"You're Going To Be A Bean Counter?"

Kelly Hansen

March 8, 2016

“You’re going to be a bean counter?”

The way he said it, you would have thought I told him I was going to use my recently earned college education to become a circus performer! Once his friends acknowledged the CPA profession as “legit”, however, and told him just how rare it was for someone to pass the CPA exam the first time around, he changed his tune to one of pride, although still with some reservation.

I’m talking about my dad, a lifelong successful sales representative who wanted to see his daughter graduate to become something epic, like a rocket scientist for NASA or something, but certainly not an ordinary, run of the mill “bean counter!”

Like my dad, when most people hear the title “accountant”, one of the first phrases that comes to mind is “bean counter.” It has become as ubiquitous a term used to describe those in the Accounting profession as “Millennial” has become to describe someone from the “younger generation” who has no idea what we’re talking about when we use words like “Walkman” and “Pong” or whose idea of “work ethic” we simply don’t understand. 

So where does the term “bean counter” actually come from?

As it turns out, sources attribute the origin of the term to everything from how beans were considered “divine intermediaries” and “guardians of democracy” in the process of selecting minor public officials and jurors in Grecian times (CFO.com October 19, 2007) to being associated with simple machines used in the early 19th century to count…wait for it…Yep! You guessed it! Beans!

Unfortunately in more recent times, the term has taken on more of a derogatory association, being used more often by the media and Congress to refer people who nit-pick every little detail, get lost in the numbers and fail to see the bigger picture or greater cause. Of course some accountants wear the term with a badge of honor, taking pride in their uber-accuracy and exacting attention to detail, with little to no consideration paid to the value received in exchange for the effort required.

To bean or not to bean, then? That is the question.

At Bobst & Briel, we consider ourselves to be trusted business advisors who act more like “divine intermediaries” and “guardians of [greatness]” for you and your business vs. the automated, machine-like accountants of days gone by. If you’re currently working with a “bean counter” and would like to experience something more epic and personal, give us a call. We may not be rocket scientists, but we sure know how to help our clients reach for the stars.

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