Enjoy It While You Can

Every year or so, I write an article for these Briefs and tell you up front that it’s the most important article I’ll write all year. (You may not think that bar is especially high, but at least when I say it I mean it.) Well, it’s 2017 now, and I may as well bust it out early… so here it is, The Most Important Briefs You’ll Read All Year.

Right now is tax season, and if you’re like most TaxCoach members, that means Fat and Happy Season. (Cue the old Andy Williams chestnut, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”) Tax returns are rolling out, cash is rolling in, and you’re stockpiling nuts for the winter. It’s all good.

But how safe and secure is that business? How confident can you be that your business will be there to support you and your family for as long as you like? The answer, ominously, is that it’s probably not as secure as you think. The good news is, you can take steps now to protect yourself from the inevitable future disruption.

Let me bring up a couple of stories to make my point.

If you’re a movie fan, you may have seen Hidden Figures. It’s an inspiring story about a group of African American women, all math whizzes, recruited to help NASA calculate flight trajectories for the Mercury astronauts in the early 1960s. At one point, about two-thirds of the way through the movie (spoiler alert!), the entire group of them are put out of business by a single IBM computer with less power than the smartphone you have in your pocket right this moment.

If you’re a football fan, you probably watched the Atlanta Falcons’ historic collapse in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI. (I just can’t bring myself to give credit to those damn Patriots, sorry.) If you paid attention to the ads, you saw former Mad Men star Jon Hamm tell us how H&R Block has teamed up with another IBM computer – Watson, the supercomputer that beats humans at chess and Jeopardy. I’m not sure what they want us to think Watson is doing on behalf of Block’s millions of customers. But it probably won’t be good for us.

And it’s accelerating. It’s moving ahead faster all the time. Just ask Emma Morano, of Pallanzo, Italy. She was born on November 29, 1899, and was four years old when the Wright Brothers first took flight on the beach at Kitty Hawk. She was alive to see Neil Armstrong become the first man to step foot on the moon. And she’s still alive, now, to see us plan to launch probes to distant stars. From horse-drawn wagons to interstellar probes, in a single lifetime.

Want some more immediate examples? Last year, the accounting giant KPMG began marketing services to small businesses (your clients) starting at $156/month. Deloitte has invested $3.1 million into their “propel” accounting platform offering services at $347/month. And a startup called SMACC, which uses AI to automate accounting, has raised $3.5 million in venture capital financing. (The founders launched the business after finding accounting was the most painful part of their previous startup!)

Technology and change affect us all. But today’s developments herald more than just incremental change. The pace of developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning threaten to upend millions of jobs – including parts of ours.

Put simply: in the past, technology has helped us do our jobs more efficiently. Today, it threatens to do our jobs for us. If your business, and your income, and your financial future are built on routine, repetitive, “recording history” tasks, you’re in real trouble.

Make no mistake. The Terminator is out there, somewhere (or somewhen), and he’s gunning for your clients!

What’s the solution? Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we find ways to deliver services that can’t be outsourced to machines. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative that we sell relationships instead of just recording history.

That’s where TaxCoach comes in. The Terminator isn’t going to sit down with clients, uncover their pain at paying too much tax, and walk them through a series of proactive solutions to pay less. But you can. The Terminator isn’t going to add services like business consulting or wealth management to offer one-stop shopping that integrates tax and accounting with a client’s overall financial goals. But you can. So pay attention!

Before I finish, I want to say a few words to those of you who may be a little closer to retirement. It would be easy to believe that you just need to squeeze out a few more good years before you ride off into the sunset. But ask yourself this: are you counting on selling your business to help finance that retirement? And if so, can you be sure there will be the same market for your business in the face of this sort of technological change? And even if you can, don’t you think it makes sense to take out a little insurance against the disastrous possibilities?

I can’t close without taking the chance to plug our newest solution to this problem. On May 22-24, TaxCoach is hosting our newest and most valuable meeting ever, the inaugural Certified Tax Master conference. We’ll spend 2½ days walking through the strategies we present in our software, discuss in our webinars, and highlight in our marketing materials. We’ll train a special spotlight on advanced strategies for W2 earners and retirees that you might not already be targeting for high-value planning services. And we’ll show you how to add turnkey financial services to your practice to become an even more valuable resource for your clients. We promise it will be the best conference you ever attended or we’ll give you your money back. Seriously. Just visit www.TaxCoachSystem.com/CTM for complete details and a link to sign up!