Thoughts on the Future of Accounting

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I’ve said this in a multitude of ways, in other articles and live chats and conversations, but I think it’s time to spell it all out. I want to say things that need said about this profession and its future. I am of course referring to the wonderful people that comprise professional accounting, which include in no particular order CPAs, bookkeepers, and Enrolled Agents.

This is a community I have observed and thankfully gotten to know for over 20 years. In that time, I witnessed a few major fluctuations: the impact Sarbanes-Oxley had on the profession, recessions, inflation, the move from desktop to cloud and varying degrees of automation of all major accounting tasks and the respective security risks that came with it.

But nothing, in my view, has impacted the profession more than the global pandemic. Any hesitations about automation and remote work had to be dealt with head-on because it was the only way work could get done. Firms large and small that felt they could not work from home or utilize cloud or automation tools were forced to reckon with the reality that this was a way work Needed to get done.

But there’s a misconception about accountants I’d like to address before digging in deeper: they may be risk averse, heck, it’s a core factor of being an accountant, and I’d argue Why you hire one. But don’t think for One Minute they are “slow to change” or opposed to change. Proof of this, at least in this country, is found in how they handle (on the regular) the constant flood of changes in the regulatory environment, from Internal Revenue Codes to court rulings and beyond.

And this brings me to my core point: if any further change in the profession is to happen, and this includes making it a more attractive career to join and stay in, the one core change that has to happen is in How You Work. I am talking about taking back your time and making the most of it. I am talking about having true life/work balance (yes, this is the order it needs to be in). I am also talking about the cyclical nature of what you all accept in an almost dystopian rite of passage known as “Busy Season.”

This, my friends, my colleagues, needs to end. This cycle of abuse you all endure year in and year out, to the point at which I’ve seen so many of you want to move out of the profession and the firms you’ve built all together because you simply cannot take it anymore, has to end.

I feel for you, it has near broken my heart to hear and read about the pain, the hours spent on the phone, collecting documents faxing the *#%@! IRS in 2023! You need to say Enough! You need to Find Your No in the way Simon Sinek asked to Find Your Why.

Say enough to bad clients, to all of the extra hours, to the weekends working on returns and forms, and to thinking the majority of the work you do needs to occur in pre-determined blocks of time. And finally, enough of vendors, industry organizations, and “pundits” telling you the kind of work you should be doing (CAS, advisory, etc.).

It’s time that you take control of your careers and your lives. This isn’t say leave, but rather, choose the work that you want to do. This can be balanced well with work you need to do. If this profession is to have a future there is a lot that needs to change, but in my honest opinion, it has to be one that you all create, not one pre-determined or dictated to you by anyone.

Take back your time, your lives, and recreate what it really means to be an accounting professional.

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