Strategic accountants and Yeti's

It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so
— Mark Twain

The New Zealand Herald, ran an article persuading small businesses that they needed to ensure their accountant was able to add value as a general business consultant including the provision of 'credible strategic advice'. It is a little old now, 2013, but I don't believe the thinking has changed one bit.  Here is a snippet (my highlighting!).

Business consultant - A good accountant will help your business grow by bringing a wider commercial perspective to the partnership. For small businesses, your accountant should be a trusted business adviser and provide credible, strategic advice. They should be able to evaluate business problems and offer solutions. To do this successfully, your accountant will make the effort to understand your business and your product or service, right from the very first meeting.

Lets be clear about this, accountants are accountants and that makes them qualified to provide accountancy advice. Why don't they dispense legal, medical, training or HR advice?  Because they aren't qualified. It's that simple.

Somehow, however, the article believes they are equipped to hand out business and strategy advice. The only logical conclusion I can reach is that business and strategy must be easy or common sense. Really?

Business strategy is arguably the most important bit to get right and my research demonstrated that those who are good at it have learnt through hard work and reflection. Unsurprisingly no one I interviewed thought that accountancy was the way to improve their strategy skills. Also unsurprisingly none of my participants, all selected through peer recognition of their strategic ability, were accountants. Two started down that path but realised it wasn't for them! 

A rare look at a strategic accountant....

A rare look at a strategic accountant....


I know I tend to upset accountants, often my colleagues, but the chances of finding an accountant who is a competent strategist is remote. They spend their working days not being strategic and looking at historic financial figures. They're gaining valuable experience in accountancy and they should stick to this and not charge absurd hourly rates delving into areas where they are not qualified and not competent.