Is social media a waste of time for accountants? (2 of 3)

The Accounting profession, naturally, is a part of and of course serves the business community. So it is expected that the profession considers and reflects on the thinking, attitudes, trends & practices of the business community.

With the above in mind, here are some thoughts I picked up from an article that appeared in Fast Company last month (see where the autho interviewed Ethan McCarty, Senior Manager of Digital and Social Strategy at IBM, spent the better part of an hour with me explaining the ins and outs while providing specific examples of how IBM is testing various social business approaches both internally and externally.

There are 7 big things that business need to keep in mind regarding social media.

1. Social media will be dwarfed by social business

While social media has helped many companies become more customer-centric, it is treated primarily as a modestly effective marketing tool. McCarty explained, “Social media is about media and people, which is one dimension of the overall world of business. With social business you start to look at the way people are interacting in digital experiences and apply the insights derived to a wide variety of different business processes.”

2. People do business with people, not companies

One of the notions behind becoming a social business is that your employees should be front and center in your digital activities. “Since IBM no longer sells consumer products, the brand experience for IBM is an experience with an IBMer,” an experience that is increasingly happening online, McCarty said. To support this idea, IBM recently started adding IBM “experts” to various web pages–an action that in A/B testing dramatically improved page performance and revealed increased confidence and trust in IBM in focus groups.

3. Your employees need to be digital citizens, too

Becoming a social business means recognizing the need for your employees to become “digital citizens” and providing the training for them to manage their digital reputations. Accordingly, IBM not only trains its experts extensively, it is now building out “personal dashboards” to help them see the impact of their various interactions. “Good conversation creates good outcomes and that brings value to the organization and to the individual,” McCarty said.

Tune into the next post to read the remaining 4 big things.

All my best,

James E

Is social media a waste of time for accountants? (1 of 3)

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been asked this question by clients & friends.

By way of setting some context,  lets look at where social media is currently “at” in the world today:

  1. One in every nine people on Earth is on Facebook ( This number is calculated by dividing the planets 6.94 billion people by Facebook’s 750 million users)
  2. People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  3. Each Facebook user spends on average 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site
  4. More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices
  5. More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook
  6. 30 billion pieces of content is shared on Facebook each month
  7. 300,000 users helped translate Facebook into 70 languages
  8. People on Facebook install 20 million “Apps” every day
  9. YouTube has 490 million unique users who visit every month (as of February 2011)
  10. YouTube generates 92 billion page views per month (These YouTube stats don’t include videos viewed on phones and embedded in websites)
  11. Users on YouTube spend a total of 2.9 billion hours per month (326,294 years)
  12. Wikipedia hosts 17 million articles
  13. Wikipedia authors total over 91,000 contributors
  14. People upload 3,000 images to Flickr (the photo sharing social media site) every minute
  15. Flickr hosts over 5 billion images
  16. 190 million average  Tweets per day occur on Twitter (May 2011)
  17. Twitter is handling 1.6 billion queries per day
  18. Twitter is adding nearly 500,000 users a day
  19. Google+ has more than 25 million users
  20. Google+ was the fastest social network to reach 10 million users at 16 days (Twitter took 780 days and Facebook 852 days)


Lets get local now. Here are some interesting growth statistics in Australia of the more popular social networks (source:

January 2011 (UAV – unique Australian visitors)

Facebook – 9.8 million users in Australia.
Youtube – 6.7 million UAVs
Twitter – 1 million UAVs
LinkedIn – 760,000 UAVs

Compare the above to the same statistics in August:

Facebook – 10.5 million users in Australia.
Youtube – 10 million UAVs
LinkedIn – 2 million UAVs
Twitter – 1.8 million UAVs

In just 7 months the big social networking sites have grown in Australia by:

Facebook – 7.1 %
Youtube – 49%
Twitter – 80%
LinkedIn –  163%

These are big, big numbers. The point of showing you these stats is simply to say that social media is not a fad – it is here to stay. Of course, you might be thinking to yourself that the above is all well and good but the majority of the traffic going via social media is personal and trivial. For the most part you’re right, but there are some interesting business facts that you just can’t ignore!

Tune into the next post and see how people are using social media for business.

All my best,

James E

A story about the ATO and an old man

A few days ago, a partner friend of mine in Brisbane emailed me the following joke. It is one of the funniest jokes I have heard or read about the ATO. Please forgive the language, but I just couldn’t help myself!

Grandad & the Australian Taxation Office.

The ATO decides to audit Grandad and summons him to their office.

The auditor was not surprised when Grandad showed-up with his lawyer.

The auditor said, ‘Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle, and no full-time employment, which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I’m not sure the ATO finds that believable.’

I’m a great gambler, and I can prove it,’ says Grandad. ‘How about a demonstration?’

The auditor thinks for a moment and said, ‘Okay. Go ahead.’

Grandad says, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye.’

The auditor thinks a moment and says, ‘It’s a bet.’

Grandpa removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor’s jaw drops.

Grandpa says, ‘Now, I’ll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye.’

Now the auditor can tell Grandad isn’t blind, so he takes the bet.

Grandad removes his dentures and bites his good eye.

The stunned auditor now realizes he has wagered and lost three grand, with Grandad’s lawyer as a witness. He starts to get nervous.

‘Want to go double or nothing ?’ Grandad asks ‘I’ll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between.’

The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there’s no way this old guy could possibly manage that stunt, so he agrees again.

Grandad stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can’t make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the auditor’s desk.

The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win.

But Grandad’s own lawyer moans and puts his head in his hands.

 ‘Are you okay?’ the auditor asks.

 ‘Not really,’ says the lawyer. ‘This morning, when Grandad told me he’d been summoned for an audit, he bet me $25,000 that he could come in here and p#$$ all over your desk and that you’d be happy about it!’

Don’t Mess with Old People!


Think like a waiter/waitress

This is the 3rd and final installment of Thomas Friedman’s “ways to think.”

To recap … the first way was to think like an immigrant; the second way was to think like an artisan and the third way is to think like a waiter or waitress. Weird huh?

Thomas relays the story of him and a friend having breakfast in a local restaurant at which they were regular patrons. The waitress took their order of eggs, pancakes and fruit-salad and came back a while later and served the dishes. As she was serving the food she winked at Thomas’s friend and said with a smile, “I gave you extra fruit … enjoy” Needless to say she got her a higher than average tip that morning!

The lesson here is that the waitress couldn’t exert a lot of control/influence over her job; but what she could control she used to her advantage. In the above example she controlled the fruit-salad ladle and used this degree of control to make a good impression on her customer. Perhaps the ladle was the only thing she could control in her routine and repetitive task. If that was the case she used this degree of control and used it well.

As an accountant in professional practice, you have far more control & influence than a waitress or a waiter. So it follows to ask the obvious question, “What are you doing to impress your clients or prospects?” or put another way, “How are you using your degree of control?”

  • Are you phoning them up out of the blue for no reason to ask how they are?
  • Are you giving them the research report you found on the web that you think will help their business?
  • Are you arranging to go and see them to have a coffee and chat with no agenda?
  • Are you giving them that extra bit of service (i.e. extra fruit) without charging for it?

There are of course 100’s more questions one can pose. However, what’s important to point out here is that of all the above questions, start with the words “Are you … ?”

So it’s all about you!

To sum up this 3 part series of “Think like” I encourage you to think like:

  • An immigrant
  • An artisan
  • A waitress or waiter.

If you do change your thinking along the above lines, I dare say your business & personal life will never be the same 🙂

Keep smiling and bye for now,

James E


Think like an artisan

As outlined in the last post, Thomas Friedman, encouraged his readers and listeners to adopt 3 ways in thinking about their work and professional life. The first way was to think like an immigrant, the second way which we explore in this post is to think like an artisan.

First a definition – what is an artisan? According to the ubiquitous Wikipedia:

An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools.

To unpack this definition further, an artisan was/is someone who took/takes great care in producing items of a high quality that commanded a premium price. Think of Faberge, Doulton, or Tiffany. Usually these items, carry the brand or markings of the person or persons responsible for the design or production of the piece. It is with a sense of pride that the person has their name or initials somewhere on the product so the buyer or anyone picking the item up knows with just a glance whose work it is. Naturally the artisan in question would only put their name to something that was indicative of their skill, care and attention to quality. If the item was in anyway flawed or second-rate it would never bear their name.

So too the accounting professional should think like an artisan when it comes to their “product” – be it a report, working paper, advice or anything else that bears their name. If the product is not of the highest quality possible and meets the demands of the discerning purchaser (i.e. the client) then it should not have the name of the artisan accountant any where near it. Life is too short for shoddy work or the false economy of a “short cut”

In the next post, we’ll finish up with the 3rd way for an accountant and others to think.

See you next time,

James E

Think like an immigrant

Thomas Friedman is a three-time Pulitzer prize winning journalist who works with the New York Times. He was in Australia recently and gave a speech in Melbourne. Without getting bogged down into the details of the speech, Thomas used a wonderful analogy of 3 ways in which people, should be thinking about their work & professional lives. Upon reflection, these 3 ways provide a useful framework for accountants engaged in professional practice to keep their sense of meaning, purpose and effectiveness razor sharp.

The first way is to think like an immigrant.

An immigrant, by definition, is a stranger in a new land. By and large an immigrant has no local knowledge, network of relationships and is owed nothing by anyone. What does it mean to think like an immigrant? It means that you have to make it happen – no one is going to do it for you. As a professional accountant this is a great mindset to have – taking nothing for granted and expecting that you are only as good as your current game. I’ve met way too many Accounting Partners, Directors, Senior Managers, Managers and even some Graduates whom for some reason operate their professional lives with a sense of entitlement. Be it a big client that they won a few years ago, extra post-grad education they have gained or a glowing performance review too many people are caught up in an expectation bubble that they are doing just fine and their firm/peers and even clients owe them a living.

In this post-GFC era, losing a valued client or being asked by your firm to pull up stumps and move on may only be an email, phone call or a quick meeting away.

By thinking like an immigrant, and taking on the fresh challenge every so often of proving yourself to those around you is a good discipline for any professional.

Tune into the next couple of posts to see what other characters you need to think like!

All my best,

James E




Why accountancy is not boring!

In the same vain as my last post – here is an article from our friends @ Monty Python as to why accountancy is not boring:

First let me say how very pleased I was to be asked on the 4th inst. to write an article on why accountancy is not boring. I feel very very strongly that there are many people who may think that accountancy is boring, but they would be wrong, for it is not at all boring, as I hope to show you in this article, which is, as I intimated earlier, a pleasure to write.

I think I can do little worse than begin this article by describing why accountancy is not boring as far as I am concerned, and then, perhaps, go on to a more general discussion of why accountancy as a whole is not boring. As soon as I awake in the morning it is not boring. I get up at 7.16, and my wife Irene, an ex-schoolteacher, gets up shortly afterwards at 7.22. Breakfast is far from boring and soon I am ready to leave the house. Irene, a keen Rotarian, hands me my briefcase and rolled umbrella at 7.53, and I leave the house seconds later. It is a short walk to Sutton station, but by no means a boring one. There is so much to see, including Mr Edgeworth, who also works at Robinson Partners. Mr Edgeworth is an extremely interesting man, and was in Uxbridge during the war. Then there is a train journey of 2 2 minutes to London Bridge, one of British Rail’s main London terminal, where we accountants mingle for a moment with stockbrokers and other accountants from all walks of life.

I think that many of the people to whom accountancy appears boring think that all accountants are the same. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some accountants are chartered, but very many others are certified. I am a certified accountant, as indeed is Mr Edgeworth, whom I told you about earlier. However, in the next office to mine is a Mr Manners, who is a chartered accountant, and, incidentally, a keen Rotarian. However, Mr Edgeworth and I get on extremely well with Mr Manners, despite the slight prestige superiority of his position. Mr Edgeworth, in fact, gets on with Mr Manners extremely well, and if there are two spaces at lunch it is more than likely he will sit with Mr Manners. So far, as you can see, accoun- tancy is not boring. During the morning there are a hundred and one things to do. A secretary may pop in with details of an urgent audit. This happened in 1967 and again last year. On the other hand, the phone may ring, or there may be details of a new superannuation scheme to mull over. The time flies by in this not at all boring way, and it is soon, when there is only 1 hour to go before Mrs Jackson brings round the tea urn. Mrs Jackson is just one of the many people involved in accountancy who give the lie to those who say it is a boring profession. Even a solicitor or a surveyor would find Mrs Jackson a most interesting person. At 10.00am, having drunk an interesting cup of tea, I put my cup on the tray and then…( 18 pages deleted here – Ed .) .. and once the light is turned out by Irene, a very keen Rotarian, I am left to think about how extremely un-boring my day has been, being an accountant. Finally may I say how extremely grateful I am to your book for so generously allowing me so much space. (Sorry, Putey ! – Ed.)

Need we say more?

See you next post,

James E

Accounting jokes

As I think I’ve said before … life is just too short and one should have a laugh at one’s self. Here are two jokes I found on the web: one for accountants in professional practice; the other for those who have turned their back on the profession and entered industry! Enjoy.

Joke 1

Three partners in an accounting firm go out to lunch. They are the audit partner, the tax partner and the senior partner. One of them sees a brass lamp lying in the gutter. Curious, they pick it up and give it a rub. Instantly, a genie appears. “You know the deal,” says the genie. “Three wishes. But seeing there are three of you, you can have one wish each.” “Great,” says the audit partner. “Take me to the Whitsunday Islands, give me a blonde and an endless supply of XXXX and leave me there for ever.” Pouf! There is a flash of light, a puff of smoke and he is gone. “Now me,” says the tax partner. “Take me to the Cook Islands, give me two blondes and an endless supply of offshore tax schemes and leave me there for ever.” Pouf! There is a flash of light, a puff of smoke and he is gone. The genie turns to the senior partner. “And what do you want?” “I want those two back in the office straight after lunch.”

Joke 2

An accountant applies for the position of Chief Financial Officer. There are a number of candidates and he is called in for an interview. They ask him a number of questions and one of the panel suddenly says “What is nine multiplied by four?” He thinks quickly and says “Thirty five.” When the interview is over he goes outside, takes out his calculator and finds the correct answer is not thirty five. He thinks “Well, I blew that” and goes home very disappointed. Next day he is rung up and told he has got the job. “Wonderful,” he says, “but what about nine multiplied by four? My answer wasn’t right” “We know, but of all the candidates you came the closest.”

See you next post for some more jokes.

Keep well and bye for now.

James E

Top 10 things SME clients want

From time to time I read material on the web that is very good. I came across a site for a business called Xero. I’ve never heard of them but one of their staff, Hamish Edwards wrote a blog post recently that I enjoyed reading and gives very good advice to accountants working in public practice everywhere. I’ve used the full text for the first 5 and just shown the headings for the 2nd 5. You can visit the full text of the post by visiting

In order of importance (according to Hamish)

  1. Get my tax done right
    Predictable perhaps, but for most SMEs this is their biggest priority. Your clients don’t understand tax so they rely on accountants to get it right and they prefer not to have issues with a tax authority, let alone be investigated
  2. Be proactive
    SMEs don’t really have huge amounts of time to sit back and think about how to make their business better. They want their accountant to keep an eye on stuff and alert them to things that can help. Hard to do when you have 500+ clients, I know. Luckily there are great software applications like Xero that make it easier.
  3. Wow me
    Everyone loves an unexpected service or result. We have to think of ways to Wow our clients. It can be anything from remembering their child is playing in an upcoming football tournament to being invited to a one-on-one breakfast for a catch up. Remember in the professional services game, the relationship is everything. It takes work though.
  4. Return my calls
    Okay this is customer service 101 and I know you’re busy, but you must communicate with your clients in a timely manner. If you don’t, no matter how good you are, they will get frustrated and start looking elsewhere. Make this a priority every day.
  5. Help me improve my cashflow
    Cash is King and the lifeblood of any business and yet it is generally the scarcest resource they have. Anything you can do to help your client to better understand how cash moves through their business, and ways to improve this, will benefit them. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Cash Summary report in Xero.
  6. Save me tax
  7. Don’t send me a surprise bill
  8. Know my game plan
  9. I wanna be treated well no matter how small
  10. Be nice to my staff

See you next time,

James E

The 3 Amigos

We left the last post with the story of 3 accounting partners serving a particular client very well for around 10 years and not even asking once for a referral or introduction t another business owner or CFO.

The reasons this CFO I was chatting with gave me for why he thinks accountants are not good at being on the front foot when it comes to be business development, for me, was quite telling. He shared with me two reasons:

1. Insecurity Most accountants are, by nature, not comfortable with moving outside areas they either don’t have much experience in or have not been specifically trained for. The classic example here is business development, sales & marketing. Accountants of course have to do it, but they don’t like doing it and unfortunately it shows.

2. They are first and foremost technicians. The CFO made an interesting comment that in his opinion the majority of accountants in public practice see themselves as technical & subject matter experts. Highly trained professionals who are paid for their expertise and advice. A lot of them see “selling” as being too crass and beneath them. Such an attitude can sometimes be clothed in arrogance and an inability to reach out to clients.

Now, the above thoughts aren’t mine – they belong to a CFO with more than 25 years experience working in commerce & industry. I would like to think he knows a thing or two!

See you next time,

James E