I did not plan to become an accountant. Does anyone actually do that?
Looking back, I can see that I did always get a kick out of numbers. In high school as electives, I studied Algebra, Computer Science (which was pretty new back in those days!) and my favourite – Probabilities and Statistics, which involved much rolling of dice, flipping of coins and a very interesting survey to find out what the average student was like.
This was at a crossroads as to what the high school careers aptitude test suggested – becoming a cattle breeder or a forest ranger.
I did slightly head in the direction of both of those in my early years after graduating. Working as a kennel maid with the SPCA and then as a wrangler in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Never was a calculator to be seen!
As much as I loved working with animals and the outdoors, I couldn’t see my way of making a living at it so I started doing office administration jobs and I was eventually drawn back to the world of numbers.
Doing financial cumulative reports on graph paper with coloured pencils worked well enough and looked pretty, but the frustration of having to amend a figure from eight months previous was immense. I am sure some of you will understand my pain!
The days of cash books ledgers and Lotus 1-2-3 are thankfully a long-distant memory. These were the type of obstacles that propelled me to find faster and more efficient ways to do reporting. It also enforced the idea that numbers were my thing and so back college I went.
To me, an accountant is not just somebody that balances the books at the end of the day, month or year.
It is somebody that has sight and understanding of all areas of business operations, big or small. It is a position of complete trust and I am always mindful of what that trust involves. You build relationships not only with the people you work with, but also with the vendors, customers and financial institutions that the business is involved with, and who also rely on a level of trust. The way in which you handle these relationships can dramatically alter the finances and possibly, the reputation of the company.
Virtually all strategic business decisions rely on the financial health of a business. It is the role of the accountant to ensure that those making the decisions are not only aware of the current financial position, but how these decisions will affect future finances. Analysing scenarios and their effect on the cash flow is key to planning the future, whether that be growth, expansion, a specific project, relocation or even downsizing.
A business must never, ever run out of money. Simply put, without money, there is no business. When a business is financially healthy…
- It eases constraints
- It has time to think and plan without pressure
- It has leverage in the ability to negotiate with both customers and suppliers
- It can reinvest into the business to promote growth
On the flip side, when under financial pressure, it can force the business to look at new areas to expand into which might not have been previously thought about; this opens up opportunities, which is no bad thing.
It can (and should be done on a regular basis anyway) force the business to look at the outgoings and see what is and isn’t really necessary, and what possible changes can be made to streamline resources and/or production. Both of these exercises assist in keeping the finances healthy but there is always a balance to be maintained. Having a surplus of cash can be almost as detrimental as having no cash at all if it is not put to good use.
So for me, no, accounting isn’t boring. It’s a challenge and I relish it!
The enjoyment I get is not just from “bean counting” and balancing the books (and believe me, there is great satisfaction when every penny is accounted for), but from guiding the business in making key financial decisions that enable it to flourish and prosper.