Is it old fashioned to be a boring accountant?

Mark Lee looks at the “boring accountant” stereotype and explores ways in which they can banish the tag.

Why do so many people think accountants are boring? And does it matter?

Let’s take that second question first.

Do clients prefer boring accountants?

Boring people are assumed to be methodical, detail-focused, punctilious and tend to be cautious and predictable. Many clients don’t like even the idea of doing their accounts and tax returns and wouldn’t choose to do them even if they could. All that bookkeeping, accounts and tax return work is pretty boring so far as they are concerned. Anyone who enjoys doing that stuff must be boring. It goes with the territory.

So I conclude that many clients do at least expect their accountants to be boring and some may even prefer this.

Is it easier to trust a boring accountant?

We tend to down play our personalities to win trust. We tend not to be entertaining. I know I did when I was in practice. Despite being a long time member of The Magic Circle I always held back from doing magic tricks at new client meetings. Indeed at any client meetings. No one wants their accountant to spring cute surprises on them. Certainly not until they trust their accountant.

Further reading

Pride in the Profession - Monty Python Revisited - Philip Fisher blog

Born Dull?! AccountingWEB's decade-lone campaign to banish the hated stereotype

Mark Lee is Consultant Practice Editor of AccountingWEB and writes the BookMarkLee blog to help accountants build more successful practices more enjoyably. He is also chairman of the Tax Advice Network of independent tax consultants.

Continued...

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Comments

monty python revisited    2 thanks

david5541 | | Permalink

its alwaays difficult to club together/generalise about Acoountants;accountants; and people who call themselves accountants, without having a CCAB qualification..........

lots of Accountants who do the sort of tasks described, with the advent of self assessment and mechanisation generally of the tax system have lost touch with the steryotype which used to be described as "prudence" or "conservatism" because the returns are so low. so they end up being high speed number crunchers without time or capacity to demostrate those stereotypes. And they look down on those in the "magic circle"/big eight/then big 6/now big 4/top 30 who ar not inclined or need to/haven't ever completed a self assessment return/incomplete records/brown paper bag jobs in their life and in later life take on advisory/NED roles outside the profession.

 

anyone inclined to stay in the professional practice area always becomes risk averse because of the threats to their clients affairs if they get anything wrong/face a PII case as the big 4 are in the US over the bank reporting understatement of potential liabilities.

ShirleyM's picture

Every trade/profession has a stereotype    1 thanks

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Manual workers are seen as brawn with no brain. Low income workers are generally seen as thick, and/or lacking ambition. MP's are stereotyped as ..... well, lets not go there!

Boring is usually accompanied by knowledgeable, trustworthy, and reliable, so accountants are not viewed as badly as some trades/professions. Maybe some accountants are none of the above, but (hopefully) they are in the minority.

dbowleracca's picture

It's a tough one    3 thanks

dbowleracca | | Permalink

As an accountant myself, I know I am not boring and I know that most of my clients and all of my friends would say the same (most of the time!).

If I start to talk about business or the economy then most people switch off, and this I suspect is because they do not have an interest in it and therefore it's "boring".

So - in a new client meeting, or a meeting with an existing client, the chances of coming across as boring are high. To counter this I talk alot about them, their personal goals, their family and hobbies, and also crack the odd joke. It seems to go down really well. But underneath all that you do need to come across as professional and reliable and knowledgeable or clients will not trust you as much to get the job done.

Would I rather be seen as exciting? You bet! But I would also rather be successful and well regarded and if some think I'm boring then that's okay with me.

Boring accountants    4 thanks

lordburnside | | Permalink

When someone says an accountant is boring what they are really saying is that they themselves are not boring.

 

When people say the government are incompetent they are saying they themselves are better at running things than the government.

 

I personally don't mind what clients think about me. They should see what I think about them!

You are  the person you are, not the person you think you are, and not the person others think you are.

 

 

depends on the client's industry    1 thanks

exceljockey | | Permalink

As I have worked and owned businesses in the restaurant sector - I assume I am not boring to those clients of mine in this industry as we share a common passion as we can often talks for hours on developments and trends in the industry (and even set things up together). However some of my clients are in industries I know nothing about or ever want to know anything about (caravaning!!!) and I assume they find me pretty dull as we have very little to talk about outside of the financial function of the business. Whilst I will try and research the industry for valuable insight - i doubt i come across as convincing.

Its a valuable lesson i suppose as to why you should specialise in an industry you are interested in.

KH's picture

Me? I'm totally boring!

KH | | Permalink

Boring is good ... that's my motto, for the simple reason I must be the most boring guy in the whole wide world. My clients find this reassuring, along with my sad, depressed, Eeyore countenance and comments ... "this might take days, weeks, months, years...."

Long live boring!

carnmores's picture

im boring myself

carnmores | | Permalink

to sleep

Not like an accountant?    2 thanks

mgh | | Permalink

People sometimes tell me I'm "not like an accountant at all".

I always feel pleased, as I think they mean it as a compliment.

Steve-EBL's picture

Not CCAB?

Steve-EBL | | Permalink

david5541 wrote:

its alwaays difficult to club together/generalise about Acoountants;accountants; and people who call themselves accountants, without having a CCAB qualification..........

 

Do you mean like Chartered Management Accountants (CIMA), they might be offended by your insinuation they are not true accountants.

Steve-EBL's picture

The job or the person?

Steve-EBL | | Permalink

I would admit that accounting with an emphasis on taxation, or preparing annual accounts to GAAP, can be seen as mentally taxing and boring, but I would be disappointed if the person being asked their view then concluded therefore that the person performing must also be fundamentally boring.   

Very few have the luxury of gaining employment in exciting professions such as race car drivers, or secret agents (?). 

Apart from the compliance side, having management information which is prompt and valid to the pressing business issues, or good financial analysis say for a new business expansion, is a major competitive advantage for any business, and beating your competitors and making money is certainly viewed as sexy in our capitalist world. 

So I think we can defend the total role of accountants as being  cool calm and collected (compliance), as well as being able to seize the moment and push business forward as part of our inclusion in the management team, or experience (of all the business models and business problems we come to learn about) as an advisor to our clients. 

dialm4accounts's picture

You don't have to be boring!    1 thanks

dialm4accounts | | Permalink

It's possible to be reliable, trustworthy, honest, have an eye for detail, and at least know where to look to find the ins and outs of VAT and tax, but to also have a sense of humour and a cheerful personality, and be good company.  And if you're good to be with, you're not boring!

You don't have to be a "dreary, boring, piddling little drone" as The Two Ronnies sketch had it, to be an accountant!

(At least I hope not!)

M

Being boring is not for me!    1 thanks

lneedham | | Permalink

I had a nice comment from a client the other day. We do the accounts for four of his companies but another accountant does three other recently acquired companies. Conversations are being had about us taking on the three companies because, in his words, "There's no fun to be had with her. She does everything she has to, but there's no joy with her!"

It's nice to know that we bring joy to our clients' lives! I will say that one tenet of my business is that each client should see us as part of their team, as opposed to an outsider who turns up once a week/month/year and asks difficult and unwelcome questions. This approach seems to be working!  We make an effort to know who's birthday it is, what the cat/dog's name is, where they've been or are going on holiday. 

However, all of this is backed up by the ability to do the job well and efficiently. None of the above would matter if we were incompetent, but it's (in my opinion) an added bonus!

Boring    1 thanks

npreynolds | | Permalink

I should have been a hypnotherapist.

People fall asleep when I speak to them.

 

I Dull

Vodka Boy    1 thanks

trecar | | Permalink

Years ago when I worked in central London an advert came out by Smirnoff in which the strap line was 'I was a boring Accountant until I discovered Smirnoff'. Well I discovered Smirnoff, Finlandia, Glenfiddich, Glen Grant, London Pride, Harveys etc and discovered that not only was I not boring but that I had never been. It was the other bloke!!

KH's picture

it was the other bloke!

KH | | Permalink

Love "Vodka Boy" post by trecar ... reminds me of that old joke:

Q. Doctor, doctor, why is it that one if five is mentally unstable?

R. Because the other four are nuts!

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I think ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... many accountants in their private life are far from boring, as they have exciting leisure pursuits that are a release from the day job that can be at times rather a drudge!

Many though who call others boring really mean either:

  1. They are more intelligent than me and they have a wide a varied and knowledge on a wide breadth of topics and I don't understand what they talk about, or
  2. I am shallow and vacuous with a short attention span and get bored of conversations with words of more than one syllable, or
  3. They are more interesting than me, and/or they don't want to just talk about me!

 

KH's picture

Boring means...

KH | | Permalink

Boring means you don't listen or can't listen, or just plain don't want to be used like a microphone ... the client wants to stand in front of you and offload all the worries of the world onto you ... they end up feeling great, you end up totally weighed down.

The art of conversation is totally dead, and everybody just wants to talk about themselves, so a GOOD LISTENER is never called boring, but instead is valued as a true gent or lady. Boring accountant just means he/she doesn't listen. Me? I'm totally boring.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Sorry , KH ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... what was that, did you say something!

not CCAB

david5541 | | Permalink

Steve-EBL]</p> <p>[quote=david5541 wrote:

its alwaays difficult to club together/generalise about Acoountants;accountants; and people who call themselves accountants, without having a CCAB qualification..........

"Do you mean like Chartered Management Accountants (CIMA), they might be offended by your insinuation they are not true accountants."

I dont want to generalise about this; but there was a time under the bishop report when the bodies really did want to work together(and maybe there was a bit more money around), and then a few young ACA's voted against it.

Now they all compete on student numbers, but the ACCA removed its sponsorship of AAT(unlike the rest) some years ago with the introduction of Companies act 1989 and higher  audit thresholds  and now CIMMA opted out of CCAB so really its a moveable feast.... once you qualify.( now i may be offending any QBE....exactly why I didnt want to generalise).