Escape the Groundhog Day rutby
It’s Groundhog Day… again. Like Punxsutawney Phil emerging from his hole in Gobbler's Knob, it’s time for accountants to escape their self assessment lair. Will they retreat into the shadows or embrace the spring?
“What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” Bill Murray’s beleaguered weatherman Phil Connors asks this question in the comedy classic Groundhog Day.
In the movie, Connors is stuck in a time loop on 2 February, the day the tiny village in Western Pennsylvania celebrates Punxsutawney's annual Groundhog Day, and is forced to relive the same day over and over… and over… and over again.
Are you stuck in a time loop?
Many accountants will have experienced the same existential crisis after having spent the last few months stuck in one place doing the same thing every day - in this case, churning through tax returns. And for those with unappreciative clients, the whole process must have felt like none of it actually mattered.
So, dear reader, if you’ve woken today to the sound of Sonny and Cher’s ‘I Got You Babe’ again, and feel like you’re experiencing déjà vu, perhaps it’s time to reacquaint yourself with Phil Connors’ journey (or just use this column as an excuse to watch a classic film during work hours).
After reliving the exact same encounter with irritating insurance agent Ned Ryerson and attending the Groundhog Day celebrations again, our TV weatherman gradually realises that he’s stuck in a time loop. At first, he decides to live with no consequences, before soon descending into a depressive state.
Now I'm not going to accuse any accountants of working without consequences (otherwise David Winch will be knocking on their door), but hands up who has never slipped into a bit of malaise. Not many hands, just as I thought. It’s easy, wherever you work in the profession, to let each day slip by. The compliance cycle runs like clockwork and it’s easy to get sucked into the routine of VAT and self assessment filing deadlines.
It’s just as easy for those running their own practice to get trapped in a time loop and accept their own Ned Ryersons as clients. And who hasn’t felt like they’ve fallen into a time loop after spending an hour waiting on the phone trying to get through to the agent dedicated line.
We’ve seen AccountingWEB members unleash their inner Phil Connors and vent their frustrations and metaphorically punch their Ned Ryerson clients on Any Answers. Take ireallyshouldknowthisbut, who documented their call from a taxpayer at 2.45pm on 31 January, asking if the AccountingWEB regular could do their tax return. Of course, the AWEB members responded with their best Phil Connors impression.
Breaking the time loop
Things only changed for Connors when Andie MacDowell’s Rita convinces him to see each day as a blessing. For Murray’s character, this means learning the piano, speaking poetically about the little groundhog and becoming an expert ice sculptor.
So if you're feeling at a loss in your accountancy practice or career, follow Murray's lead. No, put down the proton pack; wrong movie. Unless, of course, your office is haunted (then, by all means, switch to Bill Murray's ghostbusting character and blast the poltergeist away from your firm-wide risk assessment).
The first thing Connors does is change where he invests his time. After spending months chasing unbearable clients, trying (and often failing) to get their signatures or just putting up with their rude behaviour, this might be the best place to start when re-examining where to focus your efforts.
Connors repeated the same day more than 10,000 times. Many accountants feel like they’ve repeated the same number in self assessment seasons. While Connors eventually moved on from kidnapping the groundhog and driving his car into a quarry, some accountants tackle self assessment season with the same processes they always have.
Connors turned around his fortunes by doing things differently. What could you do differently? Perhaps it’s time to improve your systems, chase clients earlier, raise your fees for personal tax work or offer discounts for early submission.
Break out of your Groundhog Day at FAB
Connors also discovers a happy and valuable life by taking care of others. This is what accountants and bookkeepers do already, but many don’t take a moment to reflect on all they do. So start your new year by taking time out of the practice to celebrate your wins and also explore new tools, techniques and ideas.
The film ends with the Groundhog Festival. As luck would have it, your fast track to breaking your time loop could be a ticket to the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping.
There, you can make plans to fall in love with your practice again by finding testing technology, exploring the latest trends, and putting plans in place to transform your practice.
So even if Punxsutawney Phil retreats into his den today for six more weeks of winter after seeing the shadow, it doesn’t mean accountants should do the same. Embrace Sonny and Cher, vow to make Punxsutawney your home and invest time into making your practice a doozy!
So when you emerge snuffling from your burrow this Groundhog Day, don’t see the shadow, see the NEC in Birmingham and let your practice’s spring revival start at the Festival of Accounting & Bookkeeping.