That’s an old accounts joke. It’s only funny if you’ve ever struggled with an accounting course. And everyone does when they first start. For budding entrepreneurs having to pass an accounting unit can be downright terrifying.
Lots of successful people have told me they feared the numbers at some stage, and they had to sit down and force themselves to “get to grips with them”.
I get that, I totally do. One of these days I’m going to do something that facilitates that getting to grips process for entrepreneurs. Some sort of boot camp perhaps. Any suggestions welcome.
But…… there is another side to this that is hardly ever given the same weight. The numbers being served up to most people are often hard to digest for anyone.
One of the first things I do with new clients is to simplify and rearrange their P&L. It always gets the same reaction. Something akin to “wow, I get it, that’s how my business works”.
What I have learned over the years is that the devil is in the big numbers, not the detail.
We all know people that love finding spelling errors in restaurant menus, it doesn’t improve the meal or the conversation. But entrepreneurs often think they are expected to knuckle down and add up the phone bills. Yet the more you seperate things into piles the more you lack the ability to understand the interdependencies. You drown in the detail.
One of the things I love doing is helping accounts staff learn how to better communicate numbers to entrepreneurs. That’s usually really hard for them because they have the twin burdens of confidentiality and being stuck in silos. Away from the bulk of their tribe. Now we don’t claim to be any smarter than anyone else, but we do get to see a lot of different accounts departments. We see what works well, and what doesn’t. Accounts staff that have an understanding of audience and fit for purpose, plus have exposure to professional development that goes beyond an excel course, provide huge advantage to their organisation.
Your accounts department also has to communicate with the managers and employees of your organisation. The content needs to changed a bit but simplicity is still vital.
It’s so great when I get to see accounts staff get more involved with the shop floor because they can see they have valuable information to pass along, that they just needed to be able to express it better. They just blossom.
If your accounts are drowning in detail, maybe it’s time to open a window and let some light in.
Thanks to Natasha Hawker for the inspiration.