Let's zero in on Arlington Heights, Ill. The Chicago suburb is home to New Vision CPA Group. CEO and Principal Jody Padar took over the firm from her father and completely retooled it with an eye on the horizon. The firm's M.O. now includes software-as-a-service, cloud computing, mobile technologies, social media and value billing.
There's more going on there than trend-hunting. There are elements of necessity and survival in what Padar has done. The firm leaders of today are edging toward retirement and younger folks are lining up to take their place. They're bringing with them new work habits, expectations and technologies. Firms that don't evolve to include those things in their DNA may soon find themselves extinct.
“We're proactive rather than reactive,” said Padar. “We're helping (our clients) with their business as opposed to giving them a deliverable such as a financial statement or a tax return. They don't want that; they want us. They want our business expertise, they want our value. They want someone at a managerial level who they can actually communicate with. … We're the ones who are actually communicating with them and helping them make decisions.”
That represents a renewed focus on an old idea — that of the CPA as a trusted business advisor. Future-minded firms like Padar's are adopting that mindset in a big way.
At the very least, though, firms need to address the coming leadership gap by finding younger CPAs who have the talent to do the job — then letting them do it, experience be damned.
“As a senior partner, you have to give up some of that control and let the next generation learn and make mistakes. That's the only way you learn,” Padar said. “It's not so much making the mistake; it's more about getting up and coming back from that mistake and redirecting. That's what makes a true leader.”
At Padar's firm, it seems to be working. In the past three years, New Vision CPA Group has enjoyed a four-fold increase in gross revenue, “and that was during the recession,” Padar said, “so you tell me who's doing it right.”
“We've had so much growth that we're hiring people,” she added. “It's fun, but we're going through growing pains, too, because we're trying to figure it all out and move forward. But we'll get there.”
Jody has a lot more to say on what the future holds for CPA firms. Listen to our conversation in its entirety, then tell us: What are you doing to lead your firm into this brave new world?
Want to learn more?
Jody Padar will participate in a pair of upcoming MACPA programs. The first — “New / Young Professionals Network Session: New Leadership Essentials” — will be one of the 2011 Maryland CPA Summit pre-event options available on June 2. The second — a social media panel discussion — will be part of the CPA Summit itself on June 3. Get complete details about the Summit and its pre-event options here.