Updated: Dec 6, 2022
Are you a business owner whose finances seem out of control? Not sure how to figure this out yourself? Concerned about the cost of getting professional help? That is exactly what this series is about. We are sharing specific controls you can implement, which will give you the insights necessary to “right your ship”.
To get a complete version of ALL the controls we suggest in this series, click the button below and receive it for FREE!
In this post we’re covering the fourth control in our series. This step requires more effort than the previous three controls. This control is just moderately effective but should not cost anything to implement.
Obtain Separate Administrative Access to Your Accounting System
As the owner of your business, you should have your own access to the accounting system. You should be comfortable with running and reviewing reports within, too. Getting access is usually not particularly hard; getting comfortable with running reports and drilling down into them takes time and can be challenging. Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to become an accountant. That’s not why you started your business. You should, however, learn enough about your accounting system to dig around without someone else’s help. Once you have access, where do you start? Below are four suggestions on where we typically start when reviewing a potential client’s accounting system for issues:
Reconciliation Reports – An accounting system should have a reconciliation process built into it. Typically, it keeps a history of these reports you can review. Below are some specific things we look for:
Are your bank and credit card accounts reconciled sporadically or not at all?
Are the reconciliations completed, but “forced” through one or more adjustments?
Do you see any uncleared transactions dating back years?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then you have an accounting problem. It indicates a training or competency issue at best and deception at worst. Either way, you will need to address it.
Accounts Receivable Reports – Most accounting systems have these reports built-in. The Accounts Receivable Aging Report (ARAR) gives a snapshot view into individual and overall customer account management health. It is important to note this report shows the status of your receivables for a specific date in time.
Does the ARAR agree with the Accounts Receivable total in the Balance Sheet on the same date?
Are the customer balances what you expected?
Do you recognize all the customers in the ARAR?
Does the ARAR show “clean” customer accounts, free of unapplied credits or negative balances?
Are customers billed timely?
Cashflow into the business is extremely important, so if you find you have answered “No” to one or more of these questions above, follow up quickly with your accounting staff to get these processes resolved to your satisfaction.
Accounts Payable Reports – Again, most accounting systems include these as boilerplate reports. The Accounts Payable Aging Report (APAR) gives a snapshot view into individual and overall vendor account management health. It is important to note this report shows the status of your payables for a specific date in time.
Does the APAR agree with the Accounts Payable total in the Balance Sheet on the same date?
Are the vendor balances what you expected?
Do you recognize all the vendors in the APAR?
Does the APAR show “clean” vendor accounts, free of unapplied credits or negative balances?
If you find you have answered “No” to one or more of these questions above; it is again an indicator of problems with your internal accounting staff and will require your direct involvement to resolve the issues quickly.
Audit History Reports – Most accounting systems will have an Audit feature built into it. An Audit History Report will provide a history of any transaction in your accounting system, including any modifications or deletions made to them. It also provides a date/time stamp and the system user involved for any of these changes or deletions. This feature is particularly useful when your initial research above indicates a strong possibility of dishonest behavior by accounting employee(s). To the extent you do discover something purposefully amiss, you might consider reaching out for professional assistance before taking action with the person(s) involved to minimize any further potential damage to your business.
In conclusion, obtaining separate access into your accounting system and spending some time (at least weekly) reviewing these key reports above will give you great education into the cashflow processes of your business. It will also give you specific insight into the accounting skill level and character of your staff involved. Whatever you find, it is important to resolve any issues you discover.
Just a reminder; if you are interested in getting the abbreviated version of ALL the controls you can implement fill out the info near the top of this blog post to receive your free pdf!