The nickname – The Big 4 – has been a recurring decimal in the accounting world for years. They are regarded as giants in the accounting industry, commanding the tasks of auditing and financial consultancy of the big-name establishments in many countries.
It is, therefore, of little surprise that accountants all over, veterans and greenhorns alike, strive against all odds to get recruited by the Big 4.
As an experienced certified public accountant (CPA), working with the Big 4 may be the peak of a towering career, ruling out the option of small accounting firms.
But what if I told you that notion is nothing but a mirage?
Keep calm as we delve into the facts.
NUMBERS TELL IT ALL
With Canada as a case study, a 2020 report released by the Government of Canada revealed startling facts.
- Submissions of the report include but were not limited to the fact that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as of December 2019, provided 88.5% of the total labour force of the Canadian economy. Over five years alone, SMEs were responsible for 61.2% of the nation’s net employment growth.
- More stunning is the staggering record that in 2016 alone, the contribution of SMEs to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) was to the tune of 55.3%, pointing to the astonishing reality that SMEs are the main drivers of the Canadian economy – a fact that can’t be overlooked.
THE BIG QUESTION
So how do these compelling stats in support of small businesses apply to accounting and accounting careers? We’ve highlighted five indisputable advantages that small accounting firms provide to seasoned CPAs.
1. SAY GOODBYE TO MONOTONY AND HELLO TO VARIETY
Variety is the spice of life. Nothing drains the life out of an employee as having a monotonous set of tasks or a ‘stay-in-your-lane’ relationship with clients.
More often than not, CPAs with the Big 4 have their work reduced to a specific set of tasks and their visibility on the account limited to what their department heads decide to share. Many bright CPAs feel blindfolded and like their impact is limited by the siloed and hierarchical management style of accounts at the Big 4. If you can believe it, CPAs report that initiative and creativity are often discouraged in big firms because billable hours and process are the names of the game over impacting the client.
Small accounting firms, on the other hand, serve a diverse mix of clients, and CPAs get involved in all aspects of the account.
With small accounting firms, you have the unrivalled opportunity of bringing all your skills, initiative, and creativity to the forefront to make a business impact with the financial insights you glean from a holistic view.
And there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing the look on your client’s face when you know you’ve made a difference.
The variety available to creative CPAs in small accounting firms pays big dividends.
2. ECONOMIC SOLUTIONS PROVIDERS
While you might work with some well-known companies as a CPA at one of the Big 4, what impact do you get to make on the company, their industry, and the people they serve both inside and outside their organization?
The stats above are clear; when you help an SME succeed, you’re positively impacting the daily lives and life satisfaction of employees and the communities closest to home, and your creative solutions support the backbone and drivers of Canada’s economy.
This is the core ideal of Provision CPA, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur’s accounting firm which, for over 20 years, has been providing tax strategy and financial insights to help Canadian business owners make better decisions as they go through the peaks and valleys in business and entrepreneurship.
3. HEALTHY WORK-LIFE BALANCE
The larger a company gets, the more obstacles get in the way of prioritizing people over profit. Small accounting firms are more likely to provide employees with fluid, flexible, and realistic job schedules and a less pressure-laden work environment.
The result is a healthy work-life balance that improves your productivity, increases your level of creativity, boosts your thinking capacity, reduces the risk of burnout, enhances your physical and mental health, eliminates the occurrence of workplace-induced deaths, and most importantly, brings fulfilment in your personal life such as family, hobbies, and community involvement.
4. OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH
Even for a seasoned CPA, the opportunities provided for career growth and development by small accounting firms are unprecedented.
The practical experience and business acumen garnered by working with an assortment of clients across economic sectors and the added advantage provided by being involved with account leadership (instead of being hidden from client executives) are career-boosting opportunities that would take an accountant many years (or decades) to climb up the ladder and experience at the Big 4.
5. A SENSE OF OWNERSHIP
We touched lightly on this in point 1: if you ask them, many Big 4 accountants describe feeling like a cog in a wheel at work. They may feel disconnected from their clients and the larger impact of their work. Or even that they don’t have any say in the type of work that they do.
Working with small accounting firms affords you the opportunity to forge genuine and lasting relationships with your clients, associates, and partners and take more initiative and ownership over your professional development.
For example, accountants that work at Provision report are encouraged to speak up in meetings with client Executives and contribute their insight. One of our core values is to play as a team, and credit is shared with everyone who contributes, no matter their title or seniority. Making sure everyone on our team is recognized for their impact is a vital component of achieving the big-picture goal.
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
In a world where people and labour are becoming increasingly commoditized, the way to create job security and satisfaction as a CPA is by making a personal impact with your firm and for your clients, and, without a doubt, small accounting firms provide that opportunity in spades over the Big 4.
Creating a culture of entrepreneurship in accounting has been our commitment at Provision CPA for over two decades. We want to redefine the ‘boring’ stereotypes of the accounting profession, provide CPAs with the opportunity to make the impact we were designed to make on business and the economy, and support Canadian entrepreneurs to thrive, innovate, and grow our country, economy, and communities.
Image Credits: Ivan Samkov on Pexels