Darren: You ran a CPA firm, served as VP of Product Strategy at Thomson Reuters, turned CPA Technology Advisor (now CPA Practice Advisor) into a premier publication, and now lead product strategy for CPA2biz. That’s an expansive, diverse career. Tell me, if you were starting a new practice today, with all your experience, what would your vision of that practice be?
Greg: I would be way more focused on what I do, how I do it, and for whom I do it. I would grow a practice to support the lifestyle I want to live. You teach this stuff everyday, Darren. You tell firms to create a business model first…I agree with you I would ask myself what kind of business I want to run, and then I would create it. From a technology standpoint, I would include a great big fat Internet pipe, a firewall, a router, a scanner, and some low-end computers. Oh hell, and I suppose I’d get forced into buying at least one printer, too.
Darren: It seems the rate of change in technology is faster today than ever. With that said, what do you see as the biggest challenge facing firms today?
Greg: The movement from premise-based to SaaS is perceived as very technologically challenging. It’s not. The biggest challenge here, hands down, is staff and client management and standardization of workflows. The next biggest challenge is getting firms to think differently about the services they provide. The services they have traditionally provided are not necessarily the ones clients have wanted or will want in the future. Firms have to understand this and implement the technology to help them deliver these new services.
Darren: What would you say is the one thing (or two) that has given you the greatest satisfaction?
Greg: I had a great mentor early in my career. Walt Schaefer was my boss when I was business manager at a social services agency. He taught me the power of “connections.” Today, I pride myself on knowing almost everybody in the accounting technology world. Years ago I founded a gathering that’s now known as the SaaS Executive Roundtable and every January 50+ CEOs of technology companies that serve the profession come together to spend two days trying to figure out, collectively, how to do it better.
Other high points have been the opportunity to associate with great people. I’ve had great talent work for me (Theresa Mackintosh when we were both at Thomson), and with me (Darren Root as we prepared the transition when I left the magazine). I’ve also worked for great people, most notably my current boss at CPA2Biz, Erik Asgeirsson. Each of these people has and is still making a profound impact on the profession. It doesn’t get any better then that!
Darren: If you were advising a 25-year-old CPA looking to get into public practice today but with a desire to break the “traditional accounting firm mold” of long hours, etc…what advice would you give?
Greg: Make sure YOU control the CPA-client relationship. You’re the expert and as such you design the process and define the tool set. The fee dollar you collect by going outside of your standardized system will be the most expensive dollar you ever earn!
Darren: What do you see as two of the most exciting technologies that firm owners should be paying attention to today?
Greg: Easy—Cloud and mobile. They make each other possible and relevant. In five to seven years there will be no more premise-based software in public accounting. Everything will be Cloud-based, and everyone will access whatever he or she wants, whenever they want it, using whatever device they choose. And those devises will be mostly mobile.
Darren: Over the past few years, CPA2Biz has evolved to include a technology product mix. More specifically, you guys have adopted Cloud messaging. What do you see as CPA2biz’s role in the accounting space over the next several years?
Greg: For years we’ve been teaching accountants how to “use” technology to do what accountants have always done, but do it faster. Now we’re teaching accountants how to do things they’ve never done before.
Darren: Help our readers understand what it means that you lead product strategy and what CPA2biz’s role is here?