Your AICPA ENGAGE Cliff Notes

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The “AICPA ENGAGE” conference has become a top must attend event for accountants nationwide. The conference combines a plethora of topics with the ultimate focus on the future of the accounting industry, what’s new in technology and how firms can achieve long-term success.

If you missed being there in person, here are the Cliff Notes of the best content coming out this year’s Vegas conference:

The overarching theme from the most loved sessions was really looking at your firm from a high level. Practices need to be examining strategy, changing up processes and thinking about the future. It is no secret that challenges like staffing shortages and a down economy for our clients are looming over our heads. But how do the best leaders in the industry suggest we tackle them?

Amber Goering of Goering and Granatino presented a tax season strategy mix up that has helped a colleague of hers to improve their firm’s cash flow and better manage tax season hours at the same time. According to Amber’s presentation, her colleague’s practice told every client before tax season started what their anticipated tax preparation fees were going to be and asked them to pay ahead of time to solidify their spot with the firm.

Not only did it bring cash in up front instead of waiting for months like March and April after your team has been shelling out overtime and software fees for the busy season, but it also made clients happy. Amber shared that the firm didn’t lose any clients. We employ a similar strategy in our practice that has also resulted in us being able to better manage our time.

Knowing before the busy starts how many returns you expect to have to file is a huge advantage in terms of building a strategy around time and deadlines.

Another great strategy presented by David Wurtzbacher from Ascend, was to reduce the workload of managing partners in terms of how many client relationships they have to manage. Managing partners have significant accountability to the administration of the firm. The running of an actual business and the responsibility to be the decision maker can be a full-time job all by itself.

When managing partners must split their time and attention between running their own business while still trying to advise clients, they can end up spread too thin. Wurtzbacher suggested managing partners pare down to just one client.

William Pirolli of the Succession Institute and Michael Bush of Great Place to Work both noted the importance of employee retention and bringing up the next generation. Pirolli noted that not enough is being done to train the next generation how to actually run a firm, such as how clients are brought in or how to make a budget for operating the practice.

Along the same lines, Bush noted that not enough firms are focused on retention rates as a key performance indicator. While many of us focus on revenue and profitability metrics, we lose sight of costs associated with turnover in the industry.

The ideas coming out of the conference are no doubt key strategies for firms to focus on in the future. The accounting industry is not going to thrive doing things the way they have always been done and ENGAGE is a conference that has, for another year, focused on how we can adapt with the times and prepare for what’s ahead.

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