Have a Better Story to Tell

One of the narratives swirling around the accounting profession lately has been about the need for a better story to be told about being an accountant. In my view, the issue runs deeper than just better PR. It lies at the core of what being an accountant is really like.

In other words, if the profession has any hope of being a preferable place to work for existing and future accountants, it needs to have a better story to tell. I’m not saying gloss over the ugly side and just tell about all of the good accountants do, but there are some deep changes to be made before anyone goes and says anything.

These were just a few of the thoughts swirling around in my mind as I departed the recent AICPA & CIMA meeting of accounting and finance professionals (and the vendors that look to serve them) known as ENGAGE. While there, one of the major keynote addresses revolved around findings from months-long surveys among state societies, educational institutions, and students.

The work itself was part of the efforts of the National Pipeline Advisory Group (NPAG), an independent group of stakeholders working on behalf of the U.S. accounting profession. NPAG, composed of 22 members who represent a cross-section of roles and perspectives within the profession, was convened last summer by the AICPA, but has conducted its research and deliberations independently, facilitated by ConvergenceCoaching LLC. Feel free to read more about the report here.

During the aforementioned keynote, representatives from NPAG, AICPA, and ConvergenceCoaching discussed the research and ultimately recommended some core changes, including accounting telling a better story about itself. And therein lies the issue.

It’s easy to point at things like revenue numbers and claim how “successful” CPA firms are doing. One could even get excited about the attention private equity concerns have been giving the profession of late.

But underneath the gloss and promise of money are still the same old issues that have dogged the profession for decades. Moreover, they are, in my view, the same problems that are both driving people out of accounting and keeping students from it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still very positive about accounting. its potential to change its face and be recognized as a true force for change, as well as a source of economic and environmental support. But we’re not there yet.

These are just ideas, and unless these ideas matter to firm leaders and those actively involved in accounting, the profession will continue to lose talent to other careers. It will lose them to careers that value life-work balance, diversity, and compensate far better for the time and value of work put into it.

My advice is to do the work, make the changes you need to in order to love what you do, and maybe even remind you of why you got into accounting in the first place. Then, go tell That.

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