As a writer, it’s hard for me to ignore stereotypes. They serve a purpose in stories and it’s easy to fall back on them when I need a character who is a “typical” Canadian, stay at home mom, or fill-in-the-blank. But, what makes a story (and life) really interesting is when the characters defy the stereotype.
Since I come from an accounting background, I thought it would be fun to look at what people think is “typical” of accountants. When I typed “stereotypical accountant personality” into Google, words like dependable, structured, and practical came up.
The myths I want to bust today go beyond the words dependable, structured, and practical. These are fine words, but I’d be lying if the first thing they reminded of was...boring! And this is often the way I see accountants portrayed in stories. Most of the accountants I’ve met are anything but boring!
So, I turned to my LinkedIn network to see what myths my connections wanted to share and they came up with some I never would have thought of on my own. The myths seemed to fall into categories based on appearance, personality, and what accountants really do.
Myth #1: Accountants wear suits and ties...
Some of these comments were pretty funny. Of course there isn’t a standard way accountants look, and because there are so many different types of jobs you can have as an accountant, there are just as many ways to dress. Here are some of the myths about the appearance of accountants that my LinkedIn network shared.
Richard Grant, ACCA, says not all accountants wear grey suits. Thank goodness!! How boring would that be?
Wendy O of Zebra Chartered Certified Accountants specializes in UK taxes for Americans and says her clients are more relaxed when she dresses casually. I agree, Wendy! It’s important that clients feel comfortable with their accountant.
Accountants don’t have to wear a suit and tie. Peter Watkins, ACA, says the last time he wore a tie was to a funeral.
Myth #2: Accountants are boring...
I think what Mat White, accountant and partner relations at IWOCA, says sums up a lot of the accountant stereotypes I’ve heard over the years: “Accountants are middle aged men, sitting behind paper strewn desks, puffing cigars and telling clients that they owe loads of money to the HMRC.”
In my accounting career, I have only met one accountant that smoked a cigar and many of the accountants I’ve had the pleasure of working with have been women. Unfortunately part of the job is telling clients they owe tax, but we try to get the balance down as low as we can! We’re not “just bean counters” as Shay de Groot, Accountant at Malloch McClean says.
Helen Pretty, Coach for AAT, CIMA, ACCA, says there’s no way she’s boring and all anyone has to do is sit with her for five minutes to see she’s anything but boring!
Not only do accountants have a bad rep for being boring, but like Katie Thomas, CPA says, many people also think all accountants are introverts and are antisocial. I loved this comment from Robert Stell, FCCA that accountant are like actuaries with all the wildness removed!
Femi Azeez, Senior Financial Accountant says people often say, “You can’t be an accountant because you are very approachable and not like the typical accountant.”
The truth is, some of the best accountants are very approachable and fun! There really is no such thing as a typical accountant anymore.
Myth #3: Accountants make sure you don’t have to pay tax…
Sorry, but you do know what they say about death and taxes, right?! Accountants can absolutely help you save tax but paying no tax is pretty impossible if you’re earning income. Muhammad Talha Rehman, ACCA points out that just because you go to an accountant, doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay a single penny in taxes. We’re not miracle workers!
Brandy Burch, Financial Leader, MBA, SHRM-CP did a great job summing up the role of the accountant. Your accountant should be proactive with business intelligence rather than reactive to historical trends and they can (and should) work as a strategic business partner. It’s all about finding the right accountant for your needs.
Another common myth about what accountants do is that we sit at our desks all day. Kelly Mann, CPA, MBA points out that as an auditor, she was rarely at her desk because she was always at a client’s office. I loved Karen Richardson’s comment about her niece wanting a job like hers where she got to “shuffle paper” all day.
One nasty myth doing damage to small business owners and accountants is that accountants charge every time you call or email them. Carly Shaw, FCCA, Senior Client Manager at Wilkins Kennedy, says her office tries hard to charge additional fees only where they add value.
I hope my LinkedIn network and I have convinced you that accountants come in many different packages and can do many different things depending on their training and background. Thank you to all my LinkedIn connections who joined the conversation. If you’d like to add your thoughts, please share them below in the comments section.
If you’re a business owner and you’d like to know more about finding an accountant to help you out in your small business, check out my book Keep More Money where I guide you through the process of finding an accountant at any stage of business.