After my blog last week, I got lots of really nice feedback and a stack of ideas and material for future blogs - so thanks. Many people reading the blog understandably assume that 'Accountants for The Facebook Generation' is about online accounting and twitter. Correct, but this is just part of the equation, these are vital tools for the Facebook Gen Accountant - but these are not the concept itself. When asked, the only way I could explain what I meant is "it's a way of thinking" - simple as that.
To be an Accountant for The Facebook Generation requires a completely blank sheet of paper, a new approach and a new way of thinking. You either are or you aren't - you have it or you don't. This isn't about tweaking your traditional firm, paying lip-service to the Facebook Generation, putting some nice words on your website - or even opening a Twitter account for your firm (that will never get used!)
You can't fudge this; 'young' partners in traditional firms will fail. The 'traditional' partners won't budge - and why would they? They've been running the firm the way it's always been run; it's done us ok so far - so why change? The older partners quite reasonably don't want to risk what they've built and their client base will be like-minded to them. I'm not being ageist, by 'young' I mean those that align themselves with the Facebook Generation and have a fresh way of thinking, which isn't necessarily age related.
Those 'Facebook Generation' clients take for granted a lot of what we should be doing anyway. It is expected that their accounts will be done on time, that you'll explain the numbers in language they understand, that you'll save them tax, that you'll go to them with ideas...and it will all work really smoothly. Or else.
Beyond this, these clients want you to take responsibility. Like actual responsibility. Not sitting on the fence, not hedging your bets, not making sure there's someone else to blame - but actually putting your hand up and taking responsibility for the whole the shooting match. In fairness to the accountancy profession, this goes against the instincts honed by years of training and dull Audit & Tax update courses. It's just not in the psyche. This has to change. None of the major accountancy training providers offer courses entitled 'How to run a business' or ' How to make money' - yet this is exactly what we should be training our accountants in if they are going to help clients. At The Wow Company, we have had to develop our own internal training, but how many firms do this properly?
One criticism we hear from many clients is that they didn't know if their old accountant was working for them or for the taxman. We've all heard someone say it, "ooh, I don't think the taxman will like that." Let's be clear, as long as it's legal, I work for my client and getting my client the best deal. The more clients that have an alternative, a true Facebook Generation accountant, the faster the average firm will see clients running out of the door.
Increasingly, there is a new breed of future partner coming through firms that want to, or may even need to change as their client base is looking for a Facebook Generation accountant. To those working in those 'traditional' firms that identify with this, prepare for years of frustration OR choose to do something radical. If you are half-tempted to do something brave, get in touch, I'm more than happy to talk through any ideas with you.
The good news for those that are able to change, there is a massive opportunity. The beauty of the Facebook Generation is that there's lots of them, not much real competition from other accountants...and working for these guys can actually be significantly more profitable. You just need to get your head around it and then crack it...as far as I'm aware few have really cracked this yet.
About Paul Bulpitt
Co-founder of The Wow Company. Head of Accounting at Xero.