This year, I celebrated my 50th birthday … and it was quite a turning point. It made me stop and reflect on my career and the vast changes I’ve observed and experienced professionally and personally. During this period of reflection, I was overcome with a powerful drive to change the public’s perception of the tax and accounting profession. Media across the board does a great job of perpetuating the image of the traditional accountant as a boring, nerdy number cruncher in a bad suit. That simply isn’t who we are. They know it; I know it; and I hope you know it, too. We are tech-savvy, creative and working to build firms that support an environment of positive thinking, inventiveness and next-generation allure.
** From the Sept. 2011 Issue **
I grew up in the accounting profession. My father opened his own small firm when I was three years old, and only recently, at the age of 83, did he officially retire. Having turned 50, that means I’ve been a part of the profession, whether as an observer or active participant, for nearly five decades. In all this time, if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that accountants are some of the hardest working professionals I know. And today, they are also evolving as some of the coolest and most creative.
The Elements of a Next Generation Accounting Firm
I started my accounting career at Deloitte Haskins & Sells. A few years into my career, I decided to go off on my own and launch an accounting practice. From the start, I never had the desire to operate a traditional firm, based on the standard model within the profession. I wanted something different, something new. A firm that, looking forward, my kids would be proud to work in and, at some point, take over.
With my kids now grown, my wife and I are soon to be empty nesters. The day is also coming that my children may join me in running Root & Associates. My oldest son is finishing up his bachelor’s degree in accounting at Indiana University (IU), and my daughter, already having obtained her undergraduate degree in accounting, is now wrapping up her MBA at IU. For the past 15 years, I’ve focused on building a business that my children would want to be a part of someday. The goals I set for myself were lofty, but obtainable. I wanted to run a firm that:
- Enabled a good life-work balance — Too many accounting professionals are totally consumed as technicians in their practices, absent from their families a good deal of the time.
- Allowed me to work on my terms — I wanted to work my way and from a place of my choosing.
- Supported a professional yet comfortable environment — I wanted to be part of an environment that reflected my values and personality.
- Allowed me to earn what I needed to earn — I wanted to bring in enough revenue to support my family, my hobbies and provide for retirement.
- Harnessed the power of technology — I wanted to build a highly efficient system — a well-oiled machine that supported streamlined processes, paperless workflows, and intuitive applications that my staff could easily learn and use.
- Provided a feeling of satisfaction among all staff — I wanted my staff to truly love their jobs.
- Attracted long-term, loyal clients — I wanted to build a business that clients felt they couldn’t do without.
The more firm leaders I meet in my travels, the more I see that many want the same things. And more and more, I’m witnessing professionals putting in the work to change their firms into something spectacular — a place where people want to work, where clients are with you for the long haul, and where they just feel good about what they’ve built.
I firmly believe that accounting is one of the best, if not the best, professions … which is why I feel so strongly about building a firm that is structured for the next generation of professionals. Here’s my mantra: By building our businesses right today, we are securing the future of the next generation of accounting professionals.