Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Please Don't Choke the CPA

Here’s a fun story about how once upon a time I lost my
temper and almost strangled a CPA…

I went to work for a company that had serious accounting
issues. The books were a mess. They had attempted to set
up QuickBooks but since the manual books were such a
mess, QuickBooks was a mess too.

Sound the trumpets; here comes Caroline riding in to save
the day!

What a raging mess they’d created. The cash balance in the
check book was $20,000 different from the cash balance in
QuickBooks. The bookkeeper was double paying bills. She
never pulled customer’s invoices when they were paid, so no
one knew who owed money and who had paid. (Ever make a
collection call to a customer who already paid their bill? It ain’t
pretty!) The checking account reconciliation showed the
following notation (and I’m not making this up):

“Close enough”.

Oh, it was ugly. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

It took six weeks to straighten out the worst of it. Six weeks
of accounting fees. Six weeks of new gray hairs for me. But,
the job got done.

Now for the part where I almost choked a CPA…

When the majority of the problems were cleaned up, a
CPA firm came in to do the regular yearly audit. One of the
accountants (who shall remain nameless) was a man of great
technical accounting knowledge but had the people skills of
a hammer.

I made a change to the accounting system to reflect an
adjustment but I neglected to print off a new report showing
that change for “Mr. Hammer”. When I remembered to print
the new report for him, he started giving me a lecture. “I don’t
think you understand what we need from you,” he said.

After spending six weeks cleaning up a huge mess, I felt that
he should be working with me to make sure everything was as
it should be. So, I responded, “I don’t think you understand
what we need from you.”

At which point he shoved his chair back, banging it into an
assistant who was with him. He accused me of keeping a
double set of books and any number of other unpalatable
misdeeds. This is, of course, the point where my hands were
suddenly circling his neck. Fortunately or unfortunately,
someone else broke up the fight. He was at least twice my
size but I was mad enough, I think I could have taken him down.

Naturally, my story has a point. Your accountant works for
you. Not the other way around. Many business owners are
uncomfortable talking to their accountants. They don’t want to
appear dumb when they ask questions. They don’t want to
bother the accountant with their questions because he or she is
so busy. They feel that their accountant is unapproachable. And
yet, accountants have a wealth of knowledge that small business
owners need to become successful. An accountant worth his or
her salt will be available and approachable, a partner for your
business. If your accountant isn’t able or willing to answer your
questions, it’s time to find a new one.

Disclaimer: I do NOT recommend or advocate choking the
current one.

And if you’re uncomfortable and feeling inadequate talking
to your accountant about your finances, here’s a great resource
that teaches you what the numbers mean and how to use them
to build your business:

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result