The report also considers the potential of Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) in enterprise education, in light of ACCA’s recently launched course with the University of Exeter, named Discovering Business in Society. The Global Forum highlighted the ability of enterprise MOOCs to democratise training usually reserved for senior managers, thus increasing corporate entrepreneurial activity, and their potential to act as lead generators for public and private enterprise support. But to fulfil any of these roles, enterprise MOOCs need to emphasise the immersive and team experience that most entrepreneurs treasure.
But the group also considered the role of accountants as de facto mentors. Rosanna Choi, Chair of the Global Forum for SMEs, said: ‘It is important that entrepreneurs understand the benefits that finance professionals can bring to their business.
‘Accountants are trusted advisers to businesses, especially start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) when they are in the first few years of formation and need to keep on top of the financial side of things in their aim to expand and grow.
'However, in order to be able to provide the rounded support that enterprises need from the very beginning of their business journey, accountants need to view their role with the mindset of the entrepreneur.’
Some recommendations have been put together by the Global Forum for SMEs, about what the entrepreneur and their enterprise can do with their financial adviser to ensure business runs smoothly, as well as expand and grow when the time is right.
Charlotte Chung, ACCA’s senior policy adviser, said: ‘The onus is on both the finance professional and the entrepreneur to keep themselves up-to-date with the latest in enterprise development and what this could mean for their respective professions. The global forum’s recommendations outline how they can go about this and also how they can work together in synergy to ensure business runs as smoothly as possible.’ These recommendations include:
For entrepreneurs and enterprises
Invest in creating and building a robust business plan – Planning enables the entrepreneur to experiment with new ideas and to steady the firm for rapid growth while being anchored within sound financial parameters. Seeking professional support early on – working out what the business can and cannot afford to spend or working through potential scenarios and options for growth – is a worthwhile investment for helping entrepreneurs to flesh out their business and its potential beyond just the initial idea. This requires entrepreneurs to practise putting pen to paper using simple analysis and review techniques available in business planning, instilling a greater degree of discipline in the decision-making process.
For finance professionals
Understand the mindset of the entrepreneur – What entrepreneurs and accountants value and prioritise may differ widely, and the accountant will typically adopt a more conservative role – that of steward. Accounting education should therefore be better aligned with enterprise education, through the use of business scenarios, role playing and case study material.
Stay on top of technology –Technology-driven alternative finance providers such as crowdfunding platforms are enabling entrepreneurs to do business in new and innovative ways, where conventional practice and behaviours do not necessarily apply. If accountants want to remain businesses’ most trusted advisers, they will need to keep up with these developments; such changes are also likely to provide opportunities for developing new value-added services to businesses.
Develop a deeper understanding of business model typologies throughout the business cycle – Finance professionals need to be prepared to apply and adapt their rigorous approach to finance management to less familiar business models, particularly those during the start-up phase. The prevalence of technology has also sparked new models of doing business, such as those operating in e-commerce, which may not fit conventional moulds and metrics. It is ever more crucial for finance professionals to work closely with businesses to ensure that their support is fit for purpose and tailored to their client’s needs.
Be business partners - The skills that finance professionals do not typically excel in belong to what are often considered to be other ‘unrelated’ areas of the business: marketing, communications, brand and reputation management etc. Accountants need to address these weak spots in order to provide a more rounded service which factors in the value and impact of these areas on the bottom line, to get a truly accurate picture of the financial health and potential of a business.