Organized Bookkeeping

Break out of the Bookkeeping Box

Bookkeeping is full of rules.  Rules.  Rules that keep things straight, on process, and get things done. I’ve completed a million bank reconciliations it seems.  The first one was intimidating.  The last one, I entered the interest expense and it balanced perfectly on the first shot.  Yah!

However, bookkeepers and accountants become used to the way thing are, and not how they could change.  I once sat in a meeting in a high powered meeting with, what I supposed were high paid consultants.  One of the big guys spent a few minutes explaining that at his last meeting he was held up by one person who claimed that expense reports needed to be done a certain way.  She said, “the sales people would cheat and lie on the expense reports.”  He said that he tried to explain the amount of time spent on the expense reports was far greater than any theft.

True or not?  You decide.

Is there something that you are hell bent on being the same everytime, that could change?  Even a little?

Some examples of intractable bookkeepers or accountants:

  • The font on the Financial Statements cannot change. – Reason, upper management wouldn’t like the change or understand the change.  Really?  They wouldn’t be able to understand it?
  • All office supply orders must be physically come to the accounting office before distribution.  Reason?  One of the branches sales people had over ordered copy paper before.  Never again, said the bookkeeper.  Never mind that it took time and effort to deliver the office supplies to the branches and that particular sales person had left years ago.
  • All incorrect expense reports mean that a manager must be notified.  This one was inflexible.  Even math errors meant the salesperson’s manager was notified.  Can you say, this was brought up at the management meeting?
  • Pencils and Pens must be purchased in specific packages.  In other words, someone had gone through an office supply catalogue and approved certain sku’s for purchase.  Years later, the packaging and quantity changed, but the office supply clerk was admonished if the incorrect package showed up.  Even if the larger package had better per item pricing.
  • No employees can leave early before a Holiday.  Except the manager of course.  I’ve seen this one multiple times.  File this under, I’m a jerk to my employees.
  • If we move to scanning; we must also keep the paper copies.  Errkk….  I agree that scanning copies might cause a pain point if it’s not consistent.  However, why bother scanning if you are going to keep all the paper copies?
  • Refusing to consider other accounting software packages.  I got news for you.  Many software packages are pretty comparable.  They have modules that are pretty much identical and accurate.  Long gone are the unreliable accounting programs.
  • Absolutely opposing changing the Chart of Accounts for any reason.  I’ve heard:  It will confuse the CPA; if we needed that general ledger account, it would already be there; it’s always been this way, so why change now?; Management doesn’t read the financials anyway; and my personal favorite;  I make all the decisions around here.

So, lets talk about ‘I make all the decisions around here’ reason a bit.

Do you really make all the decisions?  Perhaps the IRS, State Auditors, or other stakeholders might have a few opinions on how you keep the books?  Maybe the business owner is too chicken to disagree with you.  It’s possible you are living in your own little perfect world.

The world is changing around you, you need to adjust to new technology, processes, and the reality that just doing the same thing year in and year out isn’t going to work for you, the business, or the other stakeholders.

How do you save yourself from becoming the office no-sayer when it comes to change?

  • Regularly read accounting technology blogs.  Learn what is possible now.
  • Talk to other bookkeepers about how they manage their offices.  Everyone does it slightly differently, I promise.  Industry meetups are a great way to network with other bookkeepers or accountants.
  • Expand your horizons on what other people are capable of.  I know this is difficult.  Bookkeepers are expected to be the watchdogs of the company funds.  Be more open minded and expect more from them.
  • With very little authority and great responsibility, most of us use facial expressions and our voice to express dismay or disappointment that a procedure isn’t followed.  Use a webcam and a microphone to record yourself.  See what other people see when you ask for a correction or change.  Take the edge off your facial expressions and voice.

I once received a rabid email from an accounting manager.  I had simply asked if the management needed to be involved in a change to payroll.  The email had over 3 paragraphs on why I was an idiot and why she was qualified to make any and all decisions.  I refused that assignment.  Life is too short to put up with that nonsense.

One co-worker who wore, lets just say, a tad bit too much masquera and eyeliner, would bug out her eyes, theatrically gasped, then proceed to berate the unfortunate person who had misplaced paperwork.  It’s not that she wasn’t right.  It’s not that the person had messed up.  It was the reaction that was wrong.

  • Consider less ‘send all’ emails.  If you send 40% of the company’s emails, you might be doing it wrong.
  • Positive feedback to the group.  Consider creating a gold star system for people who do things correctly.  It might be simply a bowling trophy that people get for a week at a time.  Employees really do respond to silly things like this.
  • Clear meeting agendas that are distributed to the group before the meeting.  All meeting agendas should have a place for feedback from the group.
  • If there is a group not using the computer software correctly; consider setting up a time to talk to the manager.  If you go directly to the source without warning the manager; they might get grumpy.
  • And finally, body language, body language, body language.  Someone in a different department was immensely angry.  About what I have no idea.  She was angry a lot.  She had to drop something off.  Feet pounding, echoing down the hall.  Came to our office.  She made an angry, frustrated noise and pounded the file folder into the in box.  Turned around and stomped directly back to her office.  To this day, no idea what that was about and honestly, I still don’t want to know.

It’s easy to get worked up and emotional about paperwork, the process, and getting all the approvals.  But at the end of the day you are working with your fellow humans; who actually have the same goal as you.  Make money, make it legal, and make it in a sane fashion.  Find a way to work with people, make sure it’s done correctly, and act like you would like to be treated.