Innovation or stagnation?
Why SALY is no
longer good enough
BY JODY PADAR
InnovatIon Is the key term In to-
day’s fast-paced profession. Conducting
business “same as last year” (saLy) no lon-
ger works. There are simply too many cool
new technologies and better ways of manag-
ing your practice.
more than ever, firms must keep up, dig in
and apply the changes required to do busi-
ness in a world where clients want to stay
connected and in communication with their
trusted business advisors. saLy no longer
lives here. There’s a new sheriff in town and
her name is innovation!
the big question is: Do you innovate or
stagnate? stagnating means that you are sat-
isfied with business as usual and probably
have the mindset of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t
fix it.” That’s a dangerous mode of thinking,
especially when there are other firm leaders
who have harnessed the power of innova-
tion and are transforming their firms into
highly efficient, streamlined operations.
These firms have opened up new channels
of communication via social media, updated
to a customer-centric pricing structure, and
are consistently exploring new solutions to
improve firm operations and more efficiently
deliver information to clients.
These firms are also realizing the potential
for value-added consulting services that go
along with running an innovatively charged
firm. ask yourself a few questions: Do you
check in with your clients all year long? Do
you proactively offer suggestions to enhance
the client’s business and then step up to the
plate to support them through the process?
Do you think outside the box and become
the client’s most trusted business advisor
beyond accounting and tax services? this
is what new Firm owners do, and how new
consulting opportunities are made.
you should be doing all these things in
Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is chief executive
officer and principal of New Vision CPA
Group ( www.newvisioncpagroup.com), and
an adjunct professor at Oakton Community
College, as well as part of the Intuit Trainer
your own firm. If not, you will soon be left
behind — far, far behind, I’m afraid.
AREAS OF CHANGE
over the past few years, I’ve preached about
keeping up with change, specifically in relation to technology, social media and value
pricing. These are all items that reflect the
new Firm attitude — that is, those firms that
are willing to change, stay ahead of trends,
and streamline operations for ultimate efficiency. my firm is certainly changing
— sometimes it seems like on a daily basis.
But the effort we’ve put into enhancing operations and innovating in practice management has helped us grow exponentially.
Let me expound on some areas where my
firm has grown and how we made it happen.
;Exhibit 1 — Social media. many leads
come from social media. For my firm, it’s
Facebook that drives potential clients to my
door. our presence is professional, and we
maintain ongoing, consistent communications via our social media channels. a sound
social media program is bringing prospects
in. For example, we recently took on a large
client who was formerly with Big Four firm
kPmG. Fees for this client will approach six
figures. Based on wins like this, I am always
confused as to why so many firms are resistant to change.
;Exhibit 2 — Value pricing. our fixed-pricing model allows us to compete on value,
service and intellectual capital with the big
firms. not restrained by billable hours, we
can go the extra mile and be creative in tax
planning for our high-net-worth clients.
Complex partnership returns were once
the exclusive territory of top 100 Firms, but
with advanced technology and streamlined
workflow practices in place, we can provide
the same level of service as the big guys — at
a fixed monthly cost. This drives a lot of big
clients to our small firm doors! Clients love
this model. It is also profitable because it is
based on what the client perceives as value.
Clients don’t care how long it took you to
complete the work, just that you solved their
;Exhibit 3 — Technology. technology is
the linchpin in any successful firm. you have
to have a streamlined system in place to efficiently handle client work. This allows you
to put a fixed-pricing model in place and take
on the six-figure clients. Firms must be willing
to get out of their comfort zone and move to
the cloud and implement other advanced applications if they are to compete with the big
firms. It’s technology that levels the playing
field. It certainly has for us. I find it amazing
that because of software-as-a-service technologies, we actually surpass larger firms in
service and value because those firms are not
investing in these types of solutions.
The final word: It’s all about changing with
the times. saLy is long gone! I operate a small
firm, but we are competing with the big firms
because we were willing to implement the
right changes (and I have the case studies
from tax season to prove it). such changes
include adopting social media, cloud technologies, and value pricing. all of these items
combined give small firms a competitive advantage. They’ve definitely given my firm the
advantage over my competitors and allow us
to compete head to head with large firms.
That’s true innovation (with absolutely no
our firm has adopted an innovation mindset — across the board. It allows us to compete with the big firms on offerings, value and
profitability. and you can do the same if you
are willing. The best part is that there are firm
owners that are willing to share how to go
about it. and I’m one of them. If you are open,
I’m here to help. at
A bespectacled businessman extracts a
receipt from a pile of paperwork on an
abandoned desk, and after a close inspection, dramatically proclaims: “It must
be the Fourth of July —” (pause to take
off glasses) “ — because this guy has certainly declared his dependents.” And in
screams the requisite Who song — probably “The Real Me” — driving home that
rare peek under the green visor.
According to many of those I interviewed for this month’s update on
diversity in the profession, a hit TV show
in the vein of CSI would go a long way in
attracting a greater pool of under-represented minorities to the profession and
away from its more glamorous and prime-time-ready medical and legal cousins.
When Ernst & Young’s Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting Ken Bouyer
joked with me about the need for this
kind of branding for a young audience,
his pitch was along the lines of yet another Law & Order offshoot: something
like Accounting Order. National Association of Black Accountants’ national president and CEO Calvin Harris told me he
originally aspired to be a doctor, lawyer
or police officer growing up, based on his
channel surfing habits alone.
When I recently tweeted a link to
our Web story about a new comic book
based on accounting, someone retweet-ed with a lament about the lack of bean
counters on TV. This led to a quick brainstorm in our office. Last year, we featured
an online slide show of accountants in
the movies, including classics like Leo
Bloom. But when we turned our attention
to the small screen, the list we drummed
up was far shorter. Other than Norm from
Cheers, representation was scarce.
Can you think of any TV
of Boston or Andy
Richter’s short stint
as a CPA-turned-P.I.? And would
go after offshore
tax havens? Give
me your accountant
TV show pitch:
— Danielle Lee