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Leveraging Technology to Keep Your Firm in Motion

Firm in motionWe all know that staying current and embracing the latest trends in business are key to running a successful CPA firm. Years ago, accountants relied on columnar pads and general ledger books, while working from 8-5 in the office. Today at most firms, those tools and practices are replaced by accounting and cloud computing software, with flexible schedules and virtual offices. CPAs continue to implement new tools and strategies to optimize the changing professional environment to best meet client and staff needs. Interested in learning more, I sat down with two trailblazers to hear firsthand about their experiences.

Alan Long, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the managing member of Baldwin CPAs, based in Richmond, Ky. Alan explained that his firm has been an early adopter of technology.  For example, the firm has been paperless since 2002, in the cloud since 2004 and has supported a multiple monitor environment for nearly a decade. Baldwin CPAs uses electronic signatures for all engagement letters and consent forms, saving the firm both time and money. Additionally, all professional staff are given iPads, allowing them to be accessible while offsite.

Alan’s technology-forward strategy helps the firm tremendously in their recruiting efforts, as many young graduates are drawn to a firm that uses the latest technology and is looking to the future. Alan noted that implementing emerging technologies ahead of the curve does not always work out as planned, as products sometimes do not seamlessly integrate.  But overall, he finds the effort well worth it.

Carolyn Sechler, CPA, is the owner of Sechler CPA, PC, a virtual firm which she runs out of her home in Phoenix. Carolyn abandoned the brick-and-mortar office model 18 years ago and has no plans of turning back. All of her firm’s processes are based in the cloud, allowing her 23 staff members to work when and where they want. By allowing her team to work during the hours they are most productive, she finds that they are more efficient and are better able to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

She did note that running a successful virtual firm requires a certain personality and the willingness to take some risks. “You have to be an excellent multitasker, you have to have a good sense of character and you have to be an excellent listener. There is a tremendous amount of trust required in this model. You have to believe that people can be trusted and work with people that you can trust.” 

In order to help firms evolve into high performing firms of the future, the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section developed the Firm inMotion e-toolkit, available exclusively to Private Companies Practice Section member firms. Items in the toolkit can be customized by firms to best suit their needs. The first released section of the toolkit contains resources dedicated to technological advancements including:

  • an IT strategy template,
  • technology selection analysis questionnaire, and
  • best practices checklist.

Other sections and tools related to firm structure and strategy, staff development and culture, clients and relationship building, and globalization will be released in the coming months. 

Lindsey Ferguson, CPA, CGMA, Technical Manager, Firm Services, American Institute of CPAs.

 

Technology image via Shutterstock

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