I am not an accountant—I am a programmer, and I studied mathematics and computer science. Throughout my days in college and in the university, I had never come into contact with what is called accounting, either inside or outside the classroom. I used to hear about it as one of the subjects taught in Commercial Schools.
After graduating from the university, I started working as a programmer with an oil service company, doing some hot technical stuff (at least by the standard of that time—1991) of capturing real-time data from the Data Acquisition System and transforming them into a whole lot of information. Every month we got our salary, and whenever we needed anything it was delivered safe and sound. How they got it was none of our business. Our business was to write programs. A few years later, the company folded up and we were all surprised. What could have gone so wrong? We were handling projects for two of the top oil companies in the world. We were later told that the main reason the company went down was because the owner (our boss) was “running the business from his briefcase.” I did not really understand the implication of this until several years later. But the bottom-line here is that the issue of accounting that was not everybody’s business soon became everybody’s nemesis.
Many of us have the notion of accounting as a subject that is taught in school, or a job that is performed by experts in the office. That is right—to some extent. But accounting is all about measuring and managing our wealth—knowing and controlling where the money is coming from, where it is going to or where it is staying. If you have ever carried out any transaction that involves money or its equivalents, then you have already stepped into the arena of accounting. As far as accounting is concerned you have only two options: either to perambulate around the arena and do everything by default, or deliberately and consciously choose to play the game by following the rules. If you choose the former, then the game will play you and you may end up like my former boss and put everybody around you in trouble.
I got involved with accounting by accident. The handsome pay I received for the first bookkeeping program I wrote (I don’t want to call it accounting software) may have ignited my interest in accounting, but what actually drive and sustain my passion all these years up till today have been the realization of the importance and the benefits of accounting in our daily lives—not only in our businesses but also in our personal lives. Accounting is as relevant to us as the food we eat—and it is one food we must choose to take if we ever hope to be financially healthy.
But why aren’t many people embracing accounting? The problem lies partly with the way accounting is packaged and presented to the public. The language and the format used do not align with the way people think and carry out their financial transactions at the most basic level. We often hear of words like Cashbook, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and all sorts of jargons when discussing bookkeeping or accounting. To the expert these are simple words, but to a busy person or a small business owner who just want to keep simple records of her income and expense without compromising on any rule of accounting, these words are heavy turn-offs. Even when books are written with the “Teach Yourself” tag, they end up creating more confusion for the average person. Most accounting software do not make life easier for the common man either because they are modeled after the classical method of bookkeeping.
Apart from this, there is a group of people who still prefers to have things done the old way. These are the people who tell small business owners to record their transactions with pen and paper and wait for the ‘expert’ to come and organize everything for them properly. If you do not know what that means, let me illustrate it for you: it is like being asked to write your proposals with pen and paper and then wait for a professional typist to come and type them for you using IBM typewriter, even when you have a computer with a word processor in front of you.
Please, wake up! We are in the 21st century—the Information and Knowledge Age. We can certainly do better than that. Accounting software will do the job cheaper, neater, faster and better than any manual method of accounting. Do you know what it might cost you to wait for an expert to come and put things right before you can get the information you need to take a decision in an age where decisions are taken at the speed of light? I am not saying that you will no longer require the services of experts for your business. Sure, you will need experts to advise and assist you on many areas of your business—including financial management and taxes. But having an ‘expert’ do bookkeeping for you should is, certainly, not one of them.
Nobody can escape accounting. If you do not account to somebody, you will account to yourself—how you spend your money or somebody else’s money; how you manage your resources or another person’s resources. There isn’t any free lunch anywhere—somebody somewhere has to pay for something and somebody somewhere has to account for it. So accounting is not optional. It is either you choose to embrace it or you will end up doing it by default. Accounting is something you should choose deliberately and consciously, learn and master the rule. Do not allow yourself to do accounting by default because if that happens you will find yourself defaulting in many areas of your finances.
I do understand very well that accounting software is not a plug-and-play device—you will need to take a little time off and invest in learning and understanding it. That will be one investment you will never regret. However, if you find yourself spending more of your time trying to master accounting software than the time you spend on your primary assigment or professional task, it means the software is not the right one for you.
We have set up this site to assist you with the task of choosing the right tools and making the best out of them. We will provide you with all the information you require to manage your finances without stress—and without spending a fortune. Our goal is to bring accounting out of the back office to the main street.
Send us your questions, comments and contributions as often as you can.