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Are you playing checkers or chess?

Are you adding value to your clients or are you spending too much time playing checkers? Let me explain how the game is played in so many Accounting firms.

The game starts with the client diligently (sometimes!) completing their Xero coding (or cashbook) and submitting it to their accountant. The first thing the person preparing the annual accounts does is check the work that the client has done. Once a draft set of accounts is complete, it is then passed to a more senior team member for checking. 

The file is then passed back for any required changes to be completed. Of course, these changes then need to be checked again. Then (not frequently enough as this crucial step is often missed) the accountant meets with the client to go through the draft accounts - you've got it - to check everything again with the client. 

The file is now passed back to be finalised by the original team member and this is when the game of checkers really heats up; the person preparing the accounts completes a number of checklists. The senior team member then checks the work once more and reviews the checklists - or even completes a new checklist. Then the file goes to the Partner for checking and sign off. 

All in all a great game of checkers.

Of course I hear you all say, we need the checking to make sure everything is right. 'We have standards to live up to in our profession.' Don't get me started about the checking our Professional Body then does on the work we do! My point is: should we actually be playing checkers? Why don't we play chess? 

Chess is a game where different pieces on the board perform different roles, where some pieces like the knight can jump over hurdles and see things from a different perspective. A game where the primary objective is to protect the King - in our case of course the King is our client. 

The chess pieces and the way they work together is our organisation structure, with every team member performing a different role in order to give our clients what they want and need in an efficient and supportive way. The chess pieces after all have different strengths and abilities.

In order to protect the King (our client), we as accountants need to help solve our clients' problems and challenges - so that they can achieve their personal and business goals. Yes we need to make sure their accounts are correct but do we really need to do so much checking and rechecking? 

I am certain if we asked our clients what they want from their accountant they would ultimately say three things (none of which are more checking)… they want more cash, more time and less stress in their business. We must engage our clients more to understand their needs and give them what they want. We have the expertise and vast experience of what does and doesn't work, and we know what a good business looks like. 

So let's stop playing checkers; let's get our structure right and start playing chess!

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