Jason Blumer: Don’t Believe the Lies

CPAs brainwash themselves. Here's how to fight back and finish strong.

Jason Blumer
Jason M. Blumer

by Jason M. Blumer
THRIVEal +CPA Network

I hear it all too often from the old guard retiring: "I'm worn out," or "we are merging because we don't have the stamina to make the last 5 years," or "I'm too old for all of these techy changes," or "developing the next set of partners for our firm is just too time consuming."  My Dad said this stuff before he retired in May 2009.

It seems the end of a public accountant's career is steeped in misery, being "worn out" and adverse to change.  Not a very exciting picture for those entering universities deciding what to major in!  Is this what the younger generation has to look forward to when they retire?

I'm 15 years into my career now with another 30 to go, and that outlook is not very appealing to me.  And it certainly doesn't match the excitement I feel right now as we are at the pinnacle of a major change in our industry that could determine our direction for the next 40 to 50 years.  If we are going to finish strong in our profession, we must start now to correct our thinking.

I believe we've been lied to, and I believe most younger professionals have believed the lie that public accounting is boring, it "wears you out" and you'll be running from the profession when you finally get to retire.  Here are a couple of lies we often peddle and believe:

1.  Change is bad - Our industry seems to be adverse to change.  Everyone has experienced change in their careers and personal lives.  Why does change seem to be avoided by our industry?  There are many reasons, but I believe technology stands out as one of the biggest.  Technology is the next industrial revolution.  The business process enhancements that technology brings to our industry is hard to get your hands around unless you grew up with technology as part of your daily life.  Technology and the growth of cloud-based software is truly a paradigm shift.  Generation Y is the first generation that can say they grew up with technology.  They have always had technology as part of their communications, pleasure and work.  But Baby Boomers, those currently running most CPA firms across the country, did not grow up this way and did not even use technology for a large part of their career.  Embracing technology has been difficult for some Baby Boomers, making change a bad word.  Other areas of change have also been hard to swallow: how we dress, where we work, what type of computer we use, becoming paperless, automation and process design, using template websites, social media, mobile computing, managing remote clients, managing remote staff, the cloud, succession planning, etc.  So much change is happening at one time, that it is truly hard to manage - but that doesn't make change bad.  That is a lie.

2. S.A.L.Y. - S.A.L.Y., or Same as Last Year, has been a mantra in our industry, and is another lie we've been taught.  When we aren't sure what to do, we can always copy last year's workpapers.  But over time, performing our jobs the same way we did it last year has led to many years of doing the same thing each year with little improvement or refinement.  And we've trained the next Managers to do the same thing.  Now that a new generation is becoming our client base, we are being asked why we are doing things the same way.  We can only answer, "because that is what we did last year."  That lie will stop with a new generation, because our new generation clients are demanding something more.  At the core of this lie is our industry's lack of innovation.  We are unable to create new models of service, or work cloud-based process improvements into the service of our new clients.  Well, from here forward, SALY must be fired from our firms if we are to remain viable.  We can innovate as an industry, and we must if we are to move forward serving a different generation with different needs.  We can't train the next generation of staff the same way we were taught.  That will eventually drive another nail in our industry's coffin.  As the leaders of the New Firm, we must teach vision, extraordinary leadership and innovation to the next generation of leaders.  Our inability to innovate is a lie, and we don't have to do things the way we've always done them.

What's True

As an encouragement, and to mirror the lies above, there are some things that are true about our industry, and how we can finish strong:

1.  Our industry is changing - There is a pocket of change rising up from the ranks of "working for the man."  Younger generations are starting their own firms with different visions from how they began their career.  Did you know that?  Did you know there is a group of CPAs doing things differently?  You can find them on Twitter and Facebook if you look.  There is a lot to learn when managing your own firm, and that will come in time.  You learn the necessities of firm operations with real experience, but you can't manage innovation.  You must allow it to happen organically.  The best news is that there are New Firms being started and purchased, and the owners love the change in the industry.  They are making way for innovation and embracing change.  They are trying new services, asking clients for their opinions and continuing to improve.  They don't mind if their staff wears jeans, and they trust their remote employees to do their jobs accurately and timely.  They are scrapping the time sheet, taking away the billing metric burdens of traditional firms and going paperless.  They are making more money and enjoying this exciting career.  The fact that our industry is changing will hopefully be a welcome message to those about to graduate with an accounting degree.  Those about to embark on their journey for the next 50 years in the public accounting industry can know that you can finish strong, but you must embrace change.  Change is happening, and this is true.  And it is a good thing.

2. Cloud technology is changing the face of business - There are two aspects of this statement worth mentioning.  One, today's business environment is loaded up with inefficiencies.  And we don't really know how bad it is because we've never known anything different.  We've always run our processes with paper, and now you should stop doing that because you can stop doing that.

If you don't believe me, take some time to document how many times you touch paper or how many times you touch the same piece of paper.  Our small business clients (as well as our firms) are drowning in inefficiencies.  The cloud has created what I call "disrupted business processes" and has broken our processes into many cloud-based granular steps.  We can now address our processes differently, and we should bring this to our clients.

The second point I want to mention here is that the CPA industry is poised to stand between the innovative cloud vendors and our clients to change their freakin' lives.  I'm serious!  Becoming the experts at moving our clients to the cloud and addressing their inefficient processes is a great task we should lead!  We are the best ones to do it!  No one else has the ear of the small business community.

The cloud vendors building highly innovative systems online need us to be that go-between.  If we study these cloud systems, we can give our clients efficiency, better work/life balance, less staff costs, more timely financial information, a renewed focus on business intelligence (dashboarding) and a host of other benefits that the cloud brings. Cloud technology is turning the standard business process upside down - this is true.

In summary, finishing strong takes action NOW!  You can't hope to finish strong or hope that you don't wrap up your career as a bitter old coot.  Becoming a champion of our exciting, creative, and ever-changing industry starts with a mind change right now.  You have to decide to do it.

You have to understand that you have often been lied to (though perhaps unintentionally) and that the truths of our industry are very exciting.  Who knows what technology we will be asked to leverage in the accounting space over the next 5 to 10 years?  Who knows what will happen to our national landscape as baby boomers exit en masse within the next 5 to 10 years?  I think exciting opportunities will be laid out before us to drive our industry in the direction we know it should go.  I want to drive that change in our industry.  Won't you go with me?

Jason M. Blumer is managing shareholder of Blumer & Associates, CPAs, PC. He wears flip flops and jeans, says “dude” a lot, and often works in coffee shops with headphones blaring the latest Bloomberg podcasts (though he doesn’t understand most of it). Jason loves new game-changing cloud technology and plays rock and roll too loud. His daily duties include consulting, process design, blogging, marketing and business development, innovative thinking, tax work, coaching, fraud consulting, practice management, and acting as a change agent. As the industry has changed, the need for new CPA firm leadership has emerged for the younger generation ready to move into the world of firm ownership.  Jason founded the THRIVEal +CPA Network to accommodate the needs of this new younger generation.  The THRIVEal +CPA Network looks to enhance the CPA/Accountancy profession based on the foundational tenets of Community, Collaboration, Technology and Innovation.

Copyright, All Rights Reserved. 2010 by THRIVEal, LLC and Jason M. Blumer, CPA.

20 Responses to “Jason Blumer: Don’t Believe the Lies”

  1. Shaping the 21st century professional practice AccMan

    […] in these practices is hovering around 50. That might be a problems but it all depends on attitude. Check what Jason Blumer says: It seems the end of a public accountant’s career is steeped in misery, being “worn out” and […]

  2. Terri

    Wow, you hit the nail on the head. Don’t we just love consistency. SALY is like lemming jumping off a cliff. If we can work form home and no longer commute due to paperless technology then we can work from anywhere. Examine that last sentence: who is we and where is our home? India? China? Singapore?

  3. Paul Meissner

    Hi Jason,

    Well done on the article. The Accounting profession (to which I will confess belonging to) has resisted change for a long time. Directors, managing partners, or whatever ‘the boss’ is called in the firms are often from the old school method of accounting. Advancements in technology, or in other areas, feed the fear that these people have of their precious ‘Debits on the left, Credits on the right’ thinking is being challenged.

    My firm is based 100% in the cloud. All of our clients use cloud based systems and our internal systems as well are cloud based. I really enjoy that my relationship with clients can now be more of a virtual CFO and less of a once a year chore that neither the client nor the accountant get benefit out of.

    Beyond the points in your blog, I think the accounting profession needs to evolve in a few more areas:

    – Time does not equal value;

    – Clients don’t like surprise invoices;

    An accountant charging time for the job doesn’t promote any efficiency, for the firm and especially for the client. Clients want value not time. Each job has a value that can be billed, bookkeeping and simple compliance at a relatively low value and consulting, business analysis and management advice at a high value. How can a firm bill for value when staff are assigned a charge out rate that is used irrespective of what work they are doing.

    Agree fees up front and collect fees on a monthly subscription basis. Its’ new, it’s a little radical but there are clients out there that love it. No surprises and the client know when and how much they are paying.

    You are spot on about the change coming. Let’s hope that as the cloud improves our industry we can also make some other changes.

    I’ll be following your blogs and tweets.

    Paul Meissner
    Director, Five Ways Chartered Accountants


    I couldn’t agree more with Jason & the comments from JD Sherling. I am one of the youngest baby boomer CPA’s in my city and have been bumping heads with CPA’s that resist change my whole career!

  5. Bob Daugherty

    As the guy in our office to seems to be “moving the cheese”, it’s nice to see others feel the same. Change is not a bad thing. Tomorrow the cheese will be somewhere else.

    Will pass your article around the office.


  6. Awealthycpa


  7. Jason Blumer

    Wow, so many great comments here. Glad to see some friends chimed in (Rita and Sue).

    Would love to respond to comments in another post.


  8. Pam Corn

    I feel so energized after reading your article.

    We have made the leap with so many technology innovations, and the cloud applications are going to maske it so much easier to keep moving forward. This profession needs to keep changing and using technology–it is a perfect fit.


    I always regretted that I did not start my career in accounting in public accounting.

    But now, I’m beginning to wonder if working in private industry all along is the real advantage. I’m a baby boomer but an early adopter of technology from my first Commodore 8088 processor to using my Blackberry, laptop and desktop today.

    I joined a company 10 years ago desperate for modernization and implementing technology instead of hiring more people. Today, that’s the real goal….use technology to help keep payroll down and stop wasting time on useless endeavors. I could write a book (maybe I will).

    Don’t fall into the stereotype that all Baby Boomers are so far behind the curve that we could never catch up. Remember, some of us helped bring the dot com revolution to pass as well as to help create the standardized architecture of the p.c. I totally agree with what your saying but I see too many young people just as helpless when it comes to technology.

    Let’s just divide accounting people into two groups – not the old and the young – but the technologically educated vs. the uneducated.

  10. Sue Pak

    Fantastic article. As a NZ CA 20 years into my career, I totally agree. Recently I have seen first hand the change that embracing cloud technology makes to CPA’s worldwide.

    1 – Technology connects CPA’s to their clients and the best by product is now that CPA’s have their finger on the pulse, clients think you’re awesome!

    2 – Efficiency gains in a practice mean better profits and time to focus on growing a business.

    3 – CPA’s actually add value – this is not some mythical dream that we trained for – we actually can make a difference to small business. Staff members share the enthusiasm and the practice becomes a great place to work.

    With so many benefits, why wouldn’t you take a leap of faith and make some changes.

  11. Dave Newby

    Yo Goth Waldo,

    Cloud Computing changing the world. Get a grip old dude.

  12. Rita Keller

    Jason – – Yes! I’ll go with you. I worked inside a firm for over 30 years and I was never bored for a single minute. Why? Because change and constant improvement for CPA firms was (and is) my passion. Now, I am having even more fun helping my CPA firm clients really embrace change. Firm leaders, old and young, who expand their horizons will catapult ahead of the “we’ve always done it this way” firms.

  13. Bruce W. Marcus

    Mr. Blumer, it’s a beautiful article, but I disagree with one thing — the reasons for change. They are much more profound than simply “technology”. Suggest you read my article on change in The Marcus Letter on the above web site. It’s also expanded in my forthcoming book, which I’ll be announcing soon.

    Bruce W. Marcus

  14. Shannon Tucker

    CPAs at the vanguard of helping clients move to the cloud…interesting thought.

  15. Edward Greenlee

    I recall articles like this in the mid 1990’s. Part of the obstacle was not the CPA profession, as we embraced change, but the perception of the client and their willingness to pay for the changes.

    I wish Mr. Blumer and Gen X&Y much success, but your challenges await as well, because the DIY generation grows larger every day.

  16. August Aquila

    Good to hear these ideas coming from a managing partner. I’ve found that most CPA just don’t dream about what their firms could be, they are too mired in today. Unless you dream about a better tomorrow, it never comes.

  17. Chuck Johnston


    What an incredible article! You hit the nail right on the head. As a vendor it’s been incredible to see the new changes in the industry as well as all the new Cloud companies springing up seemingly overnight. I’d love to see you pen an article on how Social Media is shifting how the industry communicates.

    Thanks for your great insights!


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