Why Accountants Need to Be Risk Takers

Gusto Editors

Are you willing to take risks in your accounting career? 

As an accountant, you can benefit from taking measured, professional risks. Taking risks can help you increase your firm’s profitability and revenue streams, and you can also promote your firm’s values. 

Here at Gusto, we aim to give accountants essential information for succeeding in the accounting world, and that’s why, along with our partners at CPA Academy, we delivered an edifying webinar all about taking risks as an accountant titled “Change Management & Risk Taking: The Two Secret Superpowers of Every Accountant.” The webinar featured the accounting and change management expertise of CPA and Founder of Comedy CPE, Greg Kyte, and Gusto editor-at-large, Caleb Newquist

In addition to this webinar article, you can also read Part One of this series to learn all about why accountants excel at change management. You can also watch the full webinar here to learn even more from Caleb and Greg. 

This article will teach you about the importance of taking risks, why risk-takers are passionate, how you can take risks to increase your firm’s profit, and why you should take risks in order to promote your firm’s core values. 

Taking risks means you’re passionate 

As an accountant, you have experience applying change management to your work. Every year, you have to learn the new changes to the tax code and apply them to your work. You can use your ability to manage change to implement non-obligatory changes to your accounting practice, including calculated risks. You can take risks to improve your accounting skills and expand your firm. 

Greg noted that passion should play a critical role in your career, and taking risks indicates that you’re passionate: 

“If you think you’re passionate about something, but you’re not taking risks with that thing, you’re not really passionate about that thing. … You should be taking risks. You should be finding … new ways of doing things. You should be way out on the front end of the learning curve [and] way out on the front end of the adoption of innovation.”

Greg Kyte

If you’re passionate about accounting, you should take risks and find innovative ways to improve your ability to serve clients and improve your skills. For example, you can use accounting innovations, such as cloud accounting and automation, to reclaim the time you need to advise clients. 

Male accountant advising a male small business owner.

You need to be willing to take risks if you’re passionate about your profession. Taking risks can be challenging and can often induce a fear of failure, but striving forward despite your fears signifies that you’re truly passionate about your career:

“If you’re really passionate about something, then failure drives you to do it more. … [When] you have something that you failed at and you’re still excited to do it again, that’s something that’s clearly your passion. You’re not going to fail at something if you’re not risking for it.”

Greg Kyte

Continuing to drive forward with your passion despite experiencing failure can be challenging, but if you’re passionate, the reward of success far outweighs your fear of repeated failure. Greg used his comedy career as an example. Even though he worried about delivering an inadequate comedy routine, his love for stand-up comedy drove him to perform. For Greg, failure was worth the risk because of his passion. 

If you’re passionate about your accounting career, you should be willing to take risks. You can take risks to promote innovation in your field and find new ways to serve your clients.

Taking risks to stay relevant and increase your profits 

When you’re willing to take risks, you increase your likelihood of significantly increasing your profits. Accountants may need to start taking risks to find new revenue streams and increase the profitability of their services that fall outside of the realm of traditional accounting. You might need to find ways to serve your clients outside of bookkeeping and tax preparation because those services may become entirely automated in the future: 

“[Bookkeeping and tax preparation] are the things that we’re already seeing becoming more … automated over time. And really, [that work] theoretically could get wiped out through automation as a source of income for us. So you have to start looking at more advisory-type services.”

Greg Kyte

Advancements in technology will increase the automation of certain traditional accounting tasks, so you need to take risks in order to stay relevant. You can offer clients advisory services, such as advising, coaching, and tax planning. When you’re willing to take risks with the types of services that you offer clients, you can also increase your profits: 

“You’re not going to make a profit if you’re not taking a risk of some kind or another. Taking measured, professional risks will propel you and your firm toward greater profit. … [Advisory services] are things if you’re not doing them now, start doing them. Start taking that risk.”

Greg Kyte

If you’re unwilling to take risks, you won’t be able to access lucrative revenue streams. Becoming certified in advisory services is a great way to offer your clients valuable guidance while also tapping into a new revenue stream. It’s important to note that when you’re first starting as an advisor, you’re taking risks: 

“You might fail on some engagements and maybe even really piss off some clients that wrote you a huge check for some advisory services and don’t feel like they got the value out of that. That’s a … very tangible risk. But you’ve got to be taking those risks to stay profitable and to become more profitable.”

Greg Kyte

When you begin offering your advisory services to your clients, you can potentially fail to deliver the kind of value that they were expecting, but you need to be willing to take that risk to increase your firm’s profitability. Gaining new revenue streams and increasing your profits always takes a degree of risk, so you need to become a risk-taker to stay relevant in the accounting industry and grow your firm. 

Take a risk to promote your firm’s core values

In addition to taking risks to increase your firm’s profitability, you should also be willing to take risks to promote your work culture. The culture of your firm is composed of your mission, vision, and values. With every purported value your firm claims to have, you should have a corresponding example for when your firm took a risk in order to exemplify that value: 

“For every single core value that you list, there should be a corresponding story of a risk that’s been taken based on that core value or a sacrifice that has been made based on that core value. … Where it’s like, ‘We know we’re going to … [lose money], but it’s worth it because this is a core value.’ So if you don’t have a story of risk or sacrifice that’s ready at mind for every single one of your core values, … that’s probably not a core value for your firm.”

Greg Kyte

Your firm’s actions should reflect its core values. For example, if you purport that you primarily aim to serve your clients, you should be able to draw attention to a time in which your firm took a risk or sacrificed profits to serve a client. 

Female accountant ending her professional relationship with a female client.

If one of your firm’s core values involves upholding ethical behavior, you need to be willing to take risks by firing clients that engage in unethical behavior:

“If you say ethics is a core value to your firm, … you should be able to back that up by having a story where you fired a client. You just said, ‘Get out of here. I don’t think what you’re doing is ethical. … We’re willing to sacrifice some revenue and the risk that comes from sacrificing revenue, … but it’s worth it to be able to say that we’re all about ethics.’

Greg Kyte

Your firm’s actions should reflect its core values, and you need to be willing to take losses in your revenue to uphold your firm’s principles. 

Learn more about why you should take risks

Your willingness to take risks in your profession indicates that you’re passionate about your accounting career. You can increase your firm’s profitability and avoid becoming redundant by investing in new potential revenue streams like coaching or advisory services. In addition to taking risks to increase your firm’s profitability, you should consider taking risks and making sacrifices to uphold your firm’s core values. 

If you want to learn more about why accountants excel at change management, make sure to read Part One of this webinar article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

If you’re looking to offer your clients advisory services, consider signing up for Gusto. Gusto provides accountants with a highly beneficial People Advisory Certification program that will teach you how to advise your clients in various people-centered categories, such as payroll, benefits, and HR. Gusto also includes free payroll and HR tools as well as a dedicated Gusto partner advisor for your firm. Find out more about how Gusto can help you serve your clients better and expand your firm by visiting our Gusto for accountants page.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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