Steven Mugglestone

The more I learn, the less I know

A pro-active accountant is a business myth, experience is the real deal

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We have banned the word “pro-active” within our firm.  Why?  We share the initial intention and the sentiment and some of the practices.  We see it being key to our clients’ success and vital to how we operate, together providing our skills and experience to achieve that.

We see the “P” word, however, as being a con, a myth and really only a buzz phrase and a shelter that many accountants can hide behind.  Many should own up, they are accountants, nothing less, but nothing more.

What is the difference?  Well, we are not dependent of never ending lists of 300 ways to do this or save that (created by third parties).  We have (each) two ears and one mouth, which we endeavour to utilise in that ratio.  We listen, we think, we advise and we act, drawing upon many years of business experience.

Business Experience (or the lack of it)

Many accountants have never worked in another business (or in a position to define or develop their own business) at all, yet most claim to be business advisers.  Many have also only worked within the same accountancy firm, or similar.  A significant number as well, have not only just worked within the same firm, they have only worked with the same people, learning their ways and practices as well as their approaches.  Limited, very.

Is this important?  They are accountants, they see and work with other businesses, and surely this does not matter.  They have qualifications, they are specialists, or so they claim.  They centre their offering, however, as business advisers, not accountancy advisers and this is the issue.

Business Recruitment and Business Leadership

In every field from private sector business, public sector and even education, when choosing a leader or key member of a senior team, experience (and achievements) are paramount.  It is recognised that in order to deal with a leadership position you need to have “been it and done it”.  You need to understand what leadership is and you need to be able to define and deliver strategy and strategic change.  Experiences of differing situations and challenges, or differing management styles and people all contribute to how a leader will obtain and develop the appropriate skills to be an effective leader.  Experience, as well as how they contributed to the success; the changes; the developments.  From our own experience in business (and from observations in the education sector as well) continued problems, issues and potential failure tends to derive from in-experienced teams of people and in particular where senior members of the team or the leader themselves have never worked elsewhere and have gone through the ranks internally.  We are not saying all of the time, but common enough to be a very significant issue.

If this experience is so crucial in so many areas, why do we accept a so called business adviser to be a key part of business, when they have little or no real business experience?

The well reported problems with accountants’ succession

It is well reported throughout the accountancy press that succession is a major problem facing many independent and larger firms.  Apart from issues of finance, it is also reported that many accountancy businesses do not have either the “up and coming” business leaders or the skills required to take on and lead the future development of those businesses.

So what?  Well, these are the very same people that are so called business advisers to other businesses.  A simple point is, if they do not have the skills to take on and develop their own business that they have grown up in, how on earth do they really have the skills to advise others.  The simple answer is that they do not.

Basking in the “Brand”

Many accountants who work within the major firms can be lulled into believing that they are great business advisers as that is what their brand is seen to be.  (We talk from past experience).  The issue here is that people buy people and it is the experiences of the people that are key.  Many senior directors and partners in a number of large firms have never worked anywhere else.  They have never managed or been part of any external business project.  They have never managed change or played any key part in defining the real development of their own business. They have never been part of a business and faced the challenges of being in business.  Many are so de-skilled that they would struggle with the basics, let alone face the challenges that many finance directors are working through on a daily basis.

Given all of this, is it acceptable that they should put themselves forward as real business advisers to their clients.  The answer is the same.  There is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to business advisers and what is really being provided to the client.

We are not providing the solution here, only asking the question

We have not highlighted how we help to define and develop our clients’ businesses with them, as for the sake of brevity, that is not the point of this article. We have in other articles.  We see, however, that real support comes from clear leadership and drawing upon real experiences to provide practical solutions to our clients’ business challenges as well as our own.

Many of our directors have significant business experience, gained from working with and within a variety of business carrying out differing projects and roles.

We share those experiences and our skills with our clients and our team.  We believe that our team should also be developed with real business experience.  We see this a central to providing our clients with real “pro-active” business advice.

We have, however, banned the “P” word and replaced it with an “E” word ……. “Experience”.

Join us in support of Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People:




Written by Steven Mugglestone

June 6, 2013 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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