Is your business ready to adapt to demographic and technology changes?

Here are some tips your organization can use to help.
By Cheryl Meyer

Owners of public accounting firms and other companies need to ask themselves several key questions: Are they taking advantage of technology and adapting to technological changes? Are they employing a diverse workforce to help grow their businesses? Have they developed social media strategies to attract not only clients but top talent?

These were some of the key points raised by Tariq Khan, founder and CEO of Global Diversity Marketing, during his one-hour talk on "How to Grow Your Practice in a Changing Environment: Technology and Generational Impact." Khan's talk was one in a series of CPA Diversity & Inclusion webcasts aired this fall by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

The purpose of Khan's webcast was to outline why the old ways of engaging with clients and employees are, or soon will be, obsolete. Change is coming or already here, and organizations must adapt. Millennials, for instance, will soon make up the majority of the global workforce, and women will increasingly run privately owned businesses. Furthermore, the United States is a multicultural hotbed.

"Bottom line … if you don't take a unique approach to your business and don't develop a strategy to overcome these challenges, you may not be able to grow," he said during the talk.

During and after the webcast, Khan offered the following tips to business leaders as they attempt to adapt to these changes:

View change as a business opportunity. Perceive change as a way to reenergize your organization. Ask yourself what challenges you face and where you see growth opportunities. Tap professional organizations such as the Association as a resource.

Analyze your business. Look at your location, employees, and clients. What has changed over the past few years in terms of demographics? Review your last 10 hires, Khan said: How many stayed for five years, and how many left? Why did they leave? Was there a disconnect? "Look at your practice, what you are seeing changing around you, and how you are prepared to incorporate that into your practice," he added. And once you have assessed your business, make commitments and set goals to make changes.

Establish priorities. While your organization may have fallen short in attracting women, Millennials, or the multicultural population, or failed to take advantage of social media, don't change too much too soon and get overwhelmed. Identify one or two segments to address as a start. For example, you may want to meet with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in your area or a local women's organization, depending on your specific priorities.  

Develop a plan and have patience. Strategies can come in many forms: You may want to hire more Millennial employees so you can examine their work habits and priorities and, in turn, attract and retain customers. Or, if you want to attract more women as customers, you might hold an educational seminar for women business owners. And once that strategy is in motion, be patient and grow your business slowly.

Keep pace with technology. Review your website, LinkedIn profile, and social media presence. Is your business relevant? Are you able to attract customers via these various online platforms? Khan suggested using social media to promote blog posts and position your company as a subject-matter expert on a certain topic, to gain exposure and, in turn, increased business. "The value of an accounting practice is advice," he said following the webcast. "That advice is slowly going away to the internet."

Cheryl Meyer is a freelance writer in Orange County, Calif. To comment on this article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters at the AICPA

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