Keeping Your Firm inMotion
Change is in the air. As 78 million Baby Boomers begin to prepare for retirement in earnest, one of the biggest challenges they face is preparing their firm for transition to the next generation of leaders AND clients. That’s why a group of 17 practitioners representing different sized firms, age groups, geographies, specialties and cultures came together to develop the AICPA PCPS Firm inMotion E-toolkit. The objective of the Firm inMotion E-toolkit is to provide guidance, resources and tools to both existing and future firm leaders to aid them in better understanding each other and uniting more powerfully to create a smooth and successful transition when the time comes.
Our Firm inMotion E-toolkit was the center of discussion at the recent AICPA EDGE Conference in New Orleans, where three task force practitioners shared their views on the importance of leadership development, new practice approaches, technology use and mentoring programs with the future leaders in attendance. With the first elements available to PCPS members this fall, the Firm inMotion E-toolkit will open up communication within firms, aid leadership in creating a shared vision for the future and provide tools to support the cultural and business model changes the next generation of CPAs desires. In addition, the E-toolkit is aimed at driving entrepreneurial skills and efforts in our up-and-coming leaders and harnessing their exceptional teamwork and collaboration skills to develop a network they can leverage to drive business in the future.
Modeled to help firms address the expected future demands on CPAs as envisioned by the AICPA-initiated CPA Horizons 2025 vision project, the Firm inMotion E-toolkit will include resources and tools in the following areas:
- Firm Structure and Strategy
- Transparency for Effective Succession
- Differentiation and Value Beyond Compliance
- Use of Technology
- IT Strategy Approach
- Practical Practices and Future Trends
- Client and Relationship Building
- Managing Client Expectations and Individualized Relationships
- Staff Development and Culture
- Coaching and Career Development
The E-toolkit addresses an array of topics important to future leaders including increasing transparency, delivering value-added services, moving beyond time-based billing, and adjusting communications to the changing needs of clients. In addition, the E-toolkit offers guidance and resources to support practitioners in attracting and retaining top talent by addressing topics like the strategic use of technology, flexible work programs, employee development and career planning, and the expectations of a career coach. It will also help practitioners capitalize on the strengths and values of the different generations in their firms to create a unique competitive advantage. In addition, by increasing your staff members’ understanding of the different generations, their ability to communicate with and deepen relationships with clients of different generational backgrounds will be significantly enhanced.
With important contributions from both our traditional and progressive task force members, the E-toolkit offers real-world ideas and solutions. And the proof of the value of these resources came when most of our task force members left the process with new ideas and approaches they applied in their own offices to keep moving their firms forward.
The Firm inMotion E-toolkit will continue to evolve as the profession and market change. Be sure to check out the current resources available in the Strategy and Planning section of the AICPA PCPS website, where this E-toolkit will live, and check back frequently to see what’s been added.
Firm leaders at every age and stage should be preparing for transition and change. Leverage the AICPA PCPS Firm inMotion E-toolkit to help your team envision, plan for and implement change. When you do, you’ll ensure your firm’s sustainability and success well into the future.
Moving the Profession Forward
By Victor Amaya, CPA
As a partner with ClearPath Accountants, I am striving to drive change and run a different kind of practice, focused on always getting better. For example, since our inception as a relatively new, progressive CPA firm, we have focused on value billing, offering a flexible work environment and using technology to better serve our clients and empower our staff. Based on our firm practices, I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the development of the PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit because I believe it will help our firm and others in the profession capitalize on our opportunities as we shape our firm’s future.
The Firm inMotion E-Toolkit is an outcome of the AICPA CPA Horizons 2025 initiative, a comprehensive effort to envision the future of the public accounting profession based on major forces we’re seeing changing in the world. The CPA Horizons 2025 Report explores the qualities businesses will seek in a CPA in 2025 and shows that CPAs must shift into a more business advisory capacity rather than simply focusing on core accounting services. I believe the PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit will help professionals understand the changes we’re facing and help to develop a forward-facing vision and strategy to offer what business owners and clients will need in the future.
Millennials think differently than Baby Boomers or Generation X team members and clients. To be positioned as a trusted business advisor and act in a more consultative role, CPA firms need to be structured to manage these generational differences, diverse needs and be forward-thinking internally, too. The Firm inMotion E-Toolkit has many tools and resources to help practitioners drive change to address the diverse needs and values of the different generations in firms today, including:
- The Staff Development section which enables practitioners to make changes to our firms to accommodate the needs of our people and the management of our practice.
- The Use of Technology section which includes tools to embrace technology and view it as a strategic enabler.
- The Communication Styles resources which provides information on the very real differences in the communication approach of different generational team members and helps team members bridge communication gaps.
- The Firm Structure & Strategy section which includes resources related to value billing models and sharing pros, cons and best practices of firms who have already implemented similar frameworks and are successful. Our firm is in the process of moving to a model that measures results based on productivity, resulting in greater flexibility for our team members and increasing employee engagement and morale overall.
CPAs of all generations will be able to use the E-Toolkit’s templates, tools and resources to put real changes in place for managing the shifts we’re experiencing as a profession. It addresses a wide variety of topics and I see it as a must-have for firms who want to remain proactive and keep their firms in motion.
I was compelled to be involved with the PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit because the public accounting profession has afforded me numerous opportunities for which I am grateful. Being on this task force has allowed me to give back by sharing my firm’s experiences in the hope that they will help others. It’s vital for the profession to change and adapt to market trends and new realities. I’m very passionate about ensuring this profession progresses and that we are relevant and adding tremendous value now and long into the future.
Victor Amaya, CPA, is a partner at ClearPath Accountants (clearpathaccountants.com) located in Littleton, CO with 12 team members.
Food-for-Thought for Firm Management
By Chuck Fredrick, CPA
As the Baby Boomer managing partner of FredrickZink & Associates, PC, I am faced with the unique opportunity of managing three different generations in our 14 person firm - each with unique motivators and values. One of the differences we experience in our Millennials is their desire to have a level of flexibility and control over their time and assignments. Because more than 78 million Baby Boomers are preparing to retire and Millennials are a critical component of successful succession, we have to find ways to help them pursue their career vision and preferred work styles within our traditional firms. And, that means change.
At 60 years old, I am not too far from retirement, so my people and I are actively discussing our future. We have been exploring how we can motivate our three generations and evolve to attract and retain young Gen Xers and Millennials, who will be our future leaders. We’re discussing how long the existing partners will stay with the firm and who our future partners will be. We’re also exploring what our firm of the future will look like and what we need to do to prepare for that evolution now.
Our firm today isn’t the same firm as it was when the senior partner first brought me on board. In recent years, we’ve experienced many changes. We’ve worked to be accommodating and have developed a structure that we hope works for all generations and both our individual employees and the firm. We’ve implemented flexible work arrangements that allow people to work from home, which has enabled us to successfully employ non-traditional students and working mothers who have significant personal life commitments to balance with their work.
The questions we’ve been asking about our future and the changes we’ve been making are important for all firms to consider. That’s why I was so excited to work with a diverse group of practitioners to develop the PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit, designed to help firm leaders ask and answer questions related to the future needs of their people and their clients.
Perspectives from Younger Generations
I have been a member of the PCPS Executive Committee for the past year and a half and I always enjoy the process of determining areas where firms have specific needs and addressing those needs with appropriate tools and resources. When the discussion on the PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit initiative began, as someone looking to secure my firm for the future, I could immediately see how my selfish interest would benefit from this great project.
When developing the Firm inMotion E-toolkit, I had the privilege of working with a number of younger people, which has provided me valuable insight into what young people most want, where they see their futures heading and what they envision for their long-term goals. This has helped me bring back an understanding of the future generations’ professional vision and a strategy to my team members so we ensure that we’re pursuing the things that will benefit our younger people and our firm’s future, too. We are facing an employees’ market and our young CPAs have many choices for job roles and employers. It seems that more and more qualified people are exiting the profession and leaving a gap of three to five year accounting professionals in firms. Firms now have to re-work their recruiting strategy to accommodate this void.
The Firm inMotion E-Toolkit will aid firm leaders in understanding the wants and needs of the upcoming generations and help firms avoid mistakes as they position their firms for the future. For example, our firm found the tools related to understanding generational differences very useful in refining our recruiting strategy to help us better attract and retain high-potential employees. And, the mentoring and career coaching and development tools found in the Staff Development & Culture section of the E-Toolkit will help us develop and engage team members based on their individual motivators and career goals.
A Focused Resource Stemming from a Larger Outlook
The PCPS Firm inMotion E-Toolkit builds upon the CPA Horizons 2025 initiative and its predictions of where the overall profession will be in the year 2025. Firms of all sizes, in all geographies should be evaluating where their firm is headed and the Firm inMotion E-Toolkit will be invaluable to every firm –providing tools and resources that firms can tailor based on their unique practice management style, culture, needs and challenges to help firm leaders develop and execute people-focused strategies and ensure the future of their firm.
I am excited about the Firm inMotion E-Toolkit because it provides a great jumping-off point for firm leaders. The tools allow practitioners to initiate a discussion of the vision they have for their firms which is a critical first step. For firm leaders who want to grow and change as the profession does, this E-toolkit will provide valuable food-for-thought and customizable tools to achieve your firm of the future.
Chuck Fredrick, CPA, is the managing owner of FredrickZink & Associates, PC (www.durangocpas.com) located in Durango, CO with 14 team members.