The Changing CPA World

January 13th, 2016

The world is changing fast and everyone is struggling to keep up. This is true both for businesses and the CPAs that serve them. Instant information is available to everyone making it easier to look up questions on the internet, do their own accounting, run payroll and prepare tax returns.

Business owners frequently need help but don’t know it. CPAs are still traveling down traditional paths and not always in a position to effectively assist their clients. Business operations and financial management can be complicated. Business owners will frequently self-medicate when they should get help. And in many instances, CPAs aren’t adequately trained or skilled in providing in business advisory and consulting services.

Business advisory services range from specialized CFO and controller support, strategic planning, operations, marketing, information technology, and human resources. Most business owners don’t have skills to cope with all these areas of expertise. In addition, there aren’t too many CPAs that have the training and expertise to provide advice to clients in all these sectors. Therefore, it is critical for CPAs to develop their business advisory and CFO skills to be able to help their clients.

Business owners need trusted advisors that can help them address the unique problems in their business. CPAs need to shift their focus to helping clients identify these special needs. This is the future of the profession. This requires training and the development of new skills. Business owners also need to recognize that they can’t know everything and be willing to seek help when and where it’s needed.

The role of CPAs as business advisors is to enhance the productivity, profitability and wealth of their clients. Creating awareness of client needs is critical. CPAs must be willing to collaborate with expert advisors skilled in providing the necessary services. This creates win/win situations for all parties.

The challenge is that most small and medium size businesses have never experienced the benefit of working with a skilled consultant. Another barrier is that they don’t understand how they can benefit from an advisory relationship with their CPA. The key is understanding that using an expert advisor is an investment and should not be perceived as a cost of doing business.

Businesses need to understand:

  • Why they need an advisor/consultant.
  • Why the advisor is ideally suited to perform that function.
  • What will be the approach of the engagement?
  • What is the goal of the engagement and how they get benefit from it?

Consulting engagements are complex and require special expertise. Consultants sell knowledge and expertise, not products. They transact returns from investment, not sales. Their fees represent an investment, and not a cost of doing business. When businesses and CPAs develop a better understanding of advisory engagements, both will benefit from their investment.