Change in the air for firms

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Gabrielle Luoma By Gabrielle Luoma, CEO and Founder of the GMLCPA

30 May 2016

Gabrielle Luoma, CPA, CGMA is CEO and Founder of the GMLCPA firm located in Tucson, Arizona, and is one of the speakers at the ICAS Practitioners Conference on 2 June. Here she outlines what is needed to be a Firm of the Future.

Do you sense a change in the air?  Accountancy firms don’t quite look the same as they used to…staff act differently…services are spreading beyond traditional tax and accounting services…client interaction is off the charts.  It can all be a bit overwhelming, but only if you aren’t willing to sit back and go with the flow a bit.

As a young firm owner, I’m a part of this change movement – here are some thoughts on what I see as the future of this profession.

  • Tax and Accounting Services are a staple service, but not the end-all be-all – Our profession is established on our core services and will continue to be. However, firms used to stop there and failed to elevate those services. Firms aiming at the future will take the compliance-based services that we pride ourselves on and add a layer of complexity and expertise. Cash flow modeling, outsourced CFO services, niche firms, strategic planning…all high level services that accountants are fully equipped to provide and get paid a premium for!
  • Firms of the Future aren’t operating like Firms of the Past – The image of success used to be framed around the number of chargeable hours you clocked and how early/late you were at the office. This “badge of honor” model was just how things were, but not today! Work/life integration is key and firms are being radical in how they provide that to their teams. Fully virtual firms, ROWEs (Results Only Work Environments), flexible schedules, on-site child care, bringing pets to work…I could go on forever. The key message is that success in a Firm of the Future is based on productive outcomes and client service, not quantitative measures of time.
  • Future firm owners aren’t waiting around for you to act – I have seen a number of firms who had established succession plans get derailed because the existing owners refused to change anything, believing the successor generation would sit in a corner and wait their turn. Future firm leaders/owners are capable of exiting stale firms and joining (even remotely!) dynamic firms or just starting out on their own. The previous barriers to entry, primarily technology, have lowered significantly, making going independent far easier. Firms of the Future embrace change and are ready to hand over decision making and influencing to the next generation, knowing that better equips the firm as a whole for the future.

Accountants are hugely important in the business community, but we’ll only stay that way if we maintain our relevancy in a changing world.  Clinging onto the “way we’ve always done things” prevents firms from keeping their competitive edge with prospective and existing customers, plus the present/future accountants who would want to service those clients.  Are you ready to ride the waves of change and be a Firm of the Future?

Gabrielle and fellow AICPA member Jason Deshayes, Vice-President of Butler and Company, will be joining the ICAS Practitioners’ Conference on 2 June by video conference to discuss what the firm of the future looks like and how they navigated the changes.


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