Posted by: LYF | November 2, 2009

It’s more than that

Our bill came to the table and I realized we hadn’t asked the waitress for separate checks.  “You’re an accountant, figure it out.”  “Ughh, you don’t understand.”  Every time.  It happens every time I go out or happen to be in a situation involving numbers.  If anyone knows that I’m an accountant and we have to figure out who owes whom what, I’m the first person to be voluntold (being volunteered for something).

When you start a file retained earnings is the first thing you check.  Does it match the prior year closing?  If not, then you need to figure out why.  You’ll take the prior year closing balances and compare them to the client’s current year openning balances.  Find the differences and book the entry.  Now you know the bookkeeper isn’t very sophisticated.  Did your partner mention this?  If they didn’t, do you know why?  Does that even matter?  Why are you even thinking about this?  Oh well.  Regardless, this takes about an hour to fix and that’s going to be reflected in the fee.

Audit files come in as clumps of clay.  If you have enough you can make your financial statements say whatever you want.  Need more?  All you have to do is add some – make an adjusting entry.  Need to shave a bit off one side and add it to the other?  Reclassify it.  Done.

Where do you start though?  What do you work on first?  You need a plan.  And an environment for that plan.  Maybe a context, a backdrop.  Whatever it is, you need an environment to act and react to what you’re sculpting.  Luckily, it’s already out there.  All you have to do is reveal it.  However you do it isn’t really important.  I like making small talk with management.  Ask them how the year was to get a broad understanding of what happened.  You can never go wrong by empathizing with someone’s stress and letting them vent.  You’ll learn a lot.  Usually the most important things too.

Learn about relationships.  What are they based on and how healthy are they.  If they’re good learn why they’re good – the same goes for the opposite.  Appreciate how this impacts an office environment and how things get done.  Feel it out as best you can.  You’ll know you’re done when you can look at the draft financial statements and feel them.  You’ll see the bank overdraft and remember the argument management had with the bank for increasing the interest rate to 2 points above prime.  You’ll notice a weird employee receivable and remember the advance so-and-so needed to make a car payment.  And how he probably should have gotten a membership to zip car.

My desk is in earshot of my manager’s office.  “You had thirty grand in wip.  You can’t quote a client something and change it after the fact.  It doesn’t matter, you did a good job so it’s ok.”  That was a file I worked on.  I was a little worried since I did the field work, which makes up the largest portion of the bill.  Did I go over budget?  Well we did a “good job” so I guess I have nothing to worry about?  Plus, the CEO really liked us, he wouldn’t complain about anything.  Now I know that [partner] tracks the wip closely.  But who doesn’t?  He was strong in his tone too.  That seemed specific to him.  He always kinda talks like that, even when he’s being nice.  Like the time he offered me a ride home from work.

Sometimes when I get a file I sit and look at it for a while.  I don’t really do anything.  I look at it until I can picture the entire thing in my mind.  This has taken upwards of an hour.  Where all I’m doing is sitting and thinking.  Usually looking at things over and over.  Seeing how they fit together.  The client has manual books.  The receipts journal, purchases journal and payroll register get sumarized in the GL.  The GL is classified by account number, not by financial statement line item.  That’s why it seemed so confusing at first.

Do you see any numbers?  I see insight, sculpting, story telling, context, relationships, courtiers and grand strategy.  And how they play out against one another.  Numbers are to accounting like words are to a story.  Even though the former sums to the latter they don’t define it.


Would anyone be interested in an accounting meet-up?  To talk about career strategies, what other people do at work and drink beers?  It’s always a good idea to see what other people are up to.  Email me:

I also started doing crossfit and muay thai kickboxing.  Both are awesome.  I recommend you do them both immediately.



  1. Nice blog!! Wish I read this as a Junior last year..

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