A Test of Concentration

Not so focused after all.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Before COVID-19, much of an accountant’s work was done at the client’s premises. However, whenever we are there, it is an intrusion on their routine.

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We need to remember we are guests and should remain “out of sight.” Well, let me tell you what happened early on in my career.

I was working in a photographer’s studio on a table near the middle of the room doing my write-up. Just for your information, write-ups were done in ink. The transactions were written in journals, the cash accounts were reconciled, and summaries were posted to the general ledger. I then took off a trial balance and prepared a financial statement.

Some clients’ general ledgers had locks on them, and I carried a ledger key on my keychain. Everything was pretty routine, regardless of the client’s industry. All clients had cash receipts and disbursements, sales and payroll. Some had purchase journals, and with some we worked off the numerical copies of the sales invoices, which became the journal. In many cases we made journal entries. Of course each business had peculiarities, but after a while, these too became routine.

Now back to the photographer. Sometime in the late morning a model showed up for test photos. When she came in, my client carried on a first meeting conversation with her, ignoring the fact that I was just a few feet away. He started to take some photos, and I naturally could hear everything that went on. After a little while he asked her if she brought a bikini and if she could go in the dressing room and put it on. When she returned I had a decision to make – should I look up to see what was going on, or just continue with my work like nothing was happening.

I decided that if I looked up – even for a second – it might create a distraction that would upset the client, so I decided to ignore what was happening. In the course of the shoot, he asked her to remove the top, and then do some turns and jumping. I could hear everything even today like it was yesterday, but I never looked up and never stopped my work, not even for a second.

When she left, I looked at my work that I thought I was concentrating on, but actually every word and every number I entered was wrong – and it was in ink!!!