Do Accountants go Up or Down?

Like any other office environment, there are often deep philosophical discussions in the course of the working day on all manner of issues. Some but not all concern accounts or tax. This morning in Inverness it was no different.

So, when an accountant’s pen runs dry, there is no lead left in their pencil and they have logged out for the last time, are they bound for heaven or the other place? My initial reaction was that accountants always go down. Don’t know why. Just a hunch.

There is however that old joke of the accountant who went to heaven and at the gate he remonstrated that his demise was premature as he was only 45. The reply was that according to his time sheets he was over 70. Being the butt of such jokes and with the stereotypical image of grey people in grey suits, does this mean that we are destined to go down.

Mind you down is not always bad. You may or may not know that my wife, fellow director and business partner is from Orkney. There, those going down are known as Doonies, the others, of course, being Uppies …. Google it! Does that mean that accountants are always Doonies and therefore heading for a watery experience in the harbour in Kirkwall? Confused? Google will answer all your questions!

Anyway, enough of these flights of fancy. The point here is how we are perceived generally. I was told that the definition of an auditor was “a statutory nuisance”.

But what about accountants generally? Are we just expensive administrators of the tax system or do we have a more constructive purpose? I certainly know a few people who think we are the former, but I would hope that most will think we have a more constructive contribution to make.

Sometimes I think we can be both in quick succession. We can get someone off the hook with HMRC, Companies House or others, or sort out a problem or worry that they have, but then we can quickly become enemy No. 1 when we send our bill.

This is one of the reasons we now work a lot with fixed prices agreed in advance and paid by monthly direct debit. Into the package, we throw in unlimited ad hoc advice and fee protection insurance. So, no nasty surprises when the bill arrives. You know what it is going to be in advance and pay it by monthly direct debit so it is easy on the cash flow. In the event of an enquiry by HMRC, the fee protection kicks in and our fee goes to the insurance company. Given you can also speak to us for as long and as often as you want, it mounts up to a nice way to do business.

I have heard recently about accountants who almost send a bill after every phone call or visit. If you are on one of our Fixed Price Agreements, that way of working is a thing of the past. There will be no clock ticking if you phone, email or even drop in.

But, at the end of the day, you have the choice. This applies to every aspect of your business or personal life but many people cannot see this. It is quite liberating when you understand this properly. You realise that all those things that you do, whether you like doing them or not, are your choice. So, every moment of your day is a choice. At the end of the day, it is entirely up to you. You made the choice so you and only you are responsible.

Anyone who knows me knows that I work funny hours so yesterday I chose to meet someone for lunch in Inverness. I was in Elgin at the time. Not only that but I did not take a laptop with me to work on the train. There is always that slight feeling of guilt for skiving off, but you need to do things like that from time to time. It’s a bit like going on holiday. I always find I need a day or two to transition to holiday mode. I know this and so plan for it. It was my choice.

So, this morning I am on the early train from Elgin to Inverness. I could have chosen to sit and look out of the window. My choice. I sat looking out of the window yesterday, and while the views are interesting, there is only so much coasting that my conscience will permit. Lauren is waiting for me and I am already late. For those who don’t know, Lauren is that magic person at Adder Business who takes all my material and publishes it on various social media. I just have to prepare the material for her. Everyone needs a Lauren!

So, what will I choose to do today? Well, I have meetings in Inverness and then must travel to Thurso. I am frequently asked where I am based, but I just say I am fairly nomadic, so just call my mobile and it will get me wherever I am at the time. I just need a few basics.

Checklist! Laptop, mobile, earpiece … ready for another day … anywhere.

Alan E Long

The Long Partnership

07770 738770



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