10 reasons to join an SMP

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There is no doubt that working in an SMP is an exciting career move which offers a broad spectrum of opportunities and far more than just job security and good remuneration. Below, we suggest 10 clearly formulated key areas for talent attraction that can be used by SMP leaders building their recruitment brand while also acting as advocates of a career in SMPs at a broader scale.

1. SMPs help businesses and wider society

  • Accountants offer vital support to business owners to achieve their goals: SMPs are purpose-driven organisations
  • Accountancy has an expanding social role in addition to its traditional assurance function. Non-financial reporting supports the sustainability agenda, and SMP accountants are now providing a much-needed boost to prosperity, growth and employment through their work with SMEs.When you're talking to the business, you're talking to the owner, you’re talking to the decision maker.

"When you’re giving them advice, it's having a direct impact on their personal life ultimately, so there’s more fulfilment and purpose working with that kind of client base’  (Darren Dettling, Bendall and Cant, New Zealand).

2. SMPs offer personal growth, development and a ‘long-term’ career

  • SMP practices focus closely on learning and are keen to develop their employees in a number of ways. They recognise the need to offer opportunities to develop skills that are relevant to an entire career, not just the job in hand. This can be formal and informal: training for professional qualifications, training in technologies and data management, or needs-based training, which is often employee led.
  • Accountancy may change but it will never go away and offers a lifetime of opportunity and remunerative work for those individuals willing to embrace it.

‘A lot of my friends have got children working in apprenticeship roles, and one of them said, ‘you know, I am not a big fan of auditing, but I love tax’. And that's the beauty of it, there are many different avenues you can go down – you could go and work as a management accountant, or a business analyst. It’s not a case of doing profit and loss accounts and balance sheets all day, every day until the day you retire’  (Steve Collings, Leavitt Walmsley Associates, UK).

‘We created Friday morning classes: they could be guided by a professor, a tech expert, a market expert, he [sic] could be an industry expert. We are not confined to a particular subject, we are trying to create general awareness of business issues’ (Sunil Arora, ASA & Associates LLP, India).

3. SMPs have a spread of ages from 17 to 70+ and are already learning how to manage the multi-generational workforce. 

  • The combination of various age groups and profiles within SMPs provides numerous opportunities for inter-generational cooperation, mentoring and talent development.

 ‘Mixing up age groups, you get people building friendships, you get people called work mums, or work dads, you know, it's that family atmosphere’ (Nikki Adams, Ad Valorem, UK).

4. SMPs offer variety and are a springboard to career mobility

  • The focus of work has shifted from repetitive reporting cycles to forecasting, analysis and projects.
  • The thorough business and financial grounding offered by an SMP can lead to a move to industry, larger practices or entrepreneurship, in either accountancy or other fields.
  • A small practice may offer the chance to work with a variety of business owners and is not limited to serving local clients. It offers engagement with experts across the business including mentorship from the leaders.

‘Whenever they go elsewhere, they literally shine because they've got such a varied skill set… other places, they won't give you that opportunity to grow and to learn everything’ (Eriona Bajrakutaj, Major Accounts, UK).

5. SMPs are creative and work at the cutting edge

  • Accountants are expected to be proactive, to spot problems and come up with solutions. Practices are organised in non-hierarchical structures that encourage innovation and allow all employees to contribute ideas.
  • Smaller firms are both at the forefront of the adoption of digital accounting technology, which is developing rapidly, and are linking up with other major fields such as big data, block chain, and cybersecurity. They are also working with some of the most exciting clients: rapidly growing start-ups that are often digital pioneers themselves, or helping established businesses to digitise. Many of these firms have started from scratch and have no legacy systems or practices at all.

 ‘We have built our own bridging software; we have also built our own app that works with Xero for aggregating Amazon transactions, and we have already built our own portal, so we do quite a lot of IT and tech development’ (Nathan Keeley, MHA Carpenter Box, UK)

.6 . SMPs offer work–life balance

  • Practitioners are exploiting digitalisation to offer benefits such as flexible and remote working, not just for employees’ sake but also for the multiple benefits they bring to the workplace. They want their offices to be informal and fun workplaces, where people want to come to work.

‘We're very authentic, we're just ourselves at work, we don't put a suit on and put this facade on and come in to be a different person’ (Alastair Barlow, flinder, UK).

7. SMPs are ethical

  • SMPs are assurance providers for small businesses.
  • Accountants are expected to challenge and hold to account and are supported by a strong ethical code in both defining what is right and doing the right thing.

‘Accountants have a duty to society as opposed to just a role and a job…being an ethically upstanding organisation will help us move forward. Youngsters will buy into it and will see value in their career, because it's going to be a huge part of what we do going forward’. (Miranda Smith, Mazars, UK).

8. SMPs provide opportunities for participating in the success of the business

  • A number of SMPs have ownership structures that provide opportunities for their employees to participate in the success of the business, via different types of reward structures, including a share of company equity.

‘For employees with high work achievements, we provide a corresponding position, and the salary will be higher than that of the financial manager of a general enterprise’, says Lin Yanling, Zhongshan Xiangshan Certified Public Accountants Co., Ltd, China.

9. SMPs provide the opportunity to see the concrete results of one’s work

  • SMPs offer employees the possibility of seeing the results of their work because of the size of teams and their close interaction with businesses. This is a component very much missing in many fields; for example, in big corporations there is a high degree of disconnection between an individual’s work and achieved results at the corporate level. SMPs provide opportunities for employees to shape the success of concrete businesses and have the satisfying experience of seeing the result of their efforts, in a similar way to those engaged in artisanal work.

10. SMPs are a people’s business

  • The work involves regular contact with a variety of clients and will suit and further develop outgoing, confident communicators.

‘What we're looking for are new recruits who can talk to our clients, engage and show real interest in our clients business because we are people business’ (Peter Jarman, PJCO)

Adapted from the original ACCA Careers in Small and Medium Practices (SMP) report. The full version of the report can be accessed here

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