The Practitioner: In death comes clarity

IT’s BEEN one of the worst weeks in my life as an accountant that I can ever remember.

I heard the sad news a couple of days ago that long-standing client and friend suddenly passed away whilst out walking. A sudden heart attack.

She had been like a mentor to us, always a cheery voice on the phone, and a shoulder to lean on in times of doubt.

The call came through from another client and I refused to believe it initially.
I had only been on the phone with her an hour before she set off for the walk, and she was busy planning her next big idea.

Financially her business wasn’t a large client, but in terms of personality and friendship she will never be replaced.

A couple of days earlier I had visited a client who confided in me that he was having severe drinking problems, and was on the verge of giving in to it. He was seriously thinking of throwing in the towel, both business-wise and life-wise.

Thankfully he had been to see a doctor the day before and was now taking medication to help.

I was nervous waiting for the next thing to go wrong, as they say things always come in threes. However the week managed to finish fairly strongly, with a few new clients being signed up.

In memory of my lost friend we decided to spend the weekend walking in the Lake District. We took the family and made a weekend of it. While walking, my eldest son, 12 years old, asked me what I did at work. With the week I had I actually found it quiet difficult to explain.

“Is it just adding up?” he asked.

‘No son. It’s much more than just numbers.” I replied.

It really makes you realise that being someone’s accountant is like no other profession. If you do it right you are much more than an accountant to your clients. And clients are much more than just clients. They can turn out to be the greatest of friends.

In memory of T.

The Practitioner’s uncensored thoughts come from within their own practice – having left a regional firm in the heart of England

Related reading


  • Denise Upham

    A very sad week for you. I quite agree; some of my clients have been with me for well over 20 years and we do ‘everything’ for them as they trust us, know they can ask and know that we try our best to assist them whatever it might be. I’ve even known clients ring us to see if we could test their fax line, e-mail etc. to see if it is working amongst all sorts of odd requests but they ask because they know they can, that they are not just a number to us and sometimes not always counting time as money can have its other rewards.

  • Clients, friends or both?

    Were you and T sufficiently independent?

  • flyingsanta

    It’s a shame that many accountancy firms don’t allow you to have that kind of relationship with clients – the timesheet rules to the detriment of caring. I remember an occasion when a client who I spoke to on a weekly basis phoned me to give me his wages figures and, in the conversation that ensued, informed me that his dog had died that week. Obviously he was upset and because of our rapport felt that he could talk to me, not for an excessive amount of time, but even so I was sitting, listening to him, wondering where I was going to put the time on my timesheet. I got out of practice for several years because I got so disillusioned. Accounting will always be more than just adding up and taking away to me but unfortunately it seems that there are very many employers out there who want to strip it down to the basics.