The key to conquering change? It’s lifelong learning.

No surprise there. We’ve said it over and over and over again.

Now, we’ve got a curriculum to go along with that theory.

It’s called “The Competitive Edge for Accounting Professionals: Value Beyond Tax and Compliance Services.” Developed by Sage North America and the MACPA’s own Business Learning Institute and announced at the 2013 Sage Summit in Washington D.C., the program aims to go beyond the usual tax and technical updates and deliver the vital “soft skills” – collaboration, leadership, communication, change management – that will help CPAs stay ahead of today’s dizzying pace of change.

“Research showed that 29 percent of firms only speak to their clients once a year, primarily during tax season,” said Jennifer Warawa, Sage’s vice president of partner programs and channel sales. “Our partnership with the Business Learning Institute to develop this new curriculum is the solution to educating accounting professionals on how to deliver value to their clients beyond tax and compliance services, with the end goal of increasing the value they bring as trusted advisors, ultimately creating greater business confidence.”

The short-hand version is this: These skills are important because your clients demand them. Futurist Daniel Burrus told me as much last year. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Burrus sees the value that CPAs add as a pyramid. The bottom part of the pyramid – by far the largest part – currently consists of the data and information that CPAs provide to their clients. The smaller, top part of the pyramid consists of knowledge and wisdom.

Groundbreaking technological changes are making data- and information-management services obsolete. That leaves CPAs with the golden opportunity of using their knowledge and wisdom to provide clients with insight, foresight, and consultative value.

“Before I had access to the data and the information, I needed you to give it to me,” Burrus said. “Now, we’re heading toward real-time accounting and auditing. When we get that point, your value shifts to the knowledge and wisdom parts of the triangle. I need consultative value from you – and by the way, I’ll pay more for that.

“I need you, but I don’t need the old you. I need a new you who understands the transformation I’m going through as your customer.”

The new curriculum will deliver that insight. It centers on three separate tracks:

  • The technical expert track is geared toward the CPA who is content with his or her practice structure, acts as an advisor to clients, and wants to enhance skills.
     
  • The aspiring track attracts CPAs who want to provide more consultative services to clients.
     
  • The visionary track focuses on CPAs who are early adopters of technology, and already act as an advisor to clients.

Programs will be available via in-person seminars and “vision workshops” – hands-on, interactive sessions that guide accounting professionals through steps to create an actionable vision and strategy that will help them get closer to their clients, based on insights from past, present and future profession trends.

CPE is available for each course.

Keep your eye on the BLI and Sage web sites for details. It could be your first step on the road to outrunning change.

I had an opportunity to talk with Jennifer Warawa at the 2013 Sage Summit about the new curriculum. Here’s what she had to say:

 

Check out the 2014 Sage LEAP Leadership Education for Accounting Professionals catalog here

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