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Last updated: 30 Oct 2023 10:00 Posted in: AIA

Lucy Cohen, Co‑Founder of Mazuma and a mentor for ProNation, examines how a mindset shift can help accountants to overcome their limitations and transform their career.

In the world of accounting, precision and accuracy are paramount. As accountants, we are trained to abide by strict rules and regulations, ensuring that every figure is spot-on. But this laser focus on the technical aspects can sometimes overshadow the importance of mindset.

As an accountant, your mindset can be the invisible force either propelling you forward or holding you back. It’s high time to ask yourself – are you getting in your own way?

This article is my call to action for accountants to assess, reset and adopt a growth-oriented mindset that can break down barriers and usher in a new era of progress and success. In my own life, I have found that the periods where I have achieved my greatest successes have been when I have adopted a growth and abundance mindset, and have worked very hard to overcome things like doubt and imposter syndrome to get out of my own way!

Precision is not just in numbers; it’s also in mindset. In our rigorous accounting universe, where every decimal counts, it’s easy to forget that our mindset counts just as much. So how will your mindset influence your success?

Is your mindset your own worst enemy?

As accountants, we are champions of precision and protocols, the guardians of fiscal truth! Frankly, I’m astounded that Marvel hasn’t included one of us in their superhero franchise yet – after all, they’ve got the theoretical physicist Robert Bruce Banner! But we are sometimes the underwriters of our own limitations.

Let’s rip the off the plaster and confront the hard question: are you obstructing your own path to success? Or, to put it another way, are you getting in your own way? The accounting industry is evolving and so should our mindset. We have to start thinking of ourselves outside of the pigeonhole of accountancy, and start working to see our value in the context of wider business.

Let’s start with some food for thought. For those of you that run your own firms, perhaps it’s time to stop calling what you do an ‘Accountancy Practice’, and start thinking of it as an ‘Accountancy Business’ instead.

The fixed mindset: the accountant’s silent adversary

Named by psychologist Carol Dweck, a fixed mindset is akin to believing that your skills are immovable constants. Do you think that you’re ‘just a numbers person’ or that managerial roles aren’t for you? These are self-erected walls, not realities. And it’s exactly these sorts of beliefs that will stifle your growth.

Our field is ever-changing: evolving regulations, emerging software and fluctuating client expectations. A fixed mindset? That’s the fast track to stagnation and stress. To break free, challenge these beliefs. Ask yourself, ‘Why not me?’ Start to see change as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Embrace lifelong learning, and understand that your value as an accountant goes way beyond your technical ability.

The transformative power of a growth mindset

On the other end of the spectrum, the growth mindset is your key to boundless potential. Here, challenges transform into stepping stones, not roadblocks.

Errors become lessons, not failures. With a growth mindset in your toolkit, you’re not just an accountant but a resilient, agile, ever-improving professional who is capable of building the business of your dreams, whatever that happens to look like.

A growth-oriented accountant is poised to:

  • navigate and master new technologies and methodologies;
  • hone leadership and communication prowess;
  • commit to perpetual improvement and professional evolution; and
  • nurture enriching relationships with clients and peers.

There are examples of a growth mindset allowing people to get out of their own way all around us, but let’s take a really famous one…

Richard Branson stands as a beacon for breaking free from self-imposed limitations and soaring to stratospheric success (pun entirely intended!). Here’s a man who, despite struggling with dyslexia in his early years, never confined himself to societal labels.

Rejecting the notion that he was ‘unfit’ for business due to his learning difficulties, Branson trusted his vision and innate sense of adventure. With only a high school education and a pocket full of dreams, he launched Virgin Records out of a church basement. From there, he built the Virgin empire, which now spans across industries from music to airlines to space travel.

Richard Branson’s story is a masterclass in getting out of your own way – he didn’t let his past, his failures or his critics pen his future. Instead, he chose to author his own extraordinary narrative, with bold strokes of ambition, resilience and relentless innovation. He’s a reminder that when we move beyond our self-doubt and dare to dream audaciously, we can all write our own success stories.

So what does Branson have in common with us as accountants? You may say very little, especially given that he’s admitted that it took him until his fifties to understand the difference between net and gross profit! But what we can learn from him is that even if we can’t master a skill ourselves, a growth mindset lets us bring in other people to handle those things for us.

If you want to run a successful accountancy business, you cannot handle everything yourself. However, especially for those of us who have bootstrapped our way to growth, the tendency to want to keep control of everything (including the purse strings) can mean that we end up limiting our success. Our fear of not having enough work leads us to make the wrong decisions about clients, and so we get in our own way with a scarcity mindset, rather than an abundance mindset.

The accountant’s blueprint to a growth mindset

  • Self-audit: Start with an introspective balance sheet. Identify and document the restrictive beliefs anchoring you down.
  • Challenge the norm: When ‘I can’t’ thoughts arise, reframe them: ‘I haven’t yet, but I’m learning how.’ Words wield power; use them wisely!
  • SMART goal setting: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound objectives are your compass. Review and recalibrate as your journey progresses.
  • Embrace feedback as growth fuel: Recondition your mind to see feedback as constructive criticism, not personal affronts or mere praise.
  • Lifelong learning investment: Webinars, courses, industry reads, networking – make learning your constant companion.
  • Practise self-kindness: Extend the patience and empathy that you offer to friends to yourself.
  • Visualise the win: Envision your life after making your desired changes. Use this vibrant image as your North Star.

Abundance vs scarcity mindsets

Let’s look at an example of the difference between an abundance mindset and a scarcity mindset. An abundance mindset refers to the belief that there is plenty for everyone. It’s the philosophy that the world is full of opportunities waiting to be seized, and that success, wealth and happiness are not finite resources. Individuals with an abundance mindset tend to be optimistic, confident and open to new experiences, believing that they are one step closer to success, even when they lose.

In stark contrast, a scarcity mindset operates on the principle of ‘never enough.’ It views life as a zero-sum game where the gain of one person necessitates the loss of another. People with a scarcity mindset often feel anxious and threatened by the success of others, believing that there is a limited amount of resources, opportunities or success to go around. They tend to be highly competitive and fear-based, reluctant to share knowledge or resources with others.

In essence, while an abundance mindset focuses on possibilities and growth, a scarcity mindset is rooted in limitations and fear of loss.

In our accountancy businesses, a scarcity mindset might look like taking on the wrong sort of client, because we’re scared that if we don’t take them on, they’ll go elsewhere. Or it can look like cutting marketing or personal development spend when times get tight, instead of focusing on making sales rather than cutting costs.

A scarcity mindset works to allay short-term fear, but it’s not an effective long-term strategy. Yes, in the short term, cutting costs or taking in the income from any old client might seem like it solves a problem. But it’s actually a short-term strategy that will adversely affect your long-term goals. The wrong client on the books takes the space away from a much higher-paying client later on. And cutting spending on marketing means your pipeline dries up!

So how do we start fostering a growth and abundance mindset? We follow the blueprint for success set out in the box above.

Your career, supercharged

When you dismantle the roadblocks that your mindset might be placing in your way, the transformation can be dramatic for both your business and for you personally.

With a growth mindset, anticipate being able to:

  • emerge as your team’s solver of complex puzzles;
  • amplify your market value and demand;
  • forge deep, trust-filled client relationships; and
  • revel in heightened job satisfaction and mental wellbeing.

You are not ‘just’ an accountant. You are an evolving, nimble and invaluable professional in a dynamic landscape, continually refining your craft and character. Now, go on – crunch those numbers and crush those limiting beliefs!

For more information, visit the ProNation website.


Author biography

Lucy Cohen is the Co‑Founder of Mazuma and a mentor for ProNation, a community of ambitious accountants.

"You are not ‘just’ an accountant. You are an evolving, nimble and invaluable professional in a dynamic landscape, continually refining your craft and character. Now, go on – crunch those numbers and crush those limiting beliefs!"

Lucy Cohen, Co‑Founder of Mazuma and mentor for ProNation