When I was trainee accountant it was a time well before computers and most of our clients enjoyed Incomplete Recordsand has there ever been more apt a title as incomplete, they most certainly were?
I recall one particularly stressful learning experience with a big farming estate client whose records consisted of a pile of bank statements that I proceeded to write on from the cheque book stubs and this then became their quasi cashbook, all created by me.
For the younger accountants reading this, you may not appreciate that this was standard practice back then and this client was by today standards a multimillion revenue business and not an insignificant client.
The end result of my work was a pile of bank statements that was 18 inches high.
However, some things never change and Double Entry has always been Double Entry and at some stage I had to reconcile the bank account.
After two weeks of cheque stub recording, I was ready to tick and schedule the various expenditures and incomes in the bank account onto some Working Papers and Casio print-out (well lists really).
After another week I had totals and the Debits exceeded the Credits; the horror of horrors, my bank account didn’t balance!
A further week was spent ticking, checking and rechecking the add list and schedule accuracy and I managed to slide the ‘Difference’ down to £765.48 (I don’t remember this, I guessed it some 40 years later as I’m not that obsessive with figures).
But there it stayed for another week and never moved a penny. What was the technical problem I had missed with my inexperience?
I even went to a partner with the problem and they didn’t offer much hope, but helpfully advised me to do what I had just done, but do it all over again! I was now into my sixth week and still the bank account wasn’t balanced.
My frustration was reaching breaking point and when I tripped and fell over one of the many frayed rugs in the office and dropped all the bank statements and I have to confess that I may have sworn.
They fell everywhere and I then had the task of sorting them into date order, one by one. It was then that I had my first ‘Eureka’ moment as a budding accountant.
Bank Statement Number 42 was missing and the missing transactions on Bank Statement Number 42 (the meaning of Life, The Universe and everything …Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) were, you guessed it – Net £765.48.
My first big lesson: Think out of the box, or better still – properly prepare and you save yourself so much trouble later!