This week, we’re excited to have Adrian Simmons on the show. Adrian is the Chief Creative Designer at David G Simmons CPA, Practicing Fellow at VeraSage, and Director of the Lab at Thriveal Laboratory. He prides himself on being an entrepreneurial accountant.
And you can tell with everything he’s involved in!
In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Adrian Simmons cover:
1. How to create a client onboarding that positions you as an advisor
2. The psychological shift needed to prepare for the future of accounting
3. The importance of taking breaks (and how to take them, even in tax season)!
4. How to be an entrepreneurial accountant
You Aren’t A Machine:
Adrian Simmons has a laundry list of tasks to take care of. He’s the director of lab at Thriveal, Practicing Fellow at VeraSage, and Chief Creative Designer at his father’s firm, David Simmons CPA (now Elements CPA).
Adrian prides his firm because he likes to think they are a modern accounting business infused with industrial age thinking. Adrian sees too many accounting firms operating as if their firm is a machine. During tax season, you don’t leave your desk, and don’t even think about taking time off. Humans are not the same as machines. We operate at full capacity when we have time to disconnect.
Adrian, for example, takes Thursday mornings off to go to the pool, exercise, relax and think. Even entrepreneurial accountants take breaks! Running a successful CPA firm requires long-term commitment. That means having a system in place that both gets the work done more efficiently and allows your team to rest.
Adrian warns: You must protect this time-off slot. Don’t allow it to become a ‘flex’ schedule spot where other work-related pieces can creep in.
The Economy Is Shifting…:
Having a system is as important as ever. The economy is shifting…industries are going back to the drawing board. The value propositions that worked in the past are decaying.
In accounting, you used to value your services as ‘tax return preparer.’ Not anymore. Today, accountants need to evolve their value proposition. Adrian’s other project, Thriveal, is meant to bring smart CPAs together to innovate the value proposition of firms. Thriveal is meant to accelerate today’s innovations and discover tomorrow’s. Adrian joined because he was looking for other accountants who realized the profession needs innovation. He needed people to bounce ideas around with and test out new methodologies. VeraSage, Adrian’s third project, brings together a think tank of top accounting minds, like Ron Baker and Jason Blumer, and develops new ideas to change one firm at a time.
For many firms, this is a psychological shift. After all, CPAs are still needed and do work that is required by law. Still, your position isn’t necessarily secure because business owners need more from you now.
The Entrepreneurial Accountant:
An entrepreneurial accountant doesn’t sit back on their laurels during this imperative time. Entrepreneurs use creativity and experimental skills to imagine new products & services.
See, tax returns you can’t really experiment with new ideas as they must be prepared a certain way. However, the systems and technologies behind the actual preparation can be mended.
Adrian’s firm is in development for two different products/services. One product designs financial statements around the actual business model thus the owner can understand better their statements. They then rearrange the chart of accounts and P&L so the owner is reading in language they understand and can make informed decisions. This is a piece missing from many financial statements firm’s prepare. They do the same prep process for every business and the small business owner has zero idea what to do with the statements.
In this instance, they took a “value approach.” Adrian and his team asked “Why make business owners accountants? Let’s adapt to them!” That’s a more intuitive way to work with your clients. Plus, it’s how they are rotating their value proposition away from simply being ‘tax return CPAs.’
How To Become An Entrepreneurial Accountant:
Many believe you are “born” an entrepreneur. Not necessarily true. Anyone can come up with a hypothesis and test out a new idea. That doesn’t take magic to do. Adrian recommends starting there.
Are there problems in your process that need innovation?
What do your clients worry about?
Once you’ve collected this data, brainstorm solutions whether it’s a new technology or methodology.
This is the approach Adrian and his firm took when they decided to rebrand. Adrian joined his father’s firm in 2002. His dad started David Simmons CPA in 1976. In the past years, Adrian brainstormed “where is the firm going? What do we want to be known for? What’s the future?” This shaped the name and messaging for the “WHY?” of their firm.
When you think of the “WHY?”, your messaging and value proposition becomes ultra-clear.
They came up with their new name, “Elements CPA”, with the focus on “financial design.” This is based on their product of designing financials around each specific business so owners can make the right decisions.
They started with a hypothesis, tested the idea, solicited feedback, gathered results and innovated. That’s all it takes to become an entrepreneurial accountant.
The key point (and this comes full circle), you must do one thing at a time and not over-exert yourself. Focus on one thing at a time and pour energy into things you want to see grow. You’re not a machine. Don’t underestimate how much time it takes to innovate a new product/service. That’s why Adrian only recommends one thing at a time. It most likely will take 6-18 months for something new to take flight.
Of course, the problem accountants run into is time management. Short-term goals typically overrun long-term plans. You must set time aside each week to get things done. Adrian puts Friday down as his “entrepreneurial day”. If you stick to it, you should see results within the year. Adrian recommends talking with a business coach to keep you accountable while also being aware of cognitive dissonance. Most likely, things will come up that will pull you away from your innovations. Remain focused!
DAVID’S TIP: There’s massive value in accountability. It’s different when you ‘say’ you will do something. Much different when you have someone lightening a fire under you. After all, you will always have stuff fighting for your attention.
Adrian recommends getting started today with your first ideas that have bounced around. Plus, become a Lab Partner so you have a community of like-minded professionals who want to help you.
WHAT INNOVATIONS ARE YOU WORKING ON?