Sterling Management Warns Fast-Moving Financial Technology Forcing CPAs to Innovate or Fade

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Information super technology, collaborative data-mining, enhanced mobility and real-time reports are challenging CPA firms’ ability keep up with their fast-paced clients.

Kevin WIlson, CEO of Sterling Management, urges CPAs to innovate as financial technology advances.

There is a huge opportunity here for accounting firms as they reorganize and reform their work flow and reporting tools.

The conservative operating style of the CPA – one that involves a lot of paper, spreadsheets and typically a linear input-output style of report – may not be the role of the future, according to Jon Baron, Managing Director with the tax and accounting business of Thomson Reuters. Things must change, he says. “Today, clients and prospects expect more,” Baron said. “It goes beyond accounting. Clients want a partner that provides advice and assistance in truly driving their business and financial results, not just a firm that manages compliance requirements.” (1)

But as Information Technology takes over the heart of business and reorders its operations, managing a company has become more complex than ever before. Globalization, interlocking infrastructures, “big data”, increased competition and new laws and regulations are applying immense pressure on all levels of business to stay on top of their markets—but CPA practices aren’t keeping up; the rate of change is outpacing what they can deliver.

Kevin Wilson, CEO of Sterling Management, a company of expert business consultants with 28 years of experience helping CPAs run successful practices, agrees with Baron. “There is a huge opportunity here for accounting firms as they reorganize and reform their work flow and reporting tools. Because the CPA understands and manages the most vital aspect of a business—the money flow—their counsel has always been senior to almost anyone else’s. We train them to not only properly organize their own offices, but also train them in proven management consulting skills for their clients.”

Wilson said that CPAs are relied upon to make sense of a company and because they have the ability to interpret financial information they also hold the key to better overall management of the company. They are the first to know where a company stands and in what direction it is headed. Without the CPA, a company wouldn’t have a clue as to what strategies are pulling a profit or a loss. “They are opinion leaders,” Wilson said. “We bring them up to speed on the management skills necessary to really fulfill that important role.”

But, Wilson warns, it begins with CPAs cleaning up their own house. According to Baron, various professional surveys and resources have highlighted the following deficiencies in accounting firms:

●    35% of firms report not having a company website.

●    40% of firms are not leveraging a document management system and thus not taking advantage of paperless workflow efficiencies or the elevated client service of offering client portals.

●    83% of firms are not using any cloud-based solutions.

●    76% of firms still rely on paper as the primary method of delivering completed tax returns to clients. (1)

This technology lag in accounting firms creates a risk that many CPA services may be undercut by in-house software tools, enhanced IT support and cloud-based automation.

Wilson says the solution is for accounting firms to provide innovative services in ways that parallel and engage their clients more rapidly, and provide their clients not only with the critical information they need but the organizational changes they require to make the most of it.

Sterling consultants have recognized that when CPAs get practice management training, they not only broaden their service delivery base, but also ensure they exert a positive management role with their clients. Sterling has reported that it finds when their CPA clients get trained on certain business processes, they see a 20% production increase in the first year. For example:

  •     Practice management seminars and workshops
  •     On site consultations and hand-on training
  •     Advanced organizational skills

Wilson predicts that the CPAs who can organize their practice to stay ahead of the technology curve and can leverage their skills into a management role within each client’s company will flourish – and those that don’t, won’t. The environment surrounding all CPAs is rapidly changing, technologically as well as socially and economically. It’s been said by a very wise man that you either change to adapt to the changing environment or you become extinct. And so went many now extinct species!

About Sterling:

Founded in 1983, Sterling has been the dominant player in the practice management consulting field for over three decades. By survey, active Sterling clients see a 10 to 20 percent increase in production in the first four to six months, and a 30 to 40 percent increase within the first year. Sterling CEO Kevin Wilson is not only a highly-trained administrator and consultant; he has published the widely-read human resources book, Personnel: Your Most Valuable Resource or Greatest Burden. All told, Sterling has delivered over 500,000 hours of business consulting and achieved more than 135,000 training completions among 175,000 business professionals from 1,700 cities in every state in the nation. The company has won more than 75 local, national and international awards, including twice appearing on the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing, privately-held companies. For more information, visit http://www.Sterling.us.

1.    O’Bannon, Isaac. “Accountants Encouraged to Embrace Change, Foster Greater Client Collaboration.” CPA Practice Advisor. N.p., 05 Nov. 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/news/12135299/accountants-encouraged-to-embrace-change-foster-greater-client-collaboration.

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