I read today that some accountants are working more than 40 hours a week and even having to do work over the weekend! I must admit that I could not help but laugh. Presumably, they are all in the soft South of England. I don’t think I know many, if any, accountants in business who are in this position. But then, if you want something badly enough, you work towards that goal. You can tick over with very little effort but if you really, really, really want something, you work at it.
I think we draw to some extent upon the examples of people around us early in life. My mother worked full time all her life, only retiring at 65. My father, like so many men at that time, did little around the house and rarely cooked. My mother never complained, she just got on and did what was necessary, washing, ironing, cleaning and holding down a full time job. On top of that, she always had time for the rest of the family. I like to think that a little of the energy she showed, rubbed off on her son.
The question then is whether my influence has rubbed off on my children. No comment!
Helen came from a hard-working farming family and you can certainly see that work ethic in her.
I suppose a lot depends upon what you want to achieve in your short sojourn on this rock. I never knew what I wanted to do when I was at school or even at university. After leaving university, and not getting a job related to my degree, I managed a ships chandlery and kept a few cattle, and this introduced me to the world of business. Like so many other people at that time I drifted into accountancy, but I studied in total for over 5 years and got both my accountancy qualification and my tax qualification, and in amongst it had 3 of our 4 children, with my first wife, also a farmer’s daughter (different farmer!). 18 months later me and another guy bought a small accountancy practice and I still deal with some of the families that we dealt with way back then.
It never occurred to me not to keep pushing. I studied in the evenings and at weekends to get to where I wanted to be. I needed that piece of paper that said I was a Chartered Accountant, so I could work for myself. I did not see myself as a driven, crazed individual. It just felt natural. I wanted something so I worked towards it, not relying any more than necessary, on anyone else.
I heard recently that some accountancy trainees now expect to study during the normal working day. It is as if they are doing their employer a favour in doing the training and not doing it for themselves. To me, this shows a lack of vision. They do not seem to see the bigger pictures, where if they improve their knowledge and understanding, they become more useful; to their employer and the clients that they work on, and in so doing, make themselves more employable, valuable and deserving of higher salaries. They work to live and are unwilling to go the extra mile to improve themselves.
Now, the books they work on belong to hard working, driven individuals who are running a business. They are at the coal face, sometimes swimming, sometimes sinking, bruised and battered from the battles of everyday business. And yet these accountants cannot understand what drives someone in business. So, they can manipulate numbers, but how can they advise the business owner and discuss matters affecting that business, if they lack that basic understanding of “being in business”.
By the way, none of our trainees get paid to study. We encourage them and provide financial assistance with courses, but if they will not commit themselves and show that they are prepared to put in the effort, we may turn off the tap.
In return, we work a lot more than 40 hours a week and we also work at weekends, because that is what we do to make the business a success and to grow and develop, just like anyone else in business.
I suppose I have never really drawn a distinction between my approach to business and my approach to life. Over the years I have learned to ride, sail and shoot a bow. I had a lot of fun with each and put in a lot of effort. I don’t think I was very good at any of them but I had a lot of fun. Now I devote my efforts to our business along with Helen, who probably works longer hours than me. It’s the life we choose. You can choose your own.
I was talking to one of our trainees this morning. I pointed out that every day was a school day, however experienced or knowledgeable you have become. There is always something new to learn, even if it is just about human nature, and we deal with a lot of diverse “humans”.
So, what is there that you want badly enough that you are prepared to put in the effort? You cannot use age, time or any other excuse. If you really, really, really want it, you will find a way.
Alan E Long
The Long Partnership