Excellence is all around: Our job is to share itby
Drawing on the experiences of accountants on both sides of the Atlantic, John Stokdyk publishes a manifesto for continuous improvement in accounting practice.
AccountingWEB presented its annual Accounting Excellence Awards on 8 September. The death of Queen Elizabeth was announced right before we entered the hall for the celebration dinner, so it was a sombre occasion. But it was also a great expression of collective grief and appreciation from the community of excellence that has grown up around these awards over the past 10 years.
As each of the winners made their way to the stage, the commentator explained what had set them apart from their peers. The characteristics that impressed the judges presented a parade of several key trends that have taken off this year.
For example, as Pink Pig founder Cheryl Sharp passed in front of me on the way to collect her Small Firm Client Service Award, the announcer said Pink Pig stood out as the strongest exponent of what Sharp calls “life-centred accountancy”. The firm’s family-oriented ethos extends to learning about all clients’ business and lifestyle needs and flows through to how it delivers its accounting services.
The people side of accountancy
The people side of accountancy is right at the top of the profession’s agenda, with the shortage of skilled accountants forcing firms to explore new ways to develop and motivate their teams and attract new staff members. As Chris Maslin, a finalist in the Client Service (small) firm and Pride awards, commented: “Happy motivated staff = well looked after clients = more profit to staff and community projects. Rinse & repeat.”
It was also striking how prominently outsourced finance services featured in this year’s entries, confirming a trend that has been building since early in the pandemic.
Those periods of lockdown put accountants and their systems to the test. In 2022, many practitioners finally got the chance to review what they learned from those experiences and think about what kind of firm they want to lead.
A balanced approach
For many practices, digital transformation is going to play an important part in the years ahead. But as Karbon’s Zach Cochran warned back in May, don’t put all your eggs in the technology basket. Process also matters. The firms that perform best in our awards have a very similar profile to the ones that get high scores in Karbon’s Practice Excellence ratings. They take a balanced approach, where people, management, strategy and technology play an equal role. And they are always looking for the next step they can take to improve how they operate and serve their clients better.
The principles of Practice Excellence have been known for several years, but many of the best techniques are only used by a few firms. Our renewed commitment to excellence in accounting is all about bringing those techniques to the fore by sharing the stories and successes of our community members on both sides of the Atlantic.
We look forward to seeing you again on that journey.
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John Stokdyk sadly passed away in June 2023. He had been with the site since 1999, rising from news editor to editor in chief, global editor and head of insight. As a roving editor, he investigated the profession's use of technology around the world. He devoted his spare time to technology history and an oddball collection of stringed...