Recently I had the enormous privilege of heading to both Sydney and San Francisco to speak to large groups of accountants at XeroCon AU and US.
I started by making two key points.
Firstly I suggested that I wanted to get under the skin of those in the audience. By doing that I could engage them and potentially change them.
Accountants, as we know, love rules. “Debits on the left, credits on the right”! We’re trained to get things to balance. To bring order where there is none and to play within the rules as laid down.
But my first challenge was this: I asked the accountants to pretend that I was checking with their clients whether they thought their accountant knew how to grow their own business. I said that if the answer I get back from their clients isn’t a good one, then what credibility do they, as accountants, have in being the adviser to help their clients grow?
It’s a simple question with a simple answer. The floor went deathly quiet as people pondered the point for themselves. Maybe they were thinking of how to cause me a slow painful death.
For my second point I pretended that I had Sir Richard Branson at the back of the room. Clearly it was fictional but my point was this – “What if I did have him at the back of the room? And what if he came up here on stage and in true Branson style announced that he was launching Virgin Accounting? What’s more that he is launching it right here in your home market. How do you feel about the relationship you have with your customers, your pricing, and your products?”
The quiet started to give way to a twittering. Both in the app sense and in the chatter!
Got them! My point was made.
The point is this: Business is about growth. It’s about change. It’s about providing customers solutions to problems and products that meet their needs. Business that stands still is dead. So if we can all agree on that then the advisers that will make the difference are those that stand at the centre of the growth of their clients.
Here’s the next point:
The cloud is changing everything. We’re all starting to carry smart devices that can access data from anywhere. That’s a game changer.
Xero have developed software that places the financial system and primarily the General Ledger at the heart of an ecosystem of business software (whether that’s stock management, point of sale, industry specific apps, the list goes on). As a side point, it’s kind of cool and geeky that the GL is at the centre of the world.
So what does that do? It means that any adviser (and I want to plug the accountant in here) should be at the very centre of all aspects of a business. They can truly be the conductor of the symphony.
The accountant’s role (let’s call them the CFO) is not to just manage the dollars. It’s to manage the performance. Whether that’s for a CEO or an owner – that’s the role the accountant/CFO should take.
Accounting is the coolest career in the world. Business makes the money that feeds the world’s economy, and accounting now sits at the centre of it. Commercially-minded young graduates need to start seeing accounting as the coolest place to be.
Maybe one day we will even have our own accounting mini series.
So go stand up and break some rules.
Greg Sheehan is CEO of RightWay, a New Zealand accounting and advisory firm, and a finalist in the NZICA Leadership Awards. He was previously CFO of Nike Australasia, and CEO of Parents Inc.
Image credit: Keep Calm o Matic