Topic number 3 today so far.

I am in the process of designing our proposal template.  Actually templates because we will end up with several different ones for each type of work we do.  I was originally going with only having one but doing so required far too many variables.  Take an audit proposal, as an example, we list out several things that could cause the clients costs to increase beyond what was quoted.  We decided to do that because our goal is to provide a high quality and fairly (i.e. low) priced audit.  But when there is a lack of cooperation our time commitment increases and so does the cost.  We wanted to convey this fact to the reader.

For a review engagement we don’t face those same sorts of hurdles.  So the list is not only smaller but vastly different.  It would take a lot of variable programming to make use of a single template which added and subtracted elements.  I dislike the idea of having multiple templates but we want to provide proposals now and we want them to feel right.  So we did a trade-off and I am learning to be ok with that.

Yes, I strive for excellence.  I strive for things working well and with the least amount of effort.  In my mind excellence is an attitude that says I will always try to improve.  Improve me, my relationships, my work experience.

But I am not a perfectionist.  Not by a long shot.  I believe in the concept of materiality; not only as it applies to auditing and accounting but in life in general.  Some things just are not material – they seem important but in reality have little impact on decisions.

For example – I love giving examples – lets talk accounting adjustments.  In my mind, a client’s accounting records, the trial balance they send me, is the Word.  I treat it as true and correct, to the best of the clients knowledge and ability.  Which means that it holds blemishes and inaccuracies.  It has to as it was crafted by a person.

The perfectionist accountant wants everything to “tick and tie”.  They immediate start making $2.00 adjustments to “tie-out” the depreciation schedule to the trial balance.  They go through each line item in hopes of bringing the trial balance to the “right” numbers.  And in the process cost the client thousands of dollars.

We focus on excellence.  Excellence starts with the end product in mind.  Lets say atax return.  An excellent tax return is one that can be filed and then never recalled.  What keeps it from being recalled?  Certainly not the little differences between supporting schedules and the trial balance.  Material differences cause returns to be recalled.

Sometimes materiality is an amount, sometimes it is a concept.  If the taxpayer is an accrual basis corporation then not having any accounts receivable, no matter the amount, is material.  The accounts receivable being overstated by $50,000 might not be; with a client who makes $200 million in sales annually.

Yes, the perfectionist says adjust the books.  I say only adjust if it is going to make a difference.  Yes, the amount doesn’t agree to something but who says that something is actually correct?

In our opinion, the excellent practitioner of his or her art starts with an entirely different premise.  They start by asking, “What is the purpose of this work?”  They frame the end game.  The perfectionist starts by asking, “What is wrong with what I am looking at?”

Which is why I think many people have difficulties choosing professionals to help them.  Lets face it, we choose a tax practitioner based on the claim of the largest refund, i.e. the perfectionist.  Never mind the fact that in order to gain a large refund you first had to pay it in.  We choose lawyers based on the claim they have never lost a case, because they always settle cases where there is the risk of loss.  Perfection.

Focus on excellent, on improvement.  Think about the bigger picture and then surround yourself with those who can support your vision.  You will be a happier person in the end.

Have an awesome day.


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