May 2021

Why are successful accounting firm owners still working 70 hours per week?

By: Odyssey General, Outsourcing

The other day I was speaking with a 50 year old accountant who was just starting afresh in a new firm he had created, but had partnered up with a backer with cash. The accountant was commenting in his working some 70-80 hours each week as “sweat capital”.

The middle age accountant is bringing the mentality from the last century, when “in the old days”, a white collar worker worked as hard as they could at the start of their career to earn the right to be rewarded later on, which in those days enabled security of position, a career path through the firm and possible partnership.

These concepts no longer hold true. Today, many senior accounting firm owners work longer and harder than ever. Looking more closely at why this happens, Harvard business review identified elite professional organizations deliberately set out to identify and recruit “insecure overachievers” are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet are driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy.

The problem with the work ethic is that it becomes a way of life, and accountants forget how to work or live any other way.

Many accountants in the system refer to this as brainwashing, becoming a compliance robot, where accountants are under increasing demands, with the promise of rest or a work life balance afterwards, but that moment never comes.”

Instead, accountants suffer from chronic overwork, chasing productivity goals far beyond the healthy range, affecting not only quality of work, but also mental and physical well being.

And it seems now that the perceived requirement is rooted in the inherent intangibility of knowledge work, that is, the investment a firm makes in technology and knowledge allows work to be done in quicker time, but it’s increasingly perceived as more difficult to justify (at least internally) the high fees unless long hours are put into the work.

At the end of the day, accountants can (temporarily) work exceptionally long hours when needed or wanted, but it should be a conscious decision, for specified time periods, and to achieve specific goals. It should not become a habit because you have forgotten how to work or live any other way.

Reach out to Odyssey if we can assist with your compliance workload.

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