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6 Changes CPAs Must Embrace to Succeed in 2020 and Beyond

As we enter a new decade, CPAs must welcome change to build more sustainable and profitable businesses. By Tom Wheelwright, CPA | Digital Exclusive - 2020


With AI and blockchain technologies on the brink of changing everything we do, it’s time to focus on expanding business, tax, and wealth strategies rather than crunching numbers. It’s time to focus on the future. By embracing these six changes and trends impacting the CPA profession, you can potentially attract more loyal customers, build more profitable businesses, and find more time to enjoy living your own financial dreams.

1. CPAs Must Become Wealth Strategists

A lot of CPAs look at technology and think, “If technology is going to be doing all of this work that I would normally do, what am I going to do to stay in business?” I suggest you stop focusing your professional efforts on what was popular in the past (i.e., tax returns, bookkeeping, and financial statement preparation) and instead focus on what’s important to your clients’ futures (such as business advisory services). You don’t want to just be a CPA—you want to be a wealth strategist to your clients.

2. CPAs Must Improve Customer Service

A CPA firm’s only assets are its clients. So, you’d better be taking care of those assets. Everyone enjoys their neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurant for a reason—the personal and familiar service. What I suggest is that you get very good at customer service and position yourself as the local CPA firm of choice.

3. CPAs Must Embrace Technology

With technologies like AI, blockchain, and robotic process automation advancing in our markets, a time will come when there will be no reason to be manually entering or preparing clients’ books, tax returns, and financial statements. Technology is going to free us CPAs from doing the mundane tasks that, frankly, almost nobody likes doing anyway. So, embrace technology in this new decade and start implementing the solutions that can sustain you as being the most trusted business advisor to your clients.

4. CPAs Must Focus on the Future

As CPAs, we tend to focus on the past: last year’s tax return, last month’s financial statements, last quarter’s report to shareholders. It’s time to start focusing more on the future. What’s important to your firm’s future? What’s important to your clients’ futures? What can you do to support their goals? How can you help your clients be more profitable in business and life?

5. CPAs Must Be Better at Marketing

Every profitable business has a good marketing plan. I contend that CPAs who want to stand out to clients must develop a brand and a message that resonates with a target market. If that means hiring a marketing expert to amplify your story and increase customer loyalty, so be it.

6. CPAs Must Be Strategists

A typical CPA will see hundreds if not thousands of business clients in a lifetime. That’s a lot of inherent knowledge and insight gained into various industries that computers and technology don’t have access to. Moving forward, technology is going to generate data for you, but it is up to you to interpret that data and, paired with your unique insight into your clients’ industries and experiences, transform it into something useful for clients. It’s up to you to make sense of what needs to be done. Bottom line, CPAs need to become strategists if they want to remain relevant in 2020 and beyond.

Tom Wheelwright, CPA is the CEO of WealthAbility® and host of The WealthAbility® Show, a podcast for helping CPAs build profitable businesses and embrace new technology.

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