Educating accountants to act as small business advisors: A ten-year perspective

Jayne Bisman

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter

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    The course was based on the need to recognise and incorporate into the curriculum, the contextual elements of the professional accounting and MAS environments, and of the small enterprise sector in general. The course has been offered at an Australian university for the last 10 years, and this paper describes the objectives, content mapping exercises, skills development strategies, assessment practices and outcomes associated with this course. The course was developed using best practice and benchmarking principles, with reflective, feedback and other evaluative tools employed to guide periodic revisions to match current, real-world issues in small business, emerging themes in the small business research, and advances in pedagogical techniques. The initial and on-going design, as well as the processes of applying multiple industry benchmarks and continuous improvement principles, is modelled and explained in the paper. It is intended for the processes, procedures and model to provide a blueprint for the design or enhancement of other education and training courses relevant to meeting the needs of a range of small business advisors and their clients. This paper provides the results of a decade of teacher reflection on the development and continuous improvement processes applied in a Masters level course which aims to appropriately educate graduate accountants to provide advisory services to small business clients. The conventional wisdom, as well as the empirical literature, supports the observations that most accounting practices are small businesses and that the majority of the clients of accounting practices are small businesses. The research literature in Australia, as well as that emanating from overseas, reveals that accountants are generally viewed as the most important source of external advice by small business entrepreneurs. There is also evidence to suggest that small business performance and the chances of business survival and growth are contingent, at least in part, on the assistance and advice provided by practising accountants. Despite the profile of accountants as small business advisors, the limited varieties of management advisory services (MAS) they offer, their inability to effectively market what they do offer, and their lack of knowledge of the unique context, challenges and prospects of small businesses, have been recognised as perennial problems. Identification of these problems has prompted calls for enriched and more specialised education of accountants in order for these professionals to develop an improved skill set. While considerable effort has been devoted to developing entrepreneurial education for aspiring and current small business owner/managers, what is left largely unaddressed in the small business and accounting education literatures is how to design and develop programs of education for small enterprise advisors. This paper provides an overview of the process used in designing and developing a small business course for graduate accountants.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAccounting for SMEs
    Subtitle of host publicationMultidimensional aspects and global challenges
    Place of PublicationPula, Croatia
    PublisherJuraj Dobrila University of Pula
    Number of pages30
    ISBN (Print)9789537498078
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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