While the list of accounting qualifications and certificates is long, it’s the soft skills that can take you from a mediocre to a top-notch accountant. Many of these characteristics are necessary for a variety of job roles but this article goes on to explain how they are specifically related to accountancy.

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1. Proactively sharing ideas and insight

According to a recent study, as much as 72% of small companies expect proactive advice from their accountants.

Initiative is one of the trickiest soft skills for accountants to measure yet having this personal trait is a sure-fire way to make you stand out from the crowd. It boils down to being forthcoming about sharing ideas and information and acting on them without the need to be asked, before anyone else does.

For accountants, this could mean pro-actively sharing accounting ideas with clients on how they could save money in their business, or about warning clients when deadlines approach. There are many surprising ways an accountant can save business money.

Many business owners and managers expect accountants to come up with ideas related to company finances, paperwork, taxation, etc. so a strong sense of initiative is vital to becoming a successful accountant.

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2. Being able to communicate complex matters in a digestible way

Accounting is a role where you will need to deal with a broad spectrum of people, from CEOs to small business owners. Some of these people are highly knowledgeable about accounts; some will have virtually zero finance experience. Therefore, you will need to adjust how you explain tax-related and other complex matters in a way that is understandable to all levels.

Tied in with communication are interpersonal skills i.e. the way you interact with people. By sending you all their accounts and financials, clients are trusting you with some very sensitive data. They want to know that their confidential information is in good hands.

Strong interpersonal skills are indispensable for building up trust and rapport with clients, which in turn will strengthen relationships to ensure smooth discussions. Coupling this with good communication skills will help when you need to ask tricky questions, for example around officers’ salaries or budget cuts. Being open and transparent will also help create an environment where clients trust you to act in their best interests.

3. Fast learning skills and adaptability

Accounting rules and regulations are constantly subject to change and as an accountant, you need to be on top of it at all times. For example in March 2018, the UK’s FRC published amendments to several areas of accounting standards.

As an accounting expert, it’s essential that you can quickly adapt to any policy change. If, for example, there are new regulations on tax filings, it is important that you can swiftly research and verify this information to relay to your client. Different clients in different business segments will be subject to different rules, so it’s important that you keep learning to stay knowledgeable in the niche that you are serving.

To help you to stay on top, check out this handy list of 9 free online accounting courses you can start right now.

4. Problem-solving skills

As an accountant, you will often need to perform detailed analysis on a company’s financial performance as well as looking at the company and industry trends. Your problem-solving skills may be required to help make important strategic business decisions, such as deciding on which market sector to focus on or how to manage payroll efficiently.

The financial information analysed by an accountant is a key component of making business and operating decisions. Accountants are often asked for financial advice, so it is important that you know how to correctly interpret the data.

5. Being able to understand how business is done

People who have a strong business acumen are great at understanding the risks and opportunities of any business situation. Having this strong business ‘sense’ is a crucial skill for accountants who need to know a company’s financials inside and out.

It’s important for accountants to not only know what each line means but how it fits in with the business as a whole. How do numbers compare to prior years? How do they affect profitability ratios? How does the company compare to peers? These types of questions will help you to spot any interesting or concerning trends.

Accountants with strong business acumen are quick to understand and decide on critical business decisions and will be an invaluable asset to any client. The Journal of Accountancy believes embracing uncertainty is a great way to develop business acumen.

6. Time management and a system for storing documents

Organisation, as it relates to accounting, is two-fold. Firstly, it means keeping track of time effectively to ensure you meet important filing deadlines, in addition to any quarterly or yearly targets. Being proactive about any upcoming deadline will show your client that you are organised.

Secondly, staying organised means keeping a good system in place of all your files. Sorting all documents in an efficient and easy-to-use system will make a big difference. It’ll help you quickly refer to correct files when needed. Most importantly, you don’t ever want to be caught red-handed sending the wrong documents to the wrong person! Staying organised will avoid this from happening.

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