I was recently listening to a sermon on how important, yet unremarkable, water is; and it made me think of how that applies to accounting.  In the U.S., access to water is taken for granted.  Even when there is a drought, you turn on the spigot and out comes water.  We don’t think about water because it is so unremarkable.  It has no color, no odor (unless something is wrong with it) and no taste.  The fact is that this unremarkable substance is absolutely critical to life as we know it.  Unremarkable, yet essential; that is the definition of water.

Accounting in business is a lot like that – it’s taken for granted.  So much so that I even had a boss tell me there was no way you could ever be rated as “exceeding expectations” as an accountant.  The best you could do is not mess up and meet expectations, otherwise…well, you get the picture.  But accounting in business is a lot like water.  If you take accounting away, then the business will die.

In fact, accounting is like water in other critical ways.  Too much water and you get a flood that can destroy everything in its path.  Too much accounting can just as quickly drown a business.  When accounting becomes an end into itself, rather than a tool to manage and build a business, it ceases to be a benefit and instead chokes the business in unnecessary rules and controls.

Water exists in three states – solid, liquid and gaseous.  Accounting existing in three states as well. The past represented by historical financial statements; the present, best represented by timely management reporting to enable a business to make quick efficient decisions; and the future, represented by pro forma financial statements and budgets that speculate on what might be.

The perception of accounting is much like how people perceive water.  They only notice it when something bad is happening. Instead, if you do your job right and keep the bad things from happening, accounting is seen as something unremarkable that only exists as a fleeting thought by business leadership.

Here is to being seen as unremarkable!

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