Finding Best Practice in Accountancy Practices

I have been carrying out some informal research into the role of the Accountant as professional advisor to small and medium sized businesses.

A really useful source of information has been Steve Pipe’s ‘The UK’s best accountancy practices‘. Pipe provides case studies of over 40 UK accountancy practices, each of which provide fascinating insights as to how our best accountancy practices are serving the business sector. Most of the practices service small and medium-sized businesses and are, themselves, small businesses.

In seeking to help us learn lessons from successful businesses, Pipe is following an approach adopted by some very influential books, such as Peters and Waterman’s ‘In Search of Excellence‘ and Collins’ ‘Good to Great‘. The scope of the book may be narrower than these predecessors – while Pipe states that he hopes that the examples of excellence will inspire, he makes it clear “there is no theory in these pages – just example after example of what real UK accountancy practices have done … to generate better results for their clients, their communities and theselves”. Some common themes are identified, but it is left up to us to decide which of the diverse range of examples might inspire us to do things differently. By letting us draw our own conclusions, Pipe will avoid the criticism that followed both ‘In Search of Excellence‘ and ‘Good to Great‘ when some of the quoted exemplars in those books failed to deliver exceptional financial performance over a sustained period.

Reading the case studies, I got the impression that many of the practices may have been following (directly or indirectly) the approaches advocated by Michael Gerner in ‘E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It‘ – a book that, though very different in style, I also think is of great valuable. But if you are looking for a book that is specific to the business of Accountancy, I find Pipe’s work much more useful than the rather light-weight (in my opinion)  ‘The e-Myth Accountant: Why Most Accounting Practices Don’t Work and What to Do About it‘ by Gerber and Darren Root. Indeed, ‘The UK’s best accountancy practices provides examples of excellence that should inspire anyone who works in a small service business – the lessons can be applied far more widely than just in accountancy practices.

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