Each year the IMPACT conference, PACT’s venture conference, sets a theme to help set the tone of the event. The IMPACT 2016 conference theme “Growth Through Disruption” was broader than just the content and expanded to the attire of the attendees. This year, attendees were encouraged to disrupt their wardrobe by wearing jeans rather than more traditional business dress from past conferences. As host, I had a duty to support this effort, but as I kicked off the conference in a full suit I joked that as an auditor, I couldn’t break out of that mold.
The disruptive theme could not be more relevant given the times we live in. Our keynote speakers emphasized this throughout the conference. As Michael Smerconish, host of CNN’s Smerconish, discussed, our political climate this year shocked the establishment, market, pundits and most citizens. As Michelle Peluso, chief marketing officer for IBM, mentioned, there is much more to come in terms of disruption in the business world upending the status quo in ways we won’t be able to predict or control. And as Adam Grant, Wharton professor and bestselling author concluded, we have to open ourselves up to these ideas in order to grow and move forward. This isn’t a time to shy away from disruption, but to observe it, learn from it and lean into it.
I opened the conference with a short anecdote about major companies that have failed in the past 15 years because they did not pivot, adapt, change and disrupt their seemingly established “too big to fail” brands. We hear about innovations like what was being presented at IMPACT almost daily. Amazon just announced a pilot store relying on artificial intelligence rather than the traditional cashier model. Personally, I commute an hour into my office on Market Street so hearing from Tom Doll of Subaru discuss autonomous driverless cars and how they could free up my time to spend with my family is a bright spot in the future. These advances are not just being pushed from Silicon Valley and the big automotive players. They are being driven by young, inventive and creative people in our region.
In the accounting profession, we are frequently considered traditional, stable and even stagnant, but we are influenced by these disruptions as much as the next company. On one side, we need to understand these companies, their goals, their growth potential and their potential problems if we are going to serve them effectively as advisors. On the other, these companies can contribute to our success — to making us more nimble, more efficient, more collaborative and more analytical to help our clients succeed.
I was inspired listening to the companies that are making strides in breaking down big data, relying on artificial intelligence, supporting the growing healthcare industry and innovating in ways that will benefit the lives of all of us. Being at IMPACT reaffirmed my need to lean into these technologies and innovations to develop myself and my firm. By the end of the conference, I was in jeans. I still wore a sport coat, but at least I had on jeans.-30-
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