insight magazine

Today's CPA | Summer 2022

It’s All About Relevance

My theory: Becoming more relevant to businesses will make becoming a CPA more relevant to today’s career seekers.
Todd Shapiro ICPAS President & CEO

In a recent meeting with the Illinois CPA Society Board of Directors, a prominent accounting industry consultant noted that the number one thing business owners want from their CPAs is, effectively, help making their businesses more successful and profitable.

In another recent meeting I was in, someone asked, “What is the top long-term issue facing the CPA profession?” “Pipeline” is the most frequent response I hear in meeting after meeting with leaders in the profession and practitioners. Staffing and a declining pipeline of new CPAs are challenges that firms and companies are facing on a daily basis. Still, I propose that relevance is, in fact, the top issue facing the profession. Ensure relevance and we’ll solve the pipeline issue. The key question is, how do we ensure relevance?

We’re living in a world where technology is dramatically impacting and further commoditizing CPAs’ core compliance services of accounting, auditing, and tax preparation. There’s no question that these compliance services are still critical to businesses and the economy. But in an increasingly complex world, is that enough? Not according to Main Street business owners.

CPAs have maintained their unique position as being “the most trusted business advisors” for now; however, as those core services mentioned become further automated and commoditized, clients and companies are demanding more. CPAs need to move beyond reactively answering questions when their clients and companies pose them. If CPAs are to remain relevant, they need to meet the evolving and increasing needs of their clients and companies by providing proactive insight and strategic advice. As I’ve stated many times before, CPAs need to become “the most trusted and strategic business advisors.”

Adding “and strategic” to that moniker may seem subtle, but the difference is anything but. In this expanded role, one needs to think like the business owner, literally putting yourself in their shoes. It requires you to think, proactively, about the businesses you serve and what drives their profitability. Transforming the CPA profession to be collectively viewed as strategic will require every CPA to adapt and develop new skill sets, new tool sets and, most importantly, new mindsets.

That brings me back to the pipeline. I believe that the declining number of new CPAs is the symptom, not the root cause, of the problem that exists. Students and young professionals overwhelmingly want to make a positive impact on society, and given the current employment situation, will seek fulfilling careers wherever they can accomplish that. I believe that embracing the role of being a strategic business advisor that focuses on helping businesses become more profitable and successful will make the CPA profession more attractive to those pursuing rewarding careers.

Relevance is, clearly, the number one issue facing the CPA profession. Moving now to become the most trusted and strategic business advisors will ensure CPAs’ relevance in an ever-changing business landscape. In turn, it will make this a more attractive profession to pursue. Will you embrace the challenge and transform yourself?

We’ll be discussing this transformation more during my keynote at ICPAS SUMMIT22 in late August. I’d love to see you there and hear your thoughts.

Leave a comment