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Can Change Be Led By Accountants?

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Aug 25th 2016
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Accountants are stereotyped as being bastions of inertia and risk-averse, yet if we look closely at every big historical innovation, or even exploration, we’re sure to find an accountant working behind the scenes.

Queen Elizabeth I wouldn’t have chartered the exploration of the New World without an accountant first making sure the gold sent on the ships or the riches brought back were properly accounted for, now would she? If you’re in doubt, check out this video from the AICPA that looks back 8,000 years in history to reveal the critical role accountants have played in the creation of the modern-day world economy.

While accountants may not be the ones out front actually blazing the trail, or experimenting to create new innovations, we are the ones making sure the resources for the trailblazer are managed – and that the risks of the new experiments are sufficiently mitigated. Translate that into today’s world and it means that we are the ones working with that entrepreneur to ensure their business risks are managed, their finances are balanced, and their business is sustainable as a whole.

The Change-Leading Accountant

Truth be told, however, the accountant who plays even this kind of supporting role is not your typical accountant. As part of our schooling, the principle of conservatism is drilled into our heads and we are taught that accuracy and precision are paramount.

While these are important concepts, and part of the value that accountants bring to the entrepreneurs, a more balanced approach is needed. For example, conservatism tells us that we need to minimize risk. But when dealing with entrepreneurs and innovation, the focus needs instead to be on risk management.

After all, as investment basics tell us, minimal risk investments will yield minimal returns. The entrepreneurs and innovators don’t want minimal returns, they want moderate-to-large returns – so we accountants need to help them assess and manage their risks to increase their probability of success.

Start by Shifting Your Mindset and Your Firm

This mindset shift can be difficult, but luckily as small business owners themselves, accountants can practice this mindset shift on themselves first.

Put aside one hour (or even just half an hour) each week to try something new that might benefit your firm: Check out a new app or an integration/add-on for an app that you already use, read an industry periodical about an area that you may want to specialize in, or attend a webinar on a leadership topic (Gasp! Nontechnical CPE!). You need to break your routine and expose yourself to other ideas to shift your mindset.

Then continue on with your practice and your staff. Encourage your staff to set aside time to try something new each week. Or, take what you learned from your exploration and have them try it out, too. Consider testing out some of the “new” practice management directions with one or two staff:

  • Less than 40-hour workweeks.
  • Telecommuting one day a week.
  • Results-only work environments (ROWE) … the list goes on.

Remember: Manage risk, don’t try to minimize it.

Lead Your Clients Through Change

Lastly, consider how you can change the way you work with clients:

  • Specialize and find your niche.
  • Integrate cloud computing and apps into your services.
  • Start providing advisory services … this list goes on and on, too.

As you expand into these areas, you’ll find that you’ll be asked by your clients to support them as they optimize their businesses and their staff (it’s a good thing you practiced on yours!). And then you, the accountant, will lead your clients through change.

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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