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Educating on Finance/Accounting

I'm a CPA and the Accounting Manager of a small family-owned company ($13.5M sales projected for 2017). When I was hired almost two years ago, I was told that they ultimately wanted to grow to need a CFO- a role that they would like to see me develop into. My two bosses are the husband and wife owners. He has a finance background and is "hands-off" with me in many ways. She very much struggles with the financial aspects, which I am very patient and courteous. However, she wants to understand everything and micromanage me.

For example, I wrote the policy for company credit cards and expense reports. After many, many discussions and revisions, she approved it. However, she doesn't think it's Accounting's place to enforce this policy. Her lack of understanding of what Accounting does is really just surfacing. So, I've built this policy that employees pretty much laugh at and she is frustrated that individual managers are not enforcing my policy.

I am beyond frustrated and feel like my hands are tied. I have huge financial thoughts and aspirations for the company, but many times feel like it's hopeless if I cannot get past expense report policies.

Thoughts on how to better manage up and respectfully educate? How can I look at this situation differently?



Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

You did not indicate if you got feedback from the people who file expense reports.
Does your policy look to them like you are the bad policeman?

What loss has the company incurred through non-compliance? Can you quantify?
How does non-compliance waste your time? If you can build a case, then find a time to talk to the owners together, maybe that will help.

Is it a battle you need to win or are there bigger issues?

Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Here is a backdoor way...

Propose a CFO quarterly (or 2x a year) status letter to the owners (maybe separately addressed, make it a % of ownership reason and not as husband and wife). The letter will include state of the company to include financials and the initiatives you have undertaken and the status (HIGHLIGHT problems and YOUR solutions whether proposed or ongoing) of those initiatives. (Of course whatever else you may want to include).

1. You will be informing the husband.
2. You are covering your behind.
3. You are documenting your performance/initiatives,
3. You are engaging BOTH owners.
4. You will not be directly be in conflict with the wife.

Hopefully, the husband will take some action. And if not, then #2 and #3.

Ade Onasanya
Title: Portfolio Accountant
Company: Madison Marquette
(Portfolio Accountant, Madison Marquette) |

Its tough especially when you have some kind of career attachment to the organization. My advise is that you will have to sell your policy to both the owners and depending on your Job description and the reporting structure, you will need to ensure that you explain the consequences of non-compliance especially from the regulation authority perspective and the implication for the future growth of the company. Don't forget you are hired and no need for any power struggle.

Steve Sheridan
Title: Associate
Company: Dean Lewis Associates
(Associate, Dean Lewis Associates) |

I empathize with you. Small companies can be tricky as it seems easy to introduce initiatives due to the small size In reality though there are many roadblocks. Your situation is even tougher. The husband may understand you and what you're trying to accomplish (perhaps that's why he's "hands off"), but he has to support his wife first. It's part of her company too so you're going to have to earn her trust.

Now, how to do that? I'm beginning to think one has to consider the company culture first. If the husband is "hands off" with you, perhaps he has been with expense reports as well. The employees aren't used to new rules and will rebel (laugh as you said).
Perhaps the CEO/CFO's on this board can answer a question for us? If you were the husband/wife of this company, would you be impressed if this manager learned the culture and created an internal marketing strategy? This manager would discern what the employees value and create strategies accordingly. Let's say the employees are used to freedom and creating their own rules. The strategy would incorporate that, enlisting employees to help write the policy while appealing to their unique values.
Even if your policies benefit the owner/employees, you need that "buy-in" for the policies to succeed.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

Issues that seem be prevalent in most small, privately held and especially family privately held companies is the family/non-family dynamic. Let's not get into the dysfunctional family dynamic that is part of the wider company wide dynamic.

One or two things will ultimately happen. A family member will become Ruler and keep family issues at bay for the good of the business.

The Ruler will see the forest through the trees, take note of talent and push that talent forward for the good of the company (i.e., family). Otherwise you may just be barking up that proverbial tree, and never get anything other than an ulcer.

Do some reading on family businesses (not family offices, where there are the same dynamics, but they are an investment company) and see what advice is given.


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