Lessons on predicting the future have been circulating throughout the profession for the last five years. The Anticipatory Organization™ Accounting & Finance Edition teaches the difference between “hard trends,” things that will happen, versus “soft trends,” things that may happen.
By examining hard trends related to digital disruption, an aging population and new regulations, firms have been making concrete changes.
Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) president and CEO Tom Hood says client accounting services is an example of an opportunity linked to a hard trend in demographics. Bookkeepers are growing older, CFOs are retiring and the shortage of talent is continuing. For many firms, managing finances for clients as a CFO-for-hire is one of their fastest-growing practices.
Consider the results of these firms: Ridgeland, Miss.-based HORNE (FY18 net revenue of $91.3 million), Gaithersburg, Md.-based DeLeon & Stang, Salina, Kan.-based K·Coe Isom (FY19 net revenue of $69.4 million), York, Pa.-based Stambaugh Ness (FY18 net revenue of $15.1 million) and Canfield, Ohio-based Hill Barth & King, or HBK, (FY18 net revenue of $93.9 million).
The firms have had better success with innovation projects since they are based on hard trends, and they are having more meaningful conversations with clients. Leaders have learned to narrow their opportunities to one or two “must-dos,” while staff are accepting change more readily and enjoying new ways to serve clients.
- HORNE, seeing cybersecurity problems coming down the road, bought a small tech company in 2016 and created HORN Cyber Solutions, one of the fastest-growing practices at the firm.
- HORNE created a mobile application for its government services division that allows property owners to take photos of damages during a disaster and easily file for recovery programs.
- HORNE and K·Coe have implemented value billing since technology allows more work to be done in far less time.
- HBK leaders and staff are talking to their clients about the future, discussing trends like AI and 3-D printing. HBK acquired a technology consulting firm last year to add technical experts and services to its subsidiary HBK IT.
- Stambaugh Ness, which sets aside weekly meetings to apply hard trends to their industries, is distributing The Anticipatory Organization™ model to clients to help them plan projects that give them a competitive edge.
- K·Coe’s research into hard trends by industry has led to trade show presentations, white papers and more consulting opportunities.
- Deleon and Stang is rethinking the audit process to make it future-oriented rather than historical, focusing on business succession planning services and consulting with clients in new ways.
“I just think as CPAs we’ve got to be more educated about the future because it’s coming faster,” Hood says. “That’s why I feel like this program – for us as an association and the folks working with it – it’s a game changer.”
As CPAs Learn To Anticipate The Future, An Unimaginable Crisis Hits: Part One. Read Part One.