The next time someone asks what you do, Hitendra Patil has a
better suggestion for you than, “I’m an accountant.”

Threats to the accounting profession are coming from every direction:
Robots. Artificial intelligence. Blockchain. Overseas outsourcing.
Encroachment from other professionals.

Yet Hitendra Patil believes there’s never been a better, more exciting
time to be a CPA.

That is, as long as you are a certain kind of CPA. He calls this new and
improved professional an Accountaneur.

An Accountaneur is an entrepreneur who happens to be an accountant.
Accountaneurs spot and pursue opportunity, and think like a business
owner, not like a clerk. They see possibility where others see problems.
They’re not only the most trusted advisor to their business owner
clients, but also the most relevant. They work less hours but
add more value.

Don’t worry, says Patil. Nobody is born with these skills. But any
accountant can learn them. Here are five tips on how to get started.

1. Another word for risk is opportunity

“Risks exist for all business owners,” notes Patil. “Entrepreneurs act
despite the risk. In their minds, there is a different word for risk; it’s
called opportunity. Over a period of time, successful entrepreneurs find
a way, a method, or a system to manage and overcome risks.”

Identifying and quantifying risk is in most CPAs’ wheelhouse. They do it
very well for their clients and they do it fairly well for themselves, too.
Patil recommends committing some risk capital to invest in
experimenting, trying out new things.

“It can be as small as 5% of earnings,” he suggests. “And once you
quantify your risk capital, you can see it in totality. Otherwise it is like
fog: You get scared because you can’t see very far.

“When you’re doing compliance-focused work day in and day out, your
mind does not get conditioned to think in risk-averse ways. And habits
can be hard to break, but that’s the key. Leverage the strength of
habits.”

If you put yourself in the habit of taking calculated risk for your own
practice growth, argues Patil, you will soon be able to handle and
perceive risk as well.

“It is a process,” he says. “It is not an overnight makeover. One fine
day it will seem like an overnight makeover, once you get into those
risk-taking habits.”

2. Wean your practice of repetitive tasks

CPAs are trained and conditioned to learn new things. However, the
knowledge they acquire tends to be technical in nature – comprised of
rules and codes and sections and subsections. Patil warns that rote and
repetitive activities are at risk in today’s fast-changing business world.

As an example, he points out that it took 20 weeks for a team of 10
senior auditors to process an audit assignment to find five unusual
transactions. IBM’s Watson found them in four minutes.

“Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and immense processing
power are advantages that a human being simply cannot match,” he
cautions.

That’s the risk. The opportunity is to liberate your time and life by
leveraging this same technology to your benefit. It is like hiring
thousands of people for the tiniest fraction of the historical cost of
hiring, and benefitting from that massive productivity and accuracy.

“When you relate the intelligence from technology to the business
decisions your clients have taken or not taken, you will become their
highly paid business strategist or the growth director,” states Patil.
“The future success of accountants will come from these contextual
activities.”

3. Look for ways to be helpful

“Why Accountants Could Be the Happiest People on Earth” is a chapter
title in Patil’s latest book. His work is based on research and
organizational psychology, which implies that people are more
innovative and successful when they are motivated by a desire to help
other people.

“For accountants it is not very difficult to find ways to help,” says Patil.
“For example, just jotting down the questions clients and prospects ask
you for two or three months will reveal common issues, challenges,
and problems that people need help with. When you start solving these
problems, you’re on your way to becoming indispensible in a way that
doing write-ups never will.”

Problems can also be identified through accounting information, notes
Patil.

“One of my clients was doing the accounting for a large restaurant, and
the restaurant was having profitability issues,” he explains. “This CPA
was a good accountant, but she did not have restaurant experience.
Simply by looking at the accounting data, she figured out that there
was a problem with liquor sales. By reviewing sales, pricing and liquor
consumption, she speculated that an employee was stealing.

“The owner did not want to believe it because his key people were
trusted lieutenants. But when word spread that the accountant had
conducted an audit and suspected theft, two employees suddenly quit,
never to be seen again. And profitability quickly resumed.

“This is how to add value and go beyond simply producing a balance
sheet every month.”

4. Beware multiple cooks in the kitchen

As director of practice development at Accountants World, Patil has
spent over 10 years working alongside accounting and tax
professionals. He’s concluded that the partnership business model
favored by most multi-partner firms contains a serious flaw, explained
by the following story.

“Our team went to dinner at a nice restaurant, and different members
of the team had radically different experiences. Most of the group had
a wonderful time and really enjoyed the restaurant. However, a couple
of people complained it was a horrible meal.

“A discussion with the manager revealed a surprising reason for the
disparity. The restaurant had two chefs. The people who loved the
restaurant had dishes prepared by Chef A. Those who were
disappointed had dishes prepared by Chef B. In this way the restaurant
produced two radically different customer ‘experiences’.

Patil uses this story to illustrate how many CPA firms operate, with
each partner owning his or her own book of business. In this model the
only things partners have in common are the shared infrastructure, the
brand, and maybe shared technology. This can lead to conflicts,
resource competition, and inefficiencies due to conflicting priorities.
And more importantly, it creates an inconsistent experience for clients,
similar to the restaurant diners.

What Patil recommends instead is a firm-oriented approach. He
encourages CPA firms to create a cohesive consistency – with shared
values, shared goals, shared culture . . . and a consistent delivery
among all partners.

5. Technology will not replace accountants

As someone who holds advanced degrees in business and science, and
has spent decades working in technology-driven businesses,
Patil has an insider’s perspective.

“Technology is not a trend that will fade away,” he says. “But despite
what Mark Cuban says or what you read in the press, technology will
not replace accountants.

“What you personally do as accounting work will definitely change. So
you want to anticipate those changes and benefit from them. The
importance of soft skills, contextual abilities, behavioral economics will
gain greater significance in the coming years.”

Where to begin? Patil advises asking, ‘What work do I do that has
the most positive impact on the lives of my clients?’ It is the human
experiences that warrant our attention. The goal is to amplify those
activities and efforts to amplify the human impact of your services.
That’s the new debits and credits for Accountaneurs.

Patil summarizes his simple formula.

“Adjust your mindset to think like an Accountaneur, not an accountant.

“Focus on the work that produces the most positive impact on your clients.

“Learn as much as you can about human behavior. Technology is going
to level the playing field more and more each day. It is your ability to
connect at the human level and communicate well that will
differentiate you.

“And finally, time is finite for everyone. We don’t know how much is left
in our lives. Your time is very precious. Deliver maximum impact in the
least possible time. You want to do only those things that a lesser-
educated, lesser-experienced person or technology cannot do. Do
justice to your experience, expertise, knowledge, and do only the thing
or things that employ all these faculties.”

Photo by michael podger
Photo by Andrew Yardley on Unsplash

We’ve been exploring various components of our planning process. Today let’s do a
quick review to see where the pieces fit together.

Remember, our objective is to help clients clarify direction and maximize their business
potential. That means grow revenues, grow profits, grow business value, and help them
achieve their big-business outcomes.

Our initial focus has been on the three ingredients of business success: vision, plan,
and desire. The HaydenRock System™ produces a simple, one-page plan that contains
key planning priorities.

The next step is establishing accountability. Who is accountable for driving outcomes
behind those planning priorities?

There are 3 possibilities: someone on the client’s team… someone on the CPA firm
team… or some sort of outside expert (HaydenRock can introduce you to an expert as
required).

Okay, so plans are in place and we’ve established accountability. Focus now shifts
towards driving action.

In our experience, driving action requires regular external follow-up meetings to drive
accountability – asking questions like: Are the plans on track? These meetings can
occur monthly or quarterly. But the essential point is we need to maintain the pace of
change.

Otherwise clients risk slipping back into ‘business-as-usual’ mode.

By working together, we can help business owners to sustain the pace of change. And
in turn, that leads towards growing revenues, growing profits and growing business
value.

Our goal is to help clients double revenues, double profits, and double equity value in a
short period of time.

Next, we’ll start to put together the roadmap for doing just that.

What’s your management style?

Do you manage in a 20th century, command-and-control style, organizational-chart
driven?

This approach was effective in the 20th century, basically because people did as they
were told.

People in the 21st century need to be treated differently if you want to harness and
maximize their potential. They need to be engaged. They want vision. They want
context.

Employees want to know: Where is the business going? What’s it going to look like?
They also want to know what the plan is. What do I have to do to make that happen?
They want to understand the purpose or the mission. Why does our business matter?
And in particular, why does my job matter?

In most businesses, you’re dealing with 3 different personality types: the highly
engaged, the moderately engaged, and the disengaged. Typically, you’ll find

  • 29% of employees are highly engaged
  • 55% are moderately engaged, and
  • 16% are disengaged

By comparison, in a world-class business

  • 67% are highly engaged
  • 26% are moderately engaged
  • 7% are disengaged

What do those differences mean in financial terms? Highly engaged people on average
are approximately 90% efficient. Moderately engaged people are 60% efficient. And
disengaged people are around about 40% efficient if you are lucky.

If we now extrapolate those numbers in terms of their relative ratios, we find that the
average business is approximately 66% efficient, while a world-class business is
approximately 79% efficient.

That’s a difference of about 13% between average and world-class. And what that
means is you have a significant potential to improve either your profits or efficiency.It
equates to around about $130,000 per annum per $1 million of payroll.

Is that worth thinking about? Without question.

So what’s the key message?

In the 21st century it makes financial sense to be working towards creating a highly
engaged team – a team of Navy SEALs or a Navy SEAL culture.

In the 21st century, desire matters more than ever before. Nowadays it’s not just owner
desire that matters. Team desire is very important if you want to maximize your
business potential.

Photo by michael podger on Unsplash

I was talking to a CPA last week, exploring growth options for his firm. I asked him to paint me a picture of where the firm is today. He spent the next 15 minutes reciting a litany of complaints.

He works way too many hours, even when it’s not tax season.

He goes from deadline to deadline, never able to catch up.

He’s constantly stressed.

His clients don’t pay what he’s worth.

Every year they demand more and want to pay less, so he’s working harder and harder for less and less.

He’s constantly chasing clients down. They’re often late with their numbers, and when they do finally get them to him, he has to spend hours of unbillable time to straighten out the mess they provide.

Whenever he tries to raise his fees, his clients threaten to walk.

I asked what his plan was to rectify these issues. He’s working on a big marketing campaign to grow the firm and bring in new clients. Good idea, except…

The prospects he’s targeting are exactly like the clients he’s got now. So if the campaign is a success, he’ll have a bunch more clients who don’t pay well, don’t respect his time, and don’t value his expertise.

What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting something different to happen.

The message is hopefully clear. If you want to grow profits, you need to have desire – a desire for CHANGE.

Beyond the status quo.

Beyond the way you’ve done things for the last 10… 15… 20 years or more.

Some people believe desire is a trait that’s impossible to measure.

The HaydenRock System™ has a unique way to measure desire.

Ask me – I’ll be happy to show you.

Did you ever see the movie, “The Social Network”? It tells how Facebook was invented as a way for Harvard students to rate coeds in terms of attractiveness, sex appeal, etc.

Today’s dating apps such as ­­­­­­Match.com and Tinder have simplified the rating process to a series of swipes, left or right.

The HaydenRock System™ has a rating system, too – albeit without suggestive photos and fictional histories.

Remember last week we talked about the 3 ingredients of business success: vision, plan, and desire. All three ingredients need to work together in order to maximize a company’s business potential.

The HaydenRock System rates each of these key components and determines the overall BIZ rating percentage. This number helps us benchmark the strength of the business foundations today – before we make any improvements or changes.

A lower-than-average BIZ rating means the chances of significant growth are low. The business has weak business foundations. A higher-than-average BIZ rating means the chances of significant growth are greater because strong business foundations are in place.

So what do we mean by “significant growth”? We’re talking about doubling the size of the business, doubling revenues or doubling profits in a short period of time.

Think of the BIZ rating percentage score as the starting point. It helps us answer: Where are the foundations weak? Where do we need to make priority changes? It also allows us to monitor the progress over time.

The HaydenRock System is the tool that helps your clients maximize business potential, grow revenues, grow profits, and double business value.

apple

Some people like apple pie made only with Granny Smith apples. Others mix different
apple varieties. Some like traditional crust. Others prefer a crumb topping.

A Google search for apple pie recipe turns up over 4.7 million options, but there are
certain things they have in common.

Turns out you can’t make an apple pie without apples, butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Likewise, you can’t build a successful business without 3 key ingredients:

Vision… Plan… and Desire.

Think of the three ingredients of business success just like going on a journey.

Vision is just like direction: Where are you going and what will it look like when you
reach your destination?

The Plan is the route. What is the best way to arrive at your destination?

Finally, desire: You have to keep moving forward and make sure that the team doesn’t
run out of gas.

The HaydenRock System begins by measuring vision, plan and desire.

We start here because all three ingredients must work together if we’re going
to maximize a company’s business potential, and enjoy the journey along the way.

When my son was 3 years old he would dump all the puzzle pieces on the table and have no clue where to start. He would take hours and hours trying to put the puzzle together with no luck.

That’s when I taught him to first put the 4 corners in their place, followed by the pieces around the edge, then look for common colors and always have the front of the box to look at.

I gave him a very simplistic process to follow and now he can put together any puzzle regardless of complexity.

Who is helping your clients with their strategic puzzle?

Who is helping them get from Point A (where they are today) to Point B (where they want to get to in the future)?

If only you had a very simplistic process to follow . . . wait you do, and you might have heard of it by now – its called Vision Stitching™.

Vision Stitching helps pull together the pieces of the strategic puzzle step by simple step. Combining technology with a proven process, Vision Stitching helps organize top priorities for action. Then funnels the action items into a simple One-Page Plan that’s easy for busy business owners to digest and implement.

This simplifies life for the business owner, keeps the team focused, and provides steady advisory work to the firm.

If you are not helping your clients put together their strategic puzzle, somebody else will be soon.

Photo Credit by Taylor Nicole
Photo by Taylor Nicole

Accounting Today just came out with their accounting Wailing Wall – the annual list of what worries accountants most .

Top concerns this year are Blockchain, artificial intelligence, and automation.

No doubt CPAs are wise to monitor these developments, because they will certainly impact the profession (although it’s difficult to predict how soon and to what degree).

But at least these perils are perils we can see.

Let me tell you about another threat that’s arguably even bigger. Except you can’t see it.

Or, more precisely, CPAs are choosing not to see it.

The danger I’m referring to comes from other professionals – financial advisors, bookkeepers, insurance execs, stock brokers, even attorneys – encroaching into territory formerly controlled by accountants.

Remember when the tax return was the exclusive domain of accountants? That train has left the station, never to return.

Happy Tax founder Mario Costanz has ingeniously separated the selling of accounting services from the doing of accounting services. As a result, Happy Tax clients have their returns done by American-based CPAs while the franchise owners are advertising execs, real estate agents, car insurance agencies, attorneys – anyone who’s comfortable with sales or already has a pool of clients they’re consulting with.

Andrew Argue is coaching bookkeepers and enrolled agents how to earn six figures a month. The secret to high fees, he teaches, is being more of an advisor/consultant and less of a number cruncher.

And here at HaydenRock, our fastest growing market is not accountants and CPAs.

It’s financial advisors.

Temperamentally, financial advisors are the opposite of CPAs. They evaluate quickly, enroll quickly, and start implementing quickly – qualities that give them an advantage in the marketplace.

Also, they’re entrepreneurs and business owners first, and technicians second. They realize that number crunching and compliance work can be outsourced. (Some even include tax returns at no charge as part of their overall service offering.)

Where these advisors focus instead is on solving problems and adding value. Exactly what business owners crave most.

Three out of four business owners who change accountants do so out of frustration: they’re looking for proactive advice and ideas, and they’re not getting it from their accountant. So they’re turning to other professionals.

Accounting Today
quotes Joey Havens, executive partner at Top 50 firm HORNE, who declares, “The most important issue currently facing the profession is being innovative enough to put today’s historical CPA firm out of business.”

If CPAs aren’t up to the challenge, I know some financial advisors who are.

My guest this week on the Accounting Success Podcast is Vincent Leo, from Insero & Company CPAs, in Rochester, New York.

Vince is a Partner in the Audit and Business Advisory Services Group. He has more than 30 years experience serving some of the area’s largest companies, and joined Insero as a Partner in 2002 from Arthur Andersen. He advises clients on technical accounting matters; private placements; public offerings; and mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures.

His areas of focus include accounting and auditing, Sarbanes–Oxley, enterprise risk management, and Employee Benefit Plans.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Vince and I discussed how he’s propelled transformation within the firm, gained national credibility, and:

  • How Insero became one of the top employee benefit plan accounting firms in the United States
  • Benefits of 1/3 of business coming from outsourced project work
  • How racing cars helped Vince get recruited and hired at Insero
  • The problem with trying to drive change at the partner level (and what works better)
  • How to go from a sleepy local firm to having clients in 30 states

Insero & Company is a growing regional firm with five offices, 125 team members, and clients in 30 states. The firm is regularly voted “One of the Best Accounting Firms to Work for in the U.S.” by Accounting Today.

Firm specialties include government, not-for-profit, family businesses, employee benefit plans, and outsourced accounting.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w

My guest this week on the Accounting Success Podcast is Ken Cerini, Managing Partner of Cerini & Associates, based in Long Island, New York.

Ken has one of those great American success stories, literally starting his practice in a garage – with a table, two folding chairs and a computer – and growing it into the dynamic, innovative firm that it is today.

Check out our conversation here: https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c

Ken has won numerous awards, and has been quoted in publications such as the New York Times, Newsday, Long Island Business News, and the Long Island Press.

Some highlights of our conversation include:

  • Why his office décor style is 12th Century Medieval, complete with swords and armor
  • What his wife told him when he announced his plan to leave the security of a Big 4 job to become an entrepreneur and business owner
  • How long he worked a side hustle paper route job while establishing his new CPA firm
  • Why he tells his staff that their job should not be the most important thing in their life
  • Business lessons learned from rock climbing
  • Why he’s seeking cemeteries and wineries as clients

Besides being Managing Partner, Ken is responsible for the firm’s not-for-profit and educational providers practice group. In addition to his extensive audit experience both at Ernst & Young, LLP, and Cerini & Associates, Ken has been involved in providing consulting services for nonprofits and educational facilities of all sizes throughout New York State. He is an expert in preschool special education. His specialties also include Forensic audits and fraud investigations.

Cerini & Associates is a full service accounting firm with a staff of nearly 50, four partners, and a foundation built on value-added ideas and integrity. The firm serves many industries, including healthcare, nonprofit, technology, special education, startups, school districts, and construction, among others.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to https://itun.es/us/32T9db.c and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf8iui-YUVIhTxVCSItxV0w