Summer Reading List: Five Great Books for the Five Lives of a Busy Accountant

Game of Thrones wide

Accountants fill many roles. And there’s a good book for each.

By Hitendra Patil

In “A Dance with Dragons,” “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin, says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”

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Well, accountants don’t live just one life. At work, it’s almost as if they live five different lives. Here is a summer reading list for accountants with one book for each of the lives they live.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

1. A Life When You Lead Your Firm’s Operations

Call it the time vortex that sucks the life out of you.

Hours and hours that suddenly become longer and longer days, months and years inside the office. You sacrifice nearly everything else for the life of your firm’s operations, leaving you: Overwhelmed, overworked, unproductive, time-starved, and busy-being-busy. If that sounds like you, then you may be interested in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less,” by Greg McKeown.

Quote from the book: “Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

2. A Life When You Create Your Firm’s Revenue

How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling

Most accountants admit, “I am not good at sales.” Fear of rejection is not for the faint-hearted.

The sales profession was once believed to be made up of people with outgoing, dashing, talking and (supposedly) manipulative personalities. Today, whether we like it or not, all of us are in sales. Fortunately, there are hundreds of excellent books on sales. But when a failed insurance salesman achieves fame as one of the highest paid salesmen in America, you want to know how he turned it around. So I recommend Frank Bettger’s “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling.”

Quote from the book: “When you show a man what he wants, he’ll move heaven and earth to get it.”

3. A Life When You Lead Your Firm’s Employees

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain
Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain

“I am great with numbers, but when it comes to managing team members,” an accountant told once me, “I am as good as a bank account un-reconciled for months.” His practice had started growing, and he had to hire more people – which made him very uncomfortable because he doubted his people-management skills.

One of the most intriguing books I came across is Antonio Damasio’s “Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain.” It is not about traditional people or HR management processes. If accounting and tax are all about facts, logic, and reasoning, this book cites research evidence that emotions are essential to rational thinking and normal social behavior. This is not a “how-to” book, but a “why” book. It may be heavy-duty-lifting to read, but it will give you amazing insights into the how your employees’ emotions can lead to improved performance of your firm.

Quote from the book: “We almost never think of the present, and when we do, it is only to see what light it throws on our plans for the future.”

4. A Life When You Want to Create A Future-Ready Firm

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

“Is your firm future-ready, today?” As many as 92% CPAs think that the accounting profession is not future-ready today.

But it is always difficult to envision how the future will look, especially when technology is changing business so rapidly. In Entrepreneurship, Zero to One, authors Peter Thiel and Blake Masters, assert we are actually in the era of technological stagnation. They show how progress can be achieved in any industry or area of business despite this stagnation. It comes from the most important skill that every leader must master: learning to think for yourself. This book will help you find new value in unexpected places in your business.

Quote from the book: “If you want to create and capture lasting value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business.”

5. A Life When You Want to Ensure Client Success

Uncensored Sales Strategies
Uncensored Sales Strategies

One of the biggest parts of what accountants do – day in day out – is deliver a customer experience. You would want that experience to be awesome.

Here is one book that could help them enhance customer experience. Although the book gives you sales strategies, it is all about creating “awesome customer experience.” In “Uncensored Sales Strategies: A Radical New Approach to Selling Your Customers What They Really Want – No Matter What Business You’re In,” Sydney Biddle Barrows, once known infamously as the Mayflower Madam, explains how she found wealth in selling her customers exactly what they wanted. Shockingly, it wasn’t sex!

Quote from the book: “Customers are not just buying a product or service, they are also buying the Experience of buying it, owning it and using it.”

Your turn: What are you reading this summer?

Image: HBO

4 Responses to “Summer Reading List: Five Great Books for the Five Lives of a Busy Accountant”

  1. Scott D. Hoppe

    The #1 book for a firm to read has to be from Kotler. He is an academic powerhouse and the leader in research. The revised book from 2002 can be had used for about $4 after shipping on amazon. Great insight for any professional service (accountant, lawyer, architect, doctor, etc) firm.

    Marketing Professional Services – Revised – April 1, 2002 by Philip Kotler, Thomas Hayes, Paul N. Bloom.

  2. Ed Mendlowitz

    I highly recommend the Bettger and Barrows/Kennedy books and because of including these in his choices, I will read the other three Hitendra recommends.

    • Hitendra R. Patil

      Thanks Ed for taking time to share your thoughts! Please do recommend specific books that you found very impactful in growing your firm. Thanks again.