Re-Energizing an Old System – Reporting

Businesses transform, sometimes daily. Accounting systems evolve.

How do you know whether your accounting system has fallen behind the business?


  1. Ask people if they use their reports.

    A client of mine acquired a small business in northern Ontario. They asked me to go in and review the accounting system. I worked with the local Controller and asked him if I could interview the General Manager, so we made an appointment. I asked her what she thought of the financial statements and her reply was classic, “Oh, I don’t use them. Too many numbers.” It was true. The accounting report was on legal landscape paper with a column for everything you could think of. All the information was there, but you had to analyze carefully to find it. The Controller was crushed. He had worked so hard to get everything into one report. Later he said to me, “If she had only told me, I would have given her what she wanted.”

  2. Don’t wait for them to ask for new ones.

    They often assume that what they are getting are the only reports available.

  3. Don’t just accept what they say.

    Sometimes even when you ask they are not forthcoming or can even be hostile. I asked a production manager what would help him schedule jobs for the tool and die shop. His first answer was, “There’s no way you’re replacing me with a computer.” That night I used a spreadsheet to make a mock version of the kind of report I had in mind. When I showed it to him the next day, he tore it apart. Why did I use the shop number? Customers always call using their P.O. number, etc. etc. But we had moved from discussing whether he needed a report to just what report would help. Eventually we found what he needed, and no, he was never replaced by a computer!

Reporting is the key because it supports good decision making. It’s not just the reports, but also how they are formatted and how quickly they are produced.

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