How many times have you wanted to ask your accountant a question, but didn’t? Or have you ever had someone else ask the question that was on your mind in a meeting or presentation, and were so glad they did?
Honestly, there are no stupid questions when it comes to accounting. The best questions usually come from different perspectives than our own and cause us to consider things differently.
The very best questions are the ones that everyone wants to ask but few of us have the nerve to ask due to the risk of ‘looking stupid’. People often don’t want to ask questions when they feel they should know the answers, especially when numbers and accounting jargon are involved.
I recently presented to a group of professionals on the topic of “Accounting 101”. It was a presentation on the basics of accounting that anyone involved in the management of a business should understand.
It is so easy as an accountant to find the complicated way to describe a technical accounting term but the real challenge is to translate that into everyday English. We really need to understand what our accounting reports mean in order to use them to better manage our business or to make more informed investment decisions.
We had some good questions asked as we looked at some sample financial reports. The questions that were prefaced with the words “This is probably a stupid question but…” were often the best questions!
Understanding Financial Reports
The discussion that resulted from these questions was the discussion that should be a natural part of every management meeting where financial reports are presented.
Too often, financial reporting to management ends up being just a presentation, or worse, just a report that sits in a file. A truly open discussion would be much more useful as it ensures that the full team understands the reports. Without an understanding of the nuances of the financial health of the business, the management team simply cannot manage effectively.
The best accountants are the ones that are approachable and are part of the team. You want your entire team to feel comfortable asking even the ‘stupid’ questions. They are the best questions and the ones that really do need to be answered.
Please don’t ever hesitate to ask your accountant the ‘stupid’ questions! If you can’t ask your accountant those questions, please find a new accountant – your business will thank you.
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About the Author
Jan O’Donnell is the Managing Director for the Finance & Administration practice and counts the Business Sherpa Group amongst her clients as a Virtual CFO. Jan is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and has been providing Contract CFO support to high technology, small businesses and not for profit clients since 2004. Jan is passionate about combining her business and financial management expertise to provide a hands-on approach to building and enhancing the finance role within small and medium sized organizations.