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The role of trust, relationships and professional ethics in the supply of external business advice by accountants to SMEs

By Robert Blackburn, Peter Carey and George A. Tanewski


The accounting profession has actively adopted a broader service focus which includes business advice, but the scant extant research in the SME environment identifies only ex-ante demand determinants. Using in-depth interviews with SME owner-managers and external accountants, this study confirms the intervening role of trust, relationships, and professional ethics in the enabling of the provision of business advice. All SMEs purchase business advice, but not all use their external accountant. While all accountants interviewed perceived they have the expertise to provide business advice, not all SMEs agreed, suggestive of an expectation gap. However, when an SME does purchase business advice from their accountant, they view them as a business expert, a �trusted partner�, and a confidante who has empathy and provides a personal relationship to the owner-manager. Accountants do not aggressively market their business expertise, instead relying primarily on relationships formed while providing compliance work, �milestone events� or from SME networks or forums. An implication is the need for debate whether accountants should overtly market their non-compliance services

Topics: business
Year: 2010
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