Many people think that in order to be an accountant you need to be a mathematical wizard, however this is not the case. Accountancy is based around numbers, and you do need a good grasp of basic mathematical concepts and techniques but that is as far as it goes. As long as you can add, subtract, multiply, divide and are comfortable with percentages and fractions you will be fine. You do not need a diploma in advanced calculus or anything like that.

As an accountant you will need good analytical skills and be able to disseminate numerical data quickly and accurately. You need to be quick thinking and fast on your feet in order to do this task properly. A good accountant will be stronger and more comfortable with the analytical aspects of accountancy rather than the number crunching aspect.

The humble calculator - An essential tool of the accountant.

The essential tools of an accountant - A purple calculator, some english coins and a silver penCredit: image supplied by yackers1

Numbers are obviously important in accountancy, however it should be noted that accountancy isn’t just a numbers based career. There are many other skill and requisites a good accountant must have to become successful and climb the accountancy ladder.

An accountant must have good communication skills. The day to day role of an accountant will consist of face to face conversations and meetings with clients, drafting letters and emails to clients and talking on the phone to clients. As an accountant you will use all forms of communication, therefore you have to be comfortable with them. A weakness in any form of communications, be it written or oral, may seriously affect your journey up the accountancy ladder and the chances of promotion.  

An accountant must also have good people skills. An accountant will come across many different types of people during their day to day role, including clients, solicitors, bank managers, investors and other accountants amongst many others. In order to get the best out of each and every person you will need to speak to them differently and treat them as an individual. Solicitors, bank managers and investors are important contacts to have and, provided you establish a good working relationship, will refer new clients to you and help your accountancy business grow. If you cannot strike up these professional relationships the clients will be referred elsewhere, which can be detrimental to your accountancy business. Reputation is very important and if you can’t get on with fellow professionals any potential clients will hear about this and you will lose work. Many people under estimate the importance of people skills in accountancy so don’t let yourself be one of them.

To be an accountant you need to be organised and good at managing time. Working in public practice you will have many different types of clients and you have to keep on top of things and ensure you are aware of their affairs. You need to know when the important deadlines are, such as when company accounts need to be filed, when the Annual return needs to be filed etc. and keep in contact with your client to ensure these dates are not missed. Missed deadlines result in charges, penalties and interest for your clients, which is not good. Many clients are aware of the deadlines but it does look good when you call a client and explain a deadline is coming up and you need the information to deal with their affairs.

A good accountant is proactive and takes the lead. Rather than let the clients come to you, you must go to the clients and this applies to new and long term existing ones. Contacting the client to get their books and records well ahead of time demonstrates you care about the client and want to ensure they get their finances sorted out, which will build up a good and long lasting relationship.

An accountant must be willing to embrace change and be adaptable. The world is constantly changing and the world of business changes exceptionally rapidly. To be successful, you must keep up with these changes and respond to them. Whilst you may not agree with certain changes you have to make sure you do what it takes to keep up to date or you will lose clients.

The world of accountancy doesn’t stay still and is constantly changing. Tax rates change, company law changes, tax rules and regulations change, generally accepted accounting practices change etc. etc. In order to service your clients properly a good accountant must keep abreast of these changes and attend courses, lectures, seminars, colleges etc. to do this. If you are not prepared to undertake further study and training you should not go in to the world of accountancy.

A good accountant should be inquisitive. When preparing your clients accounts you need to look behind the figures and make sure they stack up and make sense. If something doesn’t look quite right you need to question it and find out the reasons why. You should never take the numbers at face value. Questioning the numbers will make your client look closely at their figures, which may identify some business flaws. You may find your clients are margins are dropping and your client was so wrapped up in their business they didn’t even notice. This will allow your client to take corrective action to improve their business.

A good accountant needs to be empathetic and really care about their clients. If you don’t really care about your clients or their businesses and are just in it to make a living, you should not be an accountant. You must want what is best for your clients and do everything you can to do something for them.

As an accountant you have to be prepared to go the extra mile. There are times when you will be working very hard right up to the wire in order to get your clients’ affairs filed by the deadlines and you must be prepared to put the effort in.

It is obvious that an accountant needs to be good with numbers and have good knowledge of basic concepts but there are many other different skills an accountant needs, many of which are core to being a good accountant. Many people overlook the skills required to be a successful accountant and will gloss over them.