Do you recognise these 9 types of commentator on the accountancy profession?

May 21, 2019 | Business Strategy, Strategy

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know I like to debunk the hype around many issues addressed by other commentators. Sometimes they are right on the money but often they are way off the mark – and this can be for any of a number of reasons.

Are you able to avoid getting sucked in when you see or hear biased views that may not be appropriate for you and your practice? It’s a trap I aim to avoid in my blog posts, articles and talks.

Do you recognise the 9 different types of commentator I reference below?

I won’t name names so will leave you to decide who you think fits into which category.

Here’s my suggestion as to the 9 different types of commentators you might encounter:

  1. Promotors – It often seems to me that the Promoters’ primary aim is to secure attention. They make outrageous or at least over-inflated assertions about what “all accountants must do to stay in business”.  All change is ‘unprecedented’. Or else they are offering a magic solution to all of your woes and challenges. Rarely do their claims prove justifiable with the benefit of hindsight – and I’m generally pretty dismissive of their claims when they first surface. Recent years have included claims you must be blogging, have an app or be active on social media. And if you’re not, how come you’re still in practice? 😉
  2. Tippers – These are the people who talk about how the coming year will be a ‘tipping point’.  Often, just as they did last year. And the year before. For example, every year since at least 2015 has been promised as heralding the tipping point re the adoption of cloud accounting. I think we are at last there – now in 2019.  There have also been many years projected as the tipping point for accountancy firms to niche their target audiences and/or to move into advisory services.
  3. Outsiders – These people and their businesses are often new to the accountancy profession. They repeat and repackage what they have heard elsewhere. Inevitably most accountants are already bored of this ‘news’ so don’t take much notice even when the Outsiders link their ‘new’ solution to this upcoming major ‘change’.  Often their solution isn’t that attractive or relates to a ‘problem’ that is less of an issue than the Outsiders thought. And, of course, their not so subtle promotional message then don’t have the desired impact.
  4. Surveyors – They’ve commissioned or undertaken a survey and produce a summary of the results. Often this is all that gets reported (it happens in other professions and industries too of course). But unless you go back and check who was surveyed, what questions were asked and what options were given for replies you won’t know whether there is adequate justification for the headline results. Often there isn’t.  Wearing my ‘debunking’ hat I have seen this happen many times, for example in the context of accountants’ apparent take up of ‘social media’. It’s invariably overstated or fails to distinguish use of Linkedin from the less business focused social media platforms.
  5. Academics – The quality of their commentaries depends, inter alia, on their understanding of the different elements of the profession.  It also depends on the way in which the academics reference the different elements of the profession when reporting their views as to the future of the profession.  Any study of accountants that reaches conclusions that fail to distinguish those in (the relatively small number of) larger firms from (the huge number of) sole practitioners, for example, must be suspect.
  6. Newbies – Typically journalists who are relatively new to the accounting profession, reporting the news surrounding the profession.  Some go further and collate data and news stories and offer their own independent commentaries. Often these are illuminating and makes the story easier to understand. On other occasions these journalists end up reaching unwarranted conclusions because they have started with preconceptions (based on outdated stereotypes) or unreliable press releases quoiting ‘facts’ the newbies were ill-equipped to challenge.
  7. Mywayers – Practitioners who have achieved a degree of success and who seem genuinely keen to help others to replicate this. Sometimes altruistic, sometimes arrogant and often admirable. Some suggest that they are better placed than anyone else to help other accountants – although their experience is often limited to their own practice and assumes that everyone can replicate their success – despite key differences in background, style, preferences and experience.
  8. Bloggers – Some regular bloggers seem more interested in seeking attention by making unsubstantiated predictions. Some bloggers though have a real passion for the profession. I know I do and so I share my honest and, I hope, informed, views solely with the intention of informing and enlightening accountants in practice. Yes, it’s nice to get some kudos and to track my readership stats upwards. I have my share of detractors too of course.  I deliberately avoid hype and hyperbole as I find it a turn-off and like to think my audiences feel the same way.
  9. Futurists – I’ve yet to find anyone else who describes themselves as an accountancy futurist in the UK, but other accountancy futurists exist around the world.  Typically they reference changes and developments that are many years off having a real impact on accountants. My approach focuses more on the immediate-future and reflects my tendency to debunk the hype I see elsewhere.  So many predictions from others tend to either be outrageous (typically from ‘Promoters’), headline grabbing (from ‘Newbies’) or unexciting as we anticipate continual but hardly revolutionary changes. In recent years we’ve had, on the one hand, the threatened decimation of smaller firms when KPMG and PWC launched their small business packages. Impact? Negligible. On the other hand, 2019 is the 8th year in succession that accountants have been told they must start producing videos if they don’t want to lose out. Yeh. Right.

Do you recognise my list? By all means let me know if you can think of any more categories, and if you have better titles for any of the 9 I have identified above.

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