Career Helpline: CA Practicing as Career

Chandigarh/ Keshav Garg: From the past couple of days, social media has been flooded with once in lifetime pictures of chartered accountants who have been accorded a degree of one of the prestigious institutions of the country: ICAI. Now that you are a part of the esteemed fraternity who shall become the pillars of the Indian economy, you must understand the real and practical challenges you might have to face in setting up your career. Before we even start listing these challenges, one thing should be absolutely clear that whether it’s your client, your team or even your relatives, you’ll get the space till you are adding value. The day you become monotonous who believes in repeating things without innovation, you are out of the game.

Let us now list the challenges you are going to face if you pursue your career as a chartered accountant:

For those choosing practice over job:

  1. Let me remind you that competition is immense, I might not be wrong if I say its throat-cutting. Just walk around a market place, and you would see a CA signboard on every second building you pass. But that’s not the point of worry, healthy competition is always good for business. Business oops did I use the wrong word, no absolutely not, yes running a CA firm is a business not a profession, you must understand that. Also you should learn the tricks of the trade. All the traits of business like risk-taking, courageous attitude, Management, Handling Human Resource and future thinking are all required to run a successful Chartered Accountants Firm. But you can’t let yourself down with the gallant attitude required to practice, but instead, you must strive to achieve something unique which could add value far more than any other CA. The field you choose is absolutely open, provided you excel in that to an extent that this cut-throat competition runs away.  Select your subject very wisely and never ponder on thoughts that whether specialization will pay off or not. Believe me, it certainly does and you shall be able to make a mark.
  1. Charge the fees you deserve. Yes, you should ensure that you ask for a fee that you deserve to receive. It is not the client but you who has to decide. Maybe in this process, you might let go of some of your customers, but trust me they are not the ones who would have continued for long. Don’t get moved by the fees which other professionals are charging for the same work. You never know under what circumstances that low fees are being charged. The cheapest will always be sold, the real success lies when you create your demand by being the most expensive Chartered Accountant of this country. When diamond shines, the gold remains in the background. Amount of fees might be your concern for initial years of practice but once you cross saturation point, the money will flow automatically based upon the standards you set.
  1. Invest in Teams. As a fresh Chartered Accountant, we always remain in a dilemma of whether to appoint an employee or not. The bitter truth is that we ourselves as CA struggle for livelihood in the initial period and the situation of employing someone becomes scary. As I wrote in point 1, it’s a business and you must understand that you need to remain free to market yourself and procure work. If you yourself indulge in never-ending compliances, there shall be no time left to reach out to new people and explore opportunities. You must understand that it’s your team that adds value. If you try to make a firm that is run and managed by you only, trust me you are heading towards a difficult time.

If you prefer getting employed instead of practicing:

  1. A large number of fresher Chartered Accountants prefer to go into jobs instead of starting their own firm. The very thought of gaining experience, earning quick money and getting settled in life is what makes employment attractive. But if we go another way around, are we actually making the right choices. We must first chart out as to where we see ourselves 5 years down the line. The package offered by the company should not be the deciding factor. It must be the organization environment, work profile and your interest areas which must become criteria for picking up a job. Even if you don’t get the job initially, it doesn’t matter, continue your search along with up-gradation of your skillset. It is not you who needs the job but that company that needs you to execute their work. Till that time you are updating yourself, you can join other substitute companies for gaining experience. But never compromise on the profile.
  1. Amongst choosing the big consultancy firms and other industries, you must first work out your goal. If you wish to start your own firm in the future, then certainly go for the consultancy firm but if you feel that it is not your forte and you would remain in employment, then certainly these consultancy firms are not for you. Then try to enter into industry pioneers and thought of switching over for better profile and designation should keep on ticking you while you do your job. That does not mean that you should not be faithful to your employer, but the search for better opportunities should always remain on.

Alternatives available:

  1.  Become Entrepreneurs: As soon as you become a CA, time is ripe to start thinking of a business idea and bringing it on the surface. I do agree that we lack the sense of technology but we are one of those who are known for their grip on finances. If you really feel that you have enterprising skills, you must start early. Search for the right teams, work on your idea, ensure its feasibility and jump into it. There are many examples of successful CA entrepreneurs for whom competition is merely a word. For instance CA. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala is one name in the stock markets which has no competition. He is a pioneer. There are many success stories of CAs which you will find. It’s not the idea but the mindset of the entrepreneur which makes a business successful.
  1. Join Politics: Politics have always been seen as a derogatory word that leaves a negative impression in our minds. But with rock-solid fundamentals on finances, Chartered Accountants are the right persons to become leaders of the country. These days you can see CAs managing the top profiles of the Government of India. Be CA. Piyush Goyal, Railways Minister, CA. Suresh Prabhu or CA. Sanjay Tandon, BJP chief of Chandigarh, they all have built successful political careers. It’s not the politics but the way we think about it, is what makes it worse. If you have strong PR or you are empathetic enough to connect with masses, you must give politics a chance. You never know when things would turn around.
  1.  Become executives of ICAI: Trust me, making it to the executive team of ICAI is not an easy task. But if you can see the president’s Chair from the date you become a CA, no one can stop you from reaching there. It’s not only about power but the opportunity that the chair gives to bring changes in a profession in the right perspective. It has always been felt that as an executive you don’t get enough time for your own work, but let me remind you in today’s world it is the Public Relations which pay off and not the work. The galaxy of luminaries you will meet as an executive will give life-changing experiences which otherwise like a normal Chartered Accountant you may remain deprived of.
  1. Do further studies: If upon becoming CA, you feel that you have studied enough, you might be wrong. There is a number of options that are available once you complete the CA curriculum. At the top, is the UPSC which is the toughest exam after CA. One should give it a try with full dedication. Its not necessary that you will enter into civil service but the UPSC curriculum will teach you a lot in terms of understanding your potential, exploring your society, being aware about the happenings and much more. The confidence it will give, will last throughout your life. Other options can be to pursue MBA from IIMs, do law or even do international courses like CPA etc. CA. Harish Salve is an apt example to understand how despite being a CA, you can excel in other fields as well. Harish is one of the best legal minds of the world – The Legal Eagle.  You must plan and think of achieving big in your life.
  1. Become a Teacher: Teacher !! yes teaching is a million-dollar profession these days. Your own schedule, huge PR, respect and of course money are some privileges that a teacher gets. But as we know goods things don’t come free, it requires a lot of dedication and commitment towards grooming a child. As a Chartered Accountant, you can think of becoming a teacher and help budding chartered accountants in building their careers. There is a never-ending list of CA teachers who have not only made money but also have earned never-dying respect from students. If you believe and have skills to make learning simpler for children, you must think about coming to this profession. With the eruption of internet technologies, you can serve the entire country from your home city. And of course, you very well understand the economics behind it
  1. Last but not the least, make a social impact: If you are financially sound or the one who has a well-established family business and there are no worries of earning money, think about making a positive impact on society. Your contribution to society will have far more impact than adding wealth to the family. In the world where our people are struggling for health, food, a clean environment, education and even suffering from the so-called “system”, you can certainly make their lives better. I am not saying that you should leave all the other tasks for the social cause, but certainly you should try to find time for such activities. If a well-off person like you will not think about people around, who else would do. Remember, we all earn for ourselves, but the one who earns for others to bring change in their lives is remembered for generations to come.

So let’s get going and select the right path as a Chartered Accountant. Your decision does make a difference. Choose wisely and live well.  It’s now or never.