What CPA Firms Could Learn from Google’s Alphabet

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By Hitendra Patil
Pransform Inc.

Google’s creation of a new spin-off called Alphabet, a new umbrella company that includes Google itself, should raise some thought-provoking questions for CPA firms.

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Founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page remind everyone in the Alphabet announcement (at the iconic URL http://abc.xyz) what they said 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.”

Let’s start there.

1. “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” 

Can a CPA firm shed its conventional model and move do what Google always wanted to do? Larry says. “From the start, we’ve always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have.” What kinds of things would be more important and meaningful for a CPA firm to do with the resources it already has?

 2. “Be uncomfortable to stay relevant.”

Page further says, “In the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.” Cloud, mobile, integrations, automation – the accounting profession is now hugely driven by technology and hence, revolutionary ideas would drive the big growth areas in accounting too. What would make a CPA firm uncomfortable to stay relevant?

 3. “Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence.”

Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google.  And they are creating Alphabet to allow for more management scale so they can run things independently that aren’t very related.  “In general,” Page says, “our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well.” How many CPA firms enable strong people to run segments of their firm’s operations? Not that CPA firm leaders are not doing so, but the shift at Google is really a paradigm shift in the role of leaders. How can the role of a CPA firm leader shift as quickly?

 4. “Keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities.”

As part of the rebirth process, Sundar Pichai, who took on product and engineering responsibility for Google’s Internet businesses, will be the CEO of new Google.  The new CEO’s mandate: Be focused on innovation—continuing to stretch boundaries.  Who at a CPA firm can take up the mantle of innovation and stretch boundaries?

 5. “We are seriously in the business of starting new things.”

Page says, “Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things.” Alphabet will incubate new technologies, conduct research, and grow their investment arms. What could a CPA firm do to start something new, say, in its processes or in service offerings – while focusing on one key factor: the impact on client success?

 6. “The name Alphabet also means alpha-bet, i.e. Alpha is investment return above benchmark.”

Further, they state, “The whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.”  Could each service section within a CPA firm have more independence to develop autonomous branding?

The Google co-founders go on to summarize more of what they are excited about.

 7. “Getting more ambitious things done.”

What new ambitions can a CPA firms nurture?

 8. “Taking the long-term view.”

 What would be the long-term views of a CPA firm?

 9. “Empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish.”

How could a CPA firm empower entrepreneurial staff and allocate resources that ensure service segments flourish?

 10. “Investing at the scale of the opportunities and resources we see.”

How would a CPA firm assess the scale of opportunities?

 11. “Improving the transparency and oversight of what we’re doing.”

 What measures can a CPA firm take to enhance transparency?

 12. “Making Google even better through greater focus.”

 What would a CPA firm focus on?

13. “And hopefully… as a result of all this, improving the lives of as many people as we can.”

Finally, it all boils down to the impact of their actions on people.

What would a CPA firm do to improve lives of people – clients, staff, stakeholders and community?


6 Responses to “What CPA Firms Could Learn from Google’s Alphabet”

  1. Kevin Cox

    Great article. Number 2 is the toughest to execute but leads to the biggest rewards.

  2. Tom Hood


    You raise some great questions about how to relate the Google move to the CPA firm world.

    I would challenge Blake that Google is not merely placating investors but working to reinvent parts of its business to stay relevant in these rapidly changing times. Isn’t that exactly what CPA Firms should be thinking about? Aren’t CPA services really reaching product maturity as well and ripe for reinvention and relevance?

    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • Hitendra R. Patil

      Thanks Tom! You have hit the nail on it’s head “reinvention and relevance” requires seeking deep answers to very uncomfortable questions. Thanks for taking the time and sharing your thoughts!

  3. Hitendra R. Patil

    Thanks Blake for taking the time and sharing your thoughts. You are absolutely right that they are trying to address the investors concerns. I would love to have you share your thoughts on what should CPA firms do to deliver better returns to their stakeholders. Thanks again.

  4. Blake Oliver

    In the end, isn’t this all about placating investors who are worried about Google’s slowing growth?

    Google is reaching product maturity. It isn’t able to extend its search monopoly nearly as well into new markets such as mobile, where 80% or more of the consumer’s time is spent in apps, not on the web.

    Search is Google’s bread and butter, but its founders like to spend time and money on all sorts of moonshot projects. That hasn’t mattered so much to investors in the past, but now they’ve got to be more concerned. The first step toward a solution is to separate the profitable Google from everything else.