The following story is true.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent.  If you think this story is about you…you are probably right.

The Martyr and The Intimidator

Bean Counting AccountantLeslie is the owner of a roofing company, a business she inherited from her father.  Back in the day, her father managed a small crew and operated with handshake-contracts and stacks of cash.  Now that her dad has retired, ambitious Leslie sees a different future.  She wants to grow her company so that she can make a fortune…and provide career opportunities for her beloved team.  And she wants to build on her (and her father’s) reputation for taking great care of her customers.

Leslie called me one day, after reading one of my articles.   She described the vision she has for her company and her intent to build an empire.  In response to my questions, she shared that…

  • She knew how much she had in Accounts Receivables, but only saw financial statements once a year…at tax time.
  • She didn’t understand how the financial statements related to what she did every day…sales, payroll, materials…so she pretty much ignored the reports anyway.
  • She knew that she was in debt…but wasn’t sure how much.  She just secured another line of credit to keep the cash flowing.

Sigh.  I confronted Leslie about her lack of financial literacy.  “It’s your company and your assets on the line.  You need to KNOW.  Tell me who is in charge of the accounting at your company.”

For the last fifteen years, her mom has been the Bookkeeper.  Mom does the books as “a favor” to Leslie.  She works 40 plus hours a week but nothing is ever really finished or ready for Leslie to look at, so Les has quit asking for day-to-day financial information.  Everyone else in the office avoids Mom, who seems to have a different set of rules from the rest of the team.  While Mom is responsible for paying bills, who she pays and when is a mystery.  Once, when Stan the warehouse man had a question about his paycheck, Mom flew out of the office sobbing, “And THAT’S the thanks I get?”  It took Leslie three apologetic phone calls to woo her back.

At the end of the year, Mom hands whatever it is that she assembles for financial information to a fellow named Art.  Art is an Accountant who files the tax return.  Leslie has asked Art for help understanding the balance sheet and income statement he prepares for the return.  She called and set up an appointment to meet with him.  His secretary scheduled a date to meet…in six weeks.  At that meeting, Art leaned over his massive mahogany desk and patted Leslie’s hand.  “You worry about running the business.  I’m a professional.  I will take care of the accounting,” he said dismissively…then escorted her to the door.  For the money she pays him to be treated like this?  He is ripping her off!

Martyr Mom is holding Leslie back.  Art the Intimidator is holding her hostage.

I advised Leslie to fire both of them.

“But, then what?” Leslie sputtered in response to my suggestion.  “Where do I find another Accountant?  Who else would I trust with my money?  Where do I start?  And, by the way, my mother will disown me.”

Leslie asked me to help her get a handle on her financial situation.

“I can do that.  I can help you get to a known financial position.  I can create a clean, accurate set of financials for you.  However, to build an empire, you must learn to do that yourself.  You must build a team of financial pros who will help you get timely, accurate data…in a format you understand…so that you can make good business decisions.

“And, Leslie, your mom will get over it.”

Here’s what I shared with Leslie about developing her financial team…

Start by defining who is resp