• Helen Pretty, Pretty Successful Careers Helen Pretty, Pretty Successful Careers

Why and How to Embrace an Ambitious Qualifying Accountant

Why and how to embrace an ambitious qualifying accountant.

I describe myself as the most determined and ambitious person you will meet, and I know some of my past managers haven’t motivated or supported me with the potential and ambitions I have.

So I write from my experience, to give you a different perspective, but also to highlight areas which an ambitious qualifying accountant will have. Have a read and learn – and enjoy having discussions (and more) with your team to discuss and show them that you do get them!

This blog is about why and how you can use and embrace qualifying accountants, to support you and really add value to you and their careers.

During my rise up the career ladder I have found that senior finance leads have often focused too much on the operational, day to day accounts, instead of balancing that with growing and developing their finance team, so they can encourage more qualifying accountants to have the opportunities they have (I don’t mean that rudely, its just kind of true, from my experience).

Focusing too much on operational tasks instead of growing and developing your finance team.

This is a classic issue which I have seen and faced in many businesses, which fills up a qualifying accountant’s day with non-value-adding tasks.

Finance has a well-structured process when it comes to month end and accounts preparation. The cycle suits most accountants (we all know we have a similar personality). But the needs and ambitions of a studier mean the routine has to combine more than just month end and operational tasks to excite, motivate and challenge them.

Think about what they are doing for the three weeks between month end and just how much value you can squeeze out of them to add value to them and the business. The strategic tasks, improvement projects, your junior tasks (which are senior to them) and personal development activities.

Give and plan out a quarterly project with them to give them less operational tasks and watch them learn and shine. Yes, you will need to support them (especially at the start) but next quarter you’ll see the rewards. Trust me, this is me speaking from experience, personally and with my teams.

When is the last time you did team building or personal development with your qualifying team?

No, rolling your eyes and saying ‘I don’t believe in that stuff’ or ‘my boss won’t pay for it’ is NOT the right answer here guys!

Think about it, you are the finance leader, you are their work role model and I believe you owe your team the responsibility of leading and growing them to be the best accountants (and people) they can be.

An ambitious qualifying accountant has a dream to be a Financial Controller, Finance Manager and Finance Director. I encourage you to think and action what you can do to facilitate and lead developing that accountant to be one step closer to that dream, and have the skills needed to be that role model in the future.

How about a starter for ten, you have a finance team meeting this month, talk about what value you can add this month and set goals together to achieve it. Encourage discussion and communication, when that one person in your team rants about something negative – you need to lead and steer the conversation away from that and onto value adding and development opportunities.

It really is as simple as giving a qualifier an opportunity for discussion and growth in the right forum (as a team, not just 1:1) and then it’s about acting on the outcomes of that and always implementing goals and tasks.

I dare you to say ‘Yes’ to them, more than once!

Are you blinkered by ‘Work mode’?

I have thought that you might have this focus because you are just so blinkered by ‘work mode’ that you can’t see the amazing talent from your team that could help you.

Nothing wrong with work mode, but let’s think about how that comes across to an ambitious qualifier.

Bullet – They are left out of the loop, that senior finance loop that they (desperately) want to be involved in. For example, remember that audit meeting you had last month, trust me, we want to be in that! Or that finance improvement project to the Accounts or IT system, yes they wish they could lead that and be responsible!

And no, please do not assume (because it makes an ass out of you and me) that they don’t want those tasks…. The ambitious ones do! And they actually need them to build up their practical work experience log to gain their actual accounting letters.

My advice to you is to look at your weekly or monthly schedule and plan your qualifiers in. Give them enough time and notice so that they can plan their normal workload, but fit them in. They will love it!

Can you really remember what it's like to be a qualifying accountant?

You might be so far removed from your days as a qualifying accountant (I know I have 6 years out of that… imagine having 15/20?) you can’t remember they need help and support from their managers to really add value to them and their finance department.

The last few months I have worked closely with my team to really understand what their needs are and what support they really want (not just what I think they want), and I encourage you to do the same.

The struggles and emotional journey of the Accounting qualifications are so real to them, and it is easy to forget those painful days. Firstly give them a break, secondly, listen to them and thirdly set goals together for them to feel like they have a work-life-study balance.

Note to you – these goals are not for the benefit of you or your business – they are for the benefit of your qualifying team - remember you are putting them positively first!

Okay bear with me with this one because it’s not as harsh as it sounds, maybe you, as a finance director or finance lead, are so blinkered and scared about your job and where you can’t go (hit a ceiling, nowhere else to go) that you are stopping your team progressing at a valuable rate?

Honestly guys, you are worrying and wasting your energy on that perspective! Your team and your qualifying accountants don’t have what you have right now – the priceless golden nugget of time! The time you have spent being in your finance career is priceless, use it as a positive tool, not a defensive weapon.

One of my biggest wishes in my career is that I wished my Finance Directors gave me more support and time so I could learn a tiny piece of their priceless knowledge and experience.

Be that Finance lead today and I encourage you to change your perspective to one of ‘I would love to help my team!’

Here are few implementable tips for Finance Directors like you, to ponder and use to know how to embrace an ambitious accountant (like myself)

+ Keep a proper focus on us – monthly, structured personal and grown plan – with objectives (more than just a chat ‘How are you doing’)

+ Find a path for us in the business – we don’t want to be stuck in our seats doing the same job now that we were last year, there are more senior finance responsibilities we can and really want to do! Find and plan a path (with us) to keep us here working as hard for the company as we are for ourselves and our CV.

+ Involve us! You know those meetings you have with other senior managers – let us sit in them (in silence), we want to be in the room, soaking and learning and listening to what and how that level of finance speaks and acts.

But my team are a threat to me?!?

Finally, some ideas for you to really believe that qualifying accountants aren’t a threat to you and your job – we are super valuable and need the FD to help us!

+ Imagine if you were that person, they said made a positive difference in their career, the one they personally thanked in their rise to their top.

+ Your job is to do the strategy, so give us the senior operational tasks so you can do your job and shine with the skills you have!

+ Remember we want to shine with you, not BE you!

I’d welcome your views and questions on my blog, feel free to get in touch – hello@prettysuccessfulcareers.co.uk

Thanks for reading the blog, catch me again soon where I will be discussing mentoring.


Helen Pretty is a CIMA qualified Accountant, she has successfully worked her way up the finance ladder in her career, specialising in Management Accounts within the manufacturing industry.

See her full biography and contact information https://bit.ly/30mm9fv