CPA Now Blog

Tech Is a Great Labor Saver, But There Are No Shortcuts to Relationship Building

Technology, for all its fantastic potential, cannot replace the basic need for humans to connect on an emotional level. Understanding this will lead you to understanding that business development and true networking – the things that build real trust – are all about relationships.

Mar 12, 2024, 23:19 PM

Dorothy PotashBy Dorothy Potash

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has become the new buzzword. Everything has AI. AI is supposed to fix literally everything. In professional services, the array of potential benefits of AI are too many to enumerate, but it certainly is promising greater efficiency in client acquisition, better application and adherence to compliance and regulatory requirements across the globe and across an enterprise, more precise and efficient data analytics, a quicker capture and understanding of customer trends, and so much more. Properly trained algorithms promise many solutions that perhaps we cannot even yet imagine.

Many younger professionals are also looking to AI and other tech tools to make business development easier, to shorten sales cycles, and to guarantee success. Understanding how many of the latest applications and tools can help provide great efficiency in researching potential new targets, as well as better serve existing clients, is extremely important. It certainly can give one an edge.

When I first started in the business world, if we wanted to learn about an attorney, I had to look it up in a very heavy, very large Martindale Hubble book that may have weighed 20 pounds per volume. If I wanted to learn about a public company, I had to wait until that company printed its quarterly reports, annual reports, or did a deal and released a new prospectus. If I wanted to know if anyone else at my firm had a relationship with anyone at a company, I had to ask people one by one.

Customer relationship management software, competitive intelligence, internet scrapers, and shiny new aps that promise the best in psychographics and behavioral analysis that help promote positive behavior and proper habits are all great. But as I tell the folks I work with, at the end of the day there are no shortcuts to relationship building, to establishing real trust, to becoming “that person” who is always one phone call away from solving anyone’s problem in their network.

Two coworkers celebrating a work victory togetherThere are strategies that can address gaps in, and certainly expedite the growth of, one’s network, and that can improve upon a client pursuit and acquisition strategy. But true business development, true networking – the things that build real trust – require the same good old-fashioned techniques we all learned in kindergarten. It is all about relationships. Technology cannot replace the basic need for humans to connect on an emotional level, nor can technology create relationships of real trust without face time (even if over a phone or via Zoom) outside the conference room, where real collaborative experiences occur.

The relationships we create, the friendships we make, the assistance we seek, and the problems we solve make our work rewarding. Identifying those relationships that are most important and committing to spending the necessary time to nurture and deepen those relationships truly expedite our understanding of others and ourselves, further allowing us to grow as individuals and inspiring us to show up every day.

More important than any new app or creative uses for AI is good old-fashioned workplace kindness. I don’t mean just being nice, but rather being kind. Kindness means one goes out of his or her way to empathize, to put themselves in another’s shoes to understand another’s perspective. It means listening and doing what one can to make someone else feel at ease, maintaining the esteem and dignity of even those with whom you disagree. Kindness should be thought of as a verb:

  • Find ways to improve things for others without expecting anything in return.
  • Take action to make someone else’s day or job better.
  • Help others find their voice and give them what they need to provide the best messaging.

The act of being kind requires no huge gestures or big investments of money. It does require consistent action, made up of small gestures or attention, such as picking up the phone and taking the time to check in on someone, listening to what they have to say, and learning what their struggles may be or their latest accomplishments to celebrate. Maybe it is sending a handwritten thank you note, or maybe a funny card, or a special book. Maybe it is inviting them and their kids to a special event that will make them a hero in the eyes of their daughter. Maybe it is helping them prepare for a board meeting. Maybe it is just listening to them vent about what a terrible day they had or introducing their spouse or a child to a friend in a new neighborhood.

There are so many ways – both big and small – in which we can be kind. That is the best part. But it does require attention and commitment. Remember when you were 5 years old and you came home confused about how to join a group of kids who looked like they were having so much fun together? Well, we learned in elementary school to be kind, to share, to never exclude anyone, to ask for help when you needed it, and not to be afraid to be the first person to ask a friend to join you for lunch. The same general rules apply in the working world. Often, there is someone just waiting for that person to be the one who asks first, because they are even more afraid of hearing no than you are.

Technology can be very useful in getting stuff done in our working lives, but being kind and connected is how you grow real relationships and thrive.

Dorothy Potash is the president and co-founder of Development Dynamx in Radnor, Pa. She can be reached at

Sign up for PICPA's weekly professional and technical updates by completing this form.

Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of the PICPA's officers or members. The information contained herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For actionable advice, you must engage or consult with a qualified professional.

PICPA Staff Contributors


Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.

Stay informed about
PICPA blogs, upcoming events, and more

Subscribe to PICPA communications