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Who the bloody hell are you?

A relatively high percentage of what we do as small business accountants can be done within comparable quality by any other accountant. So what’s your point of difference?

Insights Andrew Van De Beek, Illumin8 20 July 2018
— 4 minute read

You get the data, analyse it, interpret it and communicate the result.


Saying that, the days of the humble abacus are gone, and we are witness to the rise of the machines. Pushing coloured beads back and forth won’t cut it in the fast-pace world we now live in. You only need to take a trip on public transport to see we have incredible technology right at our fingertips.

The cloud, artificial intelligence, blockchain and many wonderful tools and technologies have been revolutionary, and will continue to disrupt long-held industries.

Early on in the technology and accounting picture, a handful of curious accountants embraced this new way of doing things and saw their businesses thrive, creating a significant gap between themselves and their competition.

And so, over the years we have been told that ‘compliance is dead’, that we need to provide more advisory work, that the technology up for sale will allow us to multiply our revenue and profit. Some claims may be true, many not.

But that’s technology.

It helps us get work done, but little by little, technology adoption is increasing, meaning our peers are also leveraging it to provide services to their clients.

Now, what happens when what you do can be done by others? The technology gap closes, the pricing gap closes (or maybe widens in the other direction) and all those ‘value adding’ services, suddenly lose their real value.

Do you start fighting on price? Pick up a new toy for your tech stack? Offer another service to differentiate again?

What about that one thing you have, that no one else ever will. The one thing that only you can perfect, the one thing that cannot be replicated and cannot be stolen.

Drum roll.

You guessed it.

It’s you.

The original and authentic, you.

No one else out there is quite like you.

The beautiful mess of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism contained within makes you, you, and makes you nobody else.

Be the nerd, the hipster, the metalhead, the eco-friendly, the cat lover, the sport nut, the suit and tie, the shorts and t-shirt, the authentic-genuine you.

When you can connect with your true self and allow that to flow authentically, the benefits are painstakingly obvious.

Two years ago, I was hit in the face. Metaphorically speaking.

Soon after buying out my business partner, I realised Illumin8 was living out a lie.

We did the things that people expected of an accountant. We used the tech that ‘cutting-edge’ accountants used. We talked the talk. And we even wore nice shirts.

If I’m honest with you, I would walk into that office every day, feeling like an imposter.

Eight months later, after too many questions to count, too many thoughts for whiteboards to hold, and conversations fuelled by quality whisky, we had our ‘coming out’ moment.

You see, back in the day, when we got out of bed, we flipped the ‘accountant switch’ on, looked in the mirror and revved ourselves up to spend another day as we did previously (now we didn’t actually do that….but you get what I mean).

But now everything had changed.

The person we were on the weekend at the footy, drinking beers with our mates, shopping with our kids and bingeing on the latest Netflix show didn’t get put into a box when we had to go to work.

I was no longer an accountant called Andrew… I became Andrew, who happened to be an accountant, and it was an incredible freeing.

But what did this actually mean for my business?

With the re-launch of our brand, we had, and continue to have, an incredible swell of support of strangers (now becoming family) reaching out to us. The fortnight after our re-launch, we had 20 quality leads. (I’ll share in another post about how being authentic helps to target the ideal client for you).

That level of leads has quietened down, but we are still getting a heavy handful of quality leads every single week.

What’s cool, is the phrase we hear over and over. “If only I found you guys earlier, I’ve been looking for someone like you my whole life.”

Note the ‘someone like you’ part. They weren’t looking for an accountant, they were looking for a person. Someone they could connect, trust, laugh, drink whisky and do life with.

By opening ourselves up, and saying farewell to stereotypes, embracing a spirit of inclusivity, we have found it so very easy to grow. The biggest problem we have now is keeping up with it.

So are you carrying any accounting baggage? It might be time to say goodbye, and step into something new.

I’ve found these three things useful in my journey:

1 – Stop comparing. We have enough copycats in our industry, and the emotional baggage that comes with comparisons is just not worth it.

2 – Ask the clients you love working with more questions. Do your best to understand why you love working with them, and why they love working with you.

3 – Bring someone from outside your business to give you honest feedback. Often you might think one thing, but a skilled person can call it as they see it, for the better.

So there’s your challenge.

Who the bloody hell are you?

Find it. Live it. Let people see it. The benefits will speak for themselves.

Andrew Van De Beek, director, illumin8 partners

Who the bloody hell are you?
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