Is Accounting the 'World's Oldest Profession'?

The following is an editorial by Paul Dunn, co-founder of Results Accountants' Systems.

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.

Paul Dunn
Results Accountants’ Systems

Results Accountants' Systems improves the profitability and performance of Accounting Firms around the world. Beginning with its revolutionary Accountants Boot Camp experience, RAS enables CPA firms to develop and deliver practice-proven consulting and advisory services while creating dynamic, stimulating professional environments. RAS systems and support provide firms with the products and the people that differentiate them from the competition.

From its inception in Western Australia in 1992, RAS has been a leading force for changing the accounting profession, moving firms from compliance work into value-added consulting services. In the process, RAS has grown into a multinational organization, launching successful operations in North America and Europe. Nearly 3500 firms worldwide have taken advantage of the RAS systems and the Results Accountants' Network to increase profits and invigorate their practices. For information on the latest tools and resources to improve your firm's performance, call Results Accountants' Systems at 1 800 800 5601, or visit the RAS website at

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