This morning, a client asked me if I enjoy what I do. Not that I looked gloomy. She just couldn’t believe that anybody could find all those numbers exciting.
I’m lucky. I love what I do. Even during tax season.
But…. it’s not about the numbers. Believe it or not, I can spend several workdays without looking at a single number. There’s enough other stuff to do – learning about a client’s new venture, helping Allison work out the best way to leverage a new technology, refining our processes with the team. Or trying to work out if somebody really means it when they say “As little tax as possible, however you do it.”
It’s about the people
I really like my clients. I honestly view them as friends. (I don’t ask if they feel the same way….)
Many of these friends, I only see once a year. That’s why I like tax season. Sure, it’s crazy-busy, but it’s when I talk to a lot of people I like, find how they are, how their kid’s hockey team did this season – and try to save them some money. For the most part, these friends are good decent folk, and a pleasure to talk to. Most are in regular employment, have a small side-business, or are enjoying a well-earned retirement. They have dreams, hopes, and loved ones.
I value these relationships and appreciate the business. But if the government abolished income tax tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t see many of these friends again. Fair enough. Bottom line, I’m helping them fulfill an irritating annual duty with as little pain as possible. We’re filing tax returns here, people.
Business spoken here
I had a light-bulb moment about a year after I finished my professional exams. Until that point, I thought accounting was all about the math and technical knowledge and tax returns and exciting stuff like that. But it’s not. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Once you understand how accounting works, you’ve simply learned another language. It lets you say “I speak business”. You can understand what drives businesses as diverse as customs brokers, coffee shops, credit unions and consultancies, to name a few I’ve worked with. Anywhere in the world.
And the best thing about speaking this language? Well, as with any new language, it opens up a whole new set of conversations.
Sure. But who are you talking to?
When we moved to Windsor, my business life changed. The most obvious change was scale. In Toronto, I mostly worked with public companies and multinationals. That work was mostly technical and rules-based: does this report to the stock market comply with the rules? Sure, the conversations were intellectually challenging, but I didn’t add much to human welfare. Almost everyone I worked with was an accountant who worked as an accountant in a big corporation. Yay!
Here, a totally different picture. I was still an accountant working with clients – but all of a sudden, I was talking to entrepreneurs and business owners. They weren’t accountants. The numbers were often much smaller – but they actually meant something. As in, it reflected what the client took home at the end of the day, rather than a calculation that affected a quarterly earnings report that was ignored by almost everybody.
Very quickly, I found I love working with business owners. They’re normal people but also a slightly different breed. If you’ve never been in business – as opposed to being in “normal” employment – you may not understand this. This is the secret that business owners have found out…
It’s the biggest game there is.
That’s it. Really.
You find something you can do (or make or sell) – and do it so well people are prepared to pay you for it. Then, even better, you find you can make a living out of it. Then – wow – you get to experiment and see what works. Create a new product, try a new marketing technique, change your pricing, hire someone so you can concentrate on other stuff. Really, the only limit is your imagination – and what you’re willing and able to do. Before you know it, you’ve created jobs and can support yourself and your family with what you’ve built with your own wits and efforts. What could be more fun than that?
So…. when you “speak business”, you get to play this game with your friends. Our closest clients are those we work with each month – because we get to help them raise their game, not just tot up the numbers at the end of a year.
In praise of business owners
Have you ever noticed you hear lots of criticism of big business – but everybody admires an entrepreneur (up to Bill Gates’ level)? And nobody has a bad word to say about small- or medium-size business?
The game isn’t one to play if you don’t mean it. You can’t take your ball and go home – this is how you feed your family. But, if you can accept that, you’ll never want to work for anybody else again. You’re only accountable to yourself.
That’s the key thing: In this busy 21st century, being a business owner gives you as much control over your life as anything else. Meaning also, there’s nobody else to blame. So, I never hear my clients complain how they hate their job, how they had to work another weekend, how their boss sucks, why the world is against them. They’ve fully embraced control over their lives. And, despite the stress, long hours and uncertainty, that’s why most business owners are fully living their lives – and are happy with their lot.
Don’t you prefer being around happy people?