‘Life begins where the textbooks end.’ The validity of this statement can be verified by no one better than a Chartered Accountant. After toiling hard for years, investing their their blood, sweat and sleepless nights, the irony that is later predominantly projected is that a substantial part of their practical job comes out of their academic syllabus. Unfortunately for them, there’s no Prince Charming of a saviour to rescue them from the hard hitting reality. During the tedious course of nearly 4.5 years that includes rigorous schedule of 6 months of CPT, 9 months of IPCC, 2.5 years of Articleship and 6 months of CA Finals, a diverse range of theoretical knowledge and practical training is mandatorily imparted to the aspirants. Despite going to great lengths to conquer the prescribed syllabus of ICAI, there are some tactical scares that do not fail to sneak up on CAs which are not merged in their respective curriculum. Let us take a brief tour into the unchartered territories of Chartered Accountants.
You can have Taxation for breakfast, Auditing for lunch and Accounting for dinner but none of it encroaches to emancipate you from the dumbfound expression on your face when an interview panel asks,”Tell us something about yourself.” The aura of Chartered Accountants is such that they are a force to be reckoned with. Yet in most cases, most CAs will agree in unison that the constant hibernation during examinations and the solitary confinement in the corner of their room takes a toll on their social and communicative capabilities. Networking has been defined by the Business dictionary as ‘creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit.’ Being a social process, networking isn’t an art mastered by all CAs. The art of initiating and maintaining the flair of a meaning conversation is a cogent resort for a firm to bring in new business. One of the biggest mistakes people make in their networking approach is to confuse social interaction with an opportunity to sell oneself. Networking should be all about building quality relationships. It is based on the question “How can I help?” and not “What can I get?”
- Scaling a business:
Charles Darwin’s evolution theory quoted as ‘Survival of the fittest’ isn’t confined to it’s suggested field. It can aptly justify the evolution of business as well. Scalability is ‘a characteristic of a system, model or function that describes its capabilities to cope and perform under an increased or expanding workload’ as defined by The Economic Times. A system that scales well will be able to maintain or even increase its level of performance or efficiency when tested larger operational demands. Most CAs find it comparatively easier to start their firm in comparison to scaling the business due to their incompetent lack of depth in the process. Ignorance of key areas such as group of leaders, investors and advisors, who provide strategy and direction and consistent brand messaging across their divisions. A lack of brand enforcements cause firms to lose sight of the core values thus decreasing scalability. Yahoo is an example of victim of inadequate scaling. After it scaled up quickly, it lost sight of core business and has floundered. Finance is only one side of the story. Growth that is sustainable and realistic relies on a number of factors like keeping a watchful eye on the market, competitors and the economy as a whole. Accounting and Auditing departments may be what makes a firm tick but learning how the parts of system work together as a well oiled machine in another matter entirely. Numbers never lie and accountants have a certain edge when it comes to measuring and monitoring business growth but it all gets lost when it comes down to scaling.
- Scope of work of a Chartered Accountant:
Surely every commerce student in India has been asked if they’re pursuing CA or Taxation. Though each of is a refined profession, people fail to look beyond the stereotype and realise that there are various ways of CA as well and it’s horizon extends beyond the realm of its assumed synonym, Auditing. The ornate objective is just to be a CA without steering into the scope of career. The numerous ways are:
(a) Auditing: It is here that a CA’s specialized training, skill and judgement are most often come into play. The purpose of auditing is to satisfy the users of financial statements that the accounts presented to them are drawn up on correct accounting principles and that they represent a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the organisation.
(b) Cost Accountancy: A Chartered Accountant is also trained to ascertain the cost of production and the processes at different levels of operation in the manufacture of a product and in the rendering of a service. He is also equipped to provide costing information for guidance of management, introduce cost control methods and assist the management in establishing appropriate selling prices.
(c) Special company work: The services of a CA are frequently sought in connection with matters such as formation, financial structure and liquidation of Limited Company. Secretarial and Registration work and the duties of a Receiver are also undertaken by them.
(d) Investigation: CAs are often called upon to carry out investigation to ascertain financial position of a business in connection with matter such as a new issue of share capital, purchase or sale or financing of a business, reconstruction and amalgamations.
(e) Executors and Trustees: A CA is also often appointed Executive under a will or trust in order to carry out the administration of estate or settlements. They work in cooperation with will solicitors or lawyers and conversely, lawyers resort to CAs in the execution of financial matters.
(f) Directorship: Many members of the ICAI who hold senior position in industry and commerce are also Director of companies. The advantages of having a CA on the Board of Directors are now well known and this practice is prevalent all over the world.
(g) Management Consultant: CA play invaluable role in assisting business organisations to utilise resources efficiently, increase efficiency and achieve their goals and objectives. CAs render host of consulting services like designing budgetary and control system, determining measures of effective utilisation of capital, reviewing procedures and equipment for operations control and acting as investment counselor in respect of securities among numerous others.
- Paradigm shift between textbook knowledge and reality:
The closer you look for answers in the textbooks, the more you lose sight of problems in reality. You walk in expecting it to be a Nicholas Sparks novel and walk out with Edgar Allan Poe. The spontaneity and adaptation to change as demanded by the dynamic economy challenge their very fundamentals. The selective study and strategies are rendered mere failures as their job requires the knowledge and experience in handling of financial statements and official documents in intricate detail. The responsibility gets bigger and they realise that the one little mistake that used to make them lose a mark or two can now potentially break their career. Just one signature of their on that sheet of paper makes them liable if found invalid. The words ‘true and fair view’ ceases to exist as just a suffix to their ending statement. It’s gravity gets heightened to the epitome of it’s implication.
- Dealing with pressure:
If you see the light of someone’s room on and door closed for at least 18 hours a day, you know a CA aspirant resides there. The pressure to keep accurate accounts is one face of the coin but those in business for themselves face challenging decisions of a far more abstract nature every day. Deciding who is to hire and who to sack is a perfect example. Did you learn how to sack someone when you were training? What’s worse is that even after giving your all, studying the prescribed material and draining your brain and emotions all these years there’s only a 4% chance of you passing the CA examination as per ICAI. If only they offered Failure 101 as regular part of the regular curriculum. While I am not advocating going for failure in CA examinations, the dark reality is shows 96% failure. They could have benefitted from a better understanding of how to fail with grace and aplomb and what they should do about it afterwards. So the next time you ask a CA if they had even a brief moment of failure wherein they felt like giving up and they say, rest assured it isn’t true.