Can Accountants Become Too Efficient?

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Most Accountants are trained to be technically excellent. There is very little formal training in how to run a successful business. I have even had accountants tell me that they were rebuffed by clients when offering business improvement advice with the line ‘what would you know about running a business?’ And yet, what do you do every single day? Of course, you are running a business.


I refuse to believe that qualified CAs or CPAs are incapable of being involved in delivering business improvement related services (e.g. cash flows, budgets, KPI monitoring, revenue and profitability analysis, testing and measuring new ideas with a client, what-if analysis and scenario planning etc.) My evidence is based upon the fact that I have done this myself as a senior accountant and manager and I know of many others who have done the same. Here’s my diagnosis (and hence the title of the article.)


In the goal for maximum efficiency, I believe many firms have become lazy. Slash the hours to the minimum required to do the job with the necessary quality control. Here are some likely outcomes:

  1. Your accountants do not have time to even think about the client’s business
  2. They are unlikely to ask the client any probing questions to uncover unmet needs for fear of blowing the budget
  3. Client service drops
  4. Client needs remain unmet
  5. Accountants do not develop the necessary commercial acumen to step up and become involved in higher value work, should it arise


When I was in practice, we had a performance standard whereby a three-year analytical review of the client’s business had to be on file before a partner would accept the file and before the end-of-job meeting with the client. It made Accountants talk to clients and get at the very least a first cut analysis of why, for example, gross margin had fallen by 3% or why sales had increased by 28%.

The key point here is that Accountants need to focus EXTERNALLY (on their clients) rather than internally (on their own efficiencies.) What else could Accountants do to lift the value they provide to clients during the course of doing the year-end compliance work?



About the Author

Colin Dunn

Director & Co-founder at PANALITIX

Colin is a Chartered Accountant who, having spent almost 10 years with one of the fastest growing and most innovative firms in the UK, has spent the last 19 years working exclusively with the Accounting profession with a focus on helping them implement business advisory services with their clients. He is passionate about helping turn Accounting practices into Accounting businesses and holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and is a qualified ACA. Colin is relentless in the pursuit of improving the performance of every firm he coaches.

Colin is the brains behind ENGAGER (previously the PANALITIX app), TRUST and Proactive Success System, PANALITIX’s three cloud applications for Accountants.

He is also a prodigious author and generator of content, primarily in the form of ‘how to’ material to enable Accountants to respond to client needs with value-based services. He is the author of the bestselling book “Accountants: The Natural Trusted Advisors.”

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