It used to be that the term “creative accountant” conjured up an image of a dim room partially hidden by crooked blinds with someone in a sweaty suit cooking the books. Although this terminology is popular for referencing corporate accounting scandals (most notably Enron back in 2001), we’re beginning to see a shift in how today’s accountants are redefining what it means to be “creative” in the profession.
Telling a story through numbers
Being an accountant isn’t all black and white—despite what many people may think. While accountants work with numbers, and it’s true that those numbers never lie, they must also see how these numbers tell a story. In preparing and examining financial records, whether it be a large public corporation or a small local business, accountants are ensuring that records are accurate and taxes are paid properly on time.
This task not only requires them to see what money was spent; but also why, how, and where. All of these answers must make sense and be consistent to reflect the company’s mission, values, services, and general growth. Accountants need to be able to tell a fluid story with the numbers; otherwise discrepancies or other deviations will be difficult to catch and/or explain.
Thinking outside of the box
The average person may purchase a $1,000 tablet and see it just as a $1,000 purchase--no more, no less. They will go on with their lives enjoying the tablet and that will be that.
An accountant, however, looks at the $1,000 tablet purchase and sees way beyond. They see it as an asset and tax deduction and how spreading out the expense over a few years allows them to depreciate the expense and save the deduction for later years.
For this reason, companies benefit greatly from accountants who can help them budget, maintain financial stability, advise where they should be investing, etc. Accountants have to think outside the box to see how far a company’s dollar will go in each direction and how it will affect them overall in the present and future.
Obtaining and retaining clients
The age old wine-and-dine technique to attract and retain clients is definitely a timeless tactic. However, in today’s world where technology and social media reigns, public accounting firms are finding more creative ways to stay relevant and get in front of business.
Firms are becoming more and more savvy with utilizing social media, accounting software, and customer management tools to spread brand awareness and optimize their relationships with current and potential clients. Tailoring how they present themselves in person and online requires a certain creativity that’s congruent with effective marketing.
Innovation over hyper-efficiency
In an article written by Time titled “What Would Steve Do?”, it talks about how Steve jobs was an amazing innovator who made Apple one of the richest companies in the world. And how? Because in a time when many businesses were focused on meeting revenue goals month-by-month and year-over-year, Jobs was actually focused on long-term business development and growth. He foresaw the future and where his company fit in to the bigger picture.
This is what accountants and firms are doing to keep up with industry demands. Some services, such as auditing and tax, will always be at the heart of the profession. However, as businesses continue to adapt to generational demands and technological advances, services that accountants are performing will change over time. Therefore it’s important to foresee what those trends and changes may be in order to innovate and offer solutions where other firms may not. Being inventive and creative in this way gives firms an advantage in the playing field.
Having creativity in the accounting space is an important aspect of the profession that generally gets overlooked. Many people think of this job as being cut and dry; however, there are many factors of accounting that require visionary qualities. The next time you're studying for the CPA Exam, looking for a position in accounting, or are performing accountant work yourself, we hope you're able to identify where the creativity lies!