Apparently this is one of the Top 30 accounting and finance blogs

Last month I received what appears to be a genuine endorsement of all my work to make this blog useful, relevant, commercial and valuable to ambitious accountants.Best Accounting and Finance Blogs 2012

I was initially a tad cynical but this blog really is the fourth in a list of the Top 30 Accounting and Finance Blogs of 2012.

The note I received last week from Tina Ray, editor of BestAccountingSchools.net, said that:

“Of the hundreds of blogs we reviewed, yours was selected as being among the most helpful and offering the sharpest insight.”

If you scroll down you will note that I am now proudly displaying the award badge on the right hand side of this blog.

For the record, Best Accounting Schools’ mission is:

“To help you in your quest to become an Accountant or advance in your career in Accounting. We do this by providing high quality resources about how to get started in this field, along with information about the best accounting schools and degree programs available.”

It is an American focused resource which is ironic as my focus is UK based accountants.

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An opportunity for ambitious accountants to give something back

I recently became aware of Accounting for International Development (www.afid.org.uk) and thought I would provide it with some much needed publicity via my blog. It’s a good cause and any accountants who get involved may find this helps them to evidence that they are not boring. Indeed, as I frequently point out: Boring is Optional

Accounting for International Development was set up in 2009 in order to enable volunteer accountants to pass on their skills to charities in the developing world. This helps in many ways, the 2 most obvious ways being:

  1. Transparent accounts make a small charity more attractive to a large international donor organisation, and
  2.  Greater efficiency and financial sustainability means more good work can be done.

In reality this can equate to more vulnerable women being taken in by a refuge in Nepal, or more people living with HIV/AIDs receiving medical care in rural Tanzania.

I cam across a fascinating case study of one of their volunteers, National Audit Office principal auditor  Jonathan Broadley.

Jonathan believed strongly that for aid to really work the recipient organisation needs the financial capacity to achieve its social objectives. He approached Accounting for International Development (A f I D) as he was keen to share his experience with an overseas non-profit organisation and help to develop its current system of financial controls, enabling them to better serve their community….>>>> More Here

Individually tailored assignments of between 2 weeks & 12 months form part of an ongoing strategy to build the financial management capacity of charities around the world. You could be budgeting with a street kid centre in Kampala, coaching a hospital bookkeeper in Kigali, financial reporting for a primary school in Kathmandu or mentoring an international NGO’s new FC in Khartoum – You choose.

AfID have arranged assignments for over 300 accountants from 26 nations who have given over 50,000 hours of support to 144 charities in 28 countries across the world.

Do check out the charity’s website even if you are not currently able to assist. They run an email notifier system to keep supporters informed of upcoming opportunities.

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Nine career related tips re accountants’ use of facebook

One of the talks I presented at Accountex in November 2012 was titled: Harnessing the power of social media for career success. Much of this talk was an adaptation of my more general articles, blogs and talks on social media. However, there were a number of completely new elements including some key tips re facebook – which I have summarised below.

Why, you might ask, did I reference facebook during the talk. Surely I would have focused on Linkedin – the online Business networking site. I did. But, the ubiquity of facebook means it is also worth thinking about what you can do here to aid your professional career.  I would stress that I start from the perspective that facebook really is more for ‘social’ use than for building business connections.  I am NOT a fan of the idea that anyone tries to become facebook friends with partners in firms of accountants or with the owners of businesses – unless you can see that they are clearly encouraging this through the way that THEY use facebook.  That won’t be very often.

For what it is worth I have over 2,400 connections on Linkedin and around 4,300 followers on twitter but fewer than 300 friends on facebook.  For me, it really is not a business focused medium. But I’m not looking to build my career so my experience and approach is not really relevant.  Which is why I DID cover facebook in my recent talk. Here are the nine tips:

  1. Make your facebook profile work for you – although not as formal as Linkedin, friends can still see the details you share about your current and previous roles and projects. Ensure that these paint a positive picture and evidence your specific expertise and any distinctive value that you offer.
  2. Be aware of who your ‘friends’ are – do you really know them ALL? Some may be old work colleagues or people with  whom you have lost touch. Any of them may be in a position to put you forward or to scupper your chances of getting your next dream role.
  3. Customise who can see your status updates – Whenever you post a status update you can decide which groups of friends can or cannot see it. You can also ensure that specific people should not see specific posts. You should always be aware that, unless you use this facility, your updates may be widely seen. Some of your updates may be best hidden from all but your closest friends!
  4. Take care over the job and career related updates that you post – Be especially careful if you are prone to complain about elements of your current role or employer. If you MUST post such updates you should really limit who can see them! More positively you may find that more distant friends may pick up on your availability, if you are between roles – as long as you are positive and upbeat.
  5. Resist the temptation to share too much too widely – This follows on from the above two points.  If you are employed you shouldn’t be posting updates to facebook more than two or three time during the working day. If you post updates too often it gives the impression that you are not focused on your work and that’s not a good impression to give if you want to progress your career.
  6. Check your privacy settings – Again this follows on from the above points.
  7. Check what your business ‘friends’ can see – As part of the ‘activity log’ facility you can check the impact of your privacy settings using the ‘View as…’ facility.
  8. Check the settings for every authorised app – You will probably want to limit the ability for apps to automatically post activity updates to your facebook timeline. Again , this is especially important if you find the time to ‘play’ during the working day. There may also be some apps and games that you would prefer your involvement to be kept confidential as reagards your ‘business’ ass0ciates.
  9. Send personalised messages to friends who may know people – You never know who might be able to make a valuable introduction to a potential employer, or  who might hear about the perfect job opening.  More an more employers are providing incentives to staff to provide leads to potential recruits. This can be much more cost effective than using recruitment consultants.

Many younger accountants will find nothing new in this list as they apply similar principles as regards the extent to which their parents can see what they are doing on facebook after they become ‘friends’. Equally some parents, who have been accepted as their children’s ‘friends’ on facebook, may wish to limit the extent to which their children can see what they (the parents) have been upto!

Like this post? You can now obtain my 10,000 word ebook containing loads more social media insights, short-cuts, tips and advice aimed specifically at accountants. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Why accountants need to be more confident

The ACCA published a new research report in August 2012 entitled ‘Closing the Value Gap’. This explores the role of accountants today and in the future. A couple of statements in the Executive Summary caught my eye as they provide a new take on the issue I have been focusing on recently; that too many people think accountants are boring. Remember, Boring Is Optional!

The Executive Summary notes that:

“Old-fashioned images of what it is to be an accountant, such as the classic bean-counter stereotype, can be at odds with the changing landscape and the rapidly evolving trend towards greater specialisation.”

This is followed by a quote from Richard Sexton, executive board member for reputation and policy at PwC.

‘It’s important for us to come out of the shadows into the daylight and use that as an opportunity to better explain what we do, how we do it and the value we generate. There will be some challenging conversations. But it’s important that you’re confident enough to talk about what you do, why you do it and why it’s important.’

This issue of confidence is important. Too often accountants seem almost apologetic when answering the question, ‘What do you do?’  If you can’t be proud of your professional qualification and confident in the value of the role you play, how can you expect clients, friends, family and other third-parties to hold you in high esteem?

Important caveat. There is an enormous difference between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is not a positive quality. Those who are arrogant often seem to be looking down on others. Arrogant accountants are rarely liked or admired by anyone.  If your confidence makes other people feel insulted, whether you intended this or not, you will be considered arrogant.

I like the suggestion that ‘confidence is arrogance under control’.  A confident accountant uses their talents to genuinely try to be of use, or to succeed at the task at hand.  Such an approach makes them likeable, admirable and interesting. And that’s much better than being thought of as Arrogant or as Boring, wouldn’t you agree?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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8 tips if you are considering an accountancy franchise

This isn’t intended to be complete treatise on the subject. I have simply jotted down a few thoughts in preparation for a magazine interview. If my contributions appear online I will provide a link in due course. The journalist seems to be undertaking extensive research so it should be a good piece – but probably won’t be published before the summer.

By way of background: There seem to be more accountancy franchise options and opportunities around today than ever before. Some rely on online marketing of a brand name, some provide exclusive areas and some are better known than others. You don’t need to be a start-up practice to join a franchise as many of them will allow you to migrate an existing practice into the franchise.

Here are 8 tips if you are considering an accountancy franchise.

1 – What is your objective? Many accountants will find it easier to focus on building a successful practice as a franchisee than to do so alone. Different skills are required to build a business then to be a good accountant. Can you do both? Do you want to do both? A good franchisor will probably enable you to build a successful practice faster than if you were to try to do so alone.

2 – Be realistic: Taking a franchise will rarely absolve you of the need to generate clients and, especially, to close the sale with prospective clients. If you need training in how to do this, where will you get it? Or would you be better off with a franchise that generates clients through focused and proven online marketing and conversion? Is marketing support available and do existing franchisees share what works and what doesn’t, perhaps through an online forum, at regular conferences, meetings or elsewhere?  You will especially want to check whether the franchisor has a record of meeting it’s promises re lead generation?

3 – Funding: Some franchises have arrangements with banks to fund the upfront fees – and this may enable you to build your practice more effectively than if you go it alone. Do be careful though to assess the validity of the new business projections and how often these have been fulfilled by other franchisees. And research how financially stable is the franchisor business itself.

4 – Compare and contrast: The various accountancy franchises may have some similarities but they are all different. Different in terms of how they promote the business name, the freedom they give franchisees, the level of fees payable, the length of the franchisee agreement, the level of handholding and support, ownership of clients and so on. Identify the issues that seem important to you and balance up the differences before deciding on your preferred approach. Do you need a big National support operation or would you be comfortable with something more personal?

5 – Legal advice: You may be tempted to sign up without taking independent legal advice. Don’t, unless you are the sort of person who would buy a house without having it professionally surveyed.  How balanced is the contract? How watertight is it? How easy is it to get out if the franchisor doesn’t deliver; not just within the first few months but a couple of years down the line?

6- The founder(s): How involved and committed are they? Are they your sort of people and can they deliver on their promises? Is what they offer more than just a catchy franchise name?

7 – Testimonials: Talk to YOUR choice of a selection of existing franchisees. Find out what has gone well for them, what hasn’t been as good as they had hoped and whether they would have joined up originally knowing then what they know now. You will especially want to know how many franchisees have opened up and how many have closed or left the franchise? And over what period?

8 – Goals: Will joining an established franchise enable you to achieve your goals re building an accountancy practice? Do you want to build something independent and to be your own boss? Will the franchise allow you to do this, help you to do this or restrict your ability to do this?

What other tips do you think would be helpful? 

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who have already or are about to startup a new practice. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

 

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Why Cameron was right about accountants

I returned from a few days away to see a storm brewing about something disparaging that David Cameron has said about accountants.

The offending headline in the Daily Telegraph on 7 May was: “We’re not just a bunch of accountants”. This was an extract from an article attributed to David Cameron in the paper. He said much the same thing recently during an interview with the BBC’s Nick Robinson.

Michael Izza, CEO of the ICAEW, writing on his blog, describes the PM’s comments as:  “uninformed and ill judged”. On this occasion, I think Michael’s comments could be self-referential.

If, instead of focusing on the headline, we consider the full quote we can see that the PM did not take a gratuitous swipe at the accountancy profession.  He said:

“People want to know that we’re not just a bunch of accountants trying to turn round the British Economy as if it were a failing economy, but that we are resolutely on their side as we do this work.”

It’s clear to me that the PM simply used the word ‘accountants’ as a short-hand for for a specific sub-set of our profession. That is the Corporate Recovery and Insolvency Practitioners. And I think he’s right to want to emphasise that the Government is not focused only on that type of specialist accountancy related activity.

The PM and Chancellor have made other negative comments recently in the context of clever accountants cooking up tax schemes. But on this occasion I suggest that those accountants who felt insulted by what they read or heard this week can calm down.

Perhaps any accountants who took offence should  think whether they could do more to avoid anyone jumping to the conclusion that references to accountants are intended to be negative slurs. The more we all do to show that accountants do not fit the old stereotypes the better.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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6 key factors that can determine your success

I recently watched an old video clip of the professional services firm guru, David Maister, in which he highlights the six most scarce resources in most professional service firms:

  • Energy
  • Excitement
  • Enthusiasm
  • Determination
  • Passion
  • Ambition

David also points out that his research has proved that the top achieving firms are those that energise, excite and enthuse their people to perform at a higher level than their competitors.  I can echo this based on my own experience and observations over the years.

Those who’ve worked with me will also know that the listed resources are all qualities that I possess in abundance. I have no doubt that they helped me reach the top of my career more so than any technical skills or technical knowledge that I developed over the years.

Would your colleagues and clients use all or indeed any of these words to describe you or your firm? If there’s a mismatch as between how others see you and how you want to be seen you will need to do something to close the perception gap. If you do nothing then nothing will change.

What other factors do you think can determine your success?

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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Event tip: Where are you from?

I was one of the hosts at a recent business event and had invited a number of guests. As is the norm all received name badges that also had their company name on them.

Well, almost.

Those guests who had a single permanent role with one firm or company had that business name beneath their name on the badges.

I had sat down with a colleague before the event to help her decide what business name to put on the badges for those where it was less than clear. The reasons for the lack of clarity were due to certain guests having multiple roles, consultancies and/or business activity. In each case they had accepted the invitation by email but had not confirmed the business name that should appear on their badge.  We plundered my memory and checked Linkedin. In many cases it just wasn’t obvious.

In almost every case this was a missed opportunity as all names also appeared on the guest list either with no business name or perhaps simply that of their personal services company or the smaller of the companies with which they are associated. And this despite my best efforts to help our guests gain maximum exposure and benefit from their attendance.

My tip then is to ensure you always make clear what business name you would like used on guest badges and guest lists when you are invited to events.

PS: I have written a 10,000+ word book specifically for accountants who want to Network more effectively. Click here for full details>>>

If you would like to book me to speak on the subject at your in-house conference or training session, do get in touch. There’s an outline of my talk on ‘How to ensure your networking activity is successful’ here>>>

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4 tips for job hunters

1 – Register on LinkedIn and complete your profile so that you are attractive to prospective recruiters and anyone looking there for someone like you. Here’s a link to a short series of blogs I wrote recently on the value of LinkedIn. Once registered you can then use LinkedIn to connect with past colleagues and business contacts. In due course you can then seek their advice and help to find your next role.

2 – Cut your CV down to 2 pages. Remember the key point is that a CV is not about getting a job. It’s about getting an interview. It needs to describe you as a person, not simply what you’ve achieved at work. And 2 pages is all it needs to be.  In practice you will also want to tailor it to each role you go for.

3 – Think about your friends and other people you know who could introduce you to the sort of new employer you’d like to work with. Then talk to your friends etc and ask their advice about how to secure intros to those people. Have a clear story as to what value you would be to a new employer.  By the way, the more specific you can be as to the type of business you are looking to work with, the more you increase the chance of someone being able to effect a suitable introduction.

4 – Depending on the type of role you are considering going for  you might find networking to be a worthwhile activity.  Important to recognise that networking is best done when you are not desperate, and are in position to ‘give’, help and share more than you seek to ‘take’ or gain until people get to know, like and trust you.   I’ve written quite a bit about networking (on and offline) on my blog.

The above list is adapted from an email I sent to a friend of a friend recently after he sought my advice re his new job hunt. He’s an FD and looking to move into a more entrepreneurial environment. 

 

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Are you assertive or aggressive?

I was recently asked my views on the benefits of being assertive rather than aggressive in getting a tax job and in your tax career.  Here’s what I said as is published in Taxation 2 magazine:

While we are used to seeing aggressive characters getting their way on the screen and maybe even in the office it’s not a good way to act during an interview. And it’s unlikely to be a successful tactic when negotiating a  pay rise or dealing with clients – even the most difficult ones.

I have long remembered the rationale for being assertive. It means you recognise that although the other person may have rights, so do you. When you act aggressively you deny the other person their rights.  And when you act submissively or non-assertively, you deny your own rights. If this is your default position then you would probably benefit from some assertiveness training. It’s hard to respect non-assertive interviewees or professional advisers.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Many of us have worked for an aggressive boss who we think revels in his ability to bully us. This may force us into a non-assertive stance. it will rarely enable us to get the best outcome.

I would add that many people confuse being assertive and being aggressive.  To reiterate the distinction above:

When you are assertive you recognise that you are entitled to information, clarification or a reply but that your entitlement is no greater (or less) than the other person’s entitlement to respect, politeness and honesty.

You are being submissive, passive or non-assertive if you remain silent when you ought to ask for help or explain your needs. This behaviour communicates a sense of inferiority. Typically it involves you thinking or acting as if others’ rights and needs are more important than your own. When you do this, other people may not be able to help you because you act as if there’s no problem. This approach will rarely serve you well in interviews, in the office or with clients. Much better that you should feel comfortable, and know that you have the right to ask for assistance or clarification when needed.

Many people confuse assertive behaviour with aggressive behaviour.  The latter typically comes across as bullying or disrespectful, implying that “my needs, wants, and rights come first.” When someone is acting in an aggressive manner, he or she doesn’t ask for assistance, but demands it.

Assertiveness is a skill. It’s not natural for everyone and can take practice to strike the right balance so that you do not come across as aggressive.  Being naturally assertive is a skill worth developing.

Like this post? You can now obtain my ebook containing loads of valuable insights, short-cuts, tips and advice for accountants who want to STANDOUT and speed up their success. You can buy the book or download a summary for free here>>>

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