4 Keys to Happiness in Accounting
According to Lorilyn Wilson, CPA, the host of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Accounting Podcast, accountants rank in the bottom 6% for career happiness, with an average rating of 2.6 out of 5 stars.
Donny Shimamoto, CPA, CITP, CGMA, founder and managing director of IntrapriseTechKnowlogies LLC (ITK), joined Wilson to discuss career trajectories and generational differences in approaches to both career and happiness.
Key 1 to Happiness: It’s all perception.
Many accounting graduates are all too happy to run to one of the Big Four firms and are quite proud to land there, as they should be. However, small to medium-sized firms have an edge over larger employers. Shimamoto explained that, in his conversations—and his own experience—working for smaller firms allows new hires to learn much more.
“In talking with some of the mid-sized firms, I’m asking them, ‘Who are you hiring from? Are you hiring from these large Big Four people?’ And they say, ‘Actually, no, we really don’t like them because they’re not getting enough exposure and they’re stuck kind of doing this one thing…and they only know this one way to do things,” Shimamoto explained.
He continued, “Compared to people that come from more like where I came from, which is a mid-size or larger, lower end of the larger firms. We get exposed to a lot more. We touch a lot of different things.”
Shimamoto added that it’s usually the people who are experiencing problems that are the most vocal and that those with higher engagement in the profession, who love what they do, are usually the ones not saying anything, suggesting the results of the study may be slightly skewed.
Key 2 to Happiness: Use your tools.
Shimamoto, who is a tech guru and featured presenter for many technology topics, said he thinks the main reason accountants report being unhappy is because they are overwhelmed with “everything.”
“To me, everything is all the changes in the tax law, going through the pandemic with all the PPP craziness, which affected tax people, affected client accounting, even affected audit,” he explained. “Everyone was affected a lot and it’s been compounding and compounding.”
“Year after year, we talk about the people crisis right now, but there’s been a people crisis since the 90s,” Shimamoto added. “The big thing for me, having dual technology training, is coming back and looking at it and saying, ‘Well, there’s been technology that’s been around for so long, and the pandemic actually forced people to adopt it.”
“It’s time for people to adopt it because that’s what is going to actually help make accounting better,” he said. “It will get rid of all that grunt work and let us focus on why I think a lot of us became accountants, which is to work more of the analysis, the strategy, the problem solving, and really help people and businesses be more successful.”
Key 3 to Happiness: Welcome other disciplines.
When Wilson asked why Shimamoto thought accounting was slow to embrace new technologies, Shimamoto said it was quite simple.
“Just by nature, we are more conservative as a profession,” he said. “But the other thing that I think is …historically, the way the work has been done has been led by partners who tend to be older, who tend to be more change-averse, and it’s also tied into their income.”
Shimamoto continued, “But we’re at this point now where there’s this big shift, and the fact that we need and we’re starting to embrace other disciplines within accounting, to utilize an IT person, to utilize a scientist for ESG reporting, all of these other disciplines are starting to be brought into the firms, into the way that we do accounting. And I think that’s going to open up a lot more doors.”
Key 4 to Happiness: Keep an open mind.
Wilson, who is a millennial, asked Shimamoto if he thought job happiness and satisfaction were generational issues.
“I’m a millennial,” she said. “We’re unhappy because what makes us happy is not the same as what made boomers happy.”
“I think it’s a matter of patience,” he said. “The boomers and event—I’m part of them—Gen X, we’re a lot more willing to wait to go through that process of, ‘Okay, I understand I have to pay my dues and earn my way to a certain point.’ And I think we just don’t see that in millennials. It’s part of that learned immediate gratification type thing, for better or worse.”
Shimamoto went on to say that all of us simply want more time with those we care about, so everyone in accounting wants those around them to be successful to allow that time. While some choose to bide their time and wait until they can climb the ladder and later implement changes, some choose to start their own firms, adding that it’s much easier today than it was 20 years ago.
“Now, you can spin up Office 365 or Google Enterprise and you’ve essentially got a corporate infrastructure already built out for you whereas before, there was a monetary barrier to that,” he said.
However, he admonished, it might not be the best move to start a firm when you’re newer in your career.
“I think a lot of millennials are missing a really big point,” he explained. “I still worry that I don’t know everything that the generation before us knows.”
“I think it’s really about all of the generations learning to value each other more, rather than fight against each other or disparage each other,” Shimamoto said. “[We need to] really just sit and listen. And there are these grains of insight that we can gain from each other. And then it’s a balancing of all of these different things that will help make all of us happier in what we’re doing.”
Want to learn more about harnessing technology? Learn from Tech Guru Donny Shimamoto in the following CPE courses: