In this in-depth conversation they touch on some of the profession’s hottest topics, including where accounting is heading in the next five years and how your firm can shift from a focus on providing compliance to becoming your clients’ invaluable business advisors.
You can watch the full interview above, and here’s a quick look at the highlights for a taste of what to expect:
In five years we won’t recognise the CPA profession
“In five years we won’t recognise the CPA profession”, Gary says.
“We’ll still have a profession, we’ll still have a market, but many of our services will be very different than they are today. And I’m excited, even though some of the things that I talk about here will be disruptive to many people in our profession and the mindset, skillset, and toolset needed for the future are going to be different to what got us to be successful today”, he continues.
Why is the profession going to change so much?
Gary explains: “I don’t see any partner in the larger firms that we work with that isn’t concerned today about the shrinking revenue from existing compliance services. They not only want to automate those services and become more effective and efficient – they want to look to the future and see what additional services they can offer to that same client or market they serve today.”
“The disruption of technology is really commoditising some of the audit and tax services”, he adds. “Things like Blockchain are not going to eliminate audits, but they’re going to change them. I don’t think any of us know today exactly how that’s going to work, but I can confidently say that some of the steps we’re performing in audits today will not have value in the future.”
Shifting from compliance to invaluable advice
Gary explains that most accounting firms have focussed on compliance for the last 50 years.
But the future of the profession lies in going beyond compliance and becoming your clients’ invaluable business advisor.
“What’s the difference between an advisory service and compliance?”, Gary asks. “Well, it’s normally how you package and price that service.”
“When you move on up the value chain, consulting becomes the highest value item that you can offer. And when we ask firms why they aren’t doing more advisory services and consulting, they say ‘we don’t have enough time’. And I ask them ‘are you too busy picking up dollar bills to pick hundred dollar bills off the table?’”
And when it comes to providing advisory services and consulting at the highest level, Gary says “that’s where capabilities come in. And you’re limited by your capabilities, and that’s where those new skillsets [such as data analytics and sales and marketing] are playing into the market.”
Why mindset is the most important factor in your firm’s future success
Because the profession is set to change so much in the next few years, Gary believes that the skillset firms need to be hiring for needs to change as well.
“The mindset for today needs to be ‘game changer’”, he explains.
“Right now, Big Data and Blockchain are two technologies people know are going to be important, but not how or how soon. But we’re already seeing that in some of our larger firms that have those skillsets, they’re able to expand their services and grow to larger clients. And I think for the smaller firms out there their challenge is how do they retool or get the skills”.
So, what do you look for in new hires to make sure your firm has the skills needed to succeed into the future?
“I think if you hire people who have the right mindset, who are lifelong learners, they want to grow”, says Gary. “They want to grow the firm because that gives them opportunities. They’re also able to work as a collaborative team member – they like that.”
“Not everyone is going to buy into this, and I can tell you from experience it’s not about age”, he continues. “It’s more about mindset, and some people grow up with a fixed mindset, and others have a growth mindset.”
However, this is a big departure from the mindset that accounting firms would typically look for in the past.
“While people who have grown up in this profession like to solve problems, and they like to do it independently, that’s where we run into challenges today”, Gary says. “How do we take care of those people? Do they really fit for the future, or should they be in a different environment than in an accounting firm?”.
Watch the video above to take a deep dive into the conversation and get deep insights from one of the most forward-thinking professionals in accounting.