Oct 13th 2009
Karen was the accountant for a client of mine. She had twenty years of experience, starting as the receptionist and working her way up to become an indispensable part of the team. She was quiet and dependable, keeping the invoicing and payroll systems going through changes in legislation, system problems and people’s comings and goings. That is, unless you were trying to get away with anything. If a salesperson tried to get some of next month’s sales recorded in this month for bonus purposes, she had a way of making a grown man feel like a little boy caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. I don’t think she ever put the company before her children and husband, but it came a close second. Accountants care about where they work. In my experience, they take their jobs personally. If anything goes wrong with the company, they feel it, even if it is something completely out of their control. At the same time, they are the company’s conscience, asking the difficult questions about why the budget was not met or why so much money was spent. In good times, accountants are invisible. In bad times, nobody wants to talk to us. Last week, I attended a meeting with 15 volunteer treasurers from local churches. It was a three-hour meeting about such things as whether people paid by the church (e.g. musicians, choir directors, replacement ministers, etc.) should be treated as employees or contractors for income tax purposes. We also discussed reporting requirements for charities, budgeting, the disposal of church property and other technical matters. The treasurers then had the responsibility of going back to their churches, implementing any necessary changes and explaining the results to their boards. As I looked around the table, I saw a lot of caring people. I remembered when my mother was elected treasurer of a volunteer group. The requirements were much simpler back then, but I remember her and my father, who actually had a business degree, spending a week of evenings wading through the mess of what had been done previously. We don’t thank volunteers like these nearly enough.