Educating small firm accountants in counselling SME client
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- Working papers (SNF) 
The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first it delineates those competencies that are required by accountants who aspire to function as small-firm business advisers, and second it specifies a programme that secures the development of these skills. The first part of the paper draws on findings from a three-year research project undertaken in Norway whose aim was to identify the core competencies of small-firm accountants who successfully operate as small business advisers. The second part of the paper converts these findings into training and education. One key research finding is the importance of trust in the sense that the accountant must be perceived not only as a highly competent accountant but also as dedicated to the client’s business. A second finding is that accountant and client must share a context-specific “language” and understanding of what is at stake. A third finding is that advisory services are developed over time and that their development is dependent on the existence of a consistent strategic intention. It was also observed that accountancy practices that are professionally heterogeneous are more able to generate business advisory services than their more homogenous counterparts and that practices that have developed external networks with other business advisors such as lawyers are also more able to develop business advisory services. These two observations indicate the importance of being able to develop both internal and external networks. This capability is indicative of a broad knowledge base The challenge the second part of the paper addresses is how to take these research findings and develop a business education programme that assists accountants to develop the identified core competencies, i.e. relational, communication and networking skills.