Am I an Accountant or a Consultant? Tell Me What My Brand Is

I feel like I should be prefacing all of my blog entries with a reference back to my Social Technographics Profile of accountants as Critics because it is true; we can be critical, and I find that in most of my blogs entries and thoughts so far I have been, and it seems at times, I need to be.  Or maybe I should rename my blog: “Critical Accounting Student: You Have Been Warned”.

In this post, I am going to focus on the procedures featured in Chapter 5 and apply them to a non-online groundswell; rather I will focus on the process of listening, and on the general aspects of the groundswell: people, technology and economics.  Chapter 5 of Groundswell is all about listening to the groundswell, and essentially tells us that we may have an idea of what our brand is or means to us, but it is the opinion and perception of our brand by the people that tells the truth.

Look at accountants, everyone stereotypes us that we are penny-pinching, pencil pushers who wear pocket protectors and prattle on about plant, property and equipment.  If you couldn’t tell, I ran out of P words to use at the end there.  Honestly though, the general public think that we are boring, and that all we do is taxes and financial statements.  To some point that is true, but it is in actuality a very small portion of what accountants really do.

Recently I was talking with a partner of a Big Four accounting firm, and he explained that because people perceive accountants in this way and because the world of accounting is changing, the firm moved out of “accounting” and into management consulting.  The firm listened to the market and realized that they don’t do accounting anymore; they are generally hired to be consultants, to come in and fix or suggest solutions to the situation at hand.

So with that in mind, they started acquiring engineering firms, security consulting firms, petrochemical companies, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) system creators to diversify their offerings, improve their viewpoints and expertise with their client’s situations.  They listened to those around them (whether those they listened to were in the groundswell or not),  took that information and modified their brand to be more in line of where they wanted to be.  Now when you think of a Big Four firm, you don’t just think audit, accounting, or tax, you think of risk consulting, small business consulting, management consulting, tax law consulting and mergers and acquisitions consulting.

This is in my opinion a successful use of listening.  By modifying their brand, the firm has access to more opportunities to bill out their services (economics), they’ve expanded their human capital and knowledge base (people), and by expanding that knowledge base they also increased their relevance with and access to today’s technological society (technology).

A definite failure in my mind of following the listening process is the ICAA.  Now if they had continued with this listening process in regards to the designation merger, then everything would be peachy-keen and we’d be closer to being CPAs; however, the ICAA has done all of the listening that they want to do, and prefer to sit back and let the other two designations do all the heavy-lifting and expect that when they finally join the table that CMA and CGA Alberta will have catered to all of their needs without having to ask.

Like I said, read the preface/spoiler at the top; I am a critic. 🙂



Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Wining in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, USA. Harvard Business Review Press.


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