Is Accounting the 'World's Oldest Profession'?
Come on — time to own up! Is the Profession actually the oldest Profession in the world?
In every gathering of Accountants I'm asked to address, I always ask the question: "how many of us have clients we wish we didn't have? Let's see the hands."
I've never yet seen such a gathering with less than 99 out of every 100 hands up in the air (most of them held up in what you might call an enthusiastic way yet with another part of their anatomy also way up too — their eyes are literally in the top of their heads — as in "yes, I have them and what a drag it is.")
You know the clients they're thinking of — the ones that don't pay the bills, the ones that zap your energy rather than build it, the ones you simply don't like being with; the list goes on and on. (Where are your eyes right now as you "own up"?)
Or consider this:
Imagine you could put the work you do into these 3 categories:
1. I really LOVE doing this type of work.
2. I can tolerate it.
3. If I'm brutally honest, I hate it.
How much of your typical week would be in the bottom two?
It may come as no surprise for you to read that, for many Accountants, the number in those bottom two categories is frequently around 80 percent. Or, to put it another way, they're only loving what they do 20 percent of the time. Yet they smile though it because they're getting paid.
As David Maister points out in his excellent book "True Professionalism", there is another "profession" that says, "pay me the money and I'll fake it." Some call it the oldest profession in the world.
So why is it that the profession does prostitute itself so frequently?
Maybe it's because many (most?) in the profession have, as one Practitioner in the UK put it to me, been "indiscriminate" about the clients they work with. To put that more bluntly, if it looks like they have a checkbook, we take them on.
Some don't. And we'll talk about how they rid themselves of clients in the future.
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