Accounting is More Than Numbers

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The Indiana University Kelley School of Business is one of the best business schools in the world.  As an undergraduate, I did not appreciate the I-Core (Integrated Core) that provided knowledge in each division of business.  I now know why I-Core is essential.   Each division is like a body part, one cannot function without the other.  Many accountants see the accounting function as its own entity.  Accounting is more than debits and credits or hitting a button to run the Profit and Loss Statement.  To truly bring value, accountants should have an overview of how each division is operated.  Why? All roads lead to the financial statements. 

During my first couple of years out of college, my coworkers and I would swap stories about why different people couldn't provide timely reports and why it takes three to four hours to put a report together.  We would not go to operations to ask these questions.  Then I met Brian Mosher, a former manager who insisted that new staff members should shadow production staff members. It was eye-opening to learn how they track inventory, perform cycle counts, and how the production stages intertwine.

Here are a few tips for accountants to build a relationship with other divisions:

  • Just Ask: If an accounting task is a struggle or the same issues arise each month, just ask.  It sounds simple but many accountants do not.  Learning how the business provides a product or service is essential for analyzing the financial statements.  This deals with questions like; how does the business create the product or service? What the key steps? Who are the key players in the operations process?   You don’t have to know every detail.  Having the knowledge will allow accountants to understand the drivers and various factors that affect the financial statements.
  • Huddle: We accountants are usually labeled as introverts or dull people.  Many times, accountants are left out of the operations or marketing meetings because of this reason.  However, all business tasks have some form of financial impact. As an accountant, it's wise to request an invite to non-accounting meetings in order to hear what’s going on.  For instance, if production is ramping up or a machine is down, accountants can assist to mitigate the financial risk. 
  • More Fun Times: Accounting can be fun.  It's even a lot more fun when the month end closing goes smoothly.  If accountants are asking questions and participating in meetings relating to operations, a better understanding occurs which leads to more efficiency for both sides.  Operations will have an appreciation of their workflow and how it translates to the financials.   Accountants can spend more time analyzing and strategizing for the future. 
  • Show a little love: Accounting work heavily relies on others doing their part.  So accountants ask for lots of data or documents.  Go out to lunch with non-accounting folks, make your desk inviting by having candy to offer. This would help to build a healthy relationship with coworkers.  At a former job, I would occasionally email the operations manager on their birthdays; I would jokingly say, "for once I’m not asking for a report, but wishing you a happy birthday."

Building a relationship sounds cliché, but it works.  When people know you and feel you care, and that you won’t talk down at them, they would be more inclined to help you.  When the different body parts are communicating and working in perfect harmony, the bottom line becomes much stronger and achievable.  One team, one goal. 

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