The meaning of our work

April 23, 2020

Liza RobbinsBy Liza Robbins.

January 2020 was less than five months ago.

But it feels like a different lifetime, doesn’t it?

What a different world we lived in then.

That’s why I was so taken back when I recently re-read the very first email I sent out this year…

It resonated in ways I could never have imagined or expected, just five months later.

Back then, I wanted to explore how people find meaning in their work.

I firmly believe that companies with a strong purpose find it easier to attract and retain clients and staff, and to grow faster.

So I wrote a series of emails about how we, at Kreston, can do more to bring purpose and meaning into our firms, and communicate that to all stakeholders.

I started off by pointing out that while accountants are sometimes stereotyped as boring bean-counters, the work we do is of immense value….

I won’t try to paraphrase myself – Here’s what I wrote:

The truth is that the role we play is essential to civil society.

In fact, it underpins society!

Without good financial systems, society cannot function smoothly, just as it cannot function without a good legal system.

And without the kind of checks-and-balances we provide for the financial system as auditors, accountants and tax advisors, people will not be able to have confidence in society, either.

It’s hard to see how essential that confidence is until things go wrong.”

Well, it’s fair to say that things have gone wrong, thanks to the Coronavirus crisis…

…And it’s clearer than ever just how essential our role is.

In many countries, accountants have been classed as indispensable, key workers, because the smooth functioning of the economy – and by extension, society – depends on what we do.

Accountancy firms have been absolutely instrumental in helping companies access emergency funding from governments, across the globe.

That is not just a technical issue. Being able to access these funds will allow businesses to survive, will maintained livelihoods, and ensure that companies and people can pay their bills…

It’s not saving people’s lives physically, but I do think that we will save lives in the broader sense.

We’ve helped companies file their accounts and do their taxes under almost unimaginable conditions…

…Not only helping businesses to continue to function, but ensuring that people can still trust that there is oversight of their financial affairs.

During a worldwide crisis like this, when almost everything about the way we live has been turned upside down and many people are in acute financial distress, it’s crucial to maintain confidence in our financial systems.

Otherwise, people will not be willing to spend their money or trust the banks, and it could even lead to social unrest.

Our work has helped avert all that.

Finally, our firms have also given companies invaluable consultancy and advice around how to survive this business crisis – and will doubtless continue to do more of this, as lockdowns and quarantines start to lift.

Getting businesses back on their feet again will be key to restoring a sense of normality in these abnormal times, and averting economic devastation.

The bottom line is that is that the role we’re playing during the COVID-19 crisis is of national and international importance.

And I think that our clients, who depend on us intensely during this period, recognise that and will remember our contribution for years to come.

So while of course times are tough for many accountancy firms right now, in the long-term, we will emerge with lots of goodwill and gratitude, a deeper understanding of the immense value we provide and a lot more respect to our profession.

Given the state of the world right now, I recognise that’s cold comfort.

But still, we can be very, very proud of what we do.