Friday, September 17, 2010

Building vs. Running....

I proudly announced to my digital native 16 year old daughter that her mother now "had a blog!".....albeit a business blog (ho hum).  I encouraged her to take a look, so she could see a bit more detail about what I do.  Her immediate response?  "I know what you do, you fix things that are broken and clean everything up".  Ah well, I guess she really does know me.

The point of accounting is to provide accurate and timely information to decision makers.  That and handling the cash correctly.  By timely I mean as close to real time as possible.  So, quite simply, the start of any new assignment for me involves quickly getting cash management and reporting under control and shortening the reporting cycles while improving the quality of the information being reported.  

I like to think the accounting world is made up of "builders" and "runners".  Builders like to, well, build things.  A builder starts at the beginning of any process and maps out the critical path, noting what happens at each significant point along the way.  Then she automates it, or as much of it as possible, and creates the daily/weekly/monthly routine to run the process successfully.  This process involves asking a lot of "why are we doing it this way?" questions and stripping out as many unnecessary steps as possible, always keeping internal controls in the forefront of her mind to create a reliable and reasonably secure process. 

Running a process is also important and just because my personal preference  is to build, that doesn't mean running accounting processes is less significant.  Quite to the contrary, it is one thing to build, paint and polish the sailboat and quite another to actually sail it.   When we start our accounting careers, no matter where, we start as a runner.  Entry level positions always involve executing existing tasks and processes.  It is by running systems that we learn what works well and what doesn't, evolving us into builders (or really expert runners - many of whom I have met and learned from).

I use 90% of what I've successfully used or learned elsewhere to get started on each new engagement and my new personal challenge is to see how quickly I can turn it around (used to be 3 month end cycles, now it's 2).  And I always meet incredible people at each new client who teach me new things.

So are you building the boat or sailing it today?