Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Digging into Data to Liven Up Businesses
Bringing personality and liveliness into the business equation can be a big ask in today’s modern business environment, where software increasingly rules the roost.
Bland-looking spreadsheets, P&L columns, balance sheets and forecasts are generally avoided by business owners. Some are quite happy to depend on their accountants to take care of all the arcane technicalities of numbers and figures.
But with accountants themselves becoming more and more in thrall to the ease of software-based accounting systems, there’s a perfect storm brewing for those companies who prefer to hand over the running of their businesses to computers.
Because computers are always right – aren’t they?
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
In this age of sophisticated accounting software and internet-based business solutions, the chore of business bean-counting has never been easier or more straightforward.
But what if all this automated ease that can churn out detailed spreadsheets at the touch of a button masks issues that have potential to derail a business?
Do all these convenient software-based accounting processes encourage business owners to turn a blind eye to the realities of their day-to-day operations?
Are the machines taking over and turning businesses into facsimiles of themselves – soulless, data-driven companies lacking the character to interact effectively with their customers and communities?
Liz Jarvis of Better Business Decisions believes there’s more to it than that, and devotes herself to empowering business owners in the art of harnessing the strength of all this business technology for detailed insight and understanding of their companies’ financials.
Bridging the Gap
This one-woman crusade against the disconnects between business owners and their accountants takes a personal, hands-on approach to help them bridge this gap and build profitability.
“Unfortunately, the rise of accounting technology and its speed of change has led to some business owners and accountants relying on software to run their businesses and depending on it to get it right,” she says.
“It’s an inviting path to take, but it can be a perilous one for the unwary. Software accounting systems are invaluable for efficiency, but without human engagement, they take a bland view of a business.
“I work with my clients to bring them back to the numbers and fully engage with their financial statements – it’s amazing how their perceptions of the business can change just by walking them through their financials as the ‘Story of their business.’
“And I always encourage them to adjust account names to be more meaningful to their unique operation.”
What Liz does is become a bridge between the business owner and the business accountant, repairing the damaging disconnect and advising on rebuilding the infrastructure of the business to get it purring with more efficiency – and inevitably, increased profitability.
For there’s much more to running a business than relying on AI and algorithms to do it for you.
There’s no doubt that the advent of this sophisticated business accounting technology has done wonders to streamline and improve business functions, but with all this improvement has come a dangerous acceptance and over-reliance.
Liz believes this has led to some business owners and accountants becoming further and further apart – with the computers filling the gap and growing in dominance.
The Rise and Rise of the Machines
It all sounds a bit reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s ominous poem The Secret of the Machines.
Kipling was writing at the beginning of the 20th century, about the machines and technology of a different age – noisy, oily machines that replaced manual labour.
But in dealing with the problem of modern technology and automation, Kipling was proposing an essential theory that’s just as relevant to our modern world of computers and smart software.
He writes in the voice of a machine, explaining that -
machines can serve humanity and are useful; but if they’re not used in the right way they can lead to disaster.
Kipling ends by stating that -
machines – although capable of great deeds – are still nothing more than creations of the human brain.
This is a fundamental principle that Liz employs across her work with clients.
“Everything the computer says shouldn’t be taken as gospel and we shouldn’t accept the figures it tells us without investigation and analysis,” she says.
“Unfortunately, some business owners are reluctant to dig down into the data to find out for themselves whether it’s right or wrong.
“What I do for them is support, educate and guide them – we uncover the information together, and this can reveal surprises, sometimes not all of them pleasant.
“Unfortunately, it’s an undeniable fact that modern computers and software can cover up problems in a business. And these problems have the freedom to grow if no-one takes the time to uncover them and deal with them.”
Ironically, technology is a big factor in all this for Liz, who runs Better Business Decisions from office premises in Wingham, New South Wales, where banks of computer screens and equipment connect her with clients right across Australia.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to the popularity of Zoom she was an enthusiastic user of the app, hooking up with businesses to give them guided tours and analysis of their online financials.
The technology enables her to closely collaborate with business owners and accountants to delve into their financials online together and follow trails to identify potential problems.
Liz believes that if a business owner doesn’t become closely involved in the strategy of the business then it’s a great waste of a vital resource.
“I’ve seen it become more and more prevalent within the business community for owners to step back from running their businesses in the mistaken belief that the software will run it for them.
“There’s been a growth in shallow thinking, which is all down to technology and the rapid speed of change in the effect it’s had on businesses.
“And it’s not just their businesses that some owners are putting at risk with this attitude, but also their employees and the wider community their business serves.”
Liz tackles this issue head-on by collaborating and communicating with businesses with detailed online walk-throughs of their financials.
She sees it as a combination of logic and problem-solving – bringing a lot of information into elegant simplicity.
Bringing owners back to the numbers and engaging them with the true story of their businesses is Liz’s mission.
This mission is also about deterring business owners from abdicating their responsibilities, to stop them ignoring the figures that are produced and instead spark a curiosity to explore all the inner financial workings of their businesses - so that they understand how profitable they actually are.
Liz’s keen insight into what makes businesses tick – and what will make them run better and more profitably – is rooted in a lengthy career of working in various fields of business accounting.
A graduate in Economics from Sydney’s Macquarie University, she worked for one of the city’s “Big 8” international accountancy firms, before a move to the country and a local firm of accountants, then a period in-house with a technology client.
The introduction of GST pulled her back to compliance work, where she witnessed significant shifts in regulation of tax agents and financial advice impacting the holistic way accountants had traditionally served business owners.
Her passion for empowering businesses came with a change of direction into business coaching to liaise with entrepreneurs, where she began to identify the negatives of a hands-off approach to a company’s financials.
“The bottom line in accounting isn’t only the final line of a profit and loss statement – it’s analysing the detail, including balance sheet items and asking whether or not everything is complete and accurate. Once it is, you have the clarity to improve the bottom line.” says Liz
“Assuming everything is OK because the software says so is definitely the wrong way to go. I work with my clients to challenge that mindset and empower them to dig deep into the numbers to find new directions and profits.”
To liven up your business, visit Liz Jarvis of Better Business Decisions
t/ (02) 6553 0274
a/ 1/20 Isabella St, Wingham NSW 2429
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