Communication Practices of Certified Public Accountants

By Rollins, M. Wayne; Lewis, Stephen D. | Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Communication Practices of Certified Public Accountants


Rollins, M. Wayne, Lewis, Stephen D., Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict


INTRODUCTION

Rapidly evolving technology has revolutionized the way many businesspeople communicate. Business letters, memorandums, and telephone calls, once a staple means of communicating in business, today have almost become passe in some companies. Time and space considerations no longer seem relevant. Instantaneous interaction via the Internet means questions can be answered and information can be provided at a moment's notice. Business meetings involving two or even multiple individuals may be conducted without any of the participants leaving their offices, thus saving some companies untold thousands of dollars in travel costs. Likewise, businesses may realize substantial savings in supplies and storage costs since so many documents can be created, distributed, and stored electronically. But are all segments of business enthusiastic about various communication technologies and their applications to them personally or professionally? For example, is the technology popular among marketing managers but not so popular among more conservative business sectors, such as finance or accounting? Specifically, do Certified Public Accountants, many of whom are typically conservative by nature, use the latest technologies when communicating externally with clients or internally with associates?

Despite what might be the popular perception, Certified Public Accountants are not simply number crunchers. The CalCPA Education Foundation (2011) underscores the fact that CPAs are constantly in communication with other people, and communicating effectively can help them develop and expand client relationships as well as become recognized as experts in their field.

Garen (2007) cited significant opportunities available for CPAs to modernize their communications. "The Internet has changed how CPAs and accounting firms do everything, from communicating with clients to hiring and retaining employees" (para. 2). He notes that technology has eliminated the need for hiring all employees locally. Employees are able to perform many of their assignments while living in locations distant from the company's office. Hood (2010) provided examples pertinent to CPAs and the accounting profession in general regarding technology's impact on communication. Working with AICPA leaders and staff, he helped develop a set of questions germane to accountants in 2010. One question, in particular, related to technology: "How do we balance member needs and business realities when using technology to our competitive advantage" (question 8)? Indeed, are there special situations where selecting the right communication technology is important or even critical?

Communication was mentioned frequently by CPAs responding to an online survey about what respondents suggested they should do more often with clients (Telburg, 2007). Not surprisingly, respondents advocated more contact with clients and better listening to client needs. Perhaps somewhat surprising, especially for the current era, was that telephone calls and face-to-face communications were mentioned but no explicit references were made to communication technology.

CPAs as well as other business professionals must utilize their communication and technology skills if they are to be successful. Brelsford (n.d.) emphasizes the importance of professionals communicating their differences from potential competitors. He further stresses the importance of CPAs using websites to communicate their services since "over 70% of adults begin their search for local services by searching the Internet" (para. 6).

Communication skills are essential for individuals seeking to become CPAs. The South Dakota CPA Society (n.d.) recommends on the "Students" page of its website that students become proficient communicators, both in writing and speaking. Knowing that CPAs must interact with clients, employers, associates, and various organizations and government entities, students whose goals include becoming a CPA are encouraged to hone their written and oral communication abilities. …

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