Accounting Firm Challenges: Keep a Macro Vision

The profession has survived another April 15th deadline. It is time for everyone to relax, unwind, and rest after another busy season… time’s up….well, in a way!  The busy season may have passed, but the challenges that previously existed are still present at your firm and growing.  Plus, the surrounding world has continued to evolve.  Are you ready to shift focus and conquer these accounting firm challenges, or will they conquer you?

History is full of companies and organizations that failed to reflect on the changes taking place.  Kodak failed to adapt to the change from film to digital photography, even as consumers abruptly shifted preferences.  Blackberry did not fully grasp consumer demands for simplicity and functionality as the iPhone changed the world. This placed them in a position of being too far behind to catch up. Blockbuster had tunnel vision and failed to see how consumers were rapidly shifting toward online content viewing. It could not react fast enough to prevent Netflix from owning the new platform.  These companies all failed to recognize the major changes in their industries until it was too late.

We have been so narrowly focused these past 105 days, 108 this year, that we may only see what is right ahead of us.  How does this occur?  We focus closely on what needs to be done in those first 105 days to make sure we take care of our clients.  Often, we do not shift our focus from task-based to the big picture, becoming aware of contemporary trends.  Firms can fall prey to familiar and comfortable routines, awaiting September and October 15th deadlines.  Other firms stay busy all summer, moving from one deadline to the next without ever taking time to re-energize and change focus to see the broad view.

It isn’t our fault.  As a profession, we have been molded to expect short timelines and deadlines. With so much focus on getting that next project accomplished, we struggle to make time to shift focus and look ahead.  Leaders (you know who you are: partners, managers, emerging leaders) are needed to see beyond the demands of daily tasks lying in the valleys to the pinnacle views only witnessed from the mountain peaks.

Take a page from other successful business leaders (Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Sheryl Sandberg). They all attribute part of their remarkable success to taking time away from just being busy, to refocus on their company, industry, and consumer demands.  They use this time away to understand the major issues facing the company and plan to address them, before it is too late.

Let’s do something different this year, shall we? May we learn to recognize the tendencies of those who failed, to shift direction to those who looked up, around and ahead?

Now that the busy season has come to a close, take a step forward, shift your focus, use the second half of April to think about the big picture for the firm, the industry, your clients, the technology you have in place, and what the firm will accomplish in 2017 and beyond.  Don’t put this off until May, which then turns into December, to find nothing has been accomplished.  For some of you that may mean taking a week off, having an early partner retreat, or just spending a weekend thinking about your goals, the issues you are facing, and today’s world around you.

Here are a few of the top accounting firm challenges facing firms across the industry:

Succession Planning

  • Does your firm have an established, written plan in place to deal with succession of baby boomer partners?
  • Do you have a plan and system in place to develop the next generation of leaders and partners at the firm?
  • Are you working to grow the value of the firm, or is the value of the firm declining?


  • Are you investing in and maximizing the right technology solutions to allow your firm to compete in the industry and service your clients? Or are you allowing your staff to drive technology use?
  • Is your technology allowing you to move beyond compliance-focused work and shift into offering value added advisory services?
  • Do you have a “value gap” where the partner groups view the technology in place as exceptional, but the staff view the same technology as sub-par?


  • Can you attract, retain, and engage the right people to allow the firm to grow from all generations, including the millennial generation?
  • Do you have an engaged workforce, working on the same page? Or do you have disengaged employees who are not giving their best?
  • Are you moving up the value chain, providing proactive and not reactive services?
  • Do you have a talent shortage or staff that lacks adequate training?

These three issues – – succession, technology, and talent, just barely scratch the surface. However, they are a starting point in managing some of the major issues firms of all sizes are facing today.  In subsequent blog posts we will address how to deal with those three issues and more, so stay tuned.

Let’s all make 2017 the year we make positive and exciting changes at our firms, to set us apart!

Already know your firm’s objective and goals for 2017? Let us hear of your vision and challenges, in the comments.  Not sure where to start?  Share your uncertainty in the comments too, and we will help you get started.

Planning for the future of your firm means getting in sync with your clients’ expectations. Download the “Game Plan for the Future” whitepaper today.


Garrett Wagner

As a business therapist at Thaney & Associates and CEO of C3 Evolution Group, Garrett Wagner CPA/CITP escorts firm leadership through succession planning, the technology evolution, and millennial talent development. Through his monitoring and use of evolving technologies and industry best practices, he brings “outside of the box” thinking, refined procedures, and awareness of traditional methods, with an eye on the future. Garrett’s succession planning process is a success factor on the road to reaching your lifetime professional goals of growth and profitability. His background leads partners to develop a plan, in a time when firm retirements are at a historic rate. Through his personal experience with technology, Garrett delivers ROI to firms. He will escort you through the identification of unique needs, choices in the digital market today, and best practices to maximize its use within the firm, removing the struggle to keep up while realizing its rewards and benefits. Also, talent needs to be developed from the moment of firm connection. Garrett’s leadership training curriculum focuses on enhancing emotional intelligence skills. He will work with the senior team to groom their understanding of millennial CPAs, keys to motivating these teammates and proven methods to actively engage them within the firm, halting near-term brain drain. Through succession planning, technology and millennial talent development, increases will be realized in work efficiency, work quality, and employee satisfaction, while training tomorrow’s leaders, as today’s leaders move on in their life’s journey.

All stories by: Garrett Wagner

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