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Opinion: 10 steps to accurate bean-counting

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Congratulations on your new job as bookkeeper for a private company.

OK, so maybe that’s fiction, but stay with me. I’ve got some advice and a few sure-fire tips for making the most of any accounting adventure.

1. You are probably walking into a financial mess. You might be holding the bag for someone who didn’t have a clue when it came to accounting. Or your predecessor may have deliberately screwed things up to cover up his or her embezzling. Or maybe the accountant did a fine job and just decided it was time to move on, move away or have a baby. Whatever you find, I encourage you to embrace your new position and take advantage of the opportunity at hand.

2. Don’t bad-mouth your predecessor or anyone who is currently screwing up the accounting.
Leave blame out of the equation. Don’t fuss about why or who created the mess. It doesn’t help.

And it could be that your new boss, the owner, is the culprit.

3. Request an organizational chart. If your boss doesn’t have one, you may be able to create an informal one. Find out to whom you report.

Find out who will review the financials – and your work. This is important so that you can be of service, while protecting yourself and the owners.

You are responsible for keeping track of the money, honey. Be respectful and aware of your responsibilities.

4. Nail down the expectations. If there isn’t a position description, put one together.
Clarify your position with the person senior to you on the orgizational chart. What is it that you must prioritize daily, weekly and monthly?

5. Find stable data. Start digging into the financial reports. “Follow the flow” of debits and credits through the accounting system.

Discover what is right. Not everything is broken. Celebrate what is accurate, and build on it.

6. Fix the easy stuff first – and fast. Fix things now, in this month, and then figure out how to keep it right and current.

Don’t go backward. Don’t try to make every past month right. You could remain tragically behind. Get current quickly. Merge, recode and reclass the simple numbers first, and isolate the weird stuff that you don’t know how to fix.

7. Leave breadcrumbs. As you make adjustments, leave lots of notes for yourself and others who may wonder what the heck you are doing.

8. Connect with the CPA. Schedule a meeting with your boss, the certified public accountant and his right hand person.

Your overarching goal is to nail down every balance on the balance sheet – current and accurate – by the end of the year.

9. Protect yourself and the owners. Use written checklists and procedures. Flesh out the manual for your position – one page, one procedure at a time.

Bonus: If you cross-train others to use the written procedures, you are free to take a vacation now and then.  

10. This is your chance to grow, to get really good. Make the books right and learn how to be a world-class bean counter.

The opportunity is in the mess. It’s a Rubik’s Cube, crossword puzzle and Sudoku all rolled into a fourth-and-goal pressure situation. Have fun. Go and grow with it.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant who offers systems for getting focused and organized, making money and having fun in business. Her latest book is “The Bare Bones Biz Plan.” She can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]


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