Seeking inspiration for change

Author Mary Ann Evans, better known under her pen name of George Eliot, may seem an odd place to start for an article written for accountants.

I live quite close to the town of her birth, Nuneaton. The town’s hospital is proudly named after her. That’s a connection rather than a reason though.

No, the reason why I start with the great English author is because of this quote from her:

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”

Those of you who follow my material will know that I love using quotations. The many, many people out there who make far better use of the English language than my own ‘O’ level standard provide inspiration for much of my content, as George Eliot has done here.

I have had another week of introductions to accountants who know what they should be doing but are frustrated by the place that they find themselves in. They want to:-

  • change their firm for tomorrow but are blocked by the demands and deadlines of today
  • change their client relationships onto a more value-added footing but don’t have the buy in of the clients 
  • change their team into one that steps up but can’t get the engagement from those around them

In my experience, most accountants running their own firms find themselves in the position of working in their business rather than on it. For many, there is an acceptance that this is just how it is. They talk to other accountants in the same boat and console themselves that, whilst their original goals are now just a distant dream, the recurring income model of our profession and the ongoing compliance volumes means that their firm may not be amazing but it’s still okay. Can’t complain!

The greater frustration comes for those who still want to change. They want to be better with better clients outcomes and better team engagement. They know what they want to do…but how when there is no time beyond the present stresses?

I’ve said on many occasions that there is no magic button, no easy fix or route to success. However, to achieve desired change isn’t as insurmountable as it may seem today either. To change you have to build momentum, and to build momentum you have to be prepared to push through the initial inertia.

Two factors are crucial:

First, we have George Eliot’s quote. “It is never too late to be what you might have been”.

If you are going to change then the first thing to accepts is that you start from where you are today. We’d all love to start from somewhere easier, when we are less busy and with more resources, but, in waiting for that time to arrive, we don’t make the changes that will create it. There is no point regretting where you are or what might have been. Accept where you are today and start your journey from here. Start doing things differently today.

Second, changing your firm inevitably means changing your client and team relationships. You want both your team and your clients to better engage in your vision and goals. We’ve all tried to convince others to do things our way, to buy into our advice and plans, and usually with only limited success.

If you think about it, the people who drive change in you are those who inspire you, through circumstance, actions or words. If you are going to drive change in others then you are going to have to do more than just talk to them or send them an email. You’re going to have to inspire them with your circumstances and actions as well as words.

We don’t talk about being inspirational enough in our profession, in the same way that we don’t talk enough about passion, energy or belief. If you don’t believe passionately in what you do then why should others follow you?

Life is too short to not be passionate about what you do each day. Equally, life is too short to settle for the frustrations of today.

Being an accountant, working for you own family, with your own team and for your own SME clients is something that you can be passionate about. Passionate enough to not just settle for the status quo.

I get that some of you won’t relate to this and maybe think me a bit odd. That’s fine, you’ll not be alone!

For those who this does resonate with though, remember George Eliot’s words…

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”.

Mary Ann Evans adopted the nom de plume of George Eliot because she didn’t want to be limited by the stereotypical views of the time of women’s writing being frivolous and light hearted.

She didn’t accept the status quo.

Neither should you.

Richard Brewin

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