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Why I love Compliance

Ignore the naysayers: compliance accounting is a valid, worthwhile and (hopefully) lucrative profession, writes Elaine Clark

Social media is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a great place to keep up-to-date, to develop a network of trusted information sources, to interact with peers. On the other, it’s a place full of people telling you how brilliant they are and how you are so wrong doing what you do. And I must admit that has been my recent experience with LinkedIn.

Of late, my LinkedIn timeline has been full of people making posts exclaiming that compliance accountancy is dead, that you’re foolish if you continue to do compliance, that advisory is the only way forward and other that I can only (politely) describe as tosh.


Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But I do think that there is a growing tendency for some to forget that they are expressing an opinion (definition – a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge) just as I am in this article. Opinions are not facts (definition – “a thing that is known or proved to be true”).

It goes without saying that advisory accountancy will work for some, but not for others. Exactly the same can be said of compliance accountancy work.

However, the fact remains that one is not right and the other wrong. How people structure their accountancy practices, what services they provide and what fees they charge is one of choice, based on their experience, expertise and where someone feels comfortable operating.

Often the combination of the two types of services suits without a clear label being applied to either one within an accountancy practice.

The impact of knocking someone

Years ago in another corporate-driven life, I attended a seminar given by Shay McConnon. While much of the detail of the seminar is hazy – it was a long time ago – I do remember one very important message that has remained with me for life.

Shay brought someone up on stage (luckily not me). He started by telling them how brilliant and wonderful they were, then asked them to lift and stretch out their arm to their side at right angles. He pushed down hard on the outstretched arm but there was no downward movement; in fact, their arm went up further against the pressure applied. The positive messages delivered made the person proud, confident, motivated and able to take on the world.

He then told the person they were rubbish, not liked, did bad work and so on. Very demoralising and demotivating messages rained down on this person. The arm was stretched out again at right angles, Shay pushed down and the arm fell to the side.

Naturally, we all thought this was a fix; so he asked us to stand up and repeat the same with the person standing next to us. The results were the same. The message is powerful: tell someone that they are rubbish and they will lose motivation acting true to the messages that you are bombarding them with. Tell someone they are doing good things, and not only do they continue to achieve but they go further and exceed expectations.

Call out the compliance disparagers

The same applies to the messages being given out about compliance being dead, and that only fools would do compliance work. Clearly these messages are inaccurate and often promoted by those trying to sell something in the advisory space, whether it be software, consultancy or a subscription-based coaching service.

But the time has come to call out these compliance disparagers – to tell them that their constant disparaging of the compliance accountant is demotivating and damaging. It’s certainly not the trait that a coach, advisor, mentor or purveyor of software should be giving out. Especially as a lot of what is being shared about compliance just isn’t true.

Reasons to love compliance

Providing compliance accountancy services is not wrong. It is a valid business, offering choice for a provider of accountancy services to make, just like me and my team of franchisee accountants. Done well, compliance accountants do make money and good profits. They engage with clients who want these regular services. Clients who value their work. Clients who provide regular and reliable income streams into the accountancy practice.

Compliance accountants know when the work is coming in from their portfolio of compliance clients. Once their portfolios are full they don’t have to keep selling each and every month. They have certainty of income, clarity of pipeline and generally less anxiety.

Accountants may want to combine compliance with advisory services, but surely advisory services are better sold off the back of knowledge gained about the client. So where does this knowledge come from? Well, from compliance work, of course!

The solitary fault

I guess the only fault about compliance accountants is that, generally, they do not shout about how good they are at what they do and the services that they provide. They just do it! And there is nothing wrong with that.

So if you are suffering from the same ‘compliance disparager’ syndrome that I’m suffering from just now, remember that you are good at what you do, you do make a difference to the lives of your clients, they do value your services and they like what you do.

Keep your arm raised and don’t let the compliance disparagers get you down.

Elaine will be speaking at the ICPA’s 2019 Practice Evolution conferences in London (27 June) and Manchester (4 July). For details and to book a place go to https://practiceevolution.co.uk/

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