Q2 2024 Thought Leader

minute read



Unlocking success: The intelligent cloud platform revolution in tax and accounting




Like it has been for most of you, the tax and accounting profession has been an integral part of my existence for as long as I can remember. That’s why one of the most meaningful honors of my life is to be considered a thought leader in the profession.

It’s also why I feel a tremendous responsibility to keep up with developments that affect Rightworks Academy members, both current and potential. One of those responsibilities is observing the evolution of technology in our field—always with an eye toward staying ahead of the curve.

In today’s digital landscape, where data security and efficiency are all-important, the decision between using personal computers as a workspace or adopting a dedicated cloud environment can significantly impact your firm’s success. 

So, in this issue of Thought Leader, let’s talk about the value of working in a dedicated and secure cloud space. We’ll explore the transformation into an intelligent cloud platform, and highlight the security, efficiency and productivity benefits the intelligent cloud brings to your firm.

The risks of using personal computers as workspaces

Traditionally, many firms have allowed employees to use personal computers for work, justifying it as a matter of convenience. The trouble is that this approach exposes a firm to a number of risks—especially in terms of security. Personal computers can, and often do, lack the security measures needed to protect against cyberthreats. This leaves sensitive financial data vulnerable to breaches and unauthorized access.

Plus, relying on personal computers for work can lead to inefficiencies and inconsistencies in workflow. With different employees using different systems and applications, collaboration becomes challenging. Worse, data integrity can become compromised. A fragmented approach like this not only hampers productivity, but also increases the risk of errors and delays in client service.

The evolution into an intelligent cloud platform

We talk a lot about an intelligent cloud platform. However, I don’t blame you for wondering if it’s just another bit of technobabble, or if it’s really a development worth considering. (Hint: It’s really worth considering.)

Not familiar yet with the intelligent cloud concept? Here are a few basics:

  • An intelligent cloud platform is a dedicated, secure, centralized ecosystem that offers you enhanced security, increased efficiency and access to intelligence, aka data—the lifeblood of your business.  
  • In an intelligent cloud platform, dedicated professionals monitor the system continuously, ensuring peak performance and proactive threat detection.  
  • Updates to tax software and other essential applications are automatically applied as they occur, eliminating the need for manual updates and reducing the risk of security vulnerabilities. 
  • The technology stack in an intelligent cloud platform is curated to meet your firm’s specific needs. By standardizing a select set of tools and applications, you can streamline operations, enhance data integrity and improve team collaboration. 
  • As a bonus, intelligent curation also makes employee onboarding and offboarding more efficient, since access to applications is managed centrally and tailored to individual roles and responsibilities.

The benefits of one-click login  

A key feature of an intelligent cloud platform is one-click login (OCL), which simplifies access to firm resources and enhances security. With OCL, employees can access all essential applications and data with just one set of credentials, eliminating the need to remember multiple passwords and logins. This not only improves user experience but also reduces the risk of password-related security breaches.

Moreover, OCL enhances security by centralizing access control and authentication processes. Firm administrators can centrally manage access rights, ensuring employees have the appropriate permissions for the specific applications and data they need.

In case of employee turnover, access rights can be revoked quickly and efficiently. This not only safeguards sensitive information, but it also maintains compliance with regulatory requirements.

Summing it all up

An intelligent cloud platform represents a significant opportunity for firms in the tax and accounting profession. Backed up by the latest in security, efficiency and intelligence, the intelligent cloud will keep your firm competitive in today’s digital landscape.

I’ve just scratched the surface on the available features, but even if you only use the automated updates, curated technology stacks and one-click login capabilities, your firm will be able to streamline operations, improve collaboration and effectively protect your most sensitive financial data.

You can be sure I’ll bring you more information about the intelligent cloud in future Thought Leader issues. (“And everywhere else, too, Darren,” you’re probably saying if you’ve known me for any length of time. Go ahead, it’s fine; I own up to my enthusiasm for this topic.)

But to get serious for another moment or so, that’s how game-changing I see the intelligent cloud being to our profession. Trust me, I don’t say this lightly. I say this because I believe it, with every fiber of my being: Embracing an intelligent cloud platform isn’t just a technological upgrade. Today, it’s a strategic imperative for success in our profession.


The importance of fostering connections in remote and hybrid environments 




Technology is great, isn’t it? It helps us stay connected to everything happening in the world and with our work colleagues and loved ones. But does staying connected really equate to being connected? 

Not really. Not in the sense of feeling connected to your team.

Establishing a healthy remote or hybrid environment doesn’t just mean making sure your team is connected via technology; it means creating a cohesive and healthy firm culture where your staff can thrive—no matter where they’re logging in.

If you’re struggling to create and maintain healthy connections within your firm, we have some ideas to help.

1. Clarify roles and responsibilities 

The first step toward ensuring healthy connections is making sure everyone knows their own roles and responsibilities. This is especially important in remote or hybrid environments. And it needs to begin at the recruiting level. Create clarity in your firm by:

  • Creating a firm organization chart. Review what your firm currently looks like and what you want it to look like. Make sure this chart is visible to your team. (Academy members, you can view our sample organizational charts here.)
  • Detailing employee roles and attributes. Each position within your firm should have clear and detailed responsibilities assigned. This ensures your team knows exactly what’s expected of them, so there’s no confusion over who’s responsible for specific tasks. (Academy members, access our guide here.)
  • Outlining career growth. Make sure you include a direct career growth path for each job so your staff can see how and where they can add to their skillset or expertise and contribute to other roles within the firm.
  • Checking in regularly. Implement weekly or bi-weekly meetings with individual staff members to discuss their roles and any updates to their responsibilities. These check-ins help foster connection and help staff members feel included.

Revisit your org chart and job roles often, and communicate any changes to your team to keep them in the loop.

2. Identify opportunities for engagement

Building connections in your firm involves giving your team a chance to contribute beyond what’s in their job description. This is important for remote and hybrid firms as staff may feel disconnected from your firm’s culture. Cultivate a community within your firm by:

  • Creating a culture club. Chances are, there’s someone on your team who would be a great fit to start a healthy culture initiative in your firm. They can help build relationships within the firm and help foster a feeling of community.
  • Providing employee resource groups (ERGs). These groups can help support staff members from diverse backgrounds and promote an inclusive workplace. Encourage your team to form or join ERGs to empower them and strengthen connections in your firm.

Provide a budget for firm culture so that you can support any emerging groups that can help foster connection within your firm.

3. Master employee onboarding

The onboarding process is your new hire’s introduction to your firm’s culture and sets the tone for their experience at your firm. And in a remote or hybrid environment, your onboarding process (or lack of one) can make or break staff retention. A successful onboarding includes the following: 

  • Transparent recruiting process. Ensure job descriptions are concise and clear, giving potential applicants insight into what it’s like to work in your firm.
  • Definitive interview strategy. Be upfront about how you’ll communicate, and include how long your interviewee can expect the process to take.
  • Welcoming pre-boarding workflow. Before a new hire’s first day, send them a welcome kit, letting them know how excited you are for them to join. Also, ensure they’re set up with access to everything they need before they start.
  • Virtual introduction with staff. Schedule one-on-one meetings between new hires and firm staff. This will help them feel welcome and provide face time with each staff member.
  • Training and development plan. Set new staff at ease by providing clear training sessions on job-specific tools and processes and navigating the firm’s culture and communication channels.

A straightforward onboarding process ensures that new staff members are engaged with your team from the beginning. (Academy members, we have an onboarding process for you here.) 

Start fostering connections

Creating a healthy, connected firm may not happen overnight, but it is possible. By implementing the strategies above, you’ll be able to build a firm community that upholds your culture, inspires loyalty and increases overall productivity. Remember, technology can only go so far—it’s up to you to ensure every team member feels valued and connected, no matter their location.


Get your head IN the cloud




In today’s rapidly evolving world of technology, accounting firms are increasingly questioning whether to stick with their trusty old in-house server (which has probably been chugging along for a solid decade or more) or take a leap into the fluffy world of cloud-based solutions.

It’s very much like choosing between a vintage flip phone and the latest smartphoneboth have their perks, but one makes life easier.

One of the primary advantages of operating as a cloud-based accounting firm is the ability to lounge on a beach chair, sip a margarita and seamlessly manage tax season from anywhere. By migrating tax software to the cloud, you can ensure easy access from any location with an internet connection.

In addition to enhancing accessibility, transitioning to the cloud eliminates the need for costly hardware investments. Traditional accounting setups often require expensive servers, storage devices and networking infrastructure—all of which incur significant upfront and ongoing expenses.

So, why not let someone else deal with that headache while you focus on more important things? (Like, oh, let’s say figuring out where you’re going to be sipping your next margarita.)

Taking the plunge with this change can be tough, but like most things you do for your firm, it’s an investment. And I faithfully swear that the learning curve for your staff is not as scary as it might seem—as long as you keep some key factors in mind. Which I’m going to tell you about now.

Keys to a seamless cloud transition

Be sure to prioritize these 10 factors to make your search for a cloud provider and your transition to the cloud as seamless as possible—and to make sure that you’re choosing the best cloud option for your firm. This requires you to break down the process into three segments, as follows:

1. Make sure the timing is right

Recognizing the signs that it’s time to move to the cloud is crucial for accounting firms looking to stay ahead of the curve. Key steps in this process include:

  • Document your pain points. Identify specific challenges and inefficiencies in your current accounting processes that could be addressed by transitioning to the cloud.
  • Start with a list of vendor options and ask questions. Research cloud providers that specialize in accounting solutions and inquire about their offerings, capabilities and pricing structures.
  • Get the ball rolling. Once you’ve selected a cloud provider, take proactive steps to initiate the migration process. Keep in mind that some vendors may have limited onboarding capacity, so it’s essential to act swiftly to secure your spot.
2. Make sure the platform meets your needs
  • Does it work with a broad range of app options? Look for a cloud platform that offers integration with a wide range of accounting and business applications—especially the apps you use—to enhance workflow efficiency.
  • Is it scalable? Choose a cloud solution that can scale with your firm’s growing needs, whether it’s adding new users, expanding storage capacity or integrating additional applications.
  • Can you easily access your backups? Ensure that cloud-based backups are readily accessible and can be restored quickly in the event of data loss or system failure.
3. Be sure the provider fits your requirements
  • Do they have experience with accounting applications? Choose a cloud provider with a proven track record in hosting accounting software and supporting related applications.
  • What are their security protocols and training options? Prioritize cloud providers that implement robust security measures and offer comprehensive training programs to mitigate security risks.
  • How responsive is their customer service? Opt for a cloud provider that offers responsive customer support to address any technical issues or concerns promptly.
  • What’s the total cost? Evaluate the total cost of ownership—including subscription fees, storage costs and any additional expenses—to ensure that the cloud solution aligns with your budgetary constraints.

By prioritizing key considerations and taking proactive steps towards migration, you can position your firm for long-term success in an increasingly digital world. As the landscape of accounting continues to evolve, the cloud represents not just a technological advancement, but a strategic move for firms looking to thrive in the digital age.

Plus, don’t you want it to be easier to sit back and sip another margarita?


Do cyberattacks really shut down businesses?

In the era of deepfakes, easy video editing and mass-market artificial intelligence, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s fabricated. Take a spin around pretty much any of the big social media platforms, and you’ll find astonishing photos and videos, almost always accompanied by the same genre of skeptical comment: “That’s staged. That’s not real.” 

In the era when television dominated our daily understanding of the world, we mostly knew that anything we saw on TV had actually happened. Oh, sure, the context of certain events might not always have been obvious, but a big event itself was hard to fake. An earthquake was an earthquake. A tornado was a tornado.

The big moments you remember from your lifetime—mostly tragedies, you know the ones—never really left anyone asking, “Did that actually happen?” Why it happened or who was responsible, we didn’t always know (and still don’t in some cases). But reality was easy to recognize.

That’s not the case anymore. Just about every story, video or photo comes with a healthy dose of doubt. Tales of cybersecurity disasters are no exception.

There are warnings and scary numbers everywhere. But can you actually name a business that went under after suffering a cyberattack? Can an attack really destroy a business? 

Evidence for business-destroying cyberattacks is hard to find…

The answer to that question is “almost assuredly.” Why almost? Because concrete examples of businesses that closed due to a cyberattack are very hard to find, at least with a Google search. ChatGPT came up with Code Spaces, a company that provided hosting for software developers and project managers. An attack did force Code Spaces to close—but it happened 10 years ago.

A more recent example cited frequently in the cybersecurity realm is Lincoln College, a small school in Illinois founded in 1865 that suffered an attack in December 2021 and was gone 18 months later. But while the cyberattack—which shut down the college’s critical systems for several months—didn’t help, COVID, not cyberattackers, turned out to be this Lincoln’s John Wilkes Booth.

Other than those examples, it’s difficult to find names of businesses that died post-cyberattack. There are, of course, horror stories, including that of a small accounting firm that lost $84,000 after an employee clicked on a rogue link and unwittingly launched a ransomware attack. (This is why you need to train your employees to avoid that sort of thing.)

…but that doesn’t mean a cyberattack can’t destroy a business

So, without names or stories, how is it possible to say that cyberattacks have probably shut down businesses, especially recently? Well, for one thing, owners of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) themselves said in one study that a ransomware attack would kill their companies within a week.

In fact, 75% of SMB owners surveyed said their operations would only survive three to seven days after a ransomware attack. Almost half said their businesses would be dead after just three days. Among accounting firms, only 29% of respondents thought they could last for more than a week after getting hit by ransomware. Again here, almost half said their firms would only live for three days.

Then there is an even more concrete measure from Hiscox, an insurance company. Hiscox found that more than half (51%) of US companies of all sizes experienced a cyberattack in 2023. But here’s the kicker: More than 20% of victims said their “solvency [was] materially threatened” after the attack. In other words, they almost went out of business. That means about 10% of all business owners surveyed struggled to keep their companies afloat after a cyberattack last year.

The wind will carry their names

Of course, those businesses managed to survive, otherwise their owners wouldn’t have been eligible to take the survey. But there have to be those that didn’t. If cyberattacks threaten the existence of 20% of their victims, they must be shutting someone down somewhere. It stands to reason that there are businesses that didn’t make it if so many others struggled to stay alive.

We don’t know their names in part because small businesses go under all the time without making news, so there’s no particular reason why the failure of an SMB would reach members of the public beyond customers and partners. And most SMB owners who did have to shut down after an attack probably don’t want to publicize their fate. Many likely started new enterprises and did not want to damage their reputations with the stain of being a cyberattack victim.

It’s not a crazy assumption, then, to conclude that a cyberattack really can shut down a business. It’s far more likely than unlikely. But the bottom line is that cyberattacks are a constant, lurking threat that firm leaders and owners of other businesses must take seriously. (Running applications and storing data in with a cloud partner, of course, is your best choice for staying safe.)

Even if an attack doesn’t shut down your business, it can throw it into chaos and peril. So, do cyberattacks really shut down businesses? Honestly, you’re better off not finding out.


How to hit the bull’s-eye of your target audience 

You get that you need to market to your niche audience, but you need to know how.

In the years that I’ve worked with accounting firms, I’ve seen some fantastic ideas to grab attention from specific industries. Instead of just telling you that you should promote your firm, how about I offer options you can start implementing to get your firm right in the bullseye of your target prospects? Yeah, I thought that might make you sit up in your chair a bit.

If you’ve ever attended any kind of conference, I bet you left with one or more of those nice swag bags that feel like they were made from leftover hospital gowns. They’re handy for carrying all those one-sheets and brochures out to the trunk of your car where they’ll remain until you clean out your car for your next road trip, huh? We honestly had the best intention of reading that spell-binding rhetoric, but the fabulous bathroom literature was forgotten by the time we made it back to the office.

So, how do you deliver something tangible that will not leave a potential client’s mind five seconds after they walk away from you?

First, give them something useful that has your brand all over it. Add a QR code that will take them straight to your website and email opt-in list. Almost any item can be customized with your firm logo. Many vendors offer corporate discounts for bulk purchases, so keep that in mind when you order your promotional items.

Second, invest your time as well as your money. The following scenarios are my favorites. Feel free to take them and make them your own marketing strategy.

  • Energize your potential client base with a ring phone charger or spring for a quality multi-device charging mat.
  • Sweeten them up with individually packaged cookies or candy bars.
  • Rent a box at a sporting event and invite a few of your best business clients. Tell them the price of admission is bringing one business owner who is not a client of your firm. Use the opportunity to get to know each other in a comfortable, low-pressure environment.
  • Sponsor local charitable organizations and host an event to benefit the cause. Send personal invitations to business owners in your area. Keep it fun and interesting with party themes such as casino night, masquerade ball or Roaring ‘20s.
  • Coach a little league team and cover the cost of uniforms that conspicuously display your firm name and logo. Hint: Don’t yell at the kids or the parents, and plan to let any hurled insults roll off you like water off a duck’s back.
  • Cover the fuel costs for a food pantry’s delivery trucks. They will most likely offer to place your brand on their trucks as well as thank you on their social media platforms. Even better, ask your team to pitch in at the food pantry when needed. Make a day of it and take them out for a nice dinner afterward.
  • If you really want to step up your game, deliver gift baskets to the offices of your preferred industry. No cheap stuff–go for the yummy gourmet snacks. Keep your visit brief, introduce yourself, tell them you specialize in accounting for their profession and make sure a card is attached to your gift with your contact information.

You will never regret the funds you invest and the time you spend cultivating relationships. The more people in your area are aware of you and your firm, the more you’ll receive referrals for new business. 

Marketing strategy is so much more than a fact sheet that details your rates and services. It’s a focused dedication to promoting your firm’s mission in every available avenue—from social media to personal interaction.


On our bookshelf

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence-and How You Can, Too
by Gary Vaynerchuk

Balanced Accountability: Create a Culture of Ownership
by Hernani Alves

Hook Point: How to Stand Out in a 3-Second World
by Brendan Kane

Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought AI to Google, Facebook, and the World
by Cade Metz 


What’s going on at Rightworks Academy?

Events for members

  • May 29: Deconstructing tax season
  • June 7: The Huddle with John Mitchell
  • June 12: Summer technology update
  • July 12: The Huddle with John Mitchell
  • August 7: Evaluating firm capacity and production

To register, log into your Academy account and navigate to Community > Events.

NEW! Education workshops

Join the education team for workshop-style coaching sessions facilitated by your Academy coaches and trainers. Designed to provide expert insights, peer discussions and practical exercises, you’ll acquire the tools needed to support the modern firm topic(s) the workshops address while providing a space for more interactive, group-style coaching. Each workshop will be held for a minimum of two weeks.

Here’s the first workshop we’re rolling out:

Academy Workshop: Client onboarding

Join the coaching team for a two-session workshop designed to help you transform your client onboarding process. Specifically for partners, account managers and client relationship teams who are eager to develop a more impactful and efficient onboarding strategy, participants will explore how to pinpoint essential characteristics for an onboarding champion, optimize onboarding workflows, create custom onboarding checklists and tackle common onboarding challenges with innovative solutions.

Session 1: May 21, 2024 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Session 2: May 23, 2024 at 12:30 p.m. ET

To register, log into your Academy account and navigate to Community > Events.

The Huddle with John Mitchell

Rightworks Academy members: Join host John Mitchell for his famously inspirational and fun conversations. He and his guests will bring you a dose of perspective, ideas, resources and more to keep you and your team happy and culturally healthy.

To register for future LIVE! and Huddle events, log into your Academy account and visit Community > Events.

Events for members and non-members

Not a Rightworks Academy member yet? We have you covered with live and on-demand events where you can learn more about Academy and the latest hot topics in the profession. Visit for a continually updated schedule of events. 

In the spotlight this month:

2024 Accounting Firm Technology Survey results

Join Roman Kepczyk, Director of Firm Technology Strategy for Rightworks, as he presents the results of a recent groundbreaking survey of nearly 500 accounting, tax and bookkeeping firms—and covers key areas your firm can focus on to improve its technological maturity level. You’ll find lots of fascinating information you can use for your own firm!

Watch now

What’s new on the blog?

From a post-tax season poem to what you can do right now to make tax season 2025 rock, the Rightworks blog has great information to inspire Rightworks Academy members to prepare for your future successes. Check out our newest posts, and don’t forget to bookmark the blog so you can stay up to date.  

Read the latest posts at

Milestone member anniversaries

It’s time to recognize the Rightworks Academy member firms that have reached their first, fifth and tenth anniversaries! Help us wish the following firms a Happy Anniversary:

1 year

KAC Consulting Inc.
Outsourced CFO Solutions, Inc.
HighPoint Advisory Services Inc.
Allen + Koe PLLC
Bryan M. Gray CPA P.C.
Novinger, Ball & Zivi, P.C.
Bryan N Allen CPA LLC
Norris Lutkewitte PLLC
Silver Spring Financial PLLC
JADDE Financial Solutions
Bashore Reineck Stoller & Waterman Inc. CPAs
iTax Services
JS Accounting Inc
Hodges & Hergenrader, LLP
MonettiStandard CPA’s
Khanh Le CPA
Financial Connections
Gray & McCrone
Eugene E. Nicholas Jr. CPA
LeBlanc & Newell LLC
Gene Bonham CPA
Bookkeeping Done Right LLC
Crandall, Wiscombe, Morris & Snarr
Patricia Tokar Canton CPA PC
Walls Financial Group LLC

5 years

FWK & Associates PLLC
Mile High Tax & Accounting
Troy Yoshida CPA
The Ruboyianes Company PLLC
Dustin Kern CPA PC
Steuer & Co, CPA
Mermelstein Hidalgo
Douglas N Rice CPA PA
Kibbe & Poole, P.C.
Absolute Numbers LLC
Bearden Stroup & Associates CPAs
Tilley, Callahan, Speiser & Associates CPAs
Mueller Pye & Associates CPA LLC
Lulloff, Leben & Taylor, LLC
Jeffrey A Johnson LPA PC
Davis, Brown & Company PLLC
Olsen & Company CPAs
Taylor Thompson & Hausman
Tenney and Associates
Collins Mason & Company LLP
Cypher & Cypher CPA
Yackel & Associates, PLLC
Bobby Medlin CPA Group
Seaman & Associates, PC
Dennis & Associates, PC
Middleton Accounting & Consulting Inc.
Evergreen Tax Services & Accounting

10 years

Foltz & Associates, LLC
Steve Calvar P.A.
McKeown Kraai Professional, CPAs
Inspire Advisors
Younce Accounting & Tax Group, LLC
SouthPoint CPA

Congratulations on your success, and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you and your teams!