‘Calculated Risk-Taking’: The Success Factors of Entrepreneurial Accountants
Professional accountants are commonly associated as introverts, meticulous, and objectively stern when it comes to ‘getting-things-done’ (Attkisson, 2019; Indeed, 2019; Marinoff, 2019; Pannapacker, 2012). This is contrary to the typical stereotype of entrepreneurs who are creatively flexible risk-taking individuals (Seth, 2019; DeMers, 2017; Pupavac, 2015; Tappi, 2005; Caird, 1993). But what if these characteristics combine? The result – Entrepreneurial Accountants. Patil (2016) used the term ‘Accounteneurs’ to identify entrepreneurial accountants. He mentioned that ‘Accounteneurs’ chose not to take up a job but instead to create a business. He defines them as professional accountants who own accounting firms. Thus, entrepreneurial accountants are driven in reaching a certain goal in mind, may it be an innovation, a state, or a unique service because these individuals do not only have the technical accounting skills but also have the qualities of an entrepreneur. Given the idea of the presence of the entrepreneurial accountants in society, this study explored the ‘meaning’ of being a successful entrepreneurial accountant. The researchers focused to explain how entrepreneurial accountants who own small to medium accounting firms became successful in (area, country). Hence, this study aimed to contribute an in-depth theoretical understanding of the gap between the concept and practice of the entrepreneurial accountant phenomenon. Two significant theories served as the analytical foundation of this study: the Human Capital Theory (Frese and Rauch, 2001) and the Opportunity Identification Theory (Ardichvilia, Cardozob, and Rayc, 2000; Gaglio and Katz, 2001). Respectively, these theories account for the internal and external factors that influence the distinctive character of entrepreneurial accountants. The main purpose of this study is to explore the success factors of the owners of small to medium accounting firms — entrepreneurial accountants. To provide in-depth investigation on this phenomenon, this study specifically aimed to address the following objectives: (1) to describe the relevant socio-demographic profile of an entrepreneurial accountant; (2) to understand the personality traits and competencies of a successful entrepreneurial accountant; and (3) to discover the available opportunities and resources that affect an entrepreneurial accountant’s success. The researchers used Narrative Analysis as research design. The study focused on the experiences of the entrepreneurial accountants embedded in the success stories that participants have shared with the researchers. Data were gathered from eight (8) qualified entrepreneurial accountants in the Province of Laguna in the Philippines who were selected based on the following criteria: (a) must be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), (b) an owner of an accounting firm, and (c) his/her accounting firm must be operational for a minimum of 5 years already.
Interviewing was used to gather data. Researcher-made guide questions were carefully scrutinized and validated by peers and business professionals. Gathered interview data was transcribed.
Ethical issues arising from this research study were anticipated considering that data that was collected willingly came from the lived experiences of the participants. The welfare of the research participants was protected in the whole process of this research. To ensure observance of research ethical practices, the following safeguards proposed by Viloria (2018) were used: (1) promoting integrity of the study was done by developing trust in the research participants; (2) their rights, needs, and values were respected; (3) all participants were given written informed consent of their participation in the study indicating therein that their participation was voluntary and they could withdraw from the study anytime without any question asked or obligation from them; and (4) personal identity of the participants and their organizational affiliations were kept confidential in this study. Analysis of data was based on the Codes-to-Theory Model proposed by Saldaña (2013) where data underwent a three-level analyses phase – (1) coding, (2) categorizing, and (3) formation of themes/ideas. As data was rigorously analyzed, through several reading stages, a code system was developed by the researchers. The analysis technique helped to move from a broad reading toward the discovery of patterns of the information and empirical insight about the entrepreneurial accountant phenomenon. To ensure the trustworthiness of the findings, the researcher applied credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability as criteria to ensure the soundness of the results. These were based on the criteria proposed by Lincoln and Guba (1985). According to Lincoln and Guba (1985), as cited by Viloria (2018), these criteria are analogously comparable to the traditional measurement in judging the soundness of a quantitative research.
The findings of the study revealed that the factors that contributed to the success of entrepreneurial accountants are the profound handling of the dynamic integration of the internal and external forces that affect their personal lives and professional endeavors. Specifically, these factors include their profile, personality traits, competencies, opportunities, resources, and business values. These inputs (success factors) are personal and organizational in nature. The socio-demographic profile of the participants was found out to somehow be relevant to their journey towards success. The average age of the participants is forty-five (45) years old. They have their own families and have established their accounting firms on their own or through partnership. They strictly emphasized that accountancy, being their academic background, should fit their passion. They added that at this level, having a work-life balance is very important. Honesty or transparency, partnered with accuracy, was consistently revealed as the most important personality trait that a successful entrepreneurial accountant should possess. This trait was strongly supported by other positive personality traits mentioned by the participants. The study also revealed that successful entrepreneurial accountants capitalize on the following competencies: (1) good communication and interpersonal skills, (2) exceptional technical (accounting and taxation) skills, and (3) tenacious entrepreneurial skills. They believed that having these competencies significantly helped them grow their accounting firms and gave them a competitive advantage in the accounting services industry. Entrepreneurial accountants also associated their success by seizing opportunities. The participants highlighted opportunities as internal and external. Internal opportunities are mainly focused on the internal business environment which includes factors within the company that have an impact on operational success such as having potentially skilled employees. External opportunities were regarded as strong market demands. They said that generating the need for their accounting services is the foundation of such an opportunity. According to the participants, educating other business owners (their potential clients) about the importance of having an efficient accounting and taxation arm is essential to their growth. In addition, the study also found out that entrepreneurial accountants having good use of available resources (specifically technical expertise, technology, and adequate facilities) significantly helped them. These resources were labeled as soft and hard resources.