I’ll Tell You What I Want… What I Really, Really, Want…” Accountants Speak Out!


I’ll tell you what I want… what I really, really, want… Accountants Speak Out!

An accountant walks into a bar and orders a beer. His friend says, ‘Why did you order that kind of beer?’ The accountant thinks for a while. He’s been ordering this beer for 15 years and hasn’t thought much about his choice recently.

‘Taste’, he replies boldly. ‘I like the taste’. Next thing his friend orders 8 different beers and the accountant is perplexed. ‘I didn’t know it was that kind of night?’ he enquires sheepishly. ‘Fear not’ his friend declares, ‘I just want to test how well you can discern the taste of different beers’. He then blindfolds the accountant who proceeds to taste the different lagers on offer.

What happens next?

Well… statistically, our story would end with the accountant unable to identity his preferred beer. Maybe he can narrow the choice down from 8 to 3 but he’s highly unlikely to identify his beer of choice. Does that mean he was being dishonest saying ‘taste’ is the main influence on his purchase? Of course not… he’s an accountant after all!!

The fact is that most consumers cannot accurately state WHY they buy something. This is understandable because there are often complex, emotional factors which drive our purchase choices. Not all ‘needs’ or ‘drivers’ of purchase are equally important. And in different situations, different needs may prevail. Our brains process all of this information in an instant when we are confronted with choices. No surprise there is a lot of science that goes into marketing, and its big business.

In a similar vein, we’ve been wondering what accountants REALLY want from their accounting businesses. They work hard and deal with many challenges arising from technology, team, clients, cash, competition and so on. Why stick to it?

Take a snapshot of the press and ads that accountants see each day. You might conclude that accountants want to become advisors given all the ‘advisory solutions’ out there. You might also assume accountants want to build large businesses because there is a lot of talk about growth through improved marketing and sales. Maybe accountants want to grow their tech skills to ensure their relevance in the modern age. Certainly, there are hundreds of software solutions claiming to make technology easier for accountants.

But are these the most important needs / drivers? We investigated the main drivers of behaviour of accounting business owners. Not what motivates them on a day to day basis but those fundamental needs which keep them moving forward.

The research is fully detailed in a White Paper but here are some highlights:

1. Prestige (or social status) is NOT a major motivator for accountants

We read a lot about the declining prestige of the accounting industry, partly evidenced by lower intake of accounting students at universities. But prestige scored significantly lower than all others choices put to accountants.

2. Building a business or ‘entrepreneurship’ also scored relatively low

This refers to creating an organization or legacy that will continue after the founder is no longer there. While accounting business owners are entrepreneurs, many are less interested in building large or independent organisations. This is not surprising given the disproportionately high number of small accounting firms and the fact that many entrepreneurial accountants pursue their entrepreneurial endeavours outside their accounting businesses.

3. Near the top of the list are two related ideas: Lifestyle and Fun

The former refers to the accountant being able to pursue things outside of work like other business interests, hobbies and family. Accountants want this lifestyle ‘balance’. Fun refers to the environment in which accountants work; the day to day atmosphere, the activities, the enjoyment. Accountants want a minimum level of ‘fun’ at work otherwise… it’s not worth it.

4. The second most important driver is Making an Impact (or a Contribution)

Accountants value knowing their work positively impacts someone (clients, team and community) or something (a business, an industry or the economy). Accountants want to make a positive impact.

5. What do you think is the strongest factor which drives the behaviour of accountants?

Wait for it… enough suspense… it’s Financial Security!

Like many business people, accountants are intent on securing their financial future. At a minimum, that means maintaining living standards now and into the future. The exact definition of living standards may vary by accountant but achieving Financial Security is their main priority. (Interestingly, respondents in Australia and New Zealand prioritized Making an Impact slightly above Financial Security while North American respondents prioritized Financial Security over Making an Impact). What does this all mean?

There are a few important takeaways:

  • We should take a good look at the drivers in our business lives. What drives you? Remember, the answer may not be as obvious you think.
  • Once you identify your principal needs, think how well you are fulfilling them? Perhaps you are already there or you have a long way to go? Are your day-to-day activities getting you closer to fulfilling your needs? Or are you ‘spinning your wheels’?
  • Things will change depending on the stage of your career. It’s good to rethink this from time to time.
  • Your colleagues, competitors and clients all have the same challenge. Have you asked your clients about what drives them? You might enhance understanding and unlock opportunity if you ask. (Panalitix offers MarketDecoder – a solution which deepens understanding of your clients and their drivers. Contact us for more information).
  • Think why you REALLY select that beverage, favourite dish, car or hairstyle. The answer may be less obvious than you think!

And in the course of your discovery, remember that Panalitix helps businesses define their vision (VisionBuilder), better understand their clients (MarketDecoder) and set goals and plans (Strategize). Contact us for more information. Talk to us today to help you use Panalitix Technology Solutions for your business.

Download the recent Panalitix research on what accounting business owners really want out of their businesses. Participants in North America, Australia and New Zealand responded to questions about their most important ‘desires’ as business people. Understanding these ‘needs’ or ‘drivers’ is important because they influence business strategy, goals and plans.


Mark Ferris

Mark is an entrepreneur who has founded, built and sold a number of businesses, mostly in the information technology industry. His businesses have served major multinational companies in areas including business intelligence, process improvement and procurement across Asia, North America and Europe.

As an investor, Mark focuses on early-stage technology businesses with an interest in SaaS companies and providers of content. Mark lectures in an Executive MBA program on entrepreneurship, mentors numerous businesses and is a frequent speaker in business forums.