Change is a choice. So are relevance … and your future

We’ve spent a lot of time here trying to scare you guys straight about the future of this profession, and with good reason: CPAs of tomorrow will look almost nothing like they do today, and if we want to stay relevant, we’re going to have to rethink how we do business.

There’s a silver lining, though, and here it is: Change is a choice.

You don’t have to change. It’s completely up to you.

You also don’t have to remain relevant to your clients, or keep making money, or continue to be considered the most trusted business advisors on the planet. Those things are choices, too. By choosing not to change, you’re choosing irrelevancy at best … and extinction at worst.

A couple of years ago, The Sleeter Group released a study called What SMBs Want From Their Accountant. Among the findings was this: The top reason why small and mid-size businesses leave their CPAs is because the CPAs offer reactive services rather than proactive advice. In other words, our clients want us to be future-focused, and they’ll leave if we’re not.

Around the same time, CPA.com released a study called Welcome to the Fast Future. It found that only 8 percent of CPAs say they are future-ready.

Did you catch that? Clients overwhelmingly demand that their CPAs are future-ready, and almost none of us are.

Are you ready to change yet? Because here’s the thing: If we don’t start filling that gap, our competition will.

Joey Havens, executive partner with Horne CPAs and Business Advisors and one of the most forward-thinking CPAs I know, says today’s profession is divided into two camps:

Historical firms

Future-ready firms

Do things right: They focus on processes, efficiency and accuracy.Doing the right things: They focus on the highest impact priorities.
Focus on hindsight: They are historians who are focused on reporting on the past.Anticipatory: They are devoted to discovering future facts.
Slow-moving: They are methodical and bureaucratic.Fast-paced: They are defined by urgency, actions and decisiveness.
Controlling: They create silos, hierarchy and titles.Collaborative: They embrace candor and different perspectives to find their “true north.”
Avoid risks: Certainty is valued over everything else.Risk-takers: Action trumps fear of failure.
Legacy thinking: They are anchored by beliefs the support past success.Innovative: They do what’s never been done before.
No mistakes: They believe that mistakes make them look weak.Learn fast, learn forward: For them, learning is more important than making a mistake.
Time, utilization: They believe that they sell time.Results- and outcomes-driven: Value is driven by results and outcomes.

What kind of CPA are you?

If you’re the former, you need to figure out how to become the latter. That means building the capacity that will allow you to do crucial future-focused work. Our biggest challenge, says Havens, is trying to run today’s business while building our business of tomorrow — or as the folks at Microsoft might say, learning how to perform while we transform.

That means figuring out what we must stop doing. To make room for important new initiatives, we have to cull the stuff that’s keeping us from becoming future-ready. What projects are slowing us down? Which clients should we stop serving? Sometimes we have to go slow in order to go fast. “You can’t take on huge new initiates without having those conversations,” Havens says.

Becoming future-ready means committing ourselves to doing things differently. “You can never change what you continue to tolerate,” says Havens. If you’re OK with the status quo, you’ll never find future excellence.

Put another way, in the words of leadership guru John Kotter: “A sense of urgency is a state in which complacency doesn’t exit.”

Given how quickly things are changing, that’s what we should all be feeling right now — a sense of urgency.

Get on board now. Or don’t. The choice is yours.

Your future hangs in the balance.


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