In this podcast, our experts Chris Rivera and Joshua Lance had talked about the changes happening in Accounting Industry. Listen here to know more.
#BKOT 31: BUILD A KICKASS OFFSHORE TEAM
UNDERSTANDING THE CHANGES HAPPENING IN ACCOUNTING INDUSTRY
Hosted by: Chris Rivera, Director Client relations, Entigrity Offshore Staffing
Guest: Joshua Lance, Founder, Lance CPA Group
Chris: All right, good afternoon everybody, and hope everyone's safe and healthy and it's been a few weeks and so we joined you I know we got an extension with the tax season so I am here today with Josh Lance and the head of accounting with practice technician and so we are excited for you guys to join us today listen then we'll be talking about the latest trends and what's going on in the accounting industry and so josh thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule and please tell us more about yourself.
Joshua: Yeah, thanks for having me here! my name is Josh Lance I am the head of accountant practice mission and really my role there is helping firms grow and build better firms using technology and I we're interacting work a lot with firm owners hear their kind of pains and struggles and things like that and help them kind of grow their practice or even get the right processes and technology in place to help facilitate that in addition to that I also run a CPA firm so I am the founder and managing director of land CPA group which is a fully virtual remote CPA practice that ran for the past six years so so some that even helps me with my role at the practitioner too of just kind of telling how we've kind of done things and how we've changed and adapted as things have changed and adapted in the accounting world.
Chris: Right it's a lot, a lot's going on, and to say the least now how did you get into the whole CK field? Was there a backstory behind it or is this kind of something you always wanted to do?
Joshua: Yeah, I mean it’s a little bit of something I have always wanted to do so I first got introduced like with accountant in high school my high school had accounting classes you could take and I took them and I thought they were really great and so I was like,I guess that's what I will major in when I go to college and so I graduated from college landed at a large CPA firm as an auditor for and I was doing that for about seven years left as a lot of people do leave public account and they go to corporates, I went to a family office was a controller for a bit before launching my own practice so I am kind of seeing both sides of the table there been with kind of larger firms now in a smaller practice and kind of see how those kind of things are different and kind of things that smaller firms have advantages of as far as being more agile and being more able to kind of take advantage of new technology new things that are out there.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely! Prior to the pandemic it seemed sometimes that accounts could be transactional accounts and it's evolving to more of a like holistic advisor and what have you noticed in this transition to how firms are managing with their clients and so can you talk a little bit about that?
Joshua: Yeah, so I think for pre-pandemic a lot of firms are very traditional kind of set in their ways and kind of follow this well we'll just do this they do last year and we're not really going to rock the boat as far as change or anything like that right and if you ask them like hey what do you think about remote staff or doing things virtually with your clients before they put that but they're like oh that's not going to happen that's not how we work that's not how clients want to work right like we can't and I can't trust my team whatever all that and there's all these excuses that exist and then the pandemic happened which forced that shift into like you actually have to change in other words you're not going to exist as a CPA practice anymore and so I think some of the things they were fearful of or things like oh that won't work they had to put in place and saw that it actually did work and it worked actually pretty well and saw the kind of advantages of like okay well I can make these changes and I can try new things like having remote staff or try new things like leveraging technology and working my clients virtually and it still works and it's still in a lot of ways can be better and so some of that fear now is gone of okay this won't work or I can't trust my employees just going to work at home you'll be at home watch Netflix all the time and not do any work right they saw that like actually this does work and we can actually even be more productive in this environment so I think that this has kind of been a real huge catalyst of change and now firms are really starting to think about okay how do I not just use this as a temporary well here's how the work for this period of time and then when things get back to normal I can go back to my prior way of working but like how can I continue this on and grow my practice in this new kind of world and this new paradigm that we're in.
Chris: It’s so funny because you're spot on and the remote workforce is nothing new I mean the internet started 30-40 years ago and remote working's been started ever since but yeah the accounting industry has just been slow to adapt or just always turned a blind eye to it and then boom they get pushed right into it so the first thing you need to do is holy cow how do I manage the team remotely what's going on right so are you finding clients that are coming to you are completely lost or are they having a good idea or there's a lot of hesitation especially with that word cloud what are you seeing Josh: Yeah, I think there's just a lot of information out there right and sometimes it's hard to sift through like what do I actually do here right and you can listen to a lot of different webinars and see all the great technology or like all the different ways of running your practice or growing your practice but how do I actually tangibly do that right like those are good lawfully nice ideas and I can see the value and fruit of it especially now that you kind of start to adapt some of these things but how do I actually tangibly do this on a day-to-day basis and make those changes and kind of reshape my firm to take advantage of this new situation right and so I think that's where law firms are kind of in right now is okay what do I keep on what do I do next like what's my next step in this and how do I use` what I have learned this past year and adapt into these changes and how do I continue to do that going forward and one of those kind of next right steps for our company right and so a lot of firms that I talk to that's kind of where they're at is they know the change needs to happen, they've seen the change being fruitful in their firms so far and they're just trying to be like how do I continue to do this and what are my next steps in doing it.
Chris: Yeah, once you get involved with the new practice workflow in your structure and you'll see that in technology you could love it you could hate it but you have to embrace it and it's there for you but there's always that concern especially with the sensitivity of the data there and so what have you guys seen as far as questions in regards to that or has that been a big hesitation or has it been easy to overcome?
Joshua: Yeah, I think there are people have that question like okay we're using cloud technology and is that secure or not right and some of these I talked to him about is okay well what are you doing right now a lot of times is well we have a server in our office and it sits there and that's where all of information is at and that's how we access it is that secured how do that's secure right like how much money you put toward security towards that I have a friend who was in a firm in seattle and that's what their thought was we have this great server in our office we have some security on it we feel safe and confident while their server got breached during the tax season their information was used they couldn't file returns like it was always a huge mess and they thought they had that security in place and the reality is like the amount of money that cloud companies put towards security is insane like there that's a huge concern for them if the security doesn't work for some of these cloud apps that you'd be utilizing or there's a huge security breach like that could be that end of that business right there's so much writing on that security and so they're putting a lot of effort in it they're going through audits in it they're I have people whose dedicated job is to ensure the security of their on their software and that's something probably you don't have in your office and that's something you're probably not doing on your servers or the kind of desktop applications you may be using already right and so when that so that question comes up is this secure or kindly I trusted it's well what are you doing towards keeping your stuff secure and what are these companies doing and you start to see okay well they're actually this is a huge priority for them they have a lot of things in place to keep things secure really more so than you'll ever do especially as a small firm kind of putting your trust in those companies they're they have to kind of fulfill that and keep things secure and not have data breaches or downtime or things like that and so they're going to invest the money and effort in doing that much more than you'll ever be able to do in your own offerings or to protect your own server.
Chris: Yeah, spot-on, and what I am noticing too is with clients is that they're with their clients they're fed up right at one time one extension after another extension kept coming and things are still delayed documents waiting on certain items and I am seeing a lot of clients kind of not necessarily fire but set new onboarding procedures into place so when you first started you said you're a cloud-only firm had been you like that the entire time and kind of why did you go right into that model?
Joshua: Yeah, so I think for me when I started Lance CPA Group I knew I wanted to leverage the latest technology I my experience in a prior in my prior CPA firm we actually had a lot of great technology in place we just weren't utilizing it well in the immediately situations where we'd go on a client site to do work and when everyone's just in the conference room on the laptop is doing the work like we could have done that at home like we didn't have to travel to the client sites and the conference room to do that right and so I know the power of technology and utilizing it and I also knew the things I wanted in my own life right like I didn't want to be tied to an office I wanted to see my family I wanted to kind of set my own way of working and I wanted that for my employees too and so when I started the whole idea at the beginning was to be fully virtual and fully have fully remote employees and use all cloud-based technology because we could not only kind of built the firm that I wanted but certainly way the client the clients that the way I wanted to so we're highly niched in the craft beer industry we're high enough digital agencies and so we serve those clients across the country we're not local to where I am at in Chicago and that's a huge benefit to us and that was kind of the idea in the in the beginning of let's have this focused industry of where we're going to work, let's use the latest technology, let's have a remote workforce and really leverage all those things to our advantage.
Chris: Yeah, it's refreshing to hear this because you said it yourself a lot of times you can hire and you can work with clients nationwide they don't have to just be in your specific town, and clients that are moving you don't have to be fully virtual but yeah you had to become partially virtual and clients are starting to realize my clients that they can hire and have clients anywhere and it's like yeah you could have had this the whole time and so with your team in place and remote workforce in general obviously you're comfortable with it is there any advice or any assistance you guys give with that as far as when the clients are looking to hire new staff now virtually?
Joshua: Yeah, I think there's a lot of great advantages to that, like you're opening it up your talent pool beyond just where you live and especially if you maybe don't live in a highly populous area or there isn't a great talent pool around you, like you're now leveraging kind of the best and brightest town across the country which I think is super helpful and it's something that really allows you to get really quality people into your firm as a result because not a lot of firms are doing that right the pandemic kind of shifted that focus and now firms are saying okay that's a viable option but that's still something that's not people are doing across the board and so I hear firms talk about the struggle to hire and struggle to get people into their firms and when you talk about it's like they have these kind of very old outdated processes they're looking for a set person it has to be local they going to come to my office and all these things and they're really limited in themselves at that point and as you look to kind of say okay well if I can have that person work wherever and serve my clients and do the work I need to do I don't need them to come to an office and they can be where they live or wherever that may be and with the technology in place that becomes really easy to facilitate that and so now that kind of shifts things to where you can really get the right people in the that fit your firm well and like I know when we go and hire and put a job posting out there we'll get hundreds of 100s of applications for an accounting job whereas if I just probably focus locally I may get 10 or 5 right and I am not really maybe getting the best and brightest talent at that time right so this is really kind of expands that out and really ensures you get the right talent into your firm.
Chris: Yeah and being able to work with the technology and have the staff not just in your specific area and yes this is American economy but this has always been a global economy yeah and it's starting to make people realize too heck I got off the call right before this where the client had worked with offshore staff in Philippines, India and Australia I was like wow so I don't have to spend time talking to you about the offshore concept in three different countries I mean it is everywhere and so that's really opened up the eyes for the accounting community because specifically the small to mid-sized market for sure sole practitioners I think like once you reach that 10 to 12 spot it's really hard to go to the next step and kind of scale your business and practice this but with technology and the ability to have remote staff in place it's just like us having this meeting today is awesome we have to be in person and are you seeing as you as you continually scale and grow are you working with any offshore staff are you just or working with remote staff here in the states or your town or how's that aspect been for you?
Joshua: Yeah, so we have like I said we're fully remote as far as our staffing goes most every everyone right now is currently based in the us that has not always been totally the case but that's the case right now and I think it's really for us it's just getting the right capacity in there right and I think that's a huge issue in firms is understanding what their capacity is and then trying to make sure you have the right capacity in place and fits the right roles right so like for us like we're even as we look into this next six months we're re-envisioning kind of like how our even our staffing looks and knowing that we have staff that may not want to be client-facing right and be more internal right well that's the case we start to build that out that really now opens up this town pool of okay we can have a lot of people regardless if they could be in the us they could be 12 hours a different time zone but if they're all kind of serving that kind of same goal and that same level of work that kind of serves that deed right and so I think in in talking to a lot of homeowners they're seeing that aspect of I really need capacity to handle these types of roles and this type of work and I need to get that off my plate too and I think that's a big thing as a firm owner especially smaller firms is the struggle to keep everything in your kind of on your plate right and you can't grow or scale firm that way and so finding that capacity and getting that the right people and to do that and that may be local to you that may be on the other side of the country maybe it's their side of the world but understanding kind of your model and what you need lets you kind of figure out what's the best fit for you and then to get that staff in and make that work.
Chris: Absolutely spot on, with the accounting community in general I mean it's I think I was reading about it's growing and over the next decade it's supposed to grow another four percent and it's on par with most industries so it's not going anywhere especially with the ever-changing laws, regulatory environment, the globalization of it so that a lot is going to be changing and so that leads me to ask oh is this the future is this now or is it going to get is it going to keep evolving or what are your what are your thoughts as far as the accounting industry in the next decade?
Joshua: The pace of change is only quicker and faster right yeah and it's your firm needs to be able to be able to adapt that change and take advantage of that change if you can you're going to see massive growth in your firm and if you can't you're not willing to you are going to see your firm start to shrink up a bit and die because the way the economy is moving the way businesses need help from their accountants is changing and so you have to be adaptable to that and if you are then you're going to reap the rewards of that growth that will happen but you have to have that change that happens first and so I think with a lot of firms with the pandemic that's kind of started in the catalyst of change but you keep that change going forward or do you stop again and kind of get stuck in your ways and as we see things grow and change and the technology change with it right like we know intrinsically that some of the manual type work that we do is going to shrink over time because technology is going to replace a lot of that to make it more efficient and effective and as that happens we have to be able to change our focus between doing the actual work and then advising our clients and changing the priority of our time there right and so I think as we see as we see things change we start to see more of that kind of shift of okay how we actually serving our clients and I think the pandemic also kind of pushed that on the client side of clients expected more they needed more help they needed help kind of understand what's going to go through this time period and come out the other side in a and a place where they can still be successful and so a lot of accountants stepped into that role to help that out and kind of develop that and as such we'll see more of that I kind of need from the clients you have to be able to be able to serve that and if you're solely stuck on just doing the work you're going to miss out on that opportunity as well.
Chris: Yeah, there's a lot of that the attitude of if it ain't broke why fix it and but change is constant no matter what industry you're working in and I see it very prevalent where they're stuck in their own ways and it's unfortunate because there's just so many tools and resources right there for you to take full advantage of if you have the right mix of people and your processes and technology shoot I mean the sky is the limit as you could say but also when I have seen this take a toll on and we've kind of talked about it but right before the caller taking a trip it's mental health I mean it's been it's been straining and I mean I have worked remotely for four years you owned a virtual firm so nothing new for us but still I was in complete shock and I ended up I telling this story on a weekly webinar that I do and I was supposed to go on vacation march 17th that day the borders closed and for some reason I went to the store and I just bought pastries and donuts and cake and I just ate for one straight week and I didn't even realize it so it and then with all the changing and that the three p's all the time and hearing that I mean what have you seen what are some things that you do to kind of relax yourself nowadays?
Joshua: Yeah, I think you have to have that focus on your own mental health and self-care and pay a lot pay attention to that and I know associate accountants we did a lot to serve clients and help in their time of need and kind of put ourselves in the back burger but we do have to take care of ourselves because otherwise you'll burn out we'll get sick our mental health will just go down to the tubes right and so paying attention that's important for me I just like get out once a day and just kind of walk around and listen to a podcast and just kind of relax a bit and take that time for myself and that's not selfish at all right like I need that to recharge I need that to be effective to my teammates, to my clients, to all the firms I work with in practice edition right like I need to have that time for myself otherwise I am not going to be effective in any of those arenas and so I think to most for accounting firms to spend some time focusing in on that is important and know like this is stressful and this is a lot going on there's been a lot of change in tax law and a lot of change and hires from your clients and know that you have to take care of your staff and make sure they're seeing that and I have seen too many times where firm owners or business owners will promote mental health and do those things but they won't do it for themselves and then the teammates or people who are working for them say like well if they're not to do it themselves like I am not going to do it as well or they don't seem to be as important or maybe they'll just love service they were paying there you actually got to take care of yourself and so at our firm one things that we do to even incentivize that to our team is we give them a 50 stipend every month for self-care purposes so they can take that and if that is to pay for some yoga classes is that the massage and that is to buy some books to read because that's what self-care means to them then then go ahead and do that because if you're taking care of yourself you'll be able to take care of your clients better you'll be in a better state of mind and be able to kind of deal with everything that's going on.
Chris: Yeah, a lot of people just you got this especially with the season that we're currently in you still have to take a moment for yourself and realize that you're not a robot not always a robot and you take that time and also check in with your team because moving to the remote environment there were a lot of clients I worked with that was like I am here today because I just lost my whole team no one wanted to work remotely they were all uncomfortable and I didn't know the client saying I didn't realize this I didn't know this what do I do and then they just didn't could envision this and we were able to help them out but at the same time you're checking it like you said one-on-one right make sure that you make yourself vulnerable available and be humble but also check in one-on-one because you never know what's going on and you don't speak with them.
Joshua: Yeah, I think too like when you go remote or you now have remote employees you have that you have to be more proactive and connecting with them because we don't then they feel very left on that left outcome on an island by themselves where they get isolated they feel like no one cares about me no one's checking in on me do they even care that I exist here and you have to do that right you have to be more proactive in that measure more something even in the office right and so that's something that is a bit of an adjustment and I think a lot of people learned that over this past year of okay like this does feel a little isolating like there are benefits when you're in the office because you get to meet and chat with people and have human connection right you need to replicate that somehow in the virtual world and virtual environment so yeah I think that was a bit of a learning curve a lot of firms as they transitioned was okay we have to be more proactive and checking on our people making sure they're okay do one-on-ones and not about what work they're working on but okay what what's on your life are you doing okay are you feeling right is there anything that can help you is there anything we can do to make sure you're bear connected or is there things that are worrying you rightly just have those kind of honest conversations and that that does a lot to really strengthen the bonds of your team and make sure they stick with you through this.
Chris: Yeah, that's a very small thing that goes so far it goes beyond anything because it's just taking that moment to reach and they say everything's okay it doesn't matter that moment that you took at each other's time will go a long way.
Joshua: Yeah, for sure!
Chris: Josh, awesome we had a lot of good things to talk about today any final thoughts before we sign off?
Joshua: Yeah, I think for anyone who's listening about change in their practice make sure you take it in methodological don't try to change everything at once work it through step by step get buy-in from your team members have team members champion different changes that you're having in your firm and this goes a long way to ensure those changes actually stick and that you can make those kinds of transitions to a more nimble firm or virtual form or more of a firm that's more adaptable for remote employees and having people work wherever they're at around the world and ultimately have a more successful firm as a result.
Chris: Absolutely, so everyone checks them out on LinkedIn it is Joshua Lance CPA also at practiceignition.com again thank you for taking time out today awesome meeting with you, and for now take care and hopefully we'll speak soon everyone in the audience have a great rest of the week and we'll be back soon signing off-take care guys.
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