Shaun Fensom

Earning (accountancy) Bucks in the Digital Age

In collaboration with Pro:ManchesterManchester Digital brought accountancy professionals and digital creative businesses together this evening in Manchester to explore opportunities for us to work together and support each other more effectively.

Shaun Fensom kicked off the session by outlining the key to many Manchester digital businesses’ success i.e. speedy collaboration plus a willingness to share ideas and intellectual property, before Mike Taylor (NW Business Insider) took over in leading the panel discussions in his consistently entertaining and energetic style. I was a representative for Team Accountancy on the panel, initially fearing a bashing similar to that received earlier this year by the lawyers in Earning a Buck in the Digital Age Round 1.

We covered plenty of ground including:

  • differing financial needs of digital and creative businesses – some are lifestyle businesses that are more keen on creating interesting work and developing their people than profit; others grow at a ballistic rate (per Mike Ryan) – I find these businesses normally need help to cover all compliance bases and avoid overtrading (aka running out of cash); others die.
  • is the limited company the right vehicle for creative businesses given that intellectual property is often created almost like bridges between them? A great question by Shaun Fensom that led to much head-scratching from the lawyers in the audience. My own view is that the blind pursuit of intellectual property protection is futile; instead this effort and financial focus is far better directed toward harnessing the free flow of intellectual property. This applies to accountancy firm’s intellectual property as much as digital businesses. A question was raised whether 80-90% of intellectual property could be released into the public (open source / creative commons) and 10-20% retained for profit? Good suggestion. Is intellectual property still the right definition? Who owns it? Not enough time to dig further – I welcome your views in the comments section below.
  • how can accountancy professionals and digital businesses work together more effectively? There was common ground that scary accountancy fee structures, uninviting shiny city centre offices and power suits are not the way to court relationships with small fledging (yet often fast growth) digital businesses. Us accountants need to invest more time in mixing with digital creatives to better understand what makes them tick and build relationships on their turf e.g. tech office clusters, coffee shops and emerging north west initiatives like MediaCityUK and The Sharp Project. We also need to match this with a fee structure that invests in these companies for the future – we for example already hold meetings (for £nil cost) and then offer reduced rates. This is our investment. Please drop me a line for a coffee to discuss further by emailing me or contacting me on Twitter: @stevelivingston.
  • will Manchester ever have a Facebook? Why not?!

Discussions like this fill me with excitement for the future of the accountancy profession. Left as it is, the accountancy profession is staring into the abyss. Yet for those who embrace change, there are huge mutual benefits for both digital and tech entrepreneurs plus forward thinking accountants. A win-win. So change it is.

Please leave your comments for the changes you would like to see implemented for accountants to earn a buck in the digital age.

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