Jason Deshayes is a senior manager on the firm services team at AICPA. He also leads the G400 Initiative and oversees the development of succession and emerging partner resources for PCPS, as well as acting as their staff liaison with their networking groups. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jason for the Sage Advice podcast and discuss the opportunities for young accountants.
You can listen to our interview here or read an edited version of the interview below.
Tell us more about yourself and the work you do with the AICPA
I joined AICPA a little bit over a year ago. I worked in practice for about 14-15 years and I was able to bring that practitioner experience into the firm services team. One of the things I truly love about what I do is that I get to work with firms closely by helping solve the issues they’ve got from a practice management perspective and share some of the best practices that we learn about from our visits to firms.
We visit firms of all sizes from small firms with one person up to some of the largest firms in the country and I do think that’s neat to be able to experience that from the association perspective having lived on the practitioner side for many years.
Why did you make that jump from practitioner to working with the AICPA?
I was a member of the second class of the AICPA Leadership Academy and I got a taste of what it was like to be involved with the organization at a national level and gain a better understanding of what the profession was doing beyond my firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was a fantastic entry into that and so I spent a lot of years on the PCPS Executive Committee. I was also on the governing council for the AICPA and I really enjoyed that.
And then there was this moment where I realized that I loved my clients and I loved my team in my office and we said it’s probably not really the best place for me. I should be out serving the profession and so that’s what I decided to do, so we sold our practice and I came to work for the Association and it’s been a fantastic way of really kind of marrying my background with things I’m passionate about, which is helping CPAs better serve their clients.
Tell me about your perception of the market opportunity for younger accounting firm owners
I think what’s really cool about technology right now is that it’s really allowed any practitioner to go in and start a firm and not be shackled with tens of thousands of dollars of server costs and program costs. A young accounting firm owner can create a firm that’s really designed to be client-focused, but manage that precarious balance of too much compliance work and too little time with the clients. If they can leverage technology appropriately, they can create a firm that really works for them, but also works for their client base. If they can service them at a level that’s well beyond compliance and if they do that from the get-go, it’s much easier, and I think they can go off to do the things that their predecessors had to do.
It’s not okay to work 70 to 80 hours a week. That’s not functional for anybody, and I don’t think a young firm owner or incoming firm owner needs to do that anymore.
They can be efficient, tech-savvy, and leverage things to a way where they can have a normal life, and service clients well and provide huge value to those clients in a very different way than their predecessors had to do.
What advice do you have for someone who’s struggling with making that transition from going to mostly compliance work to more a consultative approach?
Look at the amount of compliance and dollars attached to it, as well as the related stress.
Imagine you currently do 40 tax returns and you’re getting $20,000 of revenue from that doing compliance work. What if you took $20,000 and had two-to-three really solid client account engagements where you go really deep with those clients? It is much easier to manage two-to-three solid client account engagements and is much more fulfilling, and you’re doing better service. You go from managing 40 different personalities with 40 different communication styles and 40 different ways of providing you data to just get something done within about a six-to-eight-week timeframe.
I think that it’s a little scary moving from mostly compliance work to consultative work because it’s unknown. You have to really get committed to the client, and it’s not as easy as just whipping out another tax return. It’s a little scary, but once you get a taste of it, it is just so much more fulfilling as a practitioner.
You’re doing more for your client and the client really loves it. They won’t question your fee. They won’t question your dedication to their business and how much you know about it. They’re going to rely on you as an advisor, which is, well, more powerful than being just someone’s tax person that gets their annual compliance done.