Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read November 2021 — Sean Taylor, managing partner at Smith + Howard, spoke to Invest: about the changes affecting the accounting industry. Innovative technologies should be a focus, not just for client work but to continuously create a better working environment for employees, whether at home or in an office, he noted. Atlanta, meanwhile, continues to draw top-notch talent for the accounting industry, due in no small part to the burgeoning presence of fintech companies in the area.
What have been the main takeaways from the last year?
I think the main takeaway is that people really do still want to be together (even if it may look slightly different than it did in 2019) and we’ve begun to see some examples where people are making an effort to do that. We’ve held events to bring our people together and bolster morale and we’ve gone to some sponsored public events. There is hope among our employees that we won’t cancel events that we’ve committed to do. Travel is also happening again. This collective effervescence that is missed when we are apart but is there when we’re together, has been reinforced. So, that’s probably the No. 1 takeaway I would have: the demonstrable desire to be together. The second is that our people are willing and eager to drive toward our goals even when they have obstacles in their way that are not of their own doing. We’ve had to work harder to accomplish certain things that otherwise may not have been accomplished. This year, we released a new brand identity, a new look and a new website. All of that was done knowing full well that we’d have to overcome the challenges that COVID presented.
How has demand for your services changed as a result of the pandemic?
There hasn’t been a huge change in demand for what our core services are. Everyone has still sought core compliance services: the audit work, income tax work. We’ve had to modify how we deliver that. We’ve had to automate some things while before we were more manual. I think the demand for us to be more effective and more complete has increased, so we’ve developed ways to do that. We’ve done some of it internally and we’ve used external providers to do some of that as well. We’ve also seen an increase in demand from our clients in terms of consulting. They need to better understand the ramification of employee retention credits and how that affects them and how they can leverage those financial opportunities for the betterment of their mission.
What are some common misconceptions concerning the Employee Retention Tax Credit?
I think that people need to understand that these programs were put in place by the government because the government really wanted to help and to provide some relief for businesses that were struggling. We’re trying to emphasize to our clients that these programs were established to help us through this unique time. The other misconception is that these things are overly complicated. Sometimes people want to take too complicated of an approach with these types of credits. We’re really trying to inform our clients of these opportunities and more proactively participate with them in advising them on what they should do.
Are you looking to grow any service line more than others?
I wouldn’t say one more than another. We are focusing on strategic, intentional growth. For instance, we formed a new business in April 2021 called Synexus Tax Solutions, which relates to sales tax compliance. We’ve been in the sales tax business for years. We built this company because we had created an automated process for bridging client data into the automation of each required sales tax return. We think this type of expertise and automation, coupled with our service minded approach is unique in our profession.
Have you encountered issues surrounding recruiting?
I think that far too often, our industry has lagged in the automation of basic processes in day-to-day work. If you’re a student who has completed a master’s in tax or accountancy and you get out and have to do manual, repetitive processes over and over again, it’s not glamorous. I think the first thing this profession has to do to be more enticing is to continue to stress the automation of repetitive processes and open up time for professionals to dig into the clients’ businesses, serve them well and find opportunities to innovate.
Is fintech helping with that automation?
It can certainly help with that. Microsoft is building a tremendously large location here. There is going to be a lot of demand in the Atlanta area for software developers and engineers. I think that you’re going to see the migration of a lot of technology-based people into Atlanta. With that, we have to find a way to potentially employ some of those people, perhaps own a percentage of some of those businesses, and have an influence in how some of that technology grows.
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