of tax returns and compliance work – would that make tax season less hellish?

That goal is not only possible, it’s happening every day.

The long-term growth prospects in tax returns, auditing, and other backwards-looking accounting work is bleak.

Meanwhile, the growth in advisory and consulting business is skyrocketing.

I read recently that the Big 4 accounting firms will do more advisory business this year than Bain and other big name consulting firms. Take a look at how Deloitte is positioning itself in the marketplace; they sound much more like a consulting firm than a CPA firm. “Meanwhile, a 2016 survey of Australian accountancy practices found that 84% of firms believe that for accountants to survive, they MUST provide advisory services” .

What about you?

Are you okay with working harder… and faster… for less money… having no fun… with a mindset that remains backward looking… reactive… focused on compliance?

Are you content with growing less and less relevant by the day?

Or are you mad as hell and finally ready to put an end to tax season misery once and for all?

The HaydenRock SystemTM provides CPAs with a tested and proven process plus personal coaching to introduce advisory and consulting services into your firm.

It’s based on the same process used to transform a small-town practice into one of the largest accountancy firms in England – where almost 80% of firm revenues came from advisory services rather than tax and compliance work.

To learn more, email info@haydenrock.com

With me this week on the Accounting Success Podcast is Shelley Johnson, the co-founder and owner of Allman Johnson CPAs & Advisors in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Shelley started in public accounting in 1990 after a few years as assistant controller for a real estate/hotel development company. Named one of the Top 50 Cloud Accountants two years in a row, Shelley hails from a long line of “number crunchers,” as both her mother and grandmother had long careers in banking. She is also an avid puzzle solver; thinking through solutions is Shelley’s forte. Therefore, a career in accounting seemed to be her calling.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Shelley has led the way by helping Allman Johnson continually grow through the cloud. During our conversation we talked about:

  • How to be involved with clients in ‘real time, all the time’
  • What the name of your firm says about you
  • Being a quarterback and ‘vetting agent’ for clients
  • Creating useful information out of accounting numbers
  • The crucial role of a “Client Experience Manager”
  • The best method to take the burden of accounting off business owners
  • 5 technology tools that can differentiate your firm
  • The psychology behind pricing strategies

Shelley is a member of the AICPA, the Indiana CPA Society, and the past chapter president of the Indiana State Board of Accountancy, as well as the American Society of Women Accountants. She also wrote a book on Obamacare, certainly a hot topic these days.

Allman Johnson serves entrepreneurs in all facets of their business and personal financial activities. The firm specializes in the Technology, Construction, Real-Estate, and Professional Service-Based Industries.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

My guest this week is Henry Rinder, partner at Smolin Lupin in Fairfield, NJ. Henry has been with Smolin since 1980, when he started as an intern.

Henry served on the Technical Issues Committee of the AICPA and is the past President of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. At Smolin Lupin, he serves on the Executive Committee.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Henry had lots of wisdom to share, including:

  • 2 reasons why Smolin has embraced the merger-and-acquisition path to growth
  • The math behind M&A’s economies of scale
  • The role of brokerage services in finding potential merger candidates
  • Why the days of 2x billings buyouts are over, and what the market range is today
  • Three perks of running a CPA firm like a talent agency
  • How to smoothly transition after a merger
  • Ways to reduce overhead after an acquisition
  • Smolin Lupin’s plans to become a Top 100 firm

Smolin Lupin has been helping clients for 70 years and is one of the NJ BIZ Top 20 Public Accounting Firms in New Jersey.

Henry services clients in the construction, distribution, manufacturing, and legal services industries, providing clients with audit, forensic accounting, fraud investigation, litigation, business valuation, matrimonial accounting, and consulting support.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

As you know, we’re big fans of revolutionaries and disrupters here on The Accounting Success Podcast. In the past, we’ve had inDinero , who’s disrupting accounting and bookkeeping services. We’ve had Ron Baker disrupting the billable hour. We’ve had Jim Bourke agitating CPAs living in the past. And this week, we’re continuing our disruptive tradition with Jeff Phillips of AccountingFly.com

Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Accountingfly, which is revolutionizing the way accountants are hired.
Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Accountingfly is the career center for the accounting profession. Job seekers can easily apply to jobs. Employers can use Accountingfly to post jobs and recruit accountants at every step in their career. CPA firms also use Accountingfly’s smart software to organize and automate the recruiting process, make faster hiring decisions, and build pools of talent from which they can recruit in the future. Here are some of the topics I covered with Jeff:

  • What he learned from working at Monster.com, and why that model doesn’t work for accounting firms
  • The end of “post and pray” hiring strategies
  • How CPA firms typically burn money on recruitment (and what to do that’s smarter)
  • How to build a deep bench of potential future hires
  • What AccountingFly is doing to address the talent acquisition challenge
  • Why job boards and traditional recruitment agencies are broken recruiting models
  • Secrets behind the innovative “inbound recruiting” approach
  • What millennials are looking for from a progressive firm
  • When is the best time to hire
  • How to avoid “crisis recruiting”
  • Effects of the talent crunch on CPA salaries
  • Myths millennial CPAs believe – and how addressing them can dramatically improve your hiring success

Jeff is also the publisher of GoingConcern, a news website for millennial CPAs that attracts over 185,000 readers a month. For his efforts, Accounting Today has named Jeff to its 100 Most Influential People list for three years running.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

My guest this week on The Accounting Success Podcast was Paul Costantino, the Managing Shareholder at PDR CPAs + Advisors in Tampa/St. Pete, Florida.

Paul is a past Chairman of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, and has been a CPA for over 25 years. He specializes in providing clients with strategic tax planning and consulting services such as business planning, mergers & acquisitions, entity selection, budgeting, financial projections and bank financing.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Some highlights of our discussion:

  • Winning and retaining clients through ‘extreme client service’
  • How to find and service international firms looking to do business in the U.S.
  • Offering specialty services to differentiate your CPA firm
  • Why PDR wants to grow advisory services from 25% to 40% and beyond
  • “A clock is not running,” and other benefits of a fixed pricing agreement
  • Big data opportunities now and looking ahead

In addition to his former role as Chairman of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, Paul also ran the New England Practice Management Conference for 10 years. In addition, Paul has chaired several seminars on the topics of accounting, tax, and business planning. His responsibilities at PDR include: firm administration, assisting with business development, and the shareholder group. He has authored and co-authored several books, is a member of the BDO Alliance and is very active on the AICPA Council.

PDR is a 43-year-old tax and advisory firm located between Tampa and Clearwater, with expertise in construction & real estate; healthcare & wellness; hospitality; and not-for-profit entities.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

This is the third installment in our three-part series introducing our new book, “Changing the Face of Accounting: Forward-thinking conversations about reinventing the CPA field” by HaydenRock partner Ian Welham.

Scheduled to be released next week, “Changing the Face of Accounting” features 15 accounting experts, including five of Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People.

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Ian’s interview with Jim Bourke, the partner in charge of internal technology at WithumSmith+Brown, and also the firm’s technology-niche practice leader.

Jim is an enthusiastic technology advocate – one reason CPA Technology Advisor named him a top thought leader in public accounting technology. He has also served as president of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants and on the AICPA’s board of directors and council.

During their conversation, Ian asks Jim about the disruption and changes happening in the accounting profession. Here are some of Jim’s takes:

“I believe change is good. I want to take [Withum] to the next level. The key to our success is the management team that runs the firm. There are nine of us on the management committee. That group, including our managing partner, Bill Hageman, all view technology as a strategic asset.

“If a firm is viewing technology as an expense, as a cost of doing business, a big nut that continues to grow and becomes bigger as the firm grows; If you look at it that way, you’re not going to be successful because you’re always going to try to cut technology.

“I tell legacy baby boomers in our profession, ‘You need to embrace [technology]. You need to embrace those kids that are sitting around in the cubicles with the one ear bud in their ear, streaming music, instant messaging clients or their friends, getting their work done. Understand how they use technology to get through their day and don’t block it. Embrace it because that’s the future of our profession.

“I’m also managing director for the advisory services group. Withum is all about audit, tax and advisory. That’s our tagline: Withum, audit, tax and advisory. Our managing partner is a huge believer that our advisory services group is the key to our firm’s future growth and success. I will tell you hands down, knowing what I know about the industry, knowing what I know about audit and tax, I honestly believe the days of double-digit growth in a pure audit practice are over.

“You’re not going to see growth in an audit practice in double digits into the future. It’s sad to say, but the audit is becoming very much a commodity.

“CPAs need to come to the realization their world is changing. They need to change quickly, start re-positioning themselves, because I will tell you: Every CPA today has the tools that they need to be involved in advisory services. Think about it. Their skill sets, their background perfectly positions them to help CEOs to take the company to the next level.

“It’s not about producing financials. I know that’s what we went to school for. I know that’s what we’re licensed for in every single state here in the United States. We get a certificate that says we are great at it. That’s part of it, but that’s not what it’s going to be in the future. That’s not what a young entrepreneur getting out of college will experience unless they’re very active in advisory services.”

This week on The Accounting Success Podcast I spoke with Josh Shilts, Managing Partner of Villela & Shilts in Ocala, Florida.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Josh’s broad experience includes working for a Big 4 Accounting firm in New York City, an international consulting firm, and national litigation support & accounting firms. His specialties include forensic accounting, anti-fraud controls, workplace investigations, and risk mitigation. He has spoken nationally on the topic of fraud prevention and detection, data analytics, risk management and financial planning & analysis. Josh has also been an adjunct professor in the field of accounting and fraud examination at Florida Atlantic University and St. Leo University.

We covered a broad range of topics from mentors to millennials, including:

  • Why Josh considers his #1 skill set is the ability to learn new things
  • What $5 – $20 million businesses are looking for most from their CPA
  • The secret to failing forward
  • Where to find profitable niches with little to no competition
  • The hands down best marketing tool he’s ever found
  • Why accounting firms would be wise to hire engineers and data analysts
  • “The competition is retiring on us,” and other reasons Josh is optimistic about the future
  • How to win the battle for talent

Villela & Shilts has offices in Jacksonville, Miami, and Ocala. The firm specializes in tourism and travel… farming… medical industries… hospitality services… and real estate. Their client focus is small to medium-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix coming.

Hilton didn’t see Airbnb coming.

The taxi and limousine commission didn’t see Uber coming.

And I’ll bet the senior living industry didn’t see this coming…

Even though it’s 973 feet long, 15 stories tall, and weighs 40,000 tons.

What I’m referring to is the world’s largest and most spectacular assisted living facility. Have you seen it? It’s pictured above.

Seers such as Tom Hood and Kimberly Ellison-Taylor have warned us for years: disruption sneaks up from below the surface — from the places we least expect it.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, some savvy seniors have discovered that “for little more than the cost of retiring to an assisted-living facility, they can enjoy many of the same amenities – comfortable quarters; meals, social events and education programs; and round-the-clock access to medical care” – while cruising the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, or even around the world.

So they’re moving in – in some cases year-round – converting a floating stateroom into a permanent residence.

In order to attract this older and wealthier demographic, several cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Oceania and Crystal Cruises are building privately-leased luxury apartments into their new ship designs. And they’re modeling them after rooms in upscale hotels and ritzy condominium developments.

Might this trend disrupt the retirement home industry? Too early to tell. But it’s certainly a shot across the bow of uninspired cookie cutter retirement residences.

Reminds me of the conversations I recently had with three young Turks I expect we’ll be hearing a lot from in the coming years. One works at a CPA firm. One owns a CPA firm. And one sources top talent for CPA firms.

Here’s the Cliff Notes: The most talented and ambitious millennials are not buying into the become-an-associate-then-a-partner-then-buy-out-a-senior-partner path to upward mobility and ownership.

They’d rather just start their own firm from scratch.

Likewise, what many Baby Boomer accountants have to offer – a coterie of clients who primarily want their taxes done – has very little appeal to the upcoming generation.

They want to add value, not add numbers. They’re entrepreneurs, not technicians. They expect every day to be different and challenging, not the same old rote activities. They want to be advisors, not accountants. They expect to make a difference.

So…

What if you’ve worked for the last 20 or 30 years to build up a CPA practice . . .

. . . that no one wants to buy?

Is it time to embrace change?

To turn your ship around?

And think outside the boat?

The best dressed list.

The richest people list.

The sexiest women/men alive list.

If you woke up one day to find your name on any of these lists, you’d probably be pleased.

Then there’s this.

Last week Shelly Palmer came out with the list of The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take First.

The winners (or in this case the losers) are middle management… commodity salespeople… journalists, authors & announcers… doctors (robots make better diagnosticians and surgeons than humans)… and, you guessed it, accountants & bookkeepers.

“Robo-accounting is in its infancy,” notes Palmer, “but it’s awesome at dealing with accounts payable and receivable, inventory control, auditing and several other accounting functions that humans used to be needed to do. Big Four auditing is in for a big shake-up, very soon.”

No use quibbling with Mr. Palmer’s assessment. His bona fides are impressive. As the CEO of The Palmer Group, a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN, and one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, he makes a living anticipating the future. Besides, he’s stuck on the list too, as a journalist, author and commentator.

So, what do we do? Palmer suggests adapting our skills to augment man-machine partnerships. Also, “figure out what your job must evolve into in order to continue to transfer the value of your personal intelllectual property into wealth.”

Fair enough. But maybe easier said than done. Fortunately, a number of forward-thinkers in our industry have been given this topic some thought.

Bill Sheridan, Chief Communications Officer at the Maryland Association of CPAs, says, “Our opportunity is learning to work with the machines. To do work that the machines can’t do and to truly become that trusted advisor to our clients and customers.”
Bill quotes Cathy Engelbert, the CEO at Deloitte: “I still believe professional judgment and expertise is not replaceable by machines… I’ve never met a machine with courage and empathy, one that can read body language and adjust what they say… While we’re going to be digesting larger volumes of data and information, the key is to use artificial intelligence to augment what the human does.”

Jim Bourke, technology maven at Withum Smith+Brown, believes advisory services are the key to the industry’s future growth and success.

“CPAs need to come to the realization their world is changing,” he says. “Every CPA today has the tools that they need to be involved in advisory services. Their skill sets, their background perfectly positions them to help CEOs to take the company to the next level.

“It’s not about producing financials. I know that’s what we went to school for. I know that’s what we’re licensed for. That’s part of it, but that’s not what it’s going to be in the future.”

Now if all this is too overwhelming and you want to switch careers, here’s Palmer’s list of The 5 Jobs Robots Will Take Last:
1. Pre-school and Elementary School Teacher
2. Professional Athlete
3. Politician
4. Judge
5. Mental Health Professional

Last week we announced the publication of our new book, “Changing the Face of Accounting: Forward-thinking conversations about reinventing the CPA field” by HaydenRock partner Ian Welham.

The book features 15 industry experts, including five of Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People, and is scheduled to be released later this month.

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Ian’s interview with Tom Hood, CEO/President of the Maryland Association of CPAs and member of the CPA Practice Advisor Accounting Hall of Fame. Tom is the number two most influential person in all of accounting according to Accounting Today.

During their conversation, Ian makes the point that ‘business as usual’ is no longer going to cut it in the years ahead. He wonders if CPAs are ready to make changes in what they do day to day, and asks Tom what advice he has for CPAs.

“I would argue that the pace of change is accelerating. It’s hitting a level we would say is at an exponential pace. In that change, standing still is dangerous. It’s like coasting uphill. You’re immediately falling behind. I think that’s what’s been keeping me up at night, and where we try to prompt some of our CPAs to start thinking more proactively about the future.

“The fundamental thing here is the gravitational pull of the past. Like a rocket leaving earth’s atmosphere, they say they use something like two-thirds or three-quarters of their fuel just to get beyond earth’s gravity.

“Many CPA firms have been around for multiple generations. In that case, the legacy of success makes it extremely hard to change firm culture. Throw into that the partners who are real close to retirement and they don’t want to risk any money. That’s another one of those gravitational pulls. The flip side is: What’s the opportunity if they do something?
“We are seeing firms that are starting to make these changes. Everything from going to value pricing, starting to change their whole focus to a more proactive and anticipatory approach, changing their culture… those firms are increasing profitability and market share much, much faster than the firms that are not. It’s the first time we’re starting to see where the gap is widening. The gap between those who are taking some risk and changing and those who are steadfast, holding on to the past.
“[CPAs need to do] much more thinking about value-added and proactive services. The compliance services, traditional compliance services, like audit, or even tax, if it’s purely compliant — that’s a commodity. It’s getting squeezed from a price standpoint, or quite frankly, it’s getting automated.

“There’s a big buzz about IBM Watson and tax services… The new firms are taking that skill set and upskilling it so that they’re more strategic thinkers. They’re able to provide that value-added consult to their clients. That’s number one.

“Number two, many of them are thinking about billing differently. You have to think about billing for value and not just billing by time.
“Some of them are asking for the roadmap. I’d like to say they really want the checklist, right? They’d love to have the firm of the future in a box that you could give to them and do it. I know you guys have been doing some work in that area. I think that’s a starting point, but you still have to do the hard work of getting your people to buy in, right? To break through that gravitational pull.

“There are plenty of models and frameworks and roadmaps that you should go consider. Then I think what you need to do is bring it back and get a group of people that are ready to champion it, that are open to making some decisions to change that trajectory.

“The ones that are moving the fastest are the ones that have figured out a way to involve and include more of their people. It’s more collaborative. If you do a mandate from the top down, oftentimes that’s when the resistance grows and you end up with a challenge.

“We like to say if you create a culture, then you’re going to become a talent magnet. You’re going to be sucking talent in from everywhere and keeping it. That’s the next big challenge that we’re going to see CPA firms face. It’s this whole talent war. It’s getting more and more heated. It’s going to continue to get worse the next five years.

“I got back from the AICPA’s governing body, called Council. There’s stuff there from what’s the future look like to these young folks, as well as recruiting them to become CPAs. The whole CPA exam is changing to reflect these value-added skills. There’s more strategic thinking being incorporated into the exams, so trying to use the exams to drive curriculum changes in the profession. I think overall, the profession is trying to position itself from that perspective.”

Next week in Part III, we’ll share an excerpt from Ian’s interview with technology maven Jim Bourke of Withum Smith+Brown. Jim has one of the most enthusiastic and infectious personalities in all of accounting. You don’t want to miss his insights.