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4 Hard Trends that Affect Our Firms’ Future

By Joey Havens

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At the HeadWaters 2015 Emerging Leaders Conference in Park City, Utah, earlier this month, I spoke to accounting leaders on four future hard trends that I see for both our profession and individual CPA firms. Hard trends are defined as things that will happen whether we like it or not. After presenting these four major hard trends that will continue to transform how we work in public accounting, I shared a story about Davis, our 9-year-old grandson to demonstrate how these hard trends are impacting many firms.  The story goes like this: 

One Sunday morning when Davis was about four years old, he was attending church with my wife, CeCe, his dad, Brandon, and myself. We always sit somewhere on the back three pews when we take Davis to church. On this particular Sunday, Davis was not having one of his, shall we say, “quieter” days.  (I’ve also noticed he always sits next to CeCe because he knows she’s the sure soft touch and she always brings some snacks.) 

Before we’d finished singing the third hymn, Davis had eaten all of his goldfish, ran his cars along the pew, and colored some, too. He was being entirely too noisy and CeCe had already threatened that he would have to go to Pops (Me J).  He knows me to be more stern, but the reality is that I’m no real threat either.  I must say he settled down a little, but only after I had to threaten to send him to his dad.   Well, it wasn’t long until Brandon reached over and took him. 

As Brandon continued to struggle with keeping Davis quiet and still, I heard him tell Davis that if he had to get up and take him out of church, he would get a spanking.  This went on for a few more minutes, then at one of the quietest times in the service, Davis finally had enough.  He reached up with his little hands and pinched his Dad on both cheeks and said in a voice that was way too loud, “Just take me out and spank me!”  Needless to say, and not to the delight of the priest, the people in rows around us found that to be rather humorous.  

I shared that story with the conference attendees because I knew that after we had reviewed these transformative hard trends, trends which we have no control over, that everyone would feel overwhelmed, just as Davis felt that Sunday morning after having had enough of being quiet.  The spanking seemed like a better option.  With so much changing in our firms and in our world, we can likely all feel like Davis at times.  I know I certainly can feel overwhelmed.   

Here are the four hard trends that I shared with the conference that I also want to share with you: 

Hard Trend 1.  Competition for talent will be fierce in the future and Millennials’ values will transform how firms operate and manage people.

Hard Trend 2.  Technology, software and algorithms will automate many of the accounting, tax, auditing and reporting functions that we charge hourly fees for currently. (This is true in many other industries, too.)

Hard Trend 3.  The retirement of Baby Boomers will significantly impact the leadership and relevance of businesses, and especially CPA firms, over the next 10 years.

Hard Trend 4.  Social media and digital mindset will have a significant impact on a company’s relevance in the future. 

These things are going to happen.  So regardless of your business or industry, you’ll need to be anticipatory around these hard trends to be ready for your future.  Even though it may seem like the easier choice, taking the spanking as Davis preferred simply isn’t an option.