Business Advisor vs. Tech Advisor

This blog post was inspired by a blog posted a few days ago from QuickBooks and Beyond called “The TRUE Trusted Business Advisor.”

In her article, Julie Carman talked about how 70% of businesses want their CPAs to help them plan and implement technology change but that the same number of CPAs don’t want to help.

I think that the underlying problem is less that the CPAs don’t want to help but rather that they feel ill-equipped to be able to help.  The same obstacles facing small businesses are facing CPAs.

Number of Available Solutions

I think that far and away the biggest obstacle facing CPAs is the sheer number of available solutions in the market.  Fifteen years ago your accounting technology choices were essentially limited to Peachtree vs. QuickBooks.  There simply weren’t a lot of other players in the market for small businesses.

With the growing popularity of the cloud and ecommerce, everyone is now suddenly faced with dozens, if not hundreds, of options for solving every imaginable business problem. Finding the best fit for a general ledger is one search, and there are separate searches for the best solution for invoicing, bill pay, time and expense, inventory, ecommerce, merchant services, payroll, and on and on.  It’s next to impossible to become an expert in every solution with the hope of solving every problem.  And the landscape changes on a daily basis, as do the tools themselves.

Most business owners give up because they don’t know what they need because they aren’t experts in accounting.  Most CPAs give up because they don’t have time to research the huge number of available solutions.

Lack of IT Training

So let’s pretend that your typical CPA has some time to kill after tax season or after a big audit and decides to dive into accounting technology solutions. The CPA has found a great time and expense system, but does it “talk” to the general ledger?  And there’s a great bill payment system, but how does that integrate with the time and expense system?  And what about inventory?  And ecommerce solutions?  How do they all fit together?

It’s one thing to identify possible solutions to fix a targeted problem.  It’s something else entirely to take individual moving parts to engineer a complete accounting technology solution that works for your client.

CPA Specialties

As most people know, there are recognized specialties in accounting.  When joining on at a large accounting firm, you decide whether to go the tax route or whether you’ll go into audit.  And if you pick tax, you decide whether you want to focus on individual, corporate, state and local, or international (and so on).  The point being that you can’t be an expert in everything. There are just so many hours in the day. So you pick one and focus.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that you don’t pick up other skills and training along the way, but really, there is an unlimited supply of information out there.

Now back to technology….

For many years now I’ve been hearing about how CPAs are the best positioned to be the trusted advisor for their clients and to help them pick the best accounting technology for their business.  CPAs have a deep understanding of accounting, business, and workflows. This is all true no matter whether you’re in tax or audit. But this alone does not make your CPA the best equipped to advise on decisions about technology.  This makes them the best equipped to be the one to have a conversation with someone who understands the accounting technology marketplace.

The other option is to find a firm who specializes in providing accounting technology guidance.

And if you’re someone who is interested in learning more about being able to provide this kind of guidance to your clients, please check out our resident tech chief for his all-day pre-conference session on ecommerce or his “Chunkification” session with Bill.com and Tallie at #Solutions13, The Sleeter Group Accounting Solutions Conference on November 3 – 6, 2013 in Las Vegas.