Who’s Your Competition? EVERYONE

Businesswoman at laptop with cloud floating above outstretched handTime to get on the radical bus.

By Jody Padar
The Radical CPA

I’ve been in the cloud for nine years so it’s old news to me.

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The biggest thing to do is to look around and look at the competi­tion. You can probably leave your firm and start your own firm with less than $400 a month in software and with no or very limited overhead. Isn’t that terrifying for you old-timers!

That’s what the next generation of accountants has at their disposal. And they are doing it whether it’s good or bad, whether they have the experience or not. They are opening their own accounting firms. The times they are a-changin’.

We already know managers are not happy with their current employment situations and they are jumping ship. New CPAs who have no real work experience are hanging a shingle out and starting firms. Granted, they will have a learning curve, however, never before was it so easy. What’s interesting to me is that younger and younger people are establishing firms.

I’m not sure any other generation would have had the confidence to do so, but Generation Y isn’t afraid. The fear is gone.

It’s also a good time because the trailblazers paved the way. It’s time for the early majority to get on board and move the adoption curve. Our group of radical CPAs has used our collective power and voice to connect with the media, various software vendors and the AICPA. Now, in return, they are helping to push this movement message out to the mainstream. We have proven it works, it’s fun and we wouldn’t go back.

I’m going to get very real with you now: If you don’t start changing, you will not survive.

This is not a threat. What we’re seeing is that the divide between those who get it and who are moving toward change and those who don’t is just getting bigger. And it’s not just happening with your firm and your customers. You’d better keep an eye on your employees, too. Now is the time to engage them, so well, frankly, they don’t leave your firm. The current firm culture is not meeting today’s employees’ needs. Timesheets and the “butts in seats” mentality are oppressive. Your local firms and Big Four are not the only competition in town; your employees might engage with a virtual firm. They may also go work for someone else who has more flexibility because they’re working with the cloud and can accommodate telecommuting employees.

And it’s not just your employees…

The next generation of business owners expect it, period! Your legacy firm owners, well, the scary thing for them is that there are many who believe that because they’ve had a customer for 20 years they’re never going to leave. Go ahead, think about that for a minute and feel the fear rise in you as you imagine that happening. But we all know what happens. It’s sadly a common scenario: The customer has a succession issue within their family or business and the next-generation business owner doesn’t have the connection to the current professional.

The new relationship that the new technologies facilitate ultimately becomes more important than the prior relationship with the partner and/or firm.

For all of the firm owners who think, “It’s not going to affect me, I have an established customer base,” that’s not true anymore. The successor business owner is saying, “I want my CPA or my accountant to be cutting edge or at least up to date. I want them to be using technology to help me.” I mean, who wants to see a doctor who doesn’t have the latest technology?

Technology has fiercely increased the competition.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of how a firm like mine can now compete with the big guns. A lead came in through Facebook from a billion-dollar UK company that was going to do business in North Carolina.

We’re located in Chicago, so we flew down to meet them. The company was related to the professional sports industry and it was between a midsized firm, a Big Four global firm and us. What most people don’t realize is that our firm only has six people.

We’re a really small firm.

Who should have gotten this account in the old paradigm? It should have been the local midsized firm. Well, they were kicked out right away because their technology skills weren’t up to speed – so it was between a Big Four global firm and us. Think about that! Ultimately, we didn’t get the account. Of course, the experience stayed with me, but I thought it was just a fluke.

But then it happened again. We got a lead for a huge company that was coming in to do business in Chicago with an Australian presence and they were going be a vendor to a large retail drugstore chain, which is headquartered in the Midwest. That lead came in and again it was between a big global firm and us.

I suddenly realized that we have a significant social presence where potential customers can see us, and we’re a viable and relevant resource to them. We could do the work if we decided to and we could also connect with bigger firms if necessary. The most exciting thing to me is that in the past we wouldn’t have even gotten this opportunity. If you are an owner of a midsized firm, I would see that as a threat.

The midsized firms used to get these leads, because they were part of these global networks. We are now getting them on our own. And they come from all over the world. How many of you have foreign customers? We’re getting more and more. The world is getting smaller. The global landscape is changing; big firms watch out!

2 Responses to “Who’s Your Competition? EVERYONE”

  1. H. Wilson

    Just what every business owner wants, Thomas N. Tone, an “adequate CPA.” Surely you don’t have that on your business card?

  2. Thomas N. Tone

    After reading this article, I sorta wished I had gone into the legal profession. Just think of all the fun I could have suing these overnight wonders. It’s bad enough in California that the experience requirement is down to about a year for a license. Even after eight years with a national firm, looking back, I was probably safe from falling on anything sharp. After 45 years, I think I’m adequate, and still probably safe from falling on anything sharp.

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