I was once working late at night in the accounting office as a consultant on their DMS computer and needed a pen to write down an error message. I opened one of the desk drawers and found a large stack of un-deposited checks. The controller was horribly embarrassed, but after she totaled the stack, her embarrassment turned to anger. The next morning when she confronted the clerk, her anger turned to disappointment and fear. The clerk said “I didn’t have time to deposit those checks last week.” The controller was confused. “How can I make sure everyone is doing their job?” she asked me. “Do I have to ask them each day?” A few months later a dealer emailed me. His accounting office had failed to pay both the sales and payroll taxes on time. His email said, “I could have hired two more people for the amount I’m paying in late fees and penalties!” I had to agree. Budget cuts for most federal and state governments means fewer audits (good news) but that means raising fees and penalties to make up for the loss revenue. How can you make sure your accounting office is performing all the daily, monthly, yearly tasks required and doing all the right tasks during the month end close to produce an accurate financial statement in three days?
“How can I make sure everyone is doing their job?”
I’ll admit that supervising the accounting office was my least favorite chore as a CFO/controller. I’d rather create a new spreadsheet or write a report on our DMS system. During my last job as a controller, I wasn’t sure what everyone did after recently being hired, so I had them all create a list of their tasks and indicate when they performed them. Next I asked each office person to document the task in a format that I called “How to.” When I got the full list, including my own left by the prior controller, I rated the tasks into 3 categories (ABC.) The highest C level was for “CAT” confidential, accurate and timely, B-Better and A-Anyone. I was shocked on how many tasks my best staff, (C level) was doing that could be done by anyone and how many tasks were missing. My new dealership had no internal control or asset management tasks.
Over the years, I have collected these tasks and instructions and developed a technology to watch for past due tasks and email reminders to the accounting staff. You’ll be shocked at the number in DealerStar Tasks; 317! No wonder each day, week or month many tasks are getting missed. How can you use technology to better organize your accounting office? The best place to start is when you are hiring your next office replacement. Instead of hiring to replace a desk – move some of the lower level items from other desks and hire a new lower-priced A-Anyone person. Move the important tasks to your B level staff that wants to grow into a “CAT.” They can use the “Learn” feature to train themselves on other tasks to cover for vacations and sick leave.
There are many things that you can do to motivate your office to learn new tasks; bonuses based on deals worked, a bonus for having a certain amount of B or higher tasks assigned – or my favorite which is 4 hours free time off if the close is completed in 3 days. Today dealerships and regulations have grown so much that you need a technology solution to make sure tasks are being done. While you’re at Digital Dealer Conference 21 in Las Vegas, August 8-10 you can enjoy it more if you have a way to check up on those due dates and tasks before you leave or while you are there. If you want a list of those 317 tasks, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Sandi Jerome
Sandi Jerome is the owner of Sandi Jerome Computer Consulting. Sandi founded DealerStar, a web-based DMS. She is a former CFO, System Administrator, Fixed Operations Manager, and Controller with over 30 years experience in the auto industry.