Mystery and accounting generally don’t go together. I have been involved with accounting for more years than I care to remember and mystery is not a word I associated with accounting when I began studying it in college. However, over the years, as I started working with accounting statements and transactions, I began to realize that every accounting transaction or a statement is waiting to tell a story. I began to focus more on these stories than the numbers themselves and realized that my audience was beginning to listen to me. One of my first bosses told me that the one thing that intimidated him was accounting. He said it was not because he did not understand it (he did not) but because he felt most of his accountants did not either! In one of my first meetings with him to go over the financial performancce as I started to get into the numbers, he rudely cut me short with the expression “I don’t care about the numbers. Tell me the stories behind them”. That is what set me thinking and since then, I have always taken the story approach.
So far so good. Where does the mystery bit come? The problem is that though the stories behind the accounting numbers are important (if they are important, they are interesting, believe me), they are stubborn and tend to hide. It is not easy to decipher them. This is because drawing up an accounting statement is both an art and a science. By the time, the financial statements are drawn up, too much water has flown under the bridge to bring out the leading story or stories. Hence the mystery part. A good accountant will always price open the statements and get to the story. Explaining the numbers by unraveling these hidden facts will elevate an accountant to a coleague or a partner. Thus a good accountant will always be like a detective on the prowl — looking for the answers even when the questions are mostly hidden.
In this series, I will walk through the different types of mysteries. This series is aimed at high school and college stundents studying accounting either as a major or as a minor subject. This is not intended to be a substitute for studying accounting as a subject — rather as a supplement to make the study more interesting and fun.