This blog tracks the rise of the Accountant for the Digital Generation: those accountants that have swapped their timesheets for Twitter - why they are doing it and how they are successful.
A ‘How to...’ Guide: The Story of The Rock Star Accountant - Part 2
You’ll remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about Guy Pearson, an example of a real life Accountant for the Facebook Generation and how he is more ‘Rock Star’ than ‘Accountant’. I promised some practical ideas for how you can become more Rock Star than Accountant, so here goes. Consider this my Christmas present to you!
How to be a Rock Star Accountant:
1. Go big or go home
You can’t dip your toe in the water. You can’t just have a rebrand, or a new website, and try to convince everyone you’re ‘different’. In the last 2 years, many accountants have realised they needed to be ‘different’ – they’ve all gone out and got new websites, changed their company names in some cases, promised lots – so much so that there’s now a deafening din of dull and dreary accountants screeching about how different they are, whereas in actual fact they are just wearing someone else’s clothes in a futile attempt to look cool. If you really want to be a Rock Star Accountant, go big or go home – do it properly, throw off your shackles, forget everything you’ve learnt and scare yourself.
2. Rock their world
You need to engage emotionally with your clients. Getting accounts submitted on time, accurately and with the correct notes isn’t enough. You need to be doing stuff that matters to them. Your aim is for your clients to say “Wow” rather than politely thank you for a job well done. It might be helping them create a plan for the future, it might be saving them tax, it might just be acting as a sounding board for them – whatever it is, the work you do has to mean something to them. To do this, you need to have a personal relationship with your clients on a level that is deeper than just remembering the names of their children.
For example, instead of doing bookkeeping for clients, in some cases Guy Pearson’s firm, Interactive Accounting will set their clients up with an outsourced bookkeeping service with all sorts of clever technology that is a fraction of the cost of any traditional bookkeeping service: in the UK we now have a service called Receipt Bank that integrates with Xero and Freeagent – click here to check it out.
3. Do it online
I don’t like to tell people what to do, but there’s no way you can be a ‘Rock Star’ accountant and not be doing it online. Xero, FreeAgent, whichever package you prefer – just do it. It doesn’t stop with the accounting, these online accounting packages are now the hub of a wider network of other online applications that integrate seamlessly. Look at the online CRM, online payroll, online stock management – create a highly effective low cost solution for your clients that is easy to scale. While your competitors are still trying to flog the same clients a day’s Sage training, you’re busy changing their world.... and they’ll love you for it.
4. Be cool without trying
As with real-life Rock Stars, real-life Rock Star Accountants are cool without trying. Yes, they will have a great website and stylish marketing, but you scratch beneath the surface and there's something even more cool going on. You speak to their clients and you find their approach is creative, they do the unexpected and they have forgotten how they have been conditioned to behave as accountants.
Talk to Guy Pearson and he’s as likely to send his clients a link about this as a technical update. He’ll do a great job on the accounts, but that’s a given.
5. This is firm-wide
For this to work, your whole firm really needs to have the Rock Star ethos. If not, you look like a fraud. To work, you need a shared purpose across the firm that is reflected in everything you do and everything you are.
For example, how is the training done in your firm? Do you – or do you make people – sit on day-long Audit and Accounts update courses? What else do you do? Of course we all need the technical updates, but there’s more effective ways of getting this training – and beyond the technical updates, what training and development opportunities are there in your firm? I had the genuine pleasure of speaking with the Head of Training at the ICAEW earlier this year and he was adamant that CPD should be relevant to the individual’s role and most definitely not limited to those Audit & Accounts updates course you get sent on to catch up on your sleep.
With an area of such importance as training for example, you need to be especially creative. There is not a single Accountancy training provider or grouping of Accountants in the UK that genuinely looks beyond the same old practice development issues we’ve been debating for the last 10+ years.
6. Hang out with your clients
To genuinely engage with your clients, you have to spend time with them. Find ways to do this. Be creative in how you do it.
7. Hang out with other Rock Star accountants
It can be tough and a bit scary challenging the traditional norms of your industry – so find like-minded people to learn from, share ideas with and gain moral support from. If you run your own firm – or if you are hidden Rock Star hidden away in a firm – collaborating with others who are having the same experiences or have had similar experiences previously helps. Personally, I joined ThriveAl, the international group of accountants, which is where I met Guy Pearson and numerous other Rock Star accountants.
In the new year, we're launching a LinkedIn Group especially for Rock Star Accountants (and those wanting to be) to share the very latest ideas & inspiration to help us all deliver a super-cool accountancy service to the Facebook Generation. If you’d like to be the first to get involved, come and find us on LinkedIn by searching for ‘Accountants for the Facebook Generation’.
Life as a Rock Star accountant is more fun, more meaningful and ultimately more profitable. There’s obviously more to it than this, but these 7 steps should get you going.
Please let me know if you have and tips to add to this list or have experiences to share – it would be great to get your comments in the section below. In the meantime, have a great Christmas and have a rock and roll 2012.