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I think this meme sums up 2020 pretty well. It has certainly been a year to remember—or forget, depending on your perspective.

When I discussed my departure from AICPA back in April/May, I said I’d stay through July 31 and start at Allinial Global on August 1. At the time, my AICPA team and others at AICPA were working incredibly hard to help members with government assistance programs and getting through all the legislation. I stated then that I thought by August 1, this pandemic would be well behind us and we could move on. I guess I was wrong. But I can reflect on both my time at AICPA and what I currently see in talking to firms around the globe.

Here’s my top five:

1. CPA/CA firms are the ultimate trusted advisors. As a profession, we’ve said for years that we need to be better advisors to our clients. Well, the pandemic has shown just how good we are. All over the world, small businesses reached out to their firm advisors asking for help. Government assistance took many forms around the world, and small businesses called their CPA/CA firms first, not only for help in government assistance but also in general business advice. “How will my business get through this?” was a popular question that came directly to their professionals. Firms need to continue to leverage this into the future.

2. There’s a disparity between the technology ‘have’ and ‘have not’ firms. There were firms who were very ready to have all employees work remotely. Then there were firms who weren’t. My experience has been that geographies prone to natural disasters seemed a little more prepared, as they’ve been through some level of shutdown before—never to this magnitude, but they knew how to adjust. The firms that weren’t prepared did get there in a hurry, but it was highly stressful. Technology preparedness is important.

3. The firm business model needs to change. Many firms still try to justify value as inputs and hours. Showing up to the firm’s office or a client’s office and having a person in a seat is value in the eyes of firms. Not so much anymore. As a profession, we run the risk of reverting back to our old selves when this is over. But I believe the way we work has changed for a very long time. People WILL work remotely more often. There will always be an underlying risk that we have to go 100% remote again. It’s time to move to pricing for value, and better yet, let clients subscribe to the firm (more on this in a future blog). Changing pricing can change staff accountabilities to results-oriented, not inputs, which will in turn change how we work with our teams and clients.

4. Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. “Never let a good crisis go to waste” is a quote that’s been attributed to Sir Winston Churchill during WWII, though not proven. But here we are looking forward to the days to come. The firms that have learned from the past eight months will take advantage of creating new client service lines like client accounting in the cloud, recruiting virtual employees, and possibly buying up firms who aren’t willing or able to pivot to this new normal. The time is now to take advantage of all these opportunities.

5. Mental health is important. My heart breaks when I hear the stories of some struggles during this time. Lockdown has not been healthy for everyone. We have to recognize that each individual is different and provide the support necessary, not only for success, but for good mental health as well. Blanket mandates of being in the office or not being in the office won’t help. It has to be a one-size-fits-one mentality. If you are a firm leader, or if you manage people, please check in more often than ever before. Hug your family, connect with your friends, and make sure we are all staying positive during this time. Some lives depend on it.

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Posted in: AG Leadership Program, Mark's Insights,

Welcome to the Allinial Global blog series! We thought it would be fitting to celebrate the start of this new venture by highlighting another important new beginning—the arrival of President and CEO Mark Koziel. In our first installment, Mark shares what he’s learned from his first 60 days at Allinial Global.

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It’s hard to believe I’ve already been with Allinial Global for 60 days! I spent my first few weeks getting to know the team and the systems within Allinial Global. I also took some time to introduce myself to the regional boards and answer questions before turning my attention to the member firms.

One goal I committed to in my first year was to reach out to EVERY firm for an open dialogue. Through these conversations, I am learning about the firms themselves and their relationship with Allinial Global—both what they like and what they feel we could improve upon. Here’s what I’ve learned thus far.

1. Allinial Global has really great firms. I can’t begin to tell you how great our firms are, in all regions. I’m impressed with the collegial atmosphere among members and the fact that our firms are all interested in each other’s success. There’s no doubt that many (probably all) firms really miss getting together live. Although we’ve supplemented with virtual events, there’s a strong desire to get back together in person. I hear you. I can’t wait either.

2. While the pandemic created new challenges, there’s been opportunity as well. Since the pandemic has me grounded, I’ve been lucky to meet with firms virtually, which allows me to meet more members sooner. And firms themselves are finding ways to create opportunities with each other. It may not be cross-border commerce during this time, but firms are supporting one other through regular virtual meetings and discussions about what they are doing to socially distance, open up, interact with clients, perform audits virtually, etc. Yes, commerce is important to the ROI of belonging to an association, but the ability for firm leaders to build relationships and get together quickly to help each other is priceless.

3. Being independent and knowing you can openly share with others is a differentiator. I can’t tell you the number of firms who have told me that this is a big value proposition of being in an independent association versus a network or a large firm-run alliance. I’ve had members who have worked for firms in large global networks talk about how impersonal the live meetings become and the fact that no one is as willing to share openly for fear that it could get to others. It’s much the same with large firm alliances where there could be confusion as to whether the firm is independent of that large firm or has to “depend” on it. At Allinial Global, we are locally independent and globally strong.

4. Firm size and geography will determine the need for resources. Not all firms are created equal. Therefore, not all resources delivered by Allinial Global will relate to all firms—though I will say that there’s plenty for everyone at various stages. The smaller the firm, the more need for ALL resources. But firms of all sizes in all regions can benefit from participation in Communities of Practice and other Allinial Global learning opportunities. We do have some work to do in building better. While feedback thus far has been generally positive, there is still room to improve, and we’ll be working on that over the next year.

5. The Allinial Global Leadership Program is second to none. It’s been amazing to see the number of comments about the leadership program. This is where networking began for many, and it created relationships that are lasting a lifetime.

6. It’s all about technology. As I speak to firms about needs, technology comes up constantly. What’s fascinating is how common the technology need is around the globe. The solutions may not all be the exact same provider, but the need and the use are generally similar. We’re working hard to understand who the top players are in each region and how best to curate technology to help member firms make informed decisions. I’ve been amazed at how tech savvy some of our firms already are. They are helping to lead the way and support the other firms as well.

7. Commerce is a verb, not a noun. While the dictionary may claim that commerce is a noun, it’s important to remember that commerce requires action and socialization. Those firms who have invested effort in socializing and getting to know their friends inside of Allinial Global have benefitted the most in referrals and commerce. More commerce happens than we even know about. That’s great! We are working on ways to capture that commerce to better understand how much is really out there. We are also working on guidance for firms to help them understand what good commerce can look like, along with tips on the best ways to engage in it.

Of course, there have been several other lessons learned, but these are the ones that stuck out the most to me. At this 60-day mark, I’m about a third of the way through meeting every firm, and I look forward to connecting with the rest of you and learning more. I’m so lucky to get to know and work with such a great group of firms. Your success is our success, and I can see many ways for us to grow together.

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We look forward to continuing this blog series with a new post every other week. We’ll see you again in two Wednesdays!

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