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Not Your ‘Not Your Average Accountant’

There’s a growing trend among accountants to market themselves as ‘not just your average accountant.’ It’s become such a common mantra that I wonder if the attempt to stand out has inadvertently created a new average. But what does it really mean to be an ‘average’ accountant in today’s fast-paced business environment, and why might reverting to the ‘average’ not be such a bad idea after all, especially from a small business owner’s perspective?

Understanding the ‘Average’ Accountant

Traditionally, the ‘average’ accountant has been viewed as a number cruncher – a behind-the-scenes figure meticulously poring over ledgers, tax returns, and statutory accounts. They are the gatekeepers of financial accuracy, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, and often, they’re seen as somewhat of a necessary evil rather than a strategic partner in business growth.

However, this perception doesn’t quite capture the full scope of an accountant’s role, or the diverse skill set that the profession requires. The ‘average’ accountant juggles a variety of tasks including financial forecasting, risk analysis, budgeting, and strategic planning. They possess a keen eye for detail, a strong understanding of business operations, and the ability to communicate complex financial information in layman’s terms.

The Softer Side of being ‘Average’

The significance of soft skills in the accounting profession cannot be overstated. In a field that’s traditionally been viewed through the prism of numbers and regulations, the human element plays a crucial role in elevating an accountant’s value. There is nothing average about soft skills that are not just beneficial but essential for accountants to thrive and provide unparalleled value to their clients or organisations.

Communication

Perhaps the most critical of all soft skills, effective communication allows accountants to translate complex financial jargon into clear, actionable insights for non-financial stakeholders. Whether it’s explaining tax implications to a small business owner or presenting a financial forecast to a board, the ability to convey information confidently and clearly is invaluable.

Problem-Solving

Accounting isn’t just about balancing the books; it’s about identifying financial challenges and crafting strategic solutions. Accountants often face complex situations that require innovative thinking and a problem-solving mindset. Being able to approach these challenges creatively and effectively can significantly impact a business’s financial health and strategic direction.

Adaptability

The financial world is ever evolving, with new regulations, technologies, and market conditions emerging regularly. Accountants must be able to adapt quickly, learning new skills and adjusting strategies to meet these changing demands. This flexibility ensures they can continue to provide relevant, timely advice and services.

Relationship Building

Building strong relationships is crucial, whether it’s with clients, colleagues, or industry contacts. Accountants who can establish trust and rapport can better understand their clients’ needs, collaborate effectively on teams, and leverage their network for opportunities and insights. This skill is essential for client retention, business development, and effective teamwork.

Ethical Judgment

Accountants are often the moral compass of an organisation, tasked with ensuring financial integrity and compliance. The ability to make ethical decisions, even in the face of pressure or temptation, is a cornerstone of the profession. This requires a strong sense of integrity and a commitment to upholding the principles of the accounting profession.

Time Management

Given the cyclical nature of the work, especially around end-of-year financials or tax season, being able to manage one’s time effectively is crucial. Accountants must juggle multiple clients or projects, deadlines, and sometimes unpredictable workloads, all while maintaining accuracy and quality in their work.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing one’s emotions, as well as recognising and influencing the emotions of others, can significantly enhance client and team interactions. Emotional intelligence fosters a productive work environment, helps navigate stressful situations, and improves negotiation and leadership abilities.

Continuous Learning

The desire and ability to continually learn and grow, keeping abreast of industry trends, regulations, and best practices, is a soft skill that underpins all others. Accountants who are committed to professional development can ensure they remain valuable advisors in a rapidly changing business world.

While technical skills and knowledge form the foundation of accounting expertise, soft skills are the building blocks that allow accountants to apply this expertise in a way that’s impactful, persuasive, and responsive to the needs of their clients and organisations. Cultivating these soft skills can transform an ‘average’ accountant into an indispensable strategic partner.

What Small Business Owners Really Want

For small business owners, the stakes are personal, and the need for a trusted financial advisor cannot be overstated. They’re not just looking for someone to balance the books but are in search of a partner who can provide strategic advice, help navigate the complexities of financial management, and ultimately, contribute to the business’s growth and sustainability. Pretty ‘average’ really!

I asked some small business owners from the YATM Club and this is what they want:

John Jocham – if you need wire John’s your man.

Strategic Insight: Beyond just managing accounts, small business owners need accountants who can provide strategic insight into financial planning, investment opportunities, and cost management.

Regulatory Guidance: With ever-changing tax laws and financial regulations, a knowledgeable accountant who can ensure compliance while optimising tax positions is invaluable.

Technological Savvy: In an era where technology plays a central role in business operations, accountants who are proficient in the latest financial software and can leverage digital tools for efficiency and insights are highly sought after.

Communication Skills: The ability to translate complex financial data into actionable insights is a critical skill that enables business owners to make informed decisions.

Embracing the Stereotypes: Why ‘Average’ Might Be Underrated

While the stereotype of accountants as detail-oriented, rule-following, and somewhat introverted may not scream ‘dynamic business advisor,’ these traits carry significant advantages for small business owners.

Attention to Detail: Ensures accuracy in financial reporting, which is foundational to making sound business decisions.

Regulatory Adherence: Protects the business from financial penalties and legal issues.

Analytical Skills: Facilitates data-driven decision-making, highlighting areas for growth and potential risk mitigation strategies.

In a twist of irony, the rush to be seen as ‘not just your average accountant’ might be overshadowing the very qualities that make accountants indispensable to business success. It’s not about distancing oneself from the foundational skills and qualities of the profession but rather, amplifying those core competencies with additional services and insights that can propel a small business forward.

Conclusion

The evolving landscape of business necessitates a broader view of the accounting profession. While it’s essential to adapt and embrace new skills, the foundational qualities that define an ‘average’ accountant remain as critical as ever. For small business owners, an accountant who can combine traditional expertise with strategic business acumen is not just a service provider but a pivotal player in their success story.

In this era of differentiation, perhaps it’s time to reframe the narrative – not as moving away from being ‘average’ but as elevating what it means to be an accountant. After all, in a world where everyone is trying to stand out, being genuinely indispensable is the ultimate differentiator.

I am proud to be an Accountant and I wear that badge with pride. It is time we found better ways of describing why we are great, rather than simply repeating we are not average. Embrace everything that is great about what you do for small business owners rather than using cliched advertising slogans.