Over the last year I’ve gotten some recognition from various accounting organizations and publications. The most recent just came at the 2017 Scaling New Heights conference, where I received the “Up-N-Comer” award, which is one of the categories of Insightful Accountant’s Top 10 ProAdvisors. Following the presentation of that award, several colleagues have been asking how they can pursue similar recognition. What am I doing that gets so much attention? Generally I keep the Empower Your Passion column focused on a broader business audience. Fellow accountant, this one is just for you.
#10 – Get Certified
Whatever accountant software solutions you claim be be a pro in, make sure that you have the certification, and keep it up to date. You don’t necessarily need to have a degree in accounting (I don’t), but you do need to have the skills and knowledge you claim to have. Certifications go a long way to having all of us raise the bar in the accounting and bookkeeping profession.
#9 – Attend Professional Conferences
My very first conference was Scaling New Heights in 2015. That experience changed my life and my practice forever, and helped me to realize that, as a bookkeeping professional, I am an accountant. I now work to help others in the same ways. Jim Rohn says that we are an average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Professional conferences are an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the company of the best and brightest in accounting, become one of them, and pursue continuing education at the cutting edge of the profession. The admission and travel can be cost prohibitive, and it is worth the investment. Take a chance and go.
I don’t get to as many business books as I would like. I have a stack next to my bed of all the delicious titles that people have recommended. Someday I will find the time to get through them all. Until we get to the point where we can create a Matrix-style port into my brain to simply download the information, I need to take them one at a time. Each rocks my world in a different way. I add to the stack much faster than I’m getting through it. Listen to audio books on Audible helps a great deal with both time-management and shelf space. If you are looking for a good place to start, dive into “The Intentional Accountant” and “The EMyth Accountant,” both by Darren Root.
#7 – Write
Not everyone is a writer… yet. It’s a skill, like anything else, and it takes practice. One of the best ways to leave your mark on the accounting profession is to have ideas about our work and write about them. If you don’t feel like the most eloquent wordsmith, that’s OK. Just start, and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Develop your style. The worst case scenario is that you will discover that you don’t enjoy it, in which case there are nine other things on this list for you to try. It takes time, and we need to make the time for it. I am making the time for this, for you, right now. It’s after 10:00 on a Sunday evening, and I’m thinking about how to help you, my fellow accountant. Thanks for taking the time to read it. That makes it all worthwhile.
#6 – Teach
You don’t wake up one morning having never taught before and say, “I think I’m going to speak at a conference.” Just like writing, teaching takes practice. Fortunately, you already have a great start. As an accountant, you teach your clients on a daily basis, educating them about software, systems, routines, reports, and best practices. Over time, you can just add another person to your audience, one by one. Offer to facilitate an educational conversation with some of your clients that have a common interest or difficulty. Find out what topics your local SBDC or SCORE organizations may need. Be sure to pursue topics about which you are truly passionate.
#5 – Lead
Many people don’t believe they are leaders, and as a result they are always looking for someone to follow. If you want recognition as an accountant leading our profession, it’s time to step into your personal power and recognize the leader within you. Everyone can be a leader because there are many kinds of leadership qualities. The important thing is to be of service to those around you. Not sure where to start? Check out my three-part article series on Overcoming the Fear of Leadership.
#4 – Know Your Strengths
No one is good at everything. The accounting profession is diverse and faceted, with more niches and nuances than any of us could ever pursue at once. Perhaps someone could know it all years ago, before we had thousands of apps and industries to specialize in. No longer.
Someone decided that I was a pretty good accountant, and I can tell you right now that I don’t know it all. Nowhere near. I don’t have an accounting degree or a business degree. What I have is passion and a knack for thinking outside the box. Maybe your strength is that you have memorized every depreciation schedule known to humankind. That’s pretty cool! That’s not my strength.
Whatever your strength is, own it. Focus on it. Flex it on a regular basis, and watch it grow. We can improve our weaknesses by inches, and we can improve our strengths by miles. When your strengths shine brightly, no one sees your weaknesses except you.
#3 – Delegate Your Limits
We can’t do it all. When you are focusing on your strengths, you need to find others that compliment and balance you. Find people who play at the things you work at. It may be that those things change over time. Decide what you want to spend your time doing, and work on delegating the rest. It won’t be perfect all the time, but it is certainly better than doing things that you don’t enjoy.
I must admit, after several years of doing back-end accounting work for my clients, it started to feel a little tedious to me. I would get the accounting done just so I could sit down with the client and have another strategy meeting. The strategy was the carrot at the end of the stick. Then I met Vanessa, who loves puzzles and reconciliations more than just about anything. Now each of us has a big pile of the carrots of our choosing. As a result, when I’m not meeting with clients I have more time to write, teach, pursue continuing education, and create. I make time to do those things by recognizing that I don’t have to be an accountant alone. Vanessa is happy to push me into the spotlight and accept the awards. To me, she is the real hero.
#2 – Help Others
I dedicate a great deal of my personal time outside of working in my practice toward creating and maintaining accountant and business organizations that help to educate other professionals and move our industry forward. Volunteer some time to make the world a better place, and don’t be shy about it. If you are looking for a great way to start helping your colleagues in your area, check out your local Woodard Group. Don’t have a local Woodard Group? Contact the Woodard Network to discover how you can create one. A Woodard Group is another great place to exercise #6, and then you will find yourself doing #5 almost by accident.
#1 – Be the Change You Wish to See
What is your WHY? What do you believe in that is bigger than you, and are you willing to fight for it? Each of us is unique. The more you differentiate yourself from everyone else, the more you stand out. It can be hard to stand out as an accountant. Being the center of attention opens us up to harsh judgments and assumptions from those around us. That is why it is even more important to be as genuinely, authentically, vulnerably, and unapologetically YOU as possible. When you act as a catalyst for a larger intention to enter the world through you, it gets the ego out of the way.
I am working to make the world a better place, built on a foundation of thriving small businesses. The highest possible realization of that vision is to help you, my fellow accountant. You in turn will help more small businesses than I could ever help by myself. The pursuit of that vision is what has been earning me recognition, and the recognition puts more energy and focus into pursuing the vision. I put myself and my ego aside, and I focus on you. Why do you want it? What will you use that energy for?
It is all too easy to put others on pedestals and assume that their achievements are out of your reach. The simple question remains: What do you want? These 10 things are what I spend the bulk of my time doing, and I love it. I love it despite the fact that I’m not rolling in money and I can’t eat trophies. My life is full of love, wonder, excitement, and new challenges every day. I would love to have that while also making more money, and I’ll get there eventually. For now, I’ve chosen the cause over more money. Not everyone has that luxury, with families to provide for. If you want to see an amazing super hero of an accountant, look at the Top Ten award winners who are also parents. They are truly outstanding.
How do you want to spend your time? What do you want your life to look like? Do you want to be one of the Top Ten ProAdvisors? Can you do that while also doing all of the other amazing things you are doing? I don’t know because I’m not you. Your path as an accountant and your priorities are for you to choose. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to do it alone. Let me know if there is anything you need, and I’ll do my best to help.