How to be a Good Accountant (Characteristics & Qualities)

December 13, 2021

How to be a Good Accountant (Characteristics & Qualities)

We all know that there’s a specific study path to becoming an accountant. It might vary depending on where you live, but you’ll need to get a degree, get some in-service training, and follow some pre-defined steps before you can call yourself a CPA. 

Maybe you’re just starting to think about becoming an accountant. Or maybe you’re already a bookkeeper, and you literally think "How can I be good at accounting?" daily. Accounting is a great career choice, and the right credentials is a great place to start. However here’s a big difference between an accountant who just does what it’s necessary to get their degree and keep their license and one that is exceptional at the job. 

If you want to know how to be a good accountant, you’re going to need to cultivate a few more accountant skills and qualities. So let's dive in and figure out what makes a good accountant.

Learn to Be a Great Communicator

To be truly great in any career, in any industry, you need to be a fantastic communicator. Good communicators are able to speak to people at every level, explain complex concepts simply, and provide insight into complex topics. 

In the accounting field, this is particularly important because there is a steep technical learning curve, and people who aren’t in the field probably won’t understand most concepts. 

Great communicators are also excellent at keeping people “in the loop” and as an accountant, this is critical. The work you do literally stands between success and failure, so it’s important to learn to keep everyone (including your clients!) abreast of any important information. Knowledge, in this case, really is power!

Learn to Delegate

When you’re working as an accountant, particularly when you’re dealing with complex accounts, there’s more to it than simply being able to close the books faster. You need to be able to manage a team of people. You might have a bookkeeper, an AP and an AR clerk, a few admin assistants and other people working in your department. 

Learning to not only train those people properly but also to delegate time consuming tasks allows you to spend more time on complex tasks, and less time worrying about being able to close the books faster. Which makes you a more valuable asset to the company you work for. 

Learn to Dive Deep

It’s not enough, if you want to be a truly great accountant, to know how to crunch the numbers. You really need to understand the industry you work in.Pay close attention to patterns. Find out what might affect productivity and operations in your field, and how you can streamline processes. If you have different kinds of billing cycles or potential problems getting payments, understand what they are, and how to address them. 

If you want to be a great accountant, you need to know exactly what makes your industry tick, so you’re always one step ahead. 

Learn to Love Current Affairs

It might seem strange to put current affairs into the context of accounting, but there’s no denying that global economics, politics and even things like Covid have a direct effect on every industry, everywhere in the world. 

A cargo ship stuck in the Suez. OPEC flooding the market with oil. All these things might happen far away from your office, but they’re like ripples in a pond – eventually, they’ll reach you. So, start paying close attention to what happens in the news, and learn to anticipate what it might do to your industry. 

Being able to make smart accounting decisions before the ripples arrive at your door will take you from a technically competent accountant to a great one. 

Make Sure You Love Your Job

If you’re just becoming an accountant because you’ve heard the salaries are good, rather than because you have a passion for numbers and helping clients to make sense of them, this might not be the right path for you. You might be technically competent, but if you’re not in love with accounting, you’ll never really be great. 

They say that if you love your job, you will never work a day in your life. So, if you want to not only be fantastic at the job but also enjoy every moment of it, you should first make sure you love what you do. 

Be Open to Innovation

For most of the 20th century, nothing really changed dramatically in business. But the last two decades of the century really changed that, and we haven’t slowed down since! First, it was desktop PCs. Then cellphones. Next came the Internet, and search engines. Social media followed. 

Software started to evolve too. Instead of being restricted to just what you could load on your computer, the cloud made it possible to deploy software across your organization quickly. Geography became irrelevant. AI and machine learning changed how things were done. 

These changes affect accountants as much as any other role. Today, it’s possible to use tools like LiveFlow and the Google Sheets Add-on to create custom automations and workflows. It’s easier than ever to complete reports, capture information and collaborate.

Keeping up with innovation like LiveFlow allows great accountants to find new, faster, more flexible ways to complete routine tasks. Improve your performance by closing your books faster without missing a detail - your financial data is automatically updated in real-time.

Perhaps the most important thing for any accountant that aspires to greatness is to look ahead, rather than backwards. You will learn all the theory and technical skills you need when you’re completing your studies, but it’s what you do with them that really matters. 

Being satisfied with the status quo won’t make you great. Never making mistakes won’t make you great either. What makes any accountant truly great is not only being accurate and proficient but also always looking forward. Just being content to do things the way they’ve always been is not the route to greatness. So be the trailblazer. Find new solutions. Solve problems no one even knew they had and take your accounting career to the next level. 

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