I am working in an accountancy practice after a gap of 19 years. I also work as a leadership coach and I find the combination of accountancy and coaching really interesting. Here’s why.
Technology and communication
The impact and changes that have been driven by technology and improved communication are amazing. Clients use technology in their own businesses. They are much less reliant upon their accountant for the basic information. It has really changed the shape of the role of an accountant in practice and how they interact with clients.
The technology within an accounting practice means that accounts and tax returns are produced at the touch of a button. The danger here is that the old maxim of rubbish in equals rubbish out applies. There is a great deal of skill in looking at a set of accounts or tax calculation and relating it to the client to make sure it actually makes sense. This is pretty basic stuff and it is here that I see the first overlap between accountancy and coaching. As a coach it is important to be able to empathise with your client – to see things through their eyes.
If, as accountants, we are to continue to give great value to our clients then moving beyond producing basic information is an absolute must. In my experience many accountants have always done this, and I think there is a need to go even further.
To be clear I am talking about working with small and medium sized business and not about audits, that is a whole other topic!
One of the things I learned when I moved 19 years ago from practice to work for a former client was how little I really knew about how the business worked until I was working in it. This came as quite a jolt for me as I thought I really knew my client well. This brings out another common thread between accountancy and coaching, the recognition and acceptance that the client is always best placed to find answers and solutions. My job as a coach, and I believe as an accountant, is to support my client in finding their way forward.
Another change in accountancy I have seen is the increasing use of outsourced resources. This can be technical support helplines through to having a team based in India who handle payroll, bookkeeping and accounts production. I love this approach as it allows everyone to play to their strengths and delivers greater value to clients. It is, however, not a simple thing to get right.
Taking this approach means a change in the nature of the team you have in your own office. In common with all businesses this is about finding the most effective way for people to work in your business and most importantly keeping them involved and motivated along the way. What a great experience to be able to draw on when working with clients though!
If as an accountant, you are involved in running your own business then there is much common ground with your clients. If you have never experienced this then it is perhaps harder to empathise with your clients on some matters. I think here, curiosity and asking good questions can provide support to clients even where you don’t share similar experiences. Another parallel with coaching that I believe can really benefit accountancy.
Some things never change
I am very happy to say that there are some things that have not changed in 19 years. There still is an amazing array of clients who run interesting and very diverse businesses. It has always been fascinating for me to see how people approach running their own business very differently. Always something to learn!
Some things haven’t changed that are not so good. There is still the odd client who comes in with a carrier bag full of stuff and wants accounts prepared for next to nothing! Thankfully this is now much rarer than it was 19 years ago.
I think it will continue to be very interesting to be part of the changes in accountancy and to see how well I can combine accountancy and coaching. As I said in the title.. who knew!!?