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Millennials Are Breaking the Accountant Stereotype

Jason Blumer, Breaking Accountant Stereotypes

Millennials are poised to become financial advisors.

That may surprise you to hear—millennials are still early in their careers and are currently learning their value in the marketplace. Sure, the oldest millennials born around 1982 are further along than their counterparts, but they still need time to grow, change, and carve out their most valuable place in the workforce.

But trust me—millennials have the traits needed to move into the lauded space of advisor. Certainly, it is risky to define a whole generation together, but from a big picture perspective, this generation can teach us what it means to move towards Advisory services and behaviors. They can teach us how we, as accountants, are imperative to this type of work.

1. Relationship Building

Millennials seem to be more open to new relationships, diverse relationships, or relationships that don’t fit a certain pre-conceived model of what is considered ‘appropriate’. At the core of accounting, firm owners becoming Advisors means that that firm owner is comfortable with relationship building.

Advisory = Relationships.

That exchange of knowledge happens when the accountant has allowed time for the client to trust them and challenge them to grow and improve. The heart of Advisory is boldly challenging, supporting, and encouraging your client to become something they can not readily become on their own.

What could this look like?

Client onboarding is a process we teach at Thriveal.com that helps accounting firm owners build more trusted relationships faster with their clients. Client onboarding leads to better conversations and the ability to price services higher (because they now are perceived as more valuable). In this case, millennials could lead the Client onboarding process of a firm in a creative and thoughtful way, bringing the new client along to trust the firm much faster.

2. Seeking ‘Why?’

Millennials don’t seem to accept general comments or empty answers given to them on just about any topic. This is one frustration the media claims about millennials—the fact that they push back against unproductive conversations, or need more information for proper ‘buy in.’

The tendency of millennials to ‘ask why?’ can lead to deeper conversations and more accurate paths forward in a project or client service. 'Asking why?' can ultimately lead to better client relationships and more profitable work—and should be accommodated as much as possible. Accounting firms may find millennials asking ‘why do I have to track my time?’ or ‘why can’t we just price a tax return at $500’ or ‘why aren’t we telling our client they are generating losses every month?’ These types of questions can be aggravating to accounting firm owners, but they could lead to deeper understandings of client service if the firm owner is willing to slow down and seek out the answer. It is a great asset that millennials 'ask why?

What could this look like?

Getting those ‘why?’ questions in the middle of a project can be frustrating. It makes sense to create space for this important work by planning for the ‘why’ time before the work begins. Weekly team meetings scheduled at the same time each week, kick-off meetings with the team before a big project begins, or even ‘Ask Why Fridays’ can be planned times for accounting firm owners to allow the space for these important questions to take place.

3. Technology Adoption

The ease that millennials have with adopting technology is a well-known fact about this generation.

Technology adoption, held in its right place, can be a foundation for providing and delivering Advisory services. I believe many accounting firm owners think that if they can just find the right technology dashboard or bill pay workflow product, then Advisory will begin to take place in their firm. But this isn’t true. Sure, using technology can better manage new levels of services, or display ‘mashed up’ numbers in particular, more understandable way, but it still takes a human to interpret that data and explain it to a client. However, if an accounting firm owner is unfamiliar with technology adoption, they might struggle with the needed foundation for Advisory services. Enter the Millennial. This generation is already past the barrier of technology and can be taught to analyze the information and deliver it to the client in creative ways.

What could this look like?

If you are thinking about implementing technology into your processes, adding more value to your services, and pricing your services higher, ask a millennial to give it a try. See what they can do by saying “We think this solution could be a path to delivering higher level accounting services to clients. Can you dive into it for a few hours, and come back with a recommendation?” Since this is comfortable for them, they will jump at the chance.

Millennials can build relationships in ways that bring accounting firms closer to their clients—they are the key to breaking the stereotype of what accounting firms look like.

June 7, 2018
Jason Blumer
CPA, Blumer & Associates
Jason Blumer, CPA, has more than two decades of accounting experience. In addition to leading his own firm, Blumer & Associates, he is also the founder of the Thriveal CPA Network. Jason has been honored as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting (Accounting Today) for five years running.