Above and Beyond

Above and Beyond

Performance reports. I am not talking exemplary employee performance here. I am talking company performance.

Ok, imagine this. You are trying to get away from the everyday grind of your accounting office, and so you start looking for another job, while not yet quitting. For whatever reason, even working at a gas station seems better than your life at your current accounting office. So there you are one morning, interviewing for a job at a gas station, and after the few minutes of employee initiation, you are given some spreadsheets to work on.

As you sit calculating and pouring over and formulating these spreadsheets, time flies by you, lunch time is not important, you are understanding the numbers and where they are heading and what shape they are taking. Ideas multiply with every new formula you put in place, and you are developing the spreadsheet like a computer programmer, enveloping the system, separating it, searching it, building off triggers, digging into it, breaking through it. The walls of the gas station are a dry husk depending on you to run their numbers, witness the vitality beneath their façade, the variances they are subjected to, the environment they are part of.

When you finally look up, it is only due to the eventual urgency of needing to go to the bathroom. You stumble up from the table, your stiff muscles unfolding, you look around disoriented and ask the nearest team member to show you where to go. You follow him and as the two of you walk through the back room, you see a tiny dingy bathroom off to the side, which the two of you have walked past. He sees your questioning glance and says, “oh no, not that bathroom, I could see that you are working on a whole ‘nother plane, you can use the bathroom over here –“

And you are brought to a whole new section that is undergoing construction, but certainly isn’t tiny, dark, dingy and used. No, this is new, the blue tape still on the base-boards, wood trimming still in stacks, the drywall still bare in some places.

And after you have freshened up in the unfinished bathroom and come out, the team member tells you that you are ready to see a whole ‘nother location for the job, and you get into the passenger seat of his convertible sports car, strap on your seat belt…

… and realize it is 6 o’clock at night and that your accountant employer is expecting you (remember, the accounting office you were trying to get away from). Yes, apparently your boss at the accounting office begins working with staff only after the last of the client appointments of the day, beginning at six at night.  You are not ready to confess that you have been testing the waters of other employments. However, you don’t have your cell phone with you to call and make lame excuses to your boss.

So, you curiously take stock of your situation. Like I said, you have your seat belt on. The warm evening summer breeze is traveling across your face and the car is running happily along the empty beach highway.

You arrive at the beach, and you ask, what is this place? People are hiking the tall dunes, or along the sands or swimming deep along the surf parallel to the shore. This is the place of realization, you are told. You look around and look at the people a little more closely. Even though they are all ages, some extremely elderly, they are all strong, swimming in the surf, walking up the hills. So you start walking steeply up the mountainous dunes, looking out at the beautiful view of the ocean along side. The sand pours off the high dunes in the wind, gets in your eyes, and you continue, realizing you are happy. Even with the sand forcing your eyes closed and your hands to shield your nose and mouth, your legs and lungs battling the exhausting and difficult slope, you are happy.

And that is my description of developing and working on reports. I am talking budget reports, aging reports, compliance reports, break-even analyses, and all the reports that are not the “basic” financial statements.

I am also talking of all the nameless reports that cannot be spit out of any boiler-plate template. This is where your own filters, customizations, excel magic come to life.

These are the reports that are meant to be mulled over, for ideas to be teased out of, for plans to be sprung from. If you ever want to feel the beauty of bookkeeping and accounting, if you ever want time to fly by without noticing it, if you ever want to solve a problem, illustrate an idea, follow a theoretical, identify an anomaly, then create a report, and play with it.

I know some are looking back to their school days and the word report has a nasty taste. Or they are thinking of a report that someone ordered them to create out of fluff, to give the illusion of profits or potential. True enough, these reports are painful and time moves slowly during their creation.

A real report is a path to a realization. It is an attempt to explore questions that have moving parts to them. A real report shows how variables affect and compare with other variables. A real report has triggers that sound alarms or perform new functions when thresholds are reached, and that presents results clearly. A real report is a fun thing to create.