Revenge of the Bookkeepers

If it feels like your CPA practice is under attack, it is.

First it was online tax software.

Then offshore accountants working for pennies on the dollar.

Next came Watson, artificial intelligence, and the robots.

And now this:

Revenge of the bookkeepers.

CPA David Bergstein wrote an excellent article in the April issue of Accounting Today about “a whole new set of advisors coming into play in accounting.”

These new professional services companies are CPA-firm-like…

Except without the CPA.

As Bergstein points out, many of these hybrid firms have their roots as bookkeeping companies providing back office accounting services – now bolting on value-added services such as consulting and strategic advisory services.

In the process they’re servicing small and mid-sized business owners at a higher level than many compliance-centric CPA firms do.

Entrepreneurs and business owners today are looking for more from their advisors than 20th Century thinking and historical record keeping. If CPAs won’t provide it, these executives are willing to look outside traditional channels to find it.

Last week on our podcast we heard about several bookkeeping firms who are doing six figures.

A month.

As you can imagine, to generate steady revenue like that, they’re doing much more than balancing a company’s checkbook.

Separately, I had a conversation with a millennial CPA who walked away from a lucrative career at a top “name” regional firm to join a bookkeeping service because he:
1) was fed up with 80-hour workweeks
2) was tired of practicing “drive-by accounting”
3) now has more freedom to add value wherever he sees need
4) feels like he’s using more of his brain
5) can engage clients on a much deeper level that they appreciate
6) can still make a very good income

Some CPAs look down on bookkeepers because they don’t have a CPA license. Meanwhile, many bookkeepers are rejoicing because they DON’T have one.

Not having a CPA license means they never have the responsibility and aggravation and liability of doing tax returns. They’re free to build a firm unchained to the tax return.

Which means proactive, value-added, forward-looking services that speak to the modern business owner.

And when it comes time to do the tax return?

They can hire that low-level commodity service out.

With us this week on The Accounting Success podcast is Mark Zinman, the owner, CEO and managing partner of Ziman & Company, outside of Philadelphia. Mark is an AICPA Continuing Education Instructor, an NBC Tax Panel leader, and the Online Tax Expert for He’s also a Certified Information Technology Professional, whose passion is leveraging technology to improve business.

Check out our conversation here:

Mark uses his expertise to keep Zinman & Company on the forefront of technology while leading team members in business management, consulting and tax planning for clients. Marks’s unique team approach to helping clients is another demonstration of how Zinman & Company is “thinking beyond the numbers.”

The firm focuses on small and mid-sized businesses, Internet & technology, and construction, among other niches.

Here are some of the topics Mark and I discussed:

  • What is “Virtual Controllership”?
  • The best way to provide a “no-surprise” approach to billing
  • Crusading against “that’s the way we’ve always done it”
  • How to make numbers tell a story
  • His proudest and most rewarding moment in 30+ years as an accountant
  • Why proximity is no longer a consideration for Cloud CPAs
  • Why advisory services are the firm’s #1 focus

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

I had a special guest this week — Lindsay Patterson, Senior Manager – Communications and Public Relations at the AICPA.

A few weeks ago, Jena Wilson, who works in our HaydenRock office, showed me a story in AICPA Insights that was written by Lindsay – telling about a surprising and serendipitous encounter she had with Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman, investor, basketball team owner, etc.

Everyone in the office loved the story, and Jena suggested, why don’t we ask Lindsay on the podcast, and she can tell the story? So we did and she said yes.

Check out our conversation here:

We dove right in to why Lindsay is so passionate about defending the CPA profession and also:

  • The reason why Mark Cuban wouldn’t want to be a CPA right now
  • Why Mark Cuban thinks the accounting profession is dying
  • The effects of Bitcoin and other new technologies
  • How the CPA exam has evolved to reflect today’s changing landscape
  • Practicing what she preaches—why Lindsay is motivated to get her Master’s in Accounting amidst the changes taking place in the industry

To view Lindsay’s blog, “That Time I told Mark Cuban He Was Wrong About the CPA Profession,” visit

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

The survey results on page 6 of the April Accounting Today are telling.

The survey question: What do you plan to do after the end of tax season?

Almost two thirds of respondents said they planned to take one day off or no days off, while 31% said they would take a week or longer vacation.

First, my congratulations to those CPAs able to grab some down time…

And my condolences to those unable to take a breather.

Whatever camp you’re in, have you ever questioned an industry that, year after year, pushes its professionals to the point of exhaustion?

How many years have you been enduring tax season?

How many years will you continue?

Is it getting easier or harder?

How does it make you feel to know that the grind begins anew in 280 short days?

A couple weeks ago, I asked a CPA how tax season was going.

His response: “Have you ever seen the movie Network, when Peter Finch is screaming out his apartment window, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!’ That’s how I feel.”

Turns out he was mostly mad at himself. Because every year he swears he’s not going to tolerate tax season anymore.
Then next year it’s more of the same.

Sound familiar?

Have you ever stopped and wondered, “Why does it have to be this way?”

Because we’re accountants, you idiot. It goes with the territory.

But what if it didn’t?

What if 50% of your firm revenues came from advisory services instead of tax returns and compliance work – would that make tax season less hellish?

That goal is not only possible, it’s happening every day.

The long-term growth prospects in tax returns, auditing, and other backwards-looking accounting work is bleak.

Meanwhile, the growth in advisory and consulting business is skyrocketing.

I read recently that the Big 4 accounting firms will do more advisory business this year than Bain and other big name consulting firms. Take a look at how Deloitte is positioning itself in the marketplace; they sound much more like a consulting firm than a CPA firm. “Meanwhile, a 2016 survey of Australian accountancy practices found that 84% of firms believe that for accountants to survive, they MUST provide advisory services” .

What about you?

Are you okay with working harder… and faster… for less money… having no fun… with a mindset that remains backward looking… reactive… focused on compliance?

Are you content with growing less and less relevant by the day?

Or are you mad as hell and finally ready to put an end to tax season misery once and for all?

The HaydenRock SystemTM provides CPAs with a tested and proven process plus personal coaching to introduce advisory and consulting services into your firm.

It’s based on the same process used to transform a small-town practice into one of the largest accountancy firms in England – where almost 80% of firm revenues came from advisory services rather than tax and compliance work.

To learn more, email

With me this week on the Accounting Success Podcast is Shelley Johnson, the co-founder and owner of Allman Johnson CPAs & Advisors in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Shelley started in public accounting in 1990 after a few years as assistant controller for a real estate/hotel development company. Named one of the Top 50 Cloud Accountants two years in a row, Shelley hails from a long line of “number crunchers,” as both her mother and grandmother had long careers in banking. She is also an avid puzzle solver; thinking through solutions is Shelley’s forte. Therefore, a career in accounting seemed to be her calling.

Check out our conversation here:

Shelley has led the way by helping Allman Johnson continually grow through the cloud. During our conversation we talked about:

  • How to be involved with clients in ‘real time, all the time’
  • What the name of your firm says about you
  • Being a quarterback and ‘vetting agent’ for clients
  • Creating useful information out of accounting numbers
  • The crucial role of a “Client Experience Manager”
  • The best method to take the burden of accounting off business owners
  • 5 technology tools that can differentiate your firm
  • The psychology behind pricing strategies

Shelley is a member of the AICPA, the Indiana CPA Society, and the past chapter president of the Indiana State Board of Accountancy, as well as the American Society of Women Accountants. She also wrote a book on Obamacare, certainly a hot topic these days.

Allman Johnson serves entrepreneurs in all facets of their business and personal financial activities. The firm specializes in the Technology, Construction, Real-Estate, and Professional Service-Based Industries.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

My guest this week is Henry Rinder, partner at Smolin Lupin in Fairfield, NJ. Henry has been with Smolin since 1980, when he started as an intern.

Henry served on the Technical Issues Committee of the AICPA and is the past President of the New Jersey Society of CPAs. At Smolin Lupin, he serves on the Executive Committee.

Check out our conversation here:

Henry had lots of wisdom to share, including:

  • 2 reasons why Smolin has embraced the merger-and-acquisition path to growth
  • The math behind M&A’s economies of scale
  • The role of brokerage services in finding potential merger candidates
  • Why the days of 2x billings buyouts are over, and what the market range is today
  • Three perks of running a CPA firm like a talent agency
  • How to smoothly transition after a merger
  • Ways to reduce overhead after an acquisition
  • Smolin Lupin’s plans to become a Top 100 firm

Smolin Lupin has been helping clients for 70 years and is one of the NJ BIZ Top 20 Public Accounting Firms in New Jersey.

Henry services clients in the construction, distribution, manufacturing, and legal services industries, providing clients with audit, forensic accounting, fraud investigation, litigation, business valuation, matrimonial accounting, and consulting support.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

As you know, we’re big fans of revolutionaries and disrupters here on The Accounting Success Podcast. In the past, we’ve had inDinero , who’s disrupting accounting and bookkeeping services. We’ve had Ron Baker disrupting the billable hour. We’ve had Jim Bourke agitating CPAs living in the past. And this week, we’re continuing our disruptive tradition with Jeff Phillips of

Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of Accountingfly, which is revolutionizing the way accountants are hired.
Check out our conversation here:

Accountingfly is the career center for the accounting profession. Job seekers can easily apply to jobs. Employers can use Accountingfly to post jobs and recruit accountants at every step in their career. CPA firms also use Accountingfly’s smart software to organize and automate the recruiting process, make faster hiring decisions, and build pools of talent from which they can recruit in the future. Here are some of the topics I covered with Jeff:

  • What he learned from working at, and why that model doesn’t work for accounting firms
  • The end of “post and pray” hiring strategies
  • How CPA firms typically burn money on recruitment (and what to do that’s smarter)
  • How to build a deep bench of potential future hires
  • What AccountingFly is doing to address the talent acquisition challenge
  • Why job boards and traditional recruitment agencies are broken recruiting models
  • Secrets behind the innovative “inbound recruiting” approach
  • What millennials are looking for from a progressive firm
  • When is the best time to hire
  • How to avoid “crisis recruiting”
  • Effects of the talent crunch on CPA salaries
  • Myths millennial CPAs believe – and how addressing them can dramatically improve your hiring success

Jeff is also the publisher of GoingConcern, a news website for millennial CPAs that attracts over 185,000 readers a month. For his efforts, Accounting Today has named Jeff to its 100 Most Influential People list for three years running.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

My guest this week on The Accounting Success Podcast was Paul Costantino, the Managing Shareholder at PDR CPAs + Advisors in Tampa/St. Pete, Florida.

Paul is a past Chairman of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, and has been a CPA for over 25 years. He specializes in providing clients with strategic tax planning and consulting services such as business planning, mergers & acquisitions, entity selection, budgeting, financial projections and bank financing.

Check out our conversation here:

Some highlights of our discussion:

  • Winning and retaining clients through ‘extreme client service’
  • How to find and service international firms looking to do business in the U.S.
  • Offering specialty services to differentiate your CPA firm
  • Why PDR wants to grow advisory services from 25% to 40% and beyond
  • “A clock is not running,” and other benefits of a fixed pricing agreement
  • Big data opportunities now and looking ahead

In addition to his former role as Chairman of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, Paul also ran the New England Practice Management Conference for 10 years. In addition, Paul has chaired several seminars on the topics of accounting, tax, and business planning. His responsibilities at PDR include: firm administration, assisting with business development, and the shareholder group. He has authored and co-authored several books, is a member of the BDO Alliance and is very active on the AICPA Council.

PDR is a 43-year-old tax and advisory firm located between Tampa and Clearwater, with expertise in construction & real estate; healthcare & wellness; hospitality; and not-for-profit entities.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at:

This is the third installment in our three-part series introducing our new book, “Changing the Face of Accounting: Forward-thinking conversations about reinventing the CPA field” by HaydenRock partner Ian Welham.

Scheduled to be released next week, “Changing the Face of Accounting” features 15 accounting experts, including five of Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People.

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Ian’s interview with Jim Bourke, the partner in charge of internal technology at WithumSmith+Brown, and also the firm’s technology-niche practice leader.

Jim is an enthusiastic technology advocate – one reason CPA Technology Advisor named him a top thought leader in public accounting technology. He has also served as president of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants and on the AICPA’s board of directors and council.

During their conversation, Ian asks Jim about the disruption and changes happening in the accounting profession. Here are some of Jim’s takes:

“I believe change is good. I want to take [Withum] to the next level. The key to our success is the management team that runs the firm. There are nine of us on the management committee. That group, including our managing partner, Bill Hageman, all view technology as a strategic asset.

“If a firm is viewing technology as an expense, as a cost of doing business, a big nut that continues to grow and becomes bigger as the firm grows; If you look at it that way, you’re not going to be successful because you’re always going to try to cut technology.

“I tell legacy baby boomers in our profession, ‘You need to embrace [technology]. You need to embrace those kids that are sitting around in the cubicles with the one ear bud in their ear, streaming music, instant messaging clients or their friends, getting their work done. Understand how they use technology to get through their day and don’t block it. Embrace it because that’s the future of our profession.

“I’m also managing director for the advisory services group. Withum is all about audit, tax and advisory. That’s our tagline: Withum, audit, tax and advisory. Our managing partner is a huge believer that our advisory services group is the key to our firm’s future growth and success. I will tell you hands down, knowing what I know about the industry, knowing what I know about audit and tax, I honestly believe the days of double-digit growth in a pure audit practice are over.

“You’re not going to see growth in an audit practice in double digits into the future. It’s sad to say, but the audit is becoming very much a commodity.

“CPAs need to come to the realization their world is changing. They need to change quickly, start re-positioning themselves, because I will tell you: Every CPA today has the tools that they need to be involved in advisory services. Think about it. Their skill sets, their background perfectly positions them to help CEOs to take the company to the next level.

“It’s not about producing financials. I know that’s what we went to school for. I know that’s what we’re licensed for in every single state here in the United States. We get a certificate that says we are great at it. That’s part of it, but that’s not what it’s going to be in the future. That’s not what a young entrepreneur getting out of college will experience unless they’re very active in advisory services.”

This week on The Accounting Success Podcast I spoke with Josh Shilts, Managing Partner of Villela & Shilts in Ocala, Florida.

Check out our conversation here:

Josh’s broad experience includes working for a Big 4 Accounting firm in New York City, an international consulting firm, and national litigation support & accounting firms. His specialties include forensic accounting, anti-fraud controls, workplace investigations, and risk mitigation. He has spoken nationally on the topic of fraud prevention and detection, data analytics, risk management and financial planning & analysis. Josh has also been an adjunct professor in the field of accounting and fraud examination at Florida Atlantic University and St. Leo University.

We covered a broad range of topics from mentors to millennials, including:

  • Why Josh considers his #1 skill set is the ability to learn new things
  • What $5 – $20 million businesses are looking for most from their CPA
  • The secret to failing forward
  • Where to find profitable niches with little to no competition
  • The hands down best marketing tool he’s ever found
  • Why accounting firms would be wise to hire engineers and data analysts
  • “The competition is retiring on us,” and other reasons Josh is optimistic about the future
  • How to win the battle for talent

Villela & Shilts has offices in Jacksonville, Miami, and Ocala. The firm specializes in tourism and travel… farming… medical industries… hospitality services… and real estate. Their client focus is small to medium-sized businesses as well as entrepreneurs.

The Accounting Success Podcast is available on iTunes and airs Wednesdays at 11:00 am. You can listen anytime by going to and downloading the latest episode. Or, you can tune in on YouTube on The Accounting Success channel at: