The following Opionion Piece by Laurence Finger, appeared in Accountancy Age (www.accountancyage.com)
I was recently asked by a three partner firm of accountants in Ireland to come and have a chat with them about how I, along with my best friend, set up and grew SRLV to the successful practice it is today.
They, like me a good few years back now, had started up a firm and are now at a stage where they want to grow the practice, employ others and recruit new partners. We spent a very good day at their office, chatting through ideas – I learnt from them as well as they from me. They had some ideas that we at SRLV may well adopt, and my experience, I hope, gave them some food for thought as to how they can grow their own firm.
It got me thinking about external practice mentoring, and do we do enough of it as a sector? My guess is probably not.
So why do it? Mentoring within the firm is, I think, crucial to developing talent and managing succession. Many firms do this well and actively support employees with buddy systems, linking mentoring to appraisals and breaking down ‘silo’ systems.
But mentoring externally is a little more of a hard sell. I mean, why help other firms improve? Well, I say why not? I think we should all be concerned with the development and improvement of our sector and with creating the UK as a centre for excellence in accountancy. Giving advice and guidance to others about the things we do well can help us achieve this.
Practice mentoring has benefits. For a start it allows the profession to ‘give back’. Many firms now have a CSR policy and mentoring is a big tick in the responsibility box. Mentoring can also create positive engagement with your firm’s brand. It helps a firm build a ‘fanbase’ within the industry, increasing the number of followers on twitter if that’s your thing, and will enhance your reputation overall.
Accountancy is a very educated field, with most people highly qualified, educated to degree level and professional qualifications. It’s also one of the most diverse areas of professional services, with plenty of women in senior roles and I would guess is more balanced ethnically and culturally than say, banking or law.
This diversity and knowledge is something to be proud of and promote. Firms that don’t have a woman on the Board may well benefit from having a senior female mentor from another firm.
Going beyond the boundaries of our own offices and talking to other people in other firms and sharing knowledge – especially to firms that are starting up, or in the early years of their growth – can only enhance the accountancy sector and I think we all have responsibility to do more of it.
And believe me, it’s great to be known as the firm that knows its stuff, so much so that others want to learn from you.