Steve Pipe explains why you make a difference – and how accountants in practice make help each other to improve. And you can get a free copy of his book!
Let me answer that question by sharing something very personal with you. Something I have never written about before. Thirty-two years ago, I walked out of a tax exam after only 20 minutes, went home and cried. I was in meltdown.
Fortunately, it was only a mock exam. So, with encouragement from my wife (who is also an accountant), I got back in the saddle and somehow managed to pass the real exam a few weeks later.
At the time, it was the toughest few weeks of my life. But I persevered because I believed then, as I believe now, that accountants make a profoundly important contribution to the world. However, since then I have been dismayed to see that the profession doesn’t value itself highly enough, and have lost track of the number of times I’ve heard my fellow accountants say things like “but we are only accountants”.
As a result, the truth about what we really are – a tremendous force for good – has remained largely hidden. In fact, it is probably the best kept secret in accountancy…
Recently I led an 18-month research project that culminated in the publication of ‘The World’s Most Inspiring Accountants’ (see below for details of how you can get a free copy).
The aim of the research was to properly understand the impact that accountants are making. And it turns out that impact is quite simply extraordinary in both its range and scale. Indeed, the research suggests that, apart from the medical profession, there is probably no other group making such a big difference to the lives of so many people. And certainly not to their businesses.
The book features case studies from 57 firms in eight countries. Firms just like yours. Run by school leavers to corporate big hitters, young mothers to the almost retired. Mostly small (71% have one or two partners or teams of less than 10 people). And mostly serving the same types of small and medium sized businesses as you do. So, if they can do inspiring things, so can you.
The huge difference you can make
One of the accountants in the book put it this way: “The point is that what we accountants see as fairly ordinary advice and support can often make an huge difference to the businesses, lives and happiness of our clients. The profession has so much more power to do good than it gives itself credit for. That power is at our fingertips. And thanks to new technology, such as cloud accounting and everything that goes with it, our power to make a difference is getting greater and greater by the day.”
The 57 case studies in the book support that claim, since despite only looking at 57 of their clients, the book shows how they have helped to generate ALL of the following economic success:
- 19 businesses saved from extinction.
- four new businesses launched – one of which grew to over £3 million in 24 months.
- 562 jobs created or saved.
- Sales increases of 33%, 169% and, in one case, £1.5 million.
- Profit increases of 142%, 273% and, in at least one case, over £500,000.
- Transforming cashflow – in one case turning £300,000 of borrowing into £600,000 positive cash balances.
- Many more I don’t have space to list here.
But the impact isn’t just economic. At a personal level, their impact has included:
- Improving work-life balance – in one case an entrepreneur’s workload was slashed from 80 to just 10 hours a week.
- Helping clients own their dream home.
- Preventing other clients from losing their homes.
- Restoring family harmony.
- Securing their financial futures.
- Restoring clients’ self-esteem.
- Generating the funds to pay for expensive medical treatment.
- Turning their clients’ business and personal dreams into reality.
- Giving them a new sense of purpose and worth.
- And, in several cases, also turning them into millionaires.
And remember, all of those impacts have been made by a very small number of firms with a very small number of clients. Just imagine the difference the entire ICPA community can make.
Make a difference
The really good news is that most of the difference accountants are able to make appears to come from our core services – i.e. the things that every accountancy practice in the world should be capable of doing.
For example, the core services that appear to create the greatest impact include:
- Accounting systems – to deliver up-to-date, reliable and accurate information at all times.
- Robust internal controls – to minimise the risks of things going wrong.
- Management accounts – so business leaders receive the information they need.
- Decision support – so that information is properly understood and used to make better decisions that lead to better results.
- Virtual Finance Director – to give them proactive high-level input when they need it.
- Acting as a sounding board for ideas, issues and challenges – to give them an independent second opinion.
- Board/management meeting attendance and support – to keep them focused, efficient and effective.
- Integrated profit and loss, cashflow and balance sheet forecasting – to ensure that their plans stack up financially.
Extraordinary rewards you will enjoy
We also found that accountants who make a difference by delivering these kinds of services are rewarded extraordinarily well, both financially and emotionally.
As the client of one of the firms in the book put it: “We now spend three times what we used to with our accountants and it’s worth every penny!”
While another described the emotional rewards as “If I’m honest, I was getting a bit stale. But now I really look forward to coming to work. It’s so fulfilling knowing that we are part of something that is making a real difference.”
The five simple steps you need to take
Based on my 20 years of research, here is the five-step action plan that will make all of this a reality for you:
STEP 1: Believe in yourself, because the evidence proves categorically that as accountants you can make a profound difference.
STEP 2: Focus your entire practice on providing services (including the ones listed here) that make more of a difference, because it is the right thing to do, will make life better for you and others, and will make the world a better place. And equip yourselves with the tools, knowledge and skills you need to communicate and deliver those services.
STEP 3: Start collecting stories about how you are making a difference.
STEP 4: Grow your reputation, client base and team by telling others true stories about the difference you are making by doing what you do. Sharing those stories is your most powerful form of marketing.
STEP 5: Improve your profits and wealth by pricing in a way that reflects and allows you to share in the difference you are making. Once you are providing a lot of value to clients in these ways, you will be able to charge much higher prices to reflect that much higher value.
Obviously, I can’t go into full detail within the confines of this article. So I have created some free implementation resources for you…
Free resources that make it easy
You can download a copy of my book for free from my website – go to (www.stevepipe.com/pages/freebies ). And you can claim two to three days of supporting training from me in the ‘Training’ section – (www.stevepipe.com/ p/masterclass )
Please take me up on these offers of help. Because, when you do, together we can make the profession great again.
- Steve Pipe FCA is a leading researcher. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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