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Ben  Steele

How self-disclosure leads to practice growth

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Over the past year, Ben Steele’s confidence has grown as fast as his firm’s success. He puts some of this growth down to the support he’s received as an LGBT+ accountant – but this acceptance is still slow in the wider society.

16th Jun 2022
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The response I had to my Pride article last year was fantastic. Among the heart-warming support, I received messages from AccountingWEB readers saying my article had given them the courage to be open and honest in their own accounting workplace, and that they wish they had done it sooner. 

One thing I took from writing the article and the unexpected feedback was an even bigger level of confidence in both myself and the firm I created. Confidence will always help with growth, whether personally as an individual or as a business owner.

I sent last year’s article to our entire client base. After hitting that send button, I must admit, I sat waiting with bated breath for around a week, expecting disengagement emails from clients. 

None came thankfully. But what did arrive was an outpouring of love and support from clients, congratulating me, as well as thanking me for supporting them through Covid while I was going through personal turmoil.

Boost of confidence

This hit of comfort and reassurance resulted in a boost of confidence. I realised that I am good enough; clients don’t care who I choose to love and they respect me for my hard work and dedication, not my sexuality.

Since June 2021, the firm has grown… a lot! To the point of us needing to consider new premises, yet again, in the space of 18 months. 

Clearly not all that growth came from the article last year, but the increased confidence certainly gave me the energy and enthusiasm to push forward and realise what was important.

Ensuring that my clients as well as my team are happy, comfortable, and feel safe will always result in growth. Happy team members will boost your business more than you can imagine.

Slowly but surely

Sadly, change is still slow and gradual. We still have professionals of all ages who are too afraid to come out because it genuinely could restrict their progression. This isn’t just internalised fear, this is reality. 

LGBTQ+ can still be seen as a “weakness” to some – thinking it will lessen our ability and performance in a business environment. 

While not an example from the realm of professional services itself, look at Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels, who became the first male professional footballer to come out publicly in decades. How was this “news” a huge national story? 

I will tell you how – because we are still so far off in terms of safety and equality. 

If you are someone who says to themselves, “Why is Pride needed? Things are so much better than they were years ago, and pretty much fine now. Stop making a big deal about it,” then please ask yourself this question: “Why did someone so talented have to ‘come out’?” 

Natural presumption

Imagine if all straight footballers announced they loved the opposite sex – it would be bizarre, wouldn’t it? They don’t, however, as it doesn’t affect them. There is a natural presumption that people are straight until told otherwise.

So why did he just not say anything then? Well, imagine hiding who you are from your colleagues, friends, family and the public – all day, every day. 

It is exhausting, lonely and sad, trust me.

I have friends in the gay community who will still get abused on a night out, often physically, purely because of who they choose to love. These cases are not in the news, but are still the harsh daily reality the LGBTQ+ community faces every day.

Positive things ahead

One of the biggest issues in our industry right now, as we all know, is recruitment.

Being an inclusive, positive, welcoming firm can only help attract good talent. If you aren’t sure you agree, then ask yourself, would it do any harm? 

Although the reality is that you wouldn’t necessarily know that new recruits are coming due to this positivity, it will no doubt attract people with the idea that you are a firm that will support your team, whoever they are.

I challenge you, during this month of June, to do something publicly, to show your support. 

I am not talking just about a rainbow badge on your logo, although that’s a start for sure (ignore the haters about this). I am talking about something more. Something that will prove you genuinely welcome everybody, and support individuality. 

Look to the future

What’s next for me and my firm? My partner (soon to be husband next year) will be made director this month, bringing his wealth of experience from a Big Four firm to our clients. A big step for sure, but also an exciting one. If this doesn’t scream “inclusive” I don’t know what will.

Equality is still very much in progress, but there is still so much love and positivity in the UK, and I do feel our industry moving in the right direction. 

We must celebrate wins – it’s the only way we keep driving things forwards.

Replies (3)

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Heather Townsend - accountant's coach
By Heather Townsend
16th Jun 2022 18:02

Well done for having the courage to be your whole self in your professional life.

My 2 children identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. And we have always been very accepting of who they are and what they stand for. We have always said that the most important thing is their partner is kind and makes them feel good. Gender doesn't come into.

Congratulations on getting married and for the business growth!

Thanks (4)
Replying to efficiencycoach:
Ben Steele
By Ben Steele
17th Jun 2022 08:55

Thanks Heather :) I appreciate that!

Thanks (1)
By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
17th Jun 2022 09:15

Ben, that's great that your post last year has had some positive impact in the real world for you and hopefully others, and it sounds like congratulations are in order if you become engaged recently.

I completely agree that "coming out" is a bizarre thing that shouldn't really exist, and its absurd that in 2022 a gay footballer is even news who shows how far behind big chunks of the society are.

Whilst it is definitely getting easier in my lifetime, society has a long way to go before this is a non-issue, just as gender equality is far from being won. The tipping point at which once everyone knows some people who are LGBQT+ both as friends, family and in the wider community will be the point at which the 'novelty' wears off, but we are a long way from that. I can understand why so many people keep quiet about these things, but it seem the younger you are the more widely sexuality is a 'whatever' rather than 'news' which hopefully should bring significant changes in the next 10-15 years.

Thanks (3)