Yesterday I embarked on a long overdue and largely avoided obligation. Several months ago an auditor came to check every jot and tittle of our business’s bookkeeping records for a very specific time period. This guy was as crazy about receipts as my husband is about engine components. The devil is in the details, folks. I have a name for our new disposition as small business owners. It is called, “I worked painfully hard and tried my honest best to pay what I owed and still ended up with a big black eye, a checkbook desperately in the red, and debts I didn’t expect despite my best efforts.”
That is a taste you just can’t get out of your mouth easily, and, as the year draws to a close, I must somehow find a way to pick up the pieces of a big, broken mess that I was neither expecting nor intending to ever have to deal with. Let me tell you why.
I am not an accountant. For the record, I was great at math in school. I took Algebra I, II, III, Statistics, Geometry, and Trigonometry. I was in the honors math program from seventh through twelfth grade. I made A’s, always. My dad was an engineer so I got it honest. Nevertheless, when a young friend needed help with her math the other day, I thought I was helping her. I thought I knew the right answers to her questions. But we ended up with half wrong. Half. The reason is not because I am bad at math. The reason is because I did not know the formulas. I did not know the rules by which she was confined to solve the problems. I was using my own. I looked them up on the internet and thought I had found what I needed. The information I had was only partial. There were nuances and details (there’s that devil again) that I did not know anything about. Fifty percent is failing. A checkbook in the red is failing.
So, after spending two hours I did not really have to spare in the first place with my friend’s homework, I failed her. After spending countless hours I did not really have to spare in the first place on bookkeeping, I failed him. There were laws and rules that I knew nothing about when I took on this “job” as a 22 year old dental hygienist 15 years ago.
15 years is a long time to ignore important details. 15 years is a long time to just get by on basics. How could I be so stupid? Why did this not matter more to me? Hindsight is always 20/20. With my friend, I just needed her book in front of me. With the business, I am pretty sure I need a lifelong tutor at this point and a book to boot. No one ever showed me anything. No one ever told me the rules. But we all know that under the law, ignorance is no excuse. My own ignorance has left me in a place where details feel a whole lot like devils.
The truth is, life is outrageously busy. Priorities pile up like laundry in a family of seven. Here’s one more thing you must make your #1 focus, Lori. OK, Lord, then help me. Because I already have 18 #1 priorities. Maybe I am finally where the Lord wants me: recognizing my all consuming, desperate need for Him in all things.
Yesterday I sought to begin to reconcile the differences in my books. The long and painfully dreaded process began with an updated program. My Quickbooks software was dated 2002. After an hour and a half on the phone with a man located in the Philippines, I had a brand new reason to do better this year. I am still altogether awestruck by the fact that a man located on the other side of globe was remotely controlling my computer from his very own desk. He told me it was midnight there. I told him that anytime I am bookkeeping it feels a lot like midnight.
Anyway, I got off to a good start and then I realized that there were still entries from as far back as 2001 that needed deleted. Every time I went to reconcile a new statement, I would have to scroll through all those old bits of nonsense. With the new program, I thought, this will be easy and only take a few minutes. I will just delete the unreconciled entries and have one less weight on my shoulders.
I began OK but what I did accidentally proved, once again, disastrous. I thought the computer was automatically moving down the row that needed deleted. What it was actually doing was moving down by date – not only the unreconciled checks, but also the reconciled entries as well. I ended up accidentally deleting about 20 cleared checks from 2001 – checks I have zero ability to produce a hard copy of or ever find anywhere ever again.
I have no idea how to retrieve them or even if I can. Wonderful. Even more collateral damage. When I went to reconcile the next statement, there appeared a 27,000 dollar discrepancy. Usually, it is about 27 cents. I have no idea how to go back to that statement and fix it. I ended up redoing the two hours of work I had just done and still haven’t fixed it in the least.
Now. Are you feeling me? When I say I sat and cried over these honest but disastrously failed attempts to keep track of all that is related to this business and it’s books, I am telling you despair is not nearly a descriptive enough word. I am not an accountant. This is hard. I do not know the rules. I do not know the program. I do not know who can help me. I do not know much at all. But I cannot just quit. I cannot give up because this is not a job. It is a family business because of which my children eat. I have to figure it out. I have to find the right help. I need instructed. I need taught. I need help and I must find a way to make time to master this business – be it bad debts or better reconciliation, I have to deal with every dot and detail until my books are nothing less than beautiful. There are amends to be made and it will not be completed in the next few days I have off from home schooling as I had hoped. This is a time consuming project that is going to take some real dedication. But they will be made and I will see this project through to the very end. Hard, hard lesson learned.
We are on the precipice of a brand new year. Take it from one who is learning the hard way – reconcile your bad debts. Make amends – even if they are many more than you had ever anticipated. Pay attention to the details because, believe me, they matter tremendously. Make every transaction a priority. Never let old entries go undealt with. Do not give up. Don’t cry. Call on the man who can remote access your heart and theirs and let him do the work for you. You will be asked to give an account. You will, most definitely, need your book – the Bible.
Happy New Year.