Accountants as Entrepreneurs; Honing Your Management Skills

By Fisher, Steven A. | The National Public Accountant, February 1991 | Go to article overview

Accountants as Entrepreneurs; Honing Your Management Skills

Fisher, Steven A., The National Public Accountant

Accountants as Entrepreneurs

Honing Your Management Skills

Accountants spend considerable time in continuing professional education attending seminars and professional development programs. Such effort is needed to keep abreast of new concepts, techniques and technological changes affecting your work. Technical competence, however, does not guarantee success, and it is the development of managerial and business skills and the understanding of the organization that often means the difference between career success or failure.

Of course, the practitioner's first obligation is to provide quality accounting and tax services for the client, and this requires maintaining the highest level of technical competence possible. However, it is important to be mindful of the importance of other areas of practice development, such as marketing and client retention, billing and general office procedures and the recruitment, training and retention of key personnel. While all of these factors must work together for optimum success, none is more important than having competent and highly motivated staff on which you can rely. Developing personnel management skills, therefore, should be a priority for practice development in any growing firm or business.

The transition from technician to manager necessitates a change in your role from player to coach. As a player, your technical competence is required for success. However, as coach, you must possess the necessary managerial skills to lead. The greatest player is not necessarily a successful coach. You must live with less direct control, set goals, direct the activities of others and learn to delegate responsibilities.

Most individuals have the ability to be effective managers. However, you may not be able to automatically call on your inherent managerial abilities. Your managerial capabilities can be nurtured and enhanced through formal training programs and through your own self-directed efforts. The difference between success and failure is often dependent upon your ability to master the manager, staff and job relationship. This relationship is based on the following dimensions.


Effective communication is necessary for managerial success. Communication must be immediate and clear. There should be open lines of communication between you and staff. Staff should not feel inhibited about asking you questions or seeking your advice concerning the task. Static and delays in communicating and receiving messages are likely to increase stress levels among staff and decrease productivity.

Communication includes reading both verbal and non-verbal messages. Often non-verbal communication, such as body actions and facial expressions, are significant in the manager-staff relationship. You must be aware of the possible effects of unintended or misguided non-verbal messages.

To be a good communicator, you must be a good listener. Communication is a two-way street. A one-way flow of communication is not necessarily the most effective means for transmitting information. A two-way interchange of information allows both parties to assess the other's information needs. Each individual, therefore, can tailor his response to maximize the information flow.


Staff effort has two dimensions: productive effort directed toward the job and a non-productive component that does not contribute to the job. The manager's task is to optimize productive effort. But he must keep in mind that maximum staff effort does not necessarily lead to maximum productivity. Some non-productive effort, such as coffee and lunch breaks, is necessary to maintain staff morale and camaraderie. No one approach to motivation is appropriate for all staff in all circumstances. Some staff need close supervision and much praise in order to succeed while others perform at high levels with little motivation from the manager. …

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