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Could Sherlock Holmes Be Successful as a CPA?

Apr 16th 2015
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The character of Sherlock Holmes has an enduring legacy, with each successive generation producing their own “Holmes” for stage, TV, print, and film. But could he do your job? Would Holmes be a successful addition to your accounting practice?

The Evidence
Let’s start by examining the components of your career and how you became successful. Assuming Holmes passed the uniform CPA exam, he would first have to sell himself.

Getting hired. Holmes would certainly impress the interviewer with his knowledge. He is good at spotting business fraud or a crime in the making, obviously seeing several steps ahead.

Having the right skills. Holmes has plenty of valuable attributes. He has unquestionable integrity. He will do the right thing and get people justice regardless of personal consequences. He is extremely analytical and a scientist at heart. He is also very comfortable with numbers. He is entrepreneurial, an excellent attribute when running a small practice.

On the negative side, he is easily bored and often switches from subject to subject. If attention deficit disorder was in Dr. Watson’s medical textbooks in 1887, Holmes would be a textbook example.

Client interaction. Here is where he may run into problems. Holmes can at times be dismissive of others, and if he doesn’t like you, he either tells you directly or refuses to take your case. On the positive side, he speaks several languages, interacts well with people from all walks of life, and people often open up to him.

Teamwork. Holmes is an excellent team player – provided he is in charge of the team. When an investigation involves working with the police, he usually sets out on his own path and solves the crime, rarely letting his associates see the big picture. He wants them to figure it out for themselves and would struggle working on a team. Can you imagine him attending office meetings?

Client billing. Holmes doesn’t really have a pricing model. He doesn’t have a steady stream of business either. Although the police will consult with him, he has little recurring revenue. He might take on a case for free or whatever a person in difficult financial straits offers to pay. On the other end of the spectrum, he works for members of royal houses across Europe and charges enormous sums. Presumably everyone pays up on time; you never hear about Holmes reminding people about outstanding bills.

Interaction with regulators. Holmes has a high opinion and respect for the government. He knows where to go to get information and can work within the system. He has his brother, the high-ranking intelligence official Mycroft Holmes, available in the background to help him gain access. He respects certain police inspectors and constables he knows personally; however, he views the police force in general as not that bright. Audits would be difficult if he felt he knew far more than the person sitting across from him. Holmes come across as arrogant.

The Verdict
Sherlock Holmes would probably make a great accountant – provided he was kept away from clients, regulators, and other employees. He is first rate at analytics and finding hidden patterns. His nemesis, Professor James Moriarity, would never want him anywhere near his books because he would be great at auditing. His value would decline if he were working one-on-one with business owners or individuals, unless he perceived them as very smart or sincere and bonded with them.

Considering the facts, you may be better at your job than Sherlock Holmes.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on

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By pusherhombre
Jun 25th 2015 20:12 EDT

I don't think somebody read the stories. . . Holmes was also an abuser of cocaine. as such, it would only be a matter of time before he ran afoul of the law and state ethical guidelines and have his license revoked.

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