June 20, 2016
Know How

How to plan for the future

There is just no letting up when it comes to change. The pace is frenetic, as the range of local and global opportunities and challenges keep piling up. To plan for what is ahead, you need to see where the change is coming from and where your business is pointed.

For us at Westborough accounting firm AAFCPAs, that means making sure we are spending time with our clients and peers outside the company to understand the lay of the land and to listen and learn from others. In fact, a recent event held by the CPA industry's national association (AICPA) highlighted some of the challenges that our industry faces. For example, in the next few years, 78 million Baby Boomers will retire – which is not even close to the number of skilled Gen Xers (50 million) ready to take senior roles.

Planning for the future requires anticipating and identifying these types of issues and taking steps before the consequences are upon you. Here are a few important trends AAFCPAs is focused on in order to ensure we're ready for what comes next:

1. The sharing economy meets technology. The youngest generation of adult consumers simply doesn't buy items or services the way we're accustomed to. Apps for ride sharing (Uber) and accommodations (Airbnb) have set the stage for transactions that occur on any device and with very little vetting of the provider. AAFCPAs is preparing for how that will impact inter-office and client communications. The sharing economy will change how we book meetings, collaborate and market our services.

2. The on-demand world is already here. The professional service industry may be the last frontier for the on-demand marketplace. The work we do in audit and accounting is rarely a quick turnaround, yet clients expect immediate results. We will leverage technology at the highest level to see how we can answer the on-demand call. For example, running reporting and advanced analytics software continuously so that inconsistencies are flagged as they occur. This introduces a real-time audit – unheard of in the past but a necessity in the future.

3. Managing the multi-generational workforce takes planning. I noted that the Boomers will soon retire and the younger generation is operating like no other we've seen. If you don't already, at some point soon you'll have both as part of your workforce. Negotiating an environment that works for everyone means doing the research and getting an understanding of how to bridge the divide. The elder generation, for example, has shown resistance to working remotely, while younger workers treasure flexibility of hours and location. Being disciplined about a middle ground requires a solid plan and consistent communications.

4. Keep your staff engaged and they will be part of the long-term solution. Any kind of sustained success requires great talent that is invested for the long haul. In some industries retention can be an issue, as the day-to-day job can be set in stone without much room for exploration. We make an effort to help our young talent learn new things and find what they're really passionate about. Our people can transfer to different departments within the firm, which satisfies their desire to try new things without leaving the firm. Finding where your talent flourishes and keeping them happy helps you attack the future with a stronger bench.

5. Find out how big data will change your world. We know companies around the world are capturing reams of data to help them increase top line growth, manage costs, improve efficiency and adapt to changes in supply, demand and the business environment. This trend doesn't apply solely to big companies. We use information to better understand our internal operations, with an emphasis on employee schedules and job hours that help us chart an efficient course.

Overall, planning for the future really comes down to anticipating the needs of customers and the workforce. Learn about what's coming by listening and watching others in your industry, be ready to leverage technology to the fullest, and keep your staff engaged and growing.

Carla McCall is co-managing partner at Westborough accounting firm AAFCPAs and chairwoman of the Massachusetts Society of CPAs. You can reach her at cmccall@aafcpa.com.

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