Communication and Accounting

Apr 19, 2017

Accounting is about numbers, right? Balances, debits, credits, etc. Have you thought about how accounting is also about words? They’re important because you also need to be able to communicate about the numbers.

Consider these scenarios:

  • A single-person accounting department in a small business
  • A team negotiating a multi-million-dollar corporate sale
  • An advisor guiding a couple through estate planning

CPAs can find themselves in any of these situations, often working with others who do not share their training in accounting and business. Colleagues and clients will look to CPAs to provide explanation and guidance about the work they produce. And when a CPA is also a strong communicator, their business training becomes even more powerful.

So, how can you improve your communication skills?

  • Listen to the language that the people around you (in person or in your module assignments or practice cases) use. That will give you cues to their comfort with “the numbers”. You may need to provide more explanation and use simpler language when communicating with the small business owner than you would with the negotiating team. But that doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to use complex terminology with someone who understands it. Instead, aim for clear, concise language regardless of who you are working with.
  • Explain concepts when you introduce them to ensure the others you’re working with (or your facilitator) understand what you mean when you refer to the concepts. Be precise in your explanations, and if possible, use examples that the audience will be able to relate to. A couple looking for estate planning advice is unlikely to relate well to examples of intricate company mergers.
  • Practice. As with any skill, your communication will improve with practice. 

For more about communication, review the communication resources relating to the CPA Way.