People: stop meeting with your accountant!

Last night a peer tax accountant reported in an online professional group that she is sick and taking time off after contracting COVID. Then she related the story that she continued to meet with clients to do their taxes this year and that sometimes they take their masks off during the meeting. She had that she always wore hers but obviously that’s now the only exposure risk. Now her accounting practice is closed until she recovers.

While I feel bad for her and wish her the best in recovery, the whole thing strikes me as bizarre. I moved to a remote online business model in the middle 1990s and see no reason why anyone would continue to maintain a business model of meeting with people in the middle of a pandemic. It’s inefficient, drives up consumer service costs, and comes with a wide range of risks and quality control challenges that are more likely to result in a number of problems besides transmitting disease.

I came from a Wall Street firm background in the 1980s and served retail clients in all 50 states and hardly ever met any of them. It is very clear, specially by now decades later, that meeting in person is an inferior business model in our industry. That business model caters to a small niche of clients who are apparently not taking advantage of evolution of the industry technology over the past decades. Let’s be clear that none of the nation’s or state’s top accounting in the past decade primarily relies on client meeting face-to-face. It’s not that we don’t want to see our clients face to face, it’s just that it is not nearly as efficient as working remotely. We are naturally social beings drawn to seeing people in person. There is an emotional and psychological benefit to seeing people in person. We get it; that’s healthy and normal. Just don’t mix those personal feelings with our business right here and right now; that’s just not logical.

Our industry now works with electronic data, not people or papers. A few clicks on your smartphone can usually take care of your small business accounting or personal tax duties. It’s really that simple! Using the excuse that a person needs to physically hand over a pile of papers, for example, is just ridiculous.

My message is simple: People, please don’t work with your accountant face-to-face. It’s just ridiculous.