Life is tough on the front line of accountancy. For more than five years, our intrepid correspondent has been bringing us news and views from a typical West Country practice.
Can we really be business advisers?
Do accountants want to be business advisers? asks Mark Lee at http://www.accountingweb.co.uk/topic/practice/do-accountants-want-be-bus.... (By the way Mark, we spell it with an e in this country!)
Fiona McManus thinks so in her interesting two part series at
And she reckons you can get paid for it too!
This is an interesting debate, it's a topic that has had me thinking for a while. Who are we to call ourselves 'business advisers'? How is a beancounter qualified to tell a business owner how to run his business? To call yourself 'accountants and business advisers' mixes up a qualification that you studied hard for over many years, with a collection of stuff you simply picked up along the way after you qualified.
Which is not to say that many accountants don't fulfil these two roles extremely well, but I suspect they are the minority. The best business advisers are probably those who have spent time out in business, perhaps running their own business or working at a senior level in a business. And let's not forget that an accountancy practice is a business of course. Some of the best business advisers I have met are partners in successful smaller practices – 3-6 partner firms – who have lived all aspects of running a small business themselves – financial management, employment issues, change management, restructuring, taking over other practices, dealing with incoming and outgoing partners, etc. They have a wealth of valuable skills they can communicate to their clients.
But don't send me a young CA from a top 4 firm who has just spent the last 5-6 years auditing PLC bank reconciliations and tell me he's a business adviser – even if he does have an MBA!
If you want to develop your people to give wider business advice you need to get them trained. The national practice development groups like SWAT and 2020 offer training and resources on all sorts of added-value services. The professional bodies, on the other hand, seem very reluctant to offer much in the way of training outside of the strict professional disciplines of accounts, audit and tax. Alternatively you could look outside the profession at postgraduate level management training. Many local colleges offer such courses at NVQ levels 5 and upwards on a flexible learning basis, and will tailor them to use your work experience as part of the assessment. I have been following a management diploma course this year and have introduced a number of really useful changes in internal and client procedures as a result of some of the project work I have done on performance and quality management – it's the perfect combination, get a qualification and get the client to pay you for doing it!