Picture the typical accountant sitting at their desk, a big list of compliance tasks and chasers to deal with, clients chasing them for work they can’t get to as there are not enough hours in the day. Your clients don’t know how complicated this stuff is, nor what lengths you’ve gone to get the results you have. You’re working flat out, trying to max out your utilisation rate whilst ensuring that jobs show as profitable to management when they review your stats.
You wonder whether there is a better way, you even come up with some ideas on the train when your mind is still whirring on the way home, you’ve seen some cool software on a blog you’ve read that will remove 20% of the work you do freeing you up to actually speak to clients. The next day, you get to work and speak to your partner about it. This is the same partner that prints off their emails to read on paper. Try as you might, you can’t seem to get them to see the benefits, it feels like such a stretch to them, so you go back to your desk to do things the way that they have always been done.
Does this sound like your firm?
Clients today want decision support and guidance on what they should be doing next. They want to know that they have a finance expert who might not know every single rule out there, but they know the risks, where to get the information and can communicate it in a way that makes sense so they have time to action it. It’s helpful to have backward looking metrics to see how things have gone over the past month or quarter, but what should they be doing next to make a difference to their business?
The skill sets required for accountants are changing. It’s been well documented in the accounting press and I’m sure you know deep down that in three to five years, a lot of what you do won’t be necessary or will be so cheap to deliver that clients won’t value it. If they don’t value it, then your firm will struggle to charge for it. If they struggle to charge for it, then you’ll see a hollowing out of the job market for accountants who like to process compliance work, and haven’t future proofed their skill-sets.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Fortunately, we work in a relationship industry. If we are creative, listen to our clients and help them solve problems we can help them with one of the most important things in their life which is their business. Rather than being afraid of technology we should embrace change and integrate tech into our processes so we have more time to devote to the human side of our work. There will be many accountants who sadly don’t have the ability to do this or will bury their heads in the sand. Unfortunately for them, they will find their job prospects limited over the long term. For those special, underappreciated, intrapreneurial accountants, there is an opportunity to break free from the old model and embrace a new way of working. Working with freedom and creativity to make client’s businesses the best they can be and having a whole load of fun in the process.
1. Is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within an organisation. Intrapreneurship is known as the practice of a corporate management style that integrates risk-taking and innovation approaches, as well as the reward and motivational techniques, that are more traditionally thought of as being the province of entrepreneurship.
So what are the traits of an intrapreneurial accountant?
Emotional intelligence – Are you a people person, strong and able to manage a number of relationships concurrently? Do you empathise with people and understand their perspective? Your ability to listen and distil what motivates your client are are critical to being able to devise a solution for them. Sometimes the solution to a problem might not be readily apparent at first and few people take the effort to really listen to get to the bottom of it.
Willingness to learn and try new things – Every day we deal with new clients and new situations. There’s so much to learn as a company and as individuals. The best people understand this and seek out development opportunities to better themselves. They get a buzz from mastering their skills.
Driven and inquisitive – Do you actually want to do this? You’d be amazed by the amount of times I sit in an interview with a candidate who doesn’t and the gulf between someone who actually enjoys what they are doing and those that have just fallen into it is huge. A driven employee is engaged and feels that they are part of a game. In the right environment, i.e. one where they are supported, trained, well compensated and appreciated, these people will shine. They don’t need tight management, just someone to help them with guidelines and to troubleshoot issues as and when they arise.
Solution focused – Client’s problems and priorities are always shifting. If you’re using your emotional intelligence you’ve got a head start. Clients are forgiving of technical gaps you may have as long as you’re able to solve their problem and find the right resources for them, they’ll trust you and keep coming back.
So there’s lots to consider here. Perhaps it’s time to have a think about they type of firm you should be part of to position yourself for the future. You spend so much of your life at work, it’s so important to make sure that you enjoy what you do and to have the ability to have an impact.