Rick Telberg is a household name among U.S. CPAs. His company, Bay Street Group publishes a newsletter and has a website full of information geared toward CPAs. Called CPA Trendlines, Telberg helps small and medium sized CPA firms develop best business practices around their accounting practice. He features articles, a blog, and Twitter posts that CPAs can use to help build their marketing, technology, and customer relationship areas. These areas have not typically been emphasized in accounting and are not typically taught in business accounting classes.
In his August 1, 2009 blog post Telberg compares the technology goals of small business with those of small and medium sized CPA firms. Telberg cites a recent Forrester study of technology goals of small businesses and compares them with a recent survey he conducted of his own CPA readers.
Not surprisingly, Telberg concludes that small businesses and small CPA firms are in sync with each other. Though it might seem obvious, small CPA firms face the same kinds of challenges that other small businesses do, other than the fact that they are experts at accounting and tax law and probably keep the best accounting books a small business can keep!
The top three CPA strategic goals of Telberg’s study include increasing business efficiency, going paperless, and application integration.
Forrester lists the small business owner’s top goals as: Application integration, reducing IT costs, and using IT systems to improve operational efficiency.
According to Telberg, “…most accounting firms are working hard to keep up with their clients and yet not stray too far ahead to the bleeding edge, nor fall too far behind.
I noticed that there were several important items on the CPA strategic technology list that were notably missing from the small business study that Forrester conducted. These are items that should be on every small business owner’s list too:
- Online training
- Disaster planning and data back-up
- Adding collaboration tools (online meetings, webinars, etc.)
Depending on individual state rules, CPAs are professionals that are required to complete about 40 hours of continuing education every two years to keep their license. Business owners have been very slow to take advantage of the treasure chest full of online webinars, conferences, and other training. Even watching video training and listening to small business educational podcasts on a regular basis can make a huge impact on small business success
Most small businesses that have never had a fire, tornado, or hurricane destroy their business simply don’t think of the importance of disaster planning and data back up.
I was meeting with the Chairman of the Board of a bank on Friday who happens to also be a CPA. He told me that his disaster recovery plan could have bank operations up and running in a temporary location in less than one business day, with no data lost. He indicated the cost to have a solid disaster recovery and back up plan was minimal. Small businesses need to plan for such contingencies if their business is their primary livelihood. In most cases the answer is YES!
Lastly, regarding collaboration tools, small businesses have been slow to adopt online meeting platforms such as “GoToMeeting” or “WebEX.” These tools can save thousands of dollars if you have staff in more than one facility. They can also be inexpensive ways for you to present your products to far off customers and clients. Small businesses should acquaint themselves with various tools that help them conduct meetings and presentations online.
If you are a very small business and don’t have an IT department ask your CPA for their recommendation for a back up process. Many CPAs know affordable IT companies that specialize in helping small businesses.