Anticipation, Agility, Adaptation: The Three Skills Needed Now

Tom Hood

Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, urges CPAs to go from essential workers, as they were designated in the early days of the pandemic, to indispensable advisors going forward.

Kicking off the annual CPA Innovation Summit for the Maryland Association of CPAs on Oct. 2, Hood and Daniel Burrus, a futurist and author, discussed the speed of digital transformation and the key trends to anticipate as 2021 approaches. The idea was to help CPAs identify new opportunities with the best potential to make themselves more sought-after and relevant professionals.

The Summit is an online event this year, featuring 18 live webcasts through October and November, culminating in three panel discussions on Dec. 15.

During his keynote address, Burrus pointed out that some of the trends that were in motion pre-pandemic have accelerated by up to 10 years in five months – “the holy cow phase,” as he put it. Examples he cited are e-commerce (Amazon and the like), visual communications (Zoom), cloud services, high-speed artificial intelligence and machine learning, remote working and mobile services.

Daniel Burrus

Burrus calls the above “hard trends,” or “future facts,” meaning that they will continue growing exponentially. And he urged CPAs to look at those hard trends as platforms for growth. “This is not the time to have a wait-and-see attitude.” Three digital accelerators – computing power, digital storage and bandwidth – are speeding ahead.

Focus on being significant, not successful, Burrus says, because that means your firm is focusing outward, on client needs. “One of the principles I teach is to take a problem and skip it,” he says. Ask your clients what they need and let them talk. “They’ll tell you exactly what you need to do.”

Success after the pandemic depends on what you are doing now, Burrus told the listeners.

Look at the hard trends now, he suggests: the increased emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, the rise in environmental, social and corporate governance reporting, and the demand for cybersecurity services, as just a few examples. What opportunities do you see? “A trend by itself is worthless – you have to see the opportunity.”

He reminded listeners that we are all living in a global-defining moment, “and when you have a defining moment, you don’t want to squander it.”

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