Top 10 Entrepreneurial Traits of Successful Accountants

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By Hitendra Patil
Pransform Inc. 

Which accountants have the most talent for building a practice and sustaining a growing firm?

What separates successful practice owners from less successful ones?

In general, the most successful independent business owners, compared with the less successful, are:

  • three times more likely to build large businesses and to grow them significantly;
  • four times more likely to create jobs;
  • four times more likely to exceed profit goals; and
  • five times more likely to exceed sales goals.


Credit Gallup CEO Jim Clifton for providing a few clues. As coauthor of “Entrepreneurial StrengthsFinder,” he says research strongly suggests that some entrepreneurs have innate traits that make them successful. Gallup studied 2,500 entrepreneurs to understand the actions and decisions that fuel venture creation and growth.

Gallup identified 10 specific talents that drive business success  10 behaviors consistently observed in highly successful entrepreneurs and the results they produce.

Fact: Accountants are not only accountants. They are entrepreneurs.

You may want to check if you have the 10 talents of the most successful entrepreneurs:

1. Business Focus: You make decisions based on observed or anticipated effect on profit.

Pricing, value pricing, questioning each task that you are doing or not doing from the profit perspective, asking yourself whether the task you yourself are doing requires your CPA (or any other higher) qualification or someone else with lesser education and/or lesser experience can do it more economically (again, effect on profit), adding new services by partnering and so on.

Key: It’s a wonderful metric – make decisions, without procrastination, with measurable parameters, such as profit or anticipated profit.

2. Confidence: You accurately know yourself and understand others.

Are you a control freak? Some CPAs admit this pretty honestly. It is an expression that tells me that they know themselves well. Some are great with tax planning rather than managing the process details to get there. The moment you accurately know yourself, you also know what you need to get done from others. And that also means you need to understand others to get those things done from others. No point asking someone to crunch Excel spreadsheets when you know the person has more “people skills” than data discipline.

Key: Know your real strength. Just because I know where to plug in the ethernet cable does not mean I am a strong IT person.

3. Creative Thinker: You exhibit creativity in taking an existing idea or product and turning it into something better.

I met a CPA who will prepare a tax return for free, if the client works with him for tax planning assignment! He says “I know when I prepare a tax return for a business what that business can achieve. And I want to share that value with the business owner.” If you take a look at your standard service deliverables, what can you do to create more value from them, for the client?

4. Delegator: You recognize that you cannot do everything and are willing to contemplate a shift in style and control.

Isn’t this the most difficult thing to do for accountants, for a reason? Accountants carry a huge burden of compliance and delegating to a less experienced person can mean a huge, irreversible risk of compliance failure. But the key is to identify “process” and “validation” separately. Delegate the process and review for validation (against applicable rules). It could save you as much as 90 percent of your personal time. Someone expressed this so clearly in “Have a Delegation SYSTEM i.e. Delegation Saves Yourself Time Energy and Money.”

5. Determination: You persevere through difficult, even seemingly insurmountable, obstacles.

Determination and perseverance is one of the best strengths of accountants. It could be partly due to legal deadlines that act like goals that one has no choice but to achieve. But having worked with ambitious CPAs, I know that CPAs have gone through almost practicing overcoming difficult obstacles.

But when it comes to growth, the industry figures suggest something else. The 89,188 accounting firms in the U.S. average only five employees each.

Firms by Size

So what are the obstacles that limit nearly 95 percent of firms from growing beyond 19 employees? Is “determination” one such obstacle?

6. Independent: You are prepared to do whatever needs to be done to build a successful venture.

How often do you hear yourself say, “Don’t give me reasons for why it can’t be done…”? Or are you creating excuses for your increased success, e.g.: the economy, limited software, a talent shortage, tough competition and so on? I’m inspired by the woman CPA from Florida who told me, “Whatever it takes!”

7. Knowledge Seeker: You constantly search for information that is relevant to growing your business.

No one more than CPAs seeks knowledge as intensely. Yet, technical knowledge about accounting is not sufficient anymore. Today, you need to know social media, marketing automation, customer psychology, new-generation habits and beliefs, leadership and, of course, technology.

8. Promoter: You are the best spokesperson for the business.

As an accountant, you are the best spokesperson for your business. It is nice to have clients to be your spokespersons – you do get referrals  but the fact that most firms don’t grow beyond 20 employees could be a pointer that more accountants need to get out there.

9. Relationship Builder: You have high social awareness and an ability to build relationships that are beneficial for the firm’s survival and growth.

People skills. Period. Talking to prospects and clients may be one of the most dreaded activities for too many accountants. Of course, that just creates immense opportunities for the rest.

10. Risk Taker: You instinctively know how to manage high-risk situations.

Successful accountants know that risks must be taken and managed, not avoided altogether. So many accountants have already taken the biggest risk possible – to be in a business – which means uncertainty. And there is no bigger risk than uncertainty. So what is holding so many of them back?

8 Responses to “Top 10 Entrepreneurial Traits of Successful Accountants”

  1. tima

    Great eye opener

  2. Hitendra R. Patil

    Here is an article from Forbes in which the writer says “…the worst thing you can do as an entrepreneur is wait for things to come to you.”.

  3. Blair Illiano

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Hitendra R. Patil

    Thank you Sedgwick, Alicia, Liasta and Lawrence for taking time to read the article and share your thoughts. I am glad you found the article useful.

    Lawrence: Focus is indeed a top requirement for successful business and with many a accountants wearing several hats within their practices, focus can be very difficult to achieve. Determination is already covered under point 5 above.

  5. lawrence

    Nice article and a Very Good eyes opener. But I will like to add two points
    Those two are Very paramount

  6. Liasta

    Good article, An accountant should think globally

  7. Alicia

    Thanks for writing this post! CPA firms are such a vital part of the accounting process. This is a great guide for accountants, entrepreneurs and individuals seeking tips for success. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Sedgwick Iyasere

    Nice article. I love to hear more.