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40 Under 40 Honoree: Jason Lawhorn, CPA – 32

Operations Principal, Lawhorn & Associates, PLLC, Knoxville, TN

Jason Lawhorn, CPA – 32
Operations Principal, Lawhorn & Associates, PLLC, Knoxville, TN

EDUCATION: Master of Accountancy; BS — University of
Tennessee – Knoxville
FAMILY: “Soul-mate extraordinaire” (wife) Stacy
and his awesome sons Michael, Jeremy and Jacob (a.k.a. his “football team”)
HOBBIES & INTERESTS: enjoys playing and writing music,
fly fishing, and traveling with the family

What’s the one piece of technology that MOST helps you get through
your normal workday?

“We use so much technology throughout the day. If we were allowed to include
software, it would absolutely have to be the integrated software suite we use.
We couldn’t be as good as we are at what we do without Thomson CS programs.
As far as hardware, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S500 Desktop Scanner is by far the
best hardware investment we’ve made this year.”

What will be the biggest change over the next five years in the ways
tax and accounting firms operate?

“The most significant change in the next five years is the way accounting
firms will communicate with their clients and third parties; and the way accounting
firms will value and bill the services they provide. Portal technology, XBRL,
OCR technologies, integrated software and web solutions are currently in the
process of revolutionizing the way firms communicate value to clients. Some
firms have already jumped in headfirst just as we have made the plunge. Others
are testing the waters with a toe or two, and still other firms are completely
oblivious to the changing environment and refuse to acknowledge that such technology
could be beneficial to their firm and, more importantly, the clients they serve.
It is a case of ‘ignore it and it will go away’ (and we all know
it won’t) or a case of ‘ignore it long enough and I’ll go
away and retire’ (maybe sooner than you think).

“The absolute highest value we can provide to a client is efficient
communication. The old adage ‘knowledge is power’ has never been
more true than today. How do we as accountants, the bean counters that we are
perceived to be, provide true value or knowledge to our clients? By employing
the most efficient communication possible.

“In the past, our communication abilities were stifled by the back and
forth and the process of accounting. And maybe even the ‘black-box of
accounting.’ In the environment today, we have the ability and the responsibility
to open up the black box and show our clients what is inside that box —
show our clients why the contents are so important and how each of them can
become better business people by using the tools and information we can put
at their fingertips through efficient communication.

“Some practitioners will scoff at the idea of opening the box and building
efficient lines of communication. Those practitioners will provide little value
to their clients. Our clients, however, will have a better understanding of
what the accounting profession does for them on a daily basis. Our clients will
be empowered to be better business people, making better decisions with our
assistance, and watching their businesses grow successfully.

“Employing efficient lines of communication, those practitioners that
provide it, will have no choice but to change from the old hourly standard of
billing to the new value-based system of billing for the services and communication
they provide. The old way of gathering data and providing information may take
more time, and it may be a more cumbersome process, but that does not mean that
it holds more value than the new way of zero data entry, one-fourth the time
commitment and one-fourth the delivery time. On the contrary, the knowledge
that is communicated in a fraction of the time holds more value and should be
billed for accordingly.

“It is not easy or comfortable to change business practices that have
been employed by this profession for nearly 70 years. There are both high-tech
and low-tech issues to consider. Everyone is capable of having the latest and
greatest technology in the world, but if the low-tech issues are not addressed
and fundamental processes are not changed, then full efficiency, client value
and the firm’s revenue realization will never be recognized. Firms that
want to avoid obsolescence in the business community will need to put fear aside,
step up to the plate to face the technology fast ball, and start swinging. You
never know, you may hit a home run.”

What Jason’s peers had to say about him:
Jason has been integral in his firm’s success, with a vision for growth
that centers on technology. Lawhorn & Associates is a family owned business,
and Jason has helped the firm significantly expand client services and elevate
efficiency to unprecedented levels via online, integrated processes. For example,
Lawhorn & Associates provide payroll services that are offered completely
online, which translates to increased profitability and ultimate convenience
for their clients. As operational principal and technology guru, Jason has led
his firm’s transition from paper-based to paperless processes, which have
not only elevated profits and productivity, but have also enhanced the client-accountant
relationship. Recognized as a leader in the profession (and his firm as a model
for efficient workflow processes), Jason is viewed as a technology expert by
his colleagues and has become a sought-after speaker.

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