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What is needed to evolve accountants/controllers to become "trusted advisors"?

At the rate of change that is rapidly evolving the accounting profession from one of compliance based historical work to reliance based advisory work and the automation of recording data entry transactions, tracking financial metrics, and knowledge of relevant accounting recognition/reporting literature being a mouseclick away, a lot of what made accountants and controllers financial experts are now available to the average business person.

How do we make accountants and controllers experts in business instead of someone who just works with numbers, not to usurp or undermine the role or function of legitimate CFOs, but to truly complement CFOs and what they do?

(btw, thanks Wayne). ;-)


Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

You're welcome Jason :)

Assuming the accountants/controllers come from an collegiate accounting program is to take some of the 150 credits that are built into the accounting major and broaden the scope.

Do they really need advanced accounting or do they need as you pointed out, business courses that are steeped in understanding the art and science of business, not just the numbers.

One might say a term of master classes.

Carl Heintz
Title: Chief
Company: Heintzsight LLC
(Chief, Heintzsight LLC) |

As the old saying goes " a little knowledge is dangerous." The insidious narrative promoted by some accounting software vendors goes something like this: "With our software, any dummy can have audit quality, reliable financials." Sure. Right. In my practice, I have seen more damage done by this insanity that just about anything else.

For some strange reason, businesspeople think that all you need for good financial statements is to press a few buttons and the computer does it. Sorry folks, but that's the extension of GIGO. (garbage in, garbage out).

The skills brought to the table by CFO's and their staffs is to make data into information. That can't and should not be entirely automated. The careful compilation of financial information and transformation into intelligent financial statements and their ancillary analyses is invaluable. That's what controllers and their staff are supposed to do. In addition, they're responsible for maintaining and tweaking the internal systems that ensure the minimization of "garbage in."

Sometimes management fails to appreciate just how important these seemingly mundane tasks are. They fail to appreciate that the entire health of the business often depends upon the reliability, timeliness and insightfulness of the financial information they get from their controller and their staff. In their dismissiveness they reveal their ignorance and arrogance.

Well run businesses and successful business managers always look upon their Controller and staff as invaluable trusted advisers... and they actively support and seek out the information and analyses these professionals provide.

Accounting is the language of business, and those who succeed in business speak that language fluently.

Isabella Anderson
Title: Finance Manager
Company: Alignment Nashville
(Finance Manager, Alignment Nashville) |

Yes, The information may be a mouse click away... But what CEO has the time to go look for it. They rely on us for that information just like they rely on the factory workers to make the widget. The CEO does not have time to do it all. I am not worried about access to information cheapening our value. I do agree you need to have real business experience to be a trusted adviser but that comes with time and experience. A set of classes may be slightly helpful but... Real World Experience is what is going to make them listen to you.

() |

It comes down to the person. You need to start with the right foundation. A CPA/Accountant/Controller that doesn't want to be a trusted adviser will never get there. It may go without saying, but that is where you need to start. No amount of training, mentoring, software will help. Find someone hungry and someone that thinks like a CFO, someone that "gets it" when it comes to running a my experience, those are the things you either have or don't. Difficult to train that. There is where the evolution begins and ends.

Jason M. Jones LPA
Title: Client Service Coordinator
Company: Hemphill Wright & Associates CPAs
(Client Service Coordinator, Hemphill Wright & Associates CPAs) |

Well said, Anonymous. I've always said, "Business is easy, it's the people that makes it hard."


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