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Why I Became an Accountant

Jun 29th 2016
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What does it mean to help small businesses? Is it preparing their financial statements or completing their tax returns? I contend that that while these are essential services, they are not truly helping the business.

Many clients see having good books and being compliant with tax regulations as baseline expectations. In other words, completing those services isn’t seen as a value-add, but as a basic utility—the same way we expect electricity to just always be there. We don’t thank the electric company for providing the electricity, but we do yell and scream at them when it goes out.

So how do we really help small businesses? It’s by becoming a trusted advisor for them. Bill Pirolli, CPA, CFF, PFS, partner at DiSanto Priest & Co, and AICPA Board Member said this is the best part of the accounting profession: becoming “The Most Trusted Business Advisor.” What does it mean to be a trusted advisor? Bill provided the following points (paraphrased):

  • Knowing what keeps your clients up at night
  • Knowing your clients’ 5-year plan
  • Moving from compliance to consulting
  • Improving your meeting management skills
  • Improving your listening skills

The bottom line, Bill said, is being the first person the client calls when there’s an issue. You may not have all the answers, but you can listen to their concerns and steer them in the right direction or to the right person to help address them.

I really liked the progression that Bill highlighted from Edi Osborne, CEO of Mentor Plus. It showed how we transition from hindsight (financial statements and tax returns) to foresight (advisory and consulting) as we move through our career and evolve the services we provide to our clients:

Hindsight

  • This is the learning part of your career. Compliance driven. Primarily focused on the past.
  • Key attributes: Intelligent, Active Learner, Technological, Organized, Teamwork.

Oversight

  • Take on a supervisory role. Responsible for leading internal teams and taking responsibility for quality, training, and timing.
  • Key attributes: Advanced Technical Skills, Multitask Projects, Lead Teams of People, Teacher.

Insight

  • Moving beyond compliance. Interactions with staff and clients to explain concepts and suggest solutions.
  • Key Attributes: Good Communication Skills, Meeting Management, General Business Knowledge, Passion for Improvement, Ability to Manage Projects.

Foresight

  • Working with the client in a Trusted Advisor capacity. Long range planning and dreaming.
  • Key Attributes: Empathy, Excellent Listening Skills, Long Term Vision, Broad Business Knowledge, Ability to Drive Action, Mentor.

This progression provides a great path to elevate your services over time to become a trusted advisor. If you take it in steps, it’s much easier to learn and become good at each step, rather than diving into the deep end and hoping that you can swim—which if you fail to do, you fail both yourself and your client.

I can definitely say that I have made the transition to Foresight and it is so rewarding to help clients realize their dreams and plan for the future. There’s nothing that can replace the CEO of that family owned business coming up and saying, “We couldn’t have done this without you,” and then giving me not just a handshake, but a hug. And that really is why I became an accountant, to help small businesses and provide them with advice that helps them succeed.

The original post appeared on the Sleeter Group blog. AccountingWEB and Accountex have partnered to bring you this content as we share a belief in the furtherment of the profession through greater insights.​

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