This is a topic that I find endlessly fascinating and I keep coming back to it, time and time again. I think it was the SNP leadership election that brought it home. Love her or hate her, Nicola Sturgeon has been a force in Scottish politics for a lot of years and you wonder, well at least I do, what the political landscape will now look like. Don’t worry, I’m not getting political! I often wondered what Ruth Davidson would have been like as First Minister. She was another force of nature, in my humble opinion.
But when a constant in your environment changes, there is a void to be filled, and I think it is natural to wonder what, or who, comes next. We now have the results of the SNP election but many questions and uncertainties remain. What we keep forgetting is that everything without exception is in a state of flux, evolving all the time, sweeping away our comfortable pasts and replacing them with an uncertain future. Just when we think we are in the norm, it’s gone!
Nothing new here. This has been going on in the natural world for millions of years. It’s just that we get into our own comfortable routines, forgetting all the while that this rock, on which we live and constantly squabble, came into existence and some day will cease to exist. I think we are safe for a few more weeks!
I like seeing the changes. That’s not to say that they are always comfortable, but I would not want to go backwards when there was much less tech around. You only have to go back 100 years to when radio was beginning, no television, no internet, no computers, few cars. It might be interesting to experience for a “holiday” but to me, it is the stuff of nightmares. Where is my phone, how can I get to my OneDrive? I would have to go and buy a newspaper because I cannot get on to the BBC app. How would I travel? I don’t suppose I would ever have ended up in Scotland. It was half way to the Pole, and anyway, how would I get there, probably steam train.
So, give me today, but just while I wait for tomorrow.
Just like everything else, accountancy is changing. Gone are the days when everything was done on paper. Many younger accountants could not actually prepare a set of accounts without a computer. We now spend our working days never far away from an Excel spreadsheet. When it comes to filing accounts and tax returns, that is now all online, no paper. HMRC have just announced that they will no longer routinely issue paper tax returns. Mind you, I think the number of paper returns being filed was only a couple of hundred thousand, compared to the 9+ million that it was at one time. And much of the information for tax returns is held by HMRC anyway, so that, unless you are self-employed, they could probably make a pretty good stab at preparing your return anyway.
On another level, we all spend our time and efforts building up our businesses but at the end of the day, they will all, or virtually all, become forgotten, distant memories at best. I have heard it said that the first generation builds the business, the second runs it and the third runs it down. I can see a kind of logic in that and it may have been true at one time but I don’t think that this is a common scenario today. We build our business up. We all have our own drivers and motivations, and probably all want to be financially independent and comfortable. However, I do not think money alone is the only or even the main driver for most of us. Can you even say what drives you? Anyway, in a few years and after having achieved the desired state, I think most people these days are more likely to sell their business on, and there now seem to be plenty of brokers to facilitate that.
I can trace our history back to the early 1960s when a young man called Robert MacDonald-Young left the army and set up a small accountancy office, which was quite successful and grew over the years. He died in 1986 and the business was bought by a couple of young, newly qualified and highly motivated accountants keen to make their mark. In 2001, that business divided and Helen and I moved out and The Long Partnership was born. From then we have grown and developed. A process that continues today. As you may know, we acquired Cathedral Accountancy in Elgin last year, and we now have a staff of around 40.
In 50 or 100 years will anyone even remember that The Long Partnership ever existed? The business may still exist but with others at the helm and probably under a different trading name using different technologies. That’s just how the world works. We are just the guardians for a short while and then the forces of change and evolution take over.
Anyway, I am not about to hang up my pencil or put away my rechargeable blue tooth mouse anytime soon. It may be that the only constant is change and we are changing and developing with the times. I am still keen to see where we go next, What about you? Where is your business going?
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership