May 2011 - Posts
In some companies people don't have to enter time they spent on time sheets. These are usually companies other than accounting firms, where you work in the same job every day. Accounting and consulting firms work for a mix of clients, so their staff are expected to identify where they spent their time every day, so the company knows where time is being spent by their staff.
In most accounting firms, you're asked to book your time accurately. Companies bill clients for doing work, and rather logically, don't bill clients for time their staff spend learning how to do their jobs.
Having said that, accounting firms operate on an apprenticeship model, so there's always on-the-job training going on.
And this is where a supposedly straightforward issue gets a little confusing.
Precise rules differ from firm to firm - be sure to see what your written policy is - but for the most part, if you're working on a client's file, it's considered client work, not "training time." If someone suggests you shouldn't charge all the time because you spent some of it learning how to do the work, be ready to challenge that idea, especially if you work for a mainstream company where this certainly isn't training time.
The exceptions to this rule would be cases where you're studying a client's file to learn from it, but aren't actually creating any new work. For example, someone gives you an audit file, tells you to look it over for an hour, to see how it's setup. If this is being done as part of a training exercise - and you'll know because you're in an all-day training class! - then it's training time. Usually samples used in training are anonymous and don't even identify your client, but that's not always the case, especially if you're doing some more advanced sort of case studies.
If you took longer than average to start working on a file, though, yes perhaps you're slower because it's a new file, but that shouldn't be a reason to charge your time to training. It won't take much experience to identify situations where a manager is pushing you to bend the rules versus telling you to follow policy. Figure out what your company expects of you and run with that.
If you find you're working for someone who isn't respecting your firm's ethical guidelines, recall that most large firms has an ethics/whistle-blower hotline you can contact to report accusations in good faith.
In smaller firms, you'll lack that luxury, in which case I hope you picked a place with a strong leadership team that will support you. Many good firms exist, so if you didn't find one, keep your lines open to new positions. Turnover is extremely high in the accounting industry so it shouldn't be too difficult to find yourself a new home if you find yourself in a bad place.
Just watch out for stairways to nowhere.
"I have no idea what to do on this account! What should I do? The senior's gone for the day. I'll never finish this file!"
The chaos inherent in a young auditor or accountant's mind would be fun to watch, if you enjoy watching the suffering of others. Judging by the popularity of certain sports and shows, there's many such people.
Unfortunately there's no efficient way to charge admission to witness the whirling vortex of worry in your mind, so you might as well have some strategies to deal with it.
As much as it's a running gag, looking at last year's file is a time-honoured tradition. Part of the entire point of documenting your work well is so the person taking over your job next year will have a good idea as to what they're supposed to be doing, to avoid the mess you're in in the first place.
Of course, perhaps you made the file yourself last year, and didn't do a very good job. And now someone with higher standards is reviewing your work. Well, good luck. Alternatively, you're doing something for a new client where there is no prior file to refer to.
In either case, ask for help: talk to whoever's supposed to be supervising you and get some proper guidance.
Easier said than done, especially if you're "fixing" a weak file from the prior year. Or if your senior or manager has wandered off and you're stuck on your own.
Part of the secret of getting help is knowing how to ask the right questions. While you're waiting for your source of help to return, spend some time preparing your question.
Don't just say, "I'm stuck, what do I do?"
Consider asking Superman for help.
Instead, trace out the thought process you went through. You found issue X. You looked at guidance in the Handbook, and you couldn't find it. You Googled the topic (yes, we do that too), and couldn't find answers. You tried one or two other ideas, and got nowhere.
If you tried two or three solutions - notice how deliberately vague I'm being, since your problem could be just about anything - at least you tried.
If you tried one solution - looking at last year's file, or anything for that matter - and then just gave up, no one will be impressed. Try a little harder.
Either you will show that you tried your best before giving up, or - this may come as a shock - you may end up solving the problem yourself.
Unless you have a fantastic memory, write down the thought process you went through in some sort of intelligent manner so you can recall your notes when challenged with the question, "well did you try anything before asking me?"
Much of the time you will find a solution. I chuckle every time I see a missed call from someone at 10 a.m. After my meetings are wrapped up I call them back. It might be the afternoon by this point. "Your voicemail said you had a problem?" I'll ask.
"Oh, never mind, I solved it." they'll tell me.
Readers have sent me many questions which I've tried to respond to a little faster than in my posts.
One question involves old accounting textbooks. When you're getting ready to start work, you may wonder if there's any point to keeping them, or if you should sell them.
Unless you work for a company with the world's worst employee support program, you should feel comfortable in disposing of them. If you can sell them to younger students in the program, good for you. Hopefully the editions haven't changed.
Over time, accounting standards change, so the theories you may have been taught three years ago may have some merit, but hopefully you've memorized the key elements. The details may have changed, and any employer worth their salt will provide you with the accounting handbooks and manuals that apply to the field you're working in.
If you're studying for exams like the UFE they should, again, be providing you with exam prep guides which will be much more useful than your old textbooks anyway.
Almost two fulls months between posts? Yes, I've been busy. There giant Oreo cookie cakes don't just eat themselves.