Accounting - a story about money

Mention the word ‘accounting’ at your next social gathering and notice the varied reactions. Those elite few in the know will start to talk in accounting ‘tongues’ which will almost certainly kill your party dead. Expect everyone else to start parroting Pythonesque-parodies with perverted pleasure. Accounting is a subject with a bad rep and unsurprisingly is now struggling to attract quality people into the industry even though jobs are plentiful and the money comparatively good.

I didn’t want to be an accountant. I actually wanted to be a marine biologist. For some reason I don’t fully understand, I signed on for an accounting degree at Uni. I soon discovered that HATED accounting with a passion, which was a bit of a problem as I had apparently chosen it as a career.

I never did get the fundamentals of accounting but graduated all the same and entered the business world pretty much clueless. Later I would come to realise that this is pretty much the case for most accounting grads. Perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered quite so much except my first job was as a tax accountant.

Later in life, I realised that there are many, many more people just like me. Smart people in all walks of like who, for some reason or another, have not been able to ‘get’ accounting. It’s like some mysterious language open to only a select few, and they don’t like sharing. A business version of the Da Vinci code – all smoke and mirrors, exclusive jargon and subjectivity.

Eventually the lights came on for me and, in somewhat of a classic irony, many years  later I became the National Training Manager for KPMG who were then the largest accounting firm in the world. I had finally realised that apart from accounting turning out to be quite simple and surprisingly logical, it was also quite enjoyable.

It’s a pretty useful subject to know. You can bet that your performance at work is partly or wholly measured using financial information (i.e. accounting). But just how accounting literate are you really?

Let’s find out with this simple survey. Add your responses as a comment below. Score your responses from 1 to 10 where 10 is the maximum.

1. I believe that to do my job properly, the required accounting literacy level is: ___

2. I estimate my actual accounting literacy level to be: ___

The plan is for this to be an educational blog. We had a recent workshop participant who described himself as an entrepreneur and yet was unable to differentiate clearly between an asset and an expense. Yikes - that could be a problem.

And that’s what this blog will be about – cleaning up and enhancing your accounting language so you can see differently. Enrich your language and thereby your value as a decision maker.

Are you in?


- Mark Robilliard (1 April, 2014)