Accounting Needs a ‘Rethink’ Not a ‘Rebrand’

The field of accounting, and being an accountant, have been challenged on many sides in recent years, none more so than the very act of being an accountant. In short, given the demand for new services and the growth in automation for nearly all “tasks,” what does accounting or being an accountant really mean anymore?

Let’s be clear, accounting’s literal and metaphorical face needs to change if it is to grow and thrive. This, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, as we well know, change is neither easy nor quick. What should encourage accounting professionals is that at this very point in time, they have the ability to have a say in what accounting, and being an accountant, actually is and could be.

On to my main point: I admit that when one attends live industry events, while essential for perspective and insights, they are only a slice of the brain trust and a true read on the profession as a whole. Still, while attending Accounting Today’s recent Firm Growth Forum, this very topic became a central focus during the event. It all happened to start with a panel discussion I was honored to take part in.

The question, while posed by an attendee, has been bubbling around for a little while in the profession (if you listened close enough). Mainly, with all of the other work accountants do and are charging for, and even expected to do, will it even be considered accounting and should the profession go through a re-brand? Can you even call yourself an accountant any longer?

In my view, none of that needs to happen and here’s why…

While the “work” of being an accounting professional may change or evolve, given the advent of technology, the basic principles in accounting aren’t likely to. Moreover, why bother changing the name of something that’s been so recognizable for so long and is synonymous with trust and knowledge. This, my accounting friends, is at the core of who you are, and that value needs to be expressed more than ever.

Your knowledge, your ability to understand financials and the unique needs of your clients, whom many of you have spent years in developing relationships with, cannot be understated. Is it undervalued? Again, emphatically, heck yes, it is!

So, when calls to “charge more” come around, this is exactly what it means. The value of your time, your knowledge and deep understanding of what means most to your clients are what they really are, and should, be paying for. Ultimately, it is what Rory Henry CFP, co-founder of AFO Wealth Management Forward likes to call the Return on Relationship (ROR).

The profession is most certainly at a point of inflection, and having been witness to at least one during my tenure, I can say you all are going to be just fine. Moreover, do not see the change occurring around you as a threat. Being more of an advisory type of professional and less of a computer, documenter, or task administrator, simply means the value of you, again, is in the knowledge you have and the relationships and trust you’ve built.

It all starts with a conversation, even in something as essential and seemingly mundane as tax and bookkeeping work. You are already steeped in the financials, you understand the laws and regulations, you know well what the numbers mean, or could mean for your client. You just need to talk more about what’s next with them.

Does this make you less of an accountant? Once more for the back of the room, heck no! This is what accounting is evolving into, and the more today’s accounting professionals understand that, the brighter your future will be.

This is the narrative that needs to be shouted out to middle, high school, and college students who have no real understanding of what accountants really do. More than numbers and tax codes, it’s about using what tools are available to you in order to do the job of accounting even better. It’s also about knowing how to be a source of trust and knowledge for the clients you choose to serve.

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