Most sole practitioners are justly proud of their technical skills. It is also common to find that some sole practitioners undervalue the importance of ensuring that they have all the business skills they require to be profitable in the short-term and successful in the longer-term.
At best only lip-service is paid to the development of non-technical skills. And yet, there are few accountants whose success is solely dependent upon their technical skills.
I know that my own career success owes more to the development of non-technical skills than it does to my knowledge and application of tax law.
How do we gain our technical skills? No one is born a great accountant, lawyer, tax adviser or whatever. Typically we learn by working alongside experienced colleagues, by studying to pass relevant exams and by our experiences in practice.
Why then should anyone imagine that the other key skills of a profitable accountant can just be left to ‘common sense’?
Some people assume that all of the important non-technical skills can be developed merely through trial and error. And to an extent they can. In time. If we are willing to recognise what works and what doesn’t work and to adapt our behaviour accordingly. This is great as it means that no formal training is necessary.
Anyway, we know that older practitioners didn’t have any such training. Either it wasn’t around or they didn’t need it. But life was simpler back then. Accountants didn’t have to market themselves. There was less competition and clients had less idea as to what they could realistically expect from their accountant.
The world has changed. Clients are far more choosy now and can easily find a new accountant whenever they choose.
It won’t surprise regular readers of this blog that I do not agree with the idea that it’s best to just learn from your mistakes. Nor do I accept another similarly flawed attitude one encounters all too often: Practice makes perfect. No it doesn’t. ‘Practice’ makes ‘permanent’. If you develop bad driving habits and practice driving, you won’t become a better driver. You will merely reinforce your bad driving habits. The same is true of running a small practice.
I have long been a believer in the importance of developing key personal and business skills. If you sense there are gaps in your skill set and you’d like some tips as to where you could go to learn how to close the gap, drop me a line and I’ll see what I can suggest.