Aug 2017

Finding work life balance for Australian accounting firm owners

Finding work life balance for Australian accounting firm owners

By: Odyssey General
Tags: flexible resources, on-demand economy, workforce, young generation

Looking at the next generation entering the workforce the older generation frequently comment “things were different” when they entered the workforce, and that older generation were lucky to have a job. That older generation probably forgets that each new generation is accused of being less resilient than the previous generation.

Certainly it can’t be denied that a “job for a lifetime” is long gone. Looking back 20 years ago the new accounting graduates weren’t looking at much over a 3 year work experience in any one firm. Those 20 year old graduates are now business owners.

For today’s current generation entering the workforce, they’ve likely set to experience several jobs within several years, a couple of gap periods out of the workforce, part-time work/opportunity outside their chosen field of experience, a stint or two freelancing, and aspirations to find a work-life balance that is probably envied by the older generation.

If you were to sit down with some of the older generation, you’d find some anger born of jealousy and envy. Yes, things were different in the past, but the generation we have coming into the workforce now is the product of the today’s business owners. We can’t be upset at the generation that is able to communicate effectively what they want, and at the same time feel very comfortable bailing whenever they don’t like what they are faced with. After all, this new generation is the product of what the older generation aspires to be, as the new generation is the product of the older generation.

For many Australian accounting firm owners, deep down they are stuck in a compliance rut, with new technologies (cloud) and new marketing (internet, SEM, SEO) affecting / complicating their business. There isn’t much time to learn new things and take on new concepts. Things that have worked in the past will be continued in the present and the future until they fail.

This same concept applies to the operation of business. Whilst an accounting firm valuation is traditionally based on the compliance revenue, there is some implicit appreciation that an accounting firm has staff and that these staff have value.

New accounting firms run by adaptive accountants are challenging all facets of the standard compliance firm. They use the cloud and frequently take on new cloud products on a trial basis, they look at whether they need to have physical premises (or operate out of serviced offices/a coffee shop/their home), and they consider whether they need full time staff. The newer firms engage resources and specialists only as and when required.

It is a good argument that engaging specialists as and when required is more competitive and provides a better quality service.

Instead of adopting flexible business models i.e. engaging freelancers, many accounting firm owners are now looking overseas for full time resources, which gives them some breathing space with cheaper offshore labour while they work towards changing their operations to become a compliance firm of the future.

However, when engaging full time resources overseas, then instead of engaging flexible resources (i.e. a job or project basis) they are engaging full time resources, not only ensuring those full time resources have the same work life balance issues, but extending their own work life balance issues.

The only way to resolve work life balance issues within an accounting firm, is to change the way the business operates. And it seems the newer flexible proactive firms are developing and experimenting with these business models. This younger generation gets the “on demand” economy of Uber, Airbnb and engaging specialists on an ad-hoc basis.

Oh, and you can be sure they’ll have a better chance at working out their own work life balance.