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Public Accounting at a Strategic Inflection Point: Beyond Compliance to Trusted Advisor

Aug 30, 2019

"A leader takes people where they would not go themselves."
-Ronald J. Baker

"At the end of the day, it is the willingness to challenge the status quo that leads to better things and we should never confuse what is with what will be."
-Ric Payne

The public accounting profession is at a strategic inflection point where the fundamentals governing success and failure are changing rapidly. Mindsets and business models serving the profession for decades now threaten it with irrelevance, as the value-added equation shifts from data generation to analysis and interpretation of data.

Like most inflection points, great opportunities exist for cutting-edge accounting and professional service firms able to embrace new ways of thinking about both themselves and how they add value to their clients. Making the transition includes offering an enriched mix of client services and more fully embracing the role of trusted business advisor.

Years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Ronald J. Baker, author and founder of VeraSage Institute, internationally-known thought leader to the accounting profession, and Ric Payne, former Principa CEO, R.A.S. (Results Accounts Systems) co-founder,  visionary and globally recognized leader, whose global network helped nearly 9,000 CPAs around the world transition from technicians to advisors. I was privileged to have been a part of Payne’s global network.

"Mindsets and business models serving the profession for decades now threaten it with irrelevance, as the value-added equation shifts from data generation to analysis and interpretation of data."

Looking back at nearly 20 years of directions and trends Baker, Payne and others saw, the accuracy of their insights and predictions for the profession is remarkable. They warned as far back as the ‘90s that CPA firms which continued to rely of the traditional suite of compliance services would face the threat of technological obsolescence. Fast forward to the present and consider the capabilities of a $100 version of Turbo on all but the most complex returns. And Big Data is now doing the same thing in the area of auditing. But where parts of our profession have been stuck in legacy mindsets and business models in the past, the innovators are ready to embrace new opportunity. As the old adage says, "when the pupil is ready, the teacher appears." Part of my vision as an Assistant Professor of Accounting at the University of Indianapolis is to prepare our students for the world they will actually enter in the firms who hire them. To address the need, and in partnership with the Indiana CPA Society, we envisioned  the conference "Transformational Times: Beyond Business as Usual."

About the same time the idea for the conference was birthed, a timely article, "Discovering a Better Answer,” in the April/May 2019 edition of the Journal of Accountancy by Ken Tysiac. Tysiac discussed how the new AICPA chair, Bill Reeb, is committed to helping lead the accounting profession during this time of change. As Tysiac notes, "doors seem to be closing on some of the work CPAs perform." In Reeb’s role as AICPA chair, he will urge members to embrace alternatives to compliance work that’s increasingly being handled by technology. Specifically, Reeb sees opportunities for CPAs to enjoy new work as trusted advisors.

Why don’t firms readily embrace new opportunities offered by the changing business environment? Former KPMG Chairman and CEO, Jon Madonna, once observed that "Nothing stops an organization faster than people who believe that the way they worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow." To succeed, said Madonna, "Not only do your people have to change the way they act, they’ve got to change the way they think about the past."

Another meaningful quote is from Jack Welch, Former Chairman, CEO of General Electric, who said "If the rate of change inside the organization is less than that on the outside, the end is in sight."

Ronald J. Baker, our Conference Keynote Speaker on September 26-27, 2019 held at the University of Indianapolis in partnership with INCPAS, will challenge conventional wisdom, addressing issues such as:


  • Why does the same client who complains about a $2,500 tax return gladly pay you $30,000 or more for advisory services? Maybe they are not ‘price-sensitive’ but rather ‘value-sensitive?’
  • What do your clients really buy from you? How do your services generate wealth for them? As the saying goes, clients "don’t buy drill bits, they buy holes, so what’s the ‘hole?’"
  • Is a firm in which everyone is always busy actually inefficient?
  • How do ‘bad’ clients drive out ‘good’ ones? What opportunities could be created for your firm if you fired some ‘bad’ clients?
  • If intellectual capital is the key to wealth creation in a knowledge economy; if wealth is created by ideas (instead of physical assets) meaning that virtually all of your ‘assets’ go down the elevator each night; and is your question to an employee reading a book on office time, "what are doing" or "what are you learning?"
  • Is the term "work/life balance" P.C. for slackers? Will your firm attract the best and brightest by providing team members a challenging opportunity to invest themselves in something great, something demanding that they will have to really give themselves to…or for Friday afternoons off?

To complement Ron Baker’s insights, Ric Payne, former Principa CEO, and R.A.S. (Results Accounts Systems) Co-Founder, will provide a powerful video at the conference chronicling his career as consultant to nearly 9,000 CPA’s in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand and offer insights and perspective on how the next generation of accounting professionals can fully embrace the rich opportunities which are before them at this time.

The opportunities at hand offer rich rewards to innovative firms willing to move beyond conventional wisdom and legacy mindsets to embrace out-of-the-box thinking. This conference is designed for accounting and professional firms investing in their future success.

Transformational Times: Beyond Business As Usual Conference
Sponsored by: University of Indianapolis in Partnership with the Indiana CPA Society
Where:  University of Indianapolis, DeHaan Auditorium
 September 26, 2019 from 6:15 p.m.-9 p.m.; September 27, 2019, 8 a.m.-Noon; Luncheon 12:15-1:15 p.m. with Ronald J. Baker

Keynote Speaker:  Ronald J. Baker, Author and Founder of VeraSage Institute

Other Speakers:  Ric Payne, former Principa CEO, R.A.S. (Results Accounts Systems) (by video); Mark D. Richardson, Assistant Professor, University of Indianapolis

Who Should Attend: UIndy students, School of Business Alumni, professionals from the fields of public accounting, finance, law, consulting, advertising/marketing, education and business professionals interested in preparing for upcoming changes in public accounting and associated businesses by enriching service mix by moving clients across the value-added spectrum

Registration Fees:  CPAs wanting CPE must register here.

Luncheon (capped at 50): All who attend the Friday luncheon with Ronald J. Baker must register and pay.

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About the Author

Mark Richardson, CPA, B.A Communication Arts, MBA, Assistant Professor, University of Indianapolis School of Business, with a broad professional background including sales, sales management, marketing director, advertising agency media buyer, marketing research & promotion manager and regional sales manager of a six state territory for a global publisher, prior to an 18-year career as a CPA, including five in public practice and nearly 14 years in education. He welcomes comments and feedback at or 317-979-4253.