At first sight, accountants may not immediately be able to reconcile Ben Stokes’ astonishing performance at Headingley on Sunday with the performance of their own practice. Philip Fisher urges practitioners to think again.
Although the cricketing whiz obliges scorers to add up unexpectedly large numbers at great speed, there is no evidence that the most inspirational cricketer of his generation could tackle a balance sheet or come up with a complex but entirely legal tax-saving wheeze. Indeed, many of his sporting peers have been high-profile victims when such strategies have failed.
Even if it turned out that the northerner was an accounting genius, none of us could afford to compete with the rates that Indian Premier League teams are likely to bid in a desperate effort to get him on board, with a daily rate that is likely to stretch into six figures.
So what does Ben Stokes have to offer those of us ploughing on in the accountancy profession, happy enough but always desperate to find a competitive edge that takes us into the next league?
The key lies in that word “competitive”. While not everyone necessarily loves a winner, since quite often winners can be abrasive (especially outside nightclubs), they often have skills that are hard to come by in a profession that is universally and usually realistically recognised as conservative.
Ben Stokes showed the kind of never-say-die determination that is often lacking amongst our colleagues. How often have you seen a fellow accountant give up on the trail of a prospective new client and miss out on an opportunity or when trying to find a solution to a knotty technical problem, dropping someone else i.e. you in the mire?
Stokes has a unique quality of charisma. He may be a prickly character, but the superhero has the kind of charm that is exactly what we look for in the best rainmakers.
We all accept that to succeed in the world of accountancy it is necessary to combine inspiration with perspiration. Our man has an astonishing work ethic. Anybody who saw a very sweaty Stokes close to collapse on Saturday night or literally collapsing following the dénouement on Sunday cannot deny that.
He is a proven leader who takes the bull by the horns and will inspire others to follow his example. How many of those do you have around the office?
Far too often, those of us running practices only see faults in our younger colleagues. Often, we notice the 5% that is substandard rather than the 95% that is exceptional. Anyone who saw Ben Stokes throw away his wicket in the first innings at Leeds would have consigned him to the dustbin of history. What a difference a weekend makes.
To summarise, if you want your firm to succeed, support your rising stars rather than criticising them.
More importantly, make sure you keep them on board by offering promotion on a timely basis, rewarding generously and forgiving a few relatively minor weaknesses.