Accountants are very different to frogs

May 29, 2008 | Business Strategy

A popular parable for the impact of change is that of a frog in a saucepan of water. If the water is heated slowly the frog doesn’t really notice the temperature changing and is eventually boiled alive. (Sorry about the image). This is said to be in stark contrast to what would be the frog’s reaction if it was dropped into a pan of boiling water. It would immediately leap out and so continue living.

There are plenty of commentators who purport to warn accountants of changes that equate to the gradual warming of the saucepan. The commentators suggest that if the accountants don’t recognise what’s going on and make big sudden changes then they are doomed (like the boiling frog).

I disagree. I don’t see the need for massive changes – akin to leaping out of the pot. To my mind accountants must continue to adapt as the world around us changes. Some accountants who adapt first may gain a competitive advantage over the others, and some who refuse to adapt will eventually run out of clients and work. But it will be a gradual process. None of the catalysts for change demand revolution in the accountants’ office or marketing efforts. I believe that this is one of the reasons why my talk on Making more profits from your smaller clients is generally so well received. I highlight simple, little changes that can have a big impact. I suppose I advocate evolution rather than revolution.

Some commentators see this attitude by accountants as apathy. Accountants refusing to face the future and sticking to the old tried and trusted routes to market and service levels. So what? If accountants are too busy to plan for the future they can defer such activity until they do have time.

Alternatively f the accountant is very busy but is struggling to generate the profits they deserve then of course they need to take time out to consider their options. AS I constantly stress during my talks, ‘If you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll carry on getting what you’ve always got’. If you want things to change, YOU have do things differently. In this context some people find it helpful to engage a business coach or mentor to motivate them to identify and implement appropriate changes in their practice.

Accountants are special however. Unlike with most other professions, accountants’ clients come back year after year due to the amount of recurring compliance work that they pay their accountants to do for them. Only when a number of clients move to a new accountant will the incumbent look to consider what they can do to retain the rest of their clients and to attract new ones. Will there be enough time? In most cases, I believe the answer is ‘yes’.

What do you think?

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