Those fond of making the stereotypical accountant jokes may have given some thought to the top 10 traits of a great accountant and come up with the usual clichés.
But we all know that not all accountants are the same.
In fact, given the diverse range of fields that make up accountancy, the characters and personalities who’ve chosen accounting as a career are a similarly diverse bunch.
However, there are a number of traits that all of the very best accountants have, no matter what industry or type of organization they work in, with virtually no exceptions.
From 10 to 1, here are the top traits of a great accountant:
Whether it’s spending the day with their head in a 1000 page tax code or a 50 tab spreadsheet, there is always going to be a need to be in the detail. Even if you’re the CFO you need to be in the detail. Because if that report that’s just left your desk with the numbers about to be reported to the market is wrong, there can be massive repercussions.
Err, so didn’t you just say accountants had to be detail focussed? They have to focus on the big picture as well? Yep, you read correctly. Accountants need to understand how the decisions they make can influence the wider landscape. Their responsibility these days isn’t just about balancing the books; it’s also about being a key strategic advisor.
They call it professional skepticism; the attitude of being suspicious of every piece of information provided to you by someone else. What this does is encourage you to check the facts for yourself, and gather enough evidence so you’re assured that the piece of information is in fact correct.
Here’s one for the joke-makers. Yes, accountants are conservative. But note that we didn’t say boring, just conservative. Accountants need to be the voice of reason pointing out the cons when everyone else is focussing on the pros; identifying the threats when others are just seeing opportunities. Every team needs someone like this.
Sticking with the conservative theme, accountants should treat their company’s money like it’s their own and spend it wisely. Plus, they should be setting an example to others and encouraging them to do the same. A good accountant will always have their eye on the bottom line, and be looking for ways to assist in the achievement of financial goals.
Most accountants are the types that love to challenge their brains. Don’t let them get started on Sudoku because they’ll get addicted in five minutes. The good thing about this trait is that they help businesses succeed by using their analytical thinking to identify problems and come up with practical ways of solving them.
The best accountants don’t just accept a statement about an issue. They ask the question why. And when they hear the answer they probably ask why again a couple more times. This curiosity helps them get to the root cause of an issue, which in turn enables them to come up with the best solution!
The accountants leave the scattergun approach to the more creative types like advertisers. If you’ve ever seen an audit file, you’ll see an example of structure and method at its best. Everything is ordered and referenced, plus sometimes you’ll still see the trusty old green pen at work. Being methodical means that information can be found efficiently, and all conclusions are supported by evidence.
Ethics is at the heart of all accounting qualifications and accreditations, and the profession has worked hard to obtain the prestigious status it has acquired. Accountants are often placed in positions where an ethical dilemma is faced. They need to make sure they make the right call in these situations, and uphold the integrity of themselves and their professional colleagues.
This gets the number one spot, because if an accountant doesn’t understand the business they’re working for or with, it will be impossible for them to provide the quality of advice or assistance expected.
The best accountants add value to a business. This can range from delivering an effective stewardship function through to identifying cost saving efficiencies. The common thread for all aspects is that the accountant helps a business achieve their goals.
So there you have it: the top 10 traits of a great accountant. If you’re considering accounting as a career, have a think about how many traits fit in with your personality. If you’ve got more than a few, you’re on the right path!