Today, rapid change in business is the new normal. But it wasn’t always the case.

Most CPA s today started their working life in the Twentieth Century – and things in those days were very different. We were in the ‘twilight’ of the ‘Industrial Age’ – and we all knew our place and ‘status quo’ ruled (that’s not a reference to the rock band in case you’re wondering!). Innovation? What was that?

In the Twentieth Century most CPA s operated under a ‘Command & Control’ style. The organization chart prevailed and everybody ‘knew their place’ (you may remember the Monty Python sketch :-). In those days employees did what their managers told them, who in turn did what their bosses told them.

But the world has moved on – we are in an age where employees are no longer content to be told what to do and what to think. Almost without noticing we have passed from the ‘Industrial Age’ into the ‘Knowledge Age’. If accountants want their people to be profitably ‘engaged’ then they need to shift their management style from “dictate” to “collaborate” (just like Tom Brady below in the huddle). If you can engage your people – you can leverage their talent – you will profit and build business value.

But – as a further consequence of the shift from ‘Industrial’ to ‘Knowledge Age’ the way we work with employees is not the only change. Everything has changed. In fact ‘change’ is far too weak a description.

In the Twenty First Century business is all about words like ‘reinvention’ – ‘redefine’ – ‘transformation’. If you want to win you can’t ‘look backwards’ and you can’t stand still. You must jump forwards and ‘leapfrog the competition’.

In fact, ideally you probably should just ignore the competition. If you concentrate on them, you will get locked into words like ‘best practice’ which almost inevitably dooms you to be working on incremental change or ‘death by 1000 tweaks’ to your existing business model.

You will also certainly not survive by ONLY trying to do things cheaper or faster. The competition now is more intense than it has ever been – and it will be even stronger next year and the following year. If you allow yourself to only go down the cheaper/faster path then you are inexorably skidding towards small incremental changes (ultimately you will probably be doomed to working harder for less and less profit).

Instead, you will survive and prosper by ‘leapfrogging the competition’. In the Knowledge Age the way you will achieve this is by reinventing your business model and focusing towards the key intangibles in your business. You will most likely find your particular answer somewhere in the following list. Words like: ‘reputation’, ‘image’, ‘service’, ‘culture’, ‘design’, ‘values’, ‘customer experience’, ‘innovations’, ‘solutions’, ‘brand’, ‘knowledge’. Basically you probably won’t be able to ‘touch’ the answer, but whichever is your key intangible will unlock the door to your business transformation – and your personal transformation into your clients’ most relevant advisor.