The Roadmap to Leading Disruption in Public Accounting

By Jackie Meyer and Julie Smith

For many, public accounting is a world of numbers, spreadsheets, and traditional practices. Recently, we had the opportunity to exchange insights about what drives us both to bring more purpose, balance, and fun into an industry that has been slow to embrace change. 

Vision is more than just a buzzword

Let’s be clear: having a vision isn’t about lofty ideals or abstract concepts. It’s about identifying real gaps in the market, understanding client needs, and finding innovative ways to meet them. For us, it’s about reimagining what an accounting firm can be and pushing boundaries to get there.

Many firms jump into growth and innovation without taking the time to clearly identify their foundation. You have to start by defining your mission, vision and core values. This discovery work gives you clarity on your purpose and guides your decision-making.

Your mission states why you exist. Your vision is where you’re headed in the future. And your values are the principles that drive behavior, decisions, and even tough conversations in your firm. 

This foundation sets you apart. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Get specific on who you want to serve and why. Identify the types of clients and projects that energize you, not drain you. Let your ideal client guide who you serve and the services you offer.

Communicate your vision

Once you’re clear on your firm’s vision, you have to communicate it effectively. Your team can’t read your mind. They need to understand the “why” behind your purpose and direction.

Share stories that help your team personally connect with your mission. Paint a vivid picture of your future firm, and show each member of the team how their role fits into your vision. This motivates them and gives meaning to their work.

Consistently refer back to your foundation when introducing new initiatives. Show how each change ladders up to achieving your greater vision. This builds buy-in.

Disrupt stagnant processes

What worked last year probably won’t work next year. Clinging to outdated processes holds your firm back. Regularly reevaluate what needs to evolve.

Identify pain points your team complains about. Ask clients what improvements they want to see. Brainstorm how technologies like AI can eliminate bottlenecks. Reengineer inefficient workflows.

Don’t settle for the status quo. Disrupt yourself before you get disrupted by competitors.

We get it. Change can be daunting. But in an industry that’s evolving rapidly, adaptability isn’t just an asset; it’s a necessity. It’s not about jumping on every new trend but discerning which innovations align with your goals and the needs of your clients.

The Future: Advisory and beyond

With tech advancements like AI on the rise, the role of accountants is shifting. While machines migh handle data crunching, the human element – strategic advice, relationship management, and holistic financial planning- remains crucial. We see a future where accountants are strategic partners for their clients.

This shift requires new skillsets. Hire employees for soft skills like emotional intelligence, sales, and client communication. Upskill team members to grow their business acumen.

It’s not about breaking things

Disruption is not about breaking things. But, remember, today’s innovations become tomorrow’s standards. Adopt technologies early before they commoditize services. Pilot changes with willing clients to test impact. Have the courage to retire legacy processes that no longer serve you.

Our advice to others in the industry? Stay curious. Challenge the status quo. Collaborate and share insights. The more we pool our knowledge and resources, the more we can drive meaningful change in the industry.

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