Partnerships are financially unviable for people in the early stages of their career.
Regional accountancies should corporatise to attract talent
Australia’s rural and regional accounting businesses provide an invaluable service to their communities, but it comes at immense personal cost and significant commercial and ownership challenges.
The first challenge is the war for talent and attracting graduates or experienced practitioners to consider an accounting career outside the state and territory capital cities. And then motivating them into becoming partners or self-employed practice owners.
Recruitment is challenging enough, but for regionally based accounting businesses where the talent pool is smaller, it is doubly so.
Irrespective of whether an accounting practice is regional or metropolitan, the fact is the traditional partner model is buckling under unprecedented pressure, in particular to stay relevant in the modern era.
The reality is young adults have no capacity to consider a partnership or ownership opportunity as they are burdened with university debt, mortgage repayments, living expenses and the cost of raising children.
Furthermore, they prefer stress-free employment while they service and reduce their financial obligations. So it’s understandable that relocating to a regional township is not on their career aspiration radar.
Confronted with this dilemma, regional accounting firms need to take a different approach to attracting and retaining talent, and this starts by creating a firm and a brand that people want to be a part of.
This issue, together with the need to ensure sustainable growth and an alternative to the partner succession regime of the past, is resulting in a growing trend away from the equity partnership model to a corporatised business framework.
The benefits of corporatisation for an accounting business are many. They include scale, professional business management, staff training and development, competitive remuneration and independent boards to drive growth and capitalise on commercial opportunities.
It also provides better exit and succession pathways for the business founder and continuity of the enterprise beyond their departure and involvement.
A further benefit for regional accounting businesses is that corporatisation enhances joint-venture opportunities and mergers with complementary service providers, such as financial planning firms, to provide a more comprehensive and professional advice-focused service offering.
For the client, a regional-based corporatised accountancy firm that is agile and responsive, delivering big-city services with local expertise, is worth its weight in gold.
In fact, for the modern era accountant to be successful, they must position themselves as a client’s integral, forward-looking strategic partner if they are to truly embody the principles of the trusted adviser.
In the war for talent, regional-based accounting businesses that embrace the corporatised model can definitely deliver a very attractive incentive to people in the cities.
The potential to join a progressive organisation with less financial pressure, lower house prices and cost of living, plus a better lifestyle and more pleasant environment to raise children is very attractive indeed. All without the stress of the daily big-city commute but with rewards of a professional career.
Jose Alguera-Lara is co-founder and director of chartered accountants ASV Wadeson.