Should clients sack their accountants?
Mark Lee interviews Robert Craven who kicked off a storm of comment when he suggested that companies should sack their accountants if they were not contributing to their business growth.
The AccountingWEB posting Is Robert Craven right when he says clients should sack their accountants? created a quite a stir. As luck would have it, I roomed with Robert during Netski 2011 so was able to get him to explain the thinking behind his remarks as quoted by Steve Pipe.
The key comment was: “If you are not delighted and ecstatically happy with your accountant, and you don’t think your accountant is helping you to get more customers, get more sales, get more profits, get more cash into your business then you should change accountant. It’s as simple as that.”
For many accountants this statement was a bit like a red rag to a bull.
In Craven’s view there is only one direction for successful companies - and that’s forward.
“It’s why start-ups often succeed at first – they are focused on their future, on their destination – and it’s also why so many companies stall after a few years, losing their momentum, and focusing on the past more than the future. (“Business was really good a few years ago”)
“That’s why all companies, especially owner-manager businesses, need help to maintain a forward direction and focus.
“So the question is this: How many accountants really help their clients grow their businesses?”
Craven argues there are essentially two very different sorts of accountancy firm: accountant historians and accountant entrepreneurs:
Accountant Historians (AHs)
“As their name suggests, these people focus on the past, on analysing it and preserving it. But what do they then do with that information? Often, very little. When asked by clients what the figures might mean for the future, they don’t feel comfortable making predictions – and rightly so. In truth, they know very little about their clients’ businesses.”
“Are a very different kettle of fish with very different attitudes towards the contribution they can make to their clients’ businesses. They do the basics as well as anybody else, but they know information is power, and use it to help their clients – and earn themselves higher revenues. They use their knowledge of many companies to provide a real world, really current perspective for clients. They know what has worked for other companies – and what hasn’t. They earn the respect – and the fees – accordingly.”
Can an accountant historian ever hope to become an accountant entrepreneur?
“Absolutely. It is a matter of attitude, of a little training, some practice, and the enthusiasm born out of successful attempts to change the way you approach clients,” he replied.