Change / transformation Leadership Management / Strategy

If our clients are explorers, we’re their navigators

Too often, we take a linear approach to transformation: “This” will impact “this.” QED.

Transformation doesn’t work that way. Its impact tends to be exponential. One transformational event doesn’t impact just one profession. Its tentacles reach far into multiple professions, disciplines, and occupations — and with massive impact.

Our job, says AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, is to add some complexity to our thoughts about transformation.

Take driverless cars. They’re coming, and they’ll undoubtedly have a huge impact on automobile manufacturers and the insurance industry.

But their impact will go much deeper than that.

  • How about law enforcement? If driverless cars are all traveling at the same, safe speed, cops will be spending less time pulling over drivers and issuing speeding tickets.
  • How about local municipalities? If cops are issuing fewer speeding tickets, communities will be pulling in less revenue from those citations.
  • How about the legal profession? Fewer citations mean fewer legal challenges to those citations.
  • How about city planning? More driverless cars means less need for parking garages, parking meters, and parking lots. That impacts urban geography and revenue, but it also impacts the industries that build that type of infrastructure.
  • How about health care? More driverless cars means fewer accidents caused by human error, which means fewer deaths, which means fewer organs available for those who are desperately awaiting transplants.

If we want to become true future-focused advisors for our clients, we have to start connecting the dots in ways that we haven’t before … and we have to understand that transformation starts with us.

“In a world in which everyone and everything is changing, who the heck are we to think our profession won’t be any different?” Melancon said. “… As CPAs, we must help our clients think about complex connections in different ways.”

Jennifer Warawa agrees. She says CPAs’ sweet spot in an age of disruption is to make sense of the disruptions for others.

“Disruptive technologies have turned us all into explorers who are less afraid of taking risks,” Warawa, Sage’s executive vice president for partners, accountants and alliances, said at the MACPA’s 2017 CPA Summit. “CPAs are the navigators for those explorers. Our clients are looking to do new things, and they need advisors to lead the way.”

In other words, CPAs, you are to your clients what Waze is to drivers; you help them get where they need to go.

The first step is to figure out how to get there yourselves.


William D. Sheridan