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When you think of a CPA firm that seems to have it all together, what comes to your mind? Is it their services and customers? The size of their firm or funding? Maybe it’s their impact in the accounting and business communities?

Successful accounting firms are constantly looking for ways to improve the way they do business. The firms that do this successfully will continue to be successful. The firms that don’t adapt will fail.

While there may be some broad assumptions on how to bucket the “successful” and “not so successful” accounting firms out there, the question remains:

What are the genuinely successful accounting firms doing differently in today’s new and fast-tracking and evolving landscape?

Excellent CPA firms have a lot in common. They are productive, modern, successful and they are always motivated for more.

They are all about emphasizing a firm’s individuality to drive business, so it is essential to remember that successful firms do not all look the same; some of these traits usually help define the basis of how they do business.

WHAT DO EXCELLENT CPA FIRMS HAVE IN COMMON?

There is no magic recipe for the structure of a truly great CPA firm, but there are some shared aims. Head among them: they are open to change, and in this day and age, one of the biggest changes is the growth of accounting technology.

The new reality is that technology is not going anywhere, and it is an important part of every firm’s business model. The key is how to control technology to deliver value to clients and build a profitable and successful business.

1. THEY ARE COMFORTABLE WITH AUTOMATION.

We live in the 21st Century. We have such a large variety of powerful technology at our fingertips. Businesses across industry lines have started to use automation to modernize their workflows and improve productivity. For example, many businesses now use online payroll services to automate payroll. This makes it easier to manage payroll and reduces the time and cost associated with it. It also gives employees a more convenient way to manage their paychecks.

There are lots of tiresome, manual tasks that need to be done at every CPA firm. All those tasks take time and energy, but when firms incorporate automation, they can turn their attention to the following:

  • Using, refining, and expanding employee skills
  • Taking better advisory
  • Growing potential revenue or capacity
  • Enhancing margins

Now, a harsh truth that some advanced accounting firms have had to face is how much of their firm and methods they automate. With progressively tech adoption, firms can introduce technology to solve a single, major challenge.

One good example of an effortless opportunity for automation in most CPA firms is bookkeeping. When you automate bookkeeping duties, you can enjoy better-organized and thoroughly verified data. It’s a great way to enhance your current approach to bookkeeping and open opportunities to improve other facets of your work, as well.

2. THEY BELIEVE “WORK-LIFE BALANCE” IS DOABLE.

You might be accustomed to believing that having work-life balance is off limits. In fact, a lot of companies talk and make a joyful balance seem like a fable. Work-life balance is one of the keys to a beneficial and healthy workplace.

Having work-life balance can lead to increased productivity. For instance, in many cases, employees are able to get more done in a shorter amount of time because they can dedicate more time to their personal lives.

The finest CPA firms promote work-life balance. Who can be on their A-game and offer excellent service to clients when all they do is gawk at spreadsheets for eight hours a day? It is not true!

CPAs have always worked unimaginable hours, skipped holidays, and missed out on vacation days. Good firms do not let this happen. If you want your CPA firm to stand out above the bunch, you must treat your team like you’d treat your family. A cheerful, healthy firm achieves much more than a firm filled with overworked accountants.

3. THEIR CLIENTS HAVE EASY ENTRY TO THE INFORMATION THEY NEED.

One of the characteristics of any great service is its users’ ability to navigate service offerings, locate personal information, etc. It takes a little work to shift to a workflow that facilitates this, but we think it’s worth it.

Your clients should be able to retrieve the financial information they need when they need it. Today’s leading firms allow their clients what would have once been considered unique levels of access to information. It’s one of the most significant ways to offer better and faster value to clients.

Make sure that your clients can get to the information they need on their terms by way of technology. For example, great CPA firms do not just offer a retroactive tax return as a deliverable, but instead they offer real-time visions and actionable data for their clients to plan and reach their goals. It’s about expecting need and acting on it.

This does not just help the people you are serving, it helps make things simpler for your team, too. Self-service options are less challenging for CPAs than alternatives that require an accountant’s assistance.

4. THEY HIRE ACCOUNTANTS WITH THE PROPER QUALITIES.

We could write a book about hiring. It is a prolonged process that entails a lot and it can feel high-pressure, too. Your firm might be next-level when it comes to hiring, but if you are not sure which traits you should focus on during your employee search, here is a quick briefing:

  • The willingness to continually learn: The accounting field is always shifting. There are a lot of constants but the processes we use to get work done shift. You need a crew filled with people who are always ready to learn something new.
  • A strong sense of ethics: Ethics are fundamental when you work in a business that involves other people’s money. Accountants must be ethical and show reliability.
  • The ability to work on teams and individually: A lot of the work that happens in accounting firms happens in groups. If you hire someone who is not a team player, he or she could have some trouble adapting into your office. On the other hand, if you hire someone who cannot function separately, they may struggle to work on their own or work one-on-one with clients.
  • Creativity: Creativity is usually a quality that’s overlooked in this field, but it should not be! Creative accountants will help you recognize results that may never have crossed your mind before.

5. THEY LEVERAGE MINIMALISM WHERE IT COUNTS.

Some accounting work is probably never going to look simple, but we have a lot of tools at our disposal that make certain parts of modern accounting pretty easy.

Successful CPA firms recognize opportunities to keep certain things easy. Many firms fall victim to over-complex processes or concepts they do not totally understand, and new software and technology can confuse a firm’s abilities instead of expanding them.

That is why it is critical to keep things simple when you can. Your firm should always be ready to transform and solve difficult problems, but there should be some aspects of your work that are simple and practical.

Especially as it relates to your firm’s tech stack, it’s important to consider minimalism. Single-function tools can be good, but you might find more value from software that addresses and remedies multiple pain points.

The most successful accounting firms know how to build and manage their business like a small business, while still being big enough to be able to grow. To do this, they have to think and act like a small business—they have to think about the needs of their clients and their staff. They have to focus on the bottom line. They have to be agile and nimble. They have to embrace change and innovation. They have to be customer-centric. They have to be transparent. They have to be efficient. They have to be responsive. They have to be proactive. And they have to be ethical.