What Can the Accounting Industry Learn From the Pandemic?

Avatar photoKristen Rampe, CPA / Oct 26, 2021

The Rosenberg Survey Analysis includes the perspective of consultants across the nation each year on the past 12 months and the 12 months up ahead. The last year has been unique, to say the least, and the consultants’ responses consistently highlighted themes around staffing issues, flexible and remote work arrangements, and regular reviews of client lists.

Here are my responses to the thoughtful questions posed by The Growth Partnership, and my advice for how to forge ahead for a successful future.Road starting with 2021, 2022, 2023 with arrows to the future.

  1. Now that we are more than a year from the start of the pandemic, what do you feel are the long-term ramifications for the accounting industry?

My sixth-grade teacher taught us early: “Flexibility is the key to life.” He had a call-and-respond routine with that phrase. For example, at the end of a geometry lesson when it was raining and we’d have to have recess indoors, he’d say, “Well, that’s okay, because what’s the key to life, class?” We’d all shout in unison, “FLEXIBILITY!”

The major long-term ramification of the pandemic for our industry is that flexibility is no longer optional; it’s essential.

Not all people, not all clients, not all firms, partners, or new recruits want the same things. The most prosperous firms will each build a model that fits their needs, taking into account all of the aforementioned groups. That model will require flexibility.

One team member might be 100 percent virtual; another might be 100 percent office-based. The virtual person will come to the office on occasion for a team event. The office-based person can easily work from home when the plumber gives them a six-hour service repair window.

If your processes, communication, and culture are in the right place, flexibility will have you coming out ahead.

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  1. If you were running an accounting firm today and dealing with the issues your clients are facing, what would you do to best position your firm for future success?

If I were running an accounting firm today, here’s what I’d do.

    • Embrace the forced learning from the pandemic. Can people be productive virtually? Yes. Should we never meet in person for a year or more? No. We would offer options for people based on the needs of the firm, clients, and team members together. We would also have technology optimized for efficiency in and out of the office.
    • Recruit all the time. We would actively recruit and have specific goals in this area, with assigned names and due dates. We would be generous with our time and money for new hires and existing employees. The return would be a successful firm and a sizable buyout.
    • Manage pricing and client list for profitability. We would review our client list at least annually, considering their profit contribution to the firm and whether or not they’re a pain in the ass to work with. Those scoring low on profitability and high on the hassle factor would need to change or go. For real. We’d make sure all pricing is done by a team of at least two, to reduce some partners’ (you know who you are) penchant for write-downs and underbilling.
    • Prioritize the right things. It’s important to live a great life while building a great business. We’d make sure partners knew that their nonwork goals are priorities too, and that we support them in having goals outside the office. We’d have an initiative to ensure that when asked what questions they have about becoming a partner, no team member at our firm ever says, “Is it worth it? They work all the time and are super-stressed out.” (Real question from a real senior associate, asked anonymously during a path-to-partner panel.)


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