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Accountants can and do play a vital role in helping small business owners create a sustainable plan and live life outside their business, according to one consultant.
Judy Reynolds, director of Opening Gates, believes accountants often operate in the past tense, responding reactively to business decisions rather than proactively leading strategic business discussions.
She sees a significant opportunity for accountants to expand their value and insight with SME clients. Ms Reynolds, who ran her own accounting practice for more than 25 years, says that while conversations about a client’s life plan is unusual, it is a step towards the future of accounting.
“Having been in the accounting business for many years, we only ever talk to our clients about strategic decisions around business, and the point of reference in those conversations will always be ‘how will this progress the business, how will this move the business forward, how will this make the business more profitable?’, Ms Reynolds said.
“Unfortunately, there is [often limited] consideration for the business owner’s life in that conversation, no consideration on how will this enable this person’s life plan to turn up.
“I advocate that accountants need to have a conversation about what the business owners want from their lives so that they can have a meaningful discussion around strategic business decisions because without that, life is just left by the wayside and it does not serve people to remain sustainable in business.”
Ms Reynolds believes the biggest challenge comes in helping small business owners realise that their life is not defined by their business, which is merely a tool to enable their life plan and wealth goals.
She likened it to the example of elite athletes who often define their lives by their sport, eventually losing themselves once they have to retire.
“Once we were able to reposition the business as part of life, not life itself, it changed people significantly, because it helped people remain in roles in business on a sustainable basis,” Ms Reynolds said.
“Once we did that, then we could design a life plan that was amazing and that they were excited about and then we could position the business in a place which enabled that life to turn up.
“I want accountants to shift the conversations from this historical transactional reactive discussion that sits in the past to a more futuristic relationship building proactive conversation so that we can actually be in a position to assist in the decision-making process.”