What They Don’t Teach Accountants at University

The cost of going through university and obtaining an accounting degree jumps higher and higher each year.  For some accountancy students, the completion of an accounting degree can set them back from $20 - $50,000.  On top of that, it takes a lot of hard work to achieve the qualification. 

But after you have completed your degree, how prepared are you to start up your own practice? 

After you have spent $50,000 on getting qualified you will need to know how to progress further to set up your own accounting practice that will enable you to generate revenue within a short time.

Is it simply a matter of hanging out your shingle and telling the world that you are available to help them, or is there a little bit more involved?

Some basic questions you need to consider before entering into the accounting profession include:

  1. How does one start up an accounting practice from scratch?

  2. Are there any business models you can study to ensure that you are running your accounting practice in the most efficient way?

  3. Are there strategies and tips that need to be followed in order to develop a successful accounting practice?

  4. How to you price and justify the value of the services you are providing?

  5. Who is your target audience?  Is it small businesses, medium sized businesses or larger business? 

  6. Will you specialise in the retail or manufacturing industry or not any particular industry at all?  

  7. Do you know what is required as far as marketing your services is concerned? If not, should you take a course or seek advice from an accounting mentor?

  8. Is there some way you can differentiate your accounting practice from other firms in your local area?  In other words, can you find an edge where you will have more chance of attracting fee paying businesses?

  9. Are you looking at specialising or will you be a general accountant who handles most requirements of small business?  For example, would you consider specialising in taxation, in management accounting, or some other area?

  10. What staffing will you need and do you want to work from outside premises or commence operations from home, in order to reduce operational costs?

Something else you need to consider is; even though you are an accountant, do you really know what is required to start and run a small business?  Your accounting practice is, of course, a small business and maybe you need to brush up on the fundamentals. 

Its one thing learning about entrepreneurship or how to draft a good business plans but it’s another thing totally to successfully use that knowledge to operate a profitable venture. 

The other thing is financing. 

You may need to run your business on a shoestring for some time so funding your accounting practice, especially over the first 12 months of operation will need sound assessment and direction.

Most accountants start off by working for a large accounting practice.  While working for such a practice they develop real world skills involved in an accounting firm including how to deal with clients.  Some later time they decide to set up their own practice and then find themselves having to learn the basics which mean starting at the grassroots.

If you are starting out in practice on your own, make sure you have one or two good mentors.  These will be accountants who have started their own practices from scratch and have learned what to develop and what to avoid.

Unfortunately we do not have marketing and practice development programmes in New Zealand, but these are available from some companies overseas.  

These programmes help you, as a new accountant; get to grips early with the requirements of a good practice and a shorter learning curve means your practice can grow more quickly - and make faster money.

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