Clicky Web Analytics Kerry Walters Shares Accounting Expertise

Monday, June 22, 2009


A company that is properly using lean processes is a company focused on their customers. They will be creating stronger customer loyalty. I learned many lean concepts when our company started to apply lean manufacturing processes. I saw the benefits and wanted to expand the lean concepts to the company’s administrative departments. Since I supervise a team of five members, I had a place to start using the lean concepts.

Our training began with three lean concepts. They were identifying our customers, eliminating waste and recognizing value added processes. We began the training by listing who our customers were. This is always an interesting learning experience. Their first answer was management. We continued the quest. Their answers now included management and anyone who relied upon the Company’s financial data. It also included anyone that provided us with the raw data that we processed. We drilled down into whom provided us with raw data. Finally, they realized that we had customers outside the company that affected our jobs. They always thought that only inside customers affected their jobs.

It took a little time to get to the point that our Department affects customers outside of the company and that outside customers affect our Department. Once the team better understood the lean concept of identifying customers, they team realized how the outside customers influence their jobs. They eventually recognized that our outside customers actually provide them a job and they ultimately provide them with a paycheck.

We indentified our inside customers as management and department managers and supervisors. Our inside customers also included everyone that provides us with the raw data we use. As we began to talk about our inside customers, they realized that all our customers have expectations and that we have to meet those expectations.

I explained a case where a department's customer rating went from poor to excellent after the department's team members focused on meeting their customer’s needs. After truly focusing on their customers’ needs, the team began to change. Customers that had previously been disruptive or antagonist to the department began to praise the department. Many customers were able to get immediate responses to their questions or their problems. They related how positive their experience had been. Those positive customer comments elevated the team’s opinions about their jobs. Adopting the lean concept of focusing on customers even change the attitudes of the team members. Their jobs became more enjoyable and satisfying.

The lean concept about customers is not a consultant created fantasy to increase their fees. A company’s primary focus must be on their customers. For some departments outside customers are everything and for others it would be outside and inside customers. To edit a saying, happy customers make for a happy company and happy company employees.

To emphasize this point, the companies that weather an economic crisis the best are those whose prime focus is their customers. These same companies seem to be able to maintain their employees with jobs. It seems that their customers are willing to pay to keep the employees employed. Those companies who have lost their focus on their customers or never had it have not survived the economic crises or are barely getting by. They are the companies whose employees are swelling the unemployed ranks.


Saturday, February 21, 2009


Let me set the stage. While attending a Lean seminar, management learned about Lean Office. They were excited and wanted to implement it in their Accounting Department as soon as they could. The company had already implemented Lean Production. The company had experienced great success in production and wants to expand this success to the Accounting Department. Bill, Division Manager, has called a meeting to introduce Lean Accounting to the Accounting Department staff and their supervisor.

The Accounting Department is composed of a staff of five and a supervisor. On their way to the meeting, they have been joking about having another flavor of the month meeting. They all wondered what flavor it would be this time. They entered into the conference room with their note pads ready to jot down the important points of the meeting.

Bill welcomed everyone to the meeting. He began by talking about his trip to the Lean seminar and explained how excited he was about Lean Accounting. He explained that the purpose of Lean Accounting is to reduce the number of steps used when invoicing customers, paying vendors, processing payroll, etc. He said that with all these reduced steps, there will be less work to do. He concluded by announcing that Lean Accounting training would begin in a week. The meet took about 15 minutes.

The Accounting staff was rather subdued going back to their desks. What they heard from Bill’s description of Lean Accounting was two topics; there would be less work to do leading to leaning the Accounting staff. As Mary sat down, she began creating a list of names of people she knows that may be able to help her find a new job. Fred made a mental note to start taking a half hour lunch to show that he works hard. Mable is getting an upset stomach and may have to leave shortly for the bathroom. The Accounting staff was very impressed by Bill’s presentation.

Does this sound familiar? To often Lean Accounting is introduced in this way and with disastrous results. The office staff was developing employment contingency plans before Lean training is even started. A fifteen minute meeting is not sufficient time for a subject as important and powerful as Lean

Lean is all about how willing we are to teach, train and empower our employees. Let me start this story over using the principles of teaching, training and empowering. I give a brief summary of material Bill presented at this meeting. Bill has just told them that he was introduced to Lean Accounting at a seminar he had attended. Bill began by teaching the fundamental concepts of Lean. He explained how Lean was introduced to the Production staff and the time it took before any changes were made in the production process. He noted that some of the production processes were stopped; some were simplified or changed to take less time.

Bill said that some of the Production staff had expressed concern for their jobs. Since it took less steps and time to make the product, they thought there would be layoffs. Since it did take less time, the company was able to decrease their sales prices to their customers. Bill said with pride that production increased and company actually had to increase the Production staff much to the surprise to a few of the staff.

Bill then began to explain that he was taught that he could adapt the Lean Production principles to the Accounting processes. He asked the staff if they would be willing to try. He gave them a brief overview of what a value stream map was and showed them a sample of a value stream map. He discussed with them about the growth of the company and that more work was coming to the Accounting Department. He asked each staff member how they felt about Lean and more specifically Lean Accounting. He answered their questions which increased their confidence about the success of Lean Accounting. Although there was some skepticism, overall they seemed willing to try it. Bill told them that training would begin the next week. He asked each staff member to come prepared to discuss some procedures that could be simplified, changed or ended for the next meeting. He explained that in the next meeting they would be taught about value stream mapping and be empowered to make the changes they were suggesting. This meeting took over two hours.

As the Accounting staff left this meeting, each was thinking about the presentation and how it was going to affect their job. As they talked on the way back to the offices, they began to buy into Lean Accounting and began to believe that it might just work. What they heard from Bill’s description of Lean Accounting was three topics; that the Lean principles had worked in Production, the processing of accounting data would easier and take less time and that no one would lose their job. As Mary sat down, she began creating a list of some procedures that could be ended. Fred decided to create a flow chart of an accounting process. He hoped that during the training he could covert the flow chart into a value stream map and begin to eliminate waste. Mable had not been this excited about work for some time and could hardly sit still. The Accounting staff was very impressed by Bill’s presentation.

Initiating Lean Accounting requires more than a 15 minute overview if it is going to be successfully implemented into the organization.

Saturday, January 3, 2009


In general terms, Lean is an improvement process that involves the concept of “continuous improvement” meaning that the purpose of Lean is to be improving some process or processes all the time. The continuous improvements are designed to eliminate processes that waste company time or resources and that a customer is not willing to pay for. It is not a one time process improvement event nor is it a technology-driven solution. “Continuous improvement” involves a fresh look at company processes all the time and a culture that embraces the needed for continuous change.

Implementation of Lean is successful when management initiates and sustains a lean culture. I found that it is difficult for management who has operated their business the same way for years to accept and be comfortable with an improvement process such as Lean. Studies have shown that some managers have even taken actions that have disrupted or undermined the implementation of Lean. The company never enjoys the profitable success that comes from using the tools found in Lean. The major difference between Lean success and failure is management’s attitude in creating and sustaining a continuous improvement culture and their knowledge of the tools used in Lean. If the implementation of Lean fails, it is not because of the staff but because of the lack of management’s sustained leadership.

The major change necessary for Lean success is management developing a culture where there is a sustained positive attitude of change. This means that some old company practices must stop and new practices start. The Lean culture has no room for managers who like to point their finger in blame when something does not appear to work properly. Management has to remove territory ownership or this is my turf attitudes.

There are principles of Lean that require the above culture to be eliminated which include some of the following:

• Continuous lean improvements will find process waste that lead to the discovery of another process waste. It becomes easy for a manager to blame the second process waste as the cause of the first process waste. The goal is to eliminate waste. Therefore, all improvements in processes should be praised where ever it is found or when ever it is found.

• To correct process waste in one department may require correcting a process waste in another department. Cooperation between department managers is critical to the success of Lean implementation.

• Lean is not just a quick fix to a problem. It is continuous improvement. If management wants lean to succeed they are obligated to embrace the cultural changes required to develop an atmosphere that encourages all employees and managers to look for way to eliminate process waste. This culture change will remove employee fear that their suggestions will end their employment or demote them to lesser positions.

• Lean is about people. Management will need to increase employee training.

• Employees will need to be empowered to make changes as the find process waste.

• Lean is eliminating processing waste which can lead to increased manufacturing capacity. It does not mean leaning out employees. Management has the responsibility of increasing sales that will lead to increased production to maintain their employees as lean increases capacity.

There are a couple of things that you can do to help management become successful at lean implementation.

One step would be to properly educate the management team on the benefits of Lean. This can come from showing how other businesses have successfully implemented Lean. It would be especially useful if a competitor has been successful with Lean. Nothing gets management in a bigger uproar than seeing a process that has help make their competition more successful, specifically a process that your management team could have implemented years ago.

Visit companies that are not competitors that have successfully implemented lean. Let management see how Lean was implemented, how it is maintained and learn how successful it has been. This may require some work to find company that will allow an extensive look into the benefits of Lean, but it would greatly aid in getting management’s buy in. Management can actually see the culture that is needed to implement lean.

Seek assistance of a consultant that is thoroughly trained in Lean and can aid in the implementation of Lean. Care should be taken when looking for a consultant trained in Lean. There are many people professing to understand but ultimately do not. Remember that after working so hard at selling Lean to management you do not want to lose the momentum to an ill informed trainer. You should thoroughly check the references of the trainer and ensure that the companies they have trained truly have seen sustained successes.

Management is the foundation of the successful implementation of Lean. Management controls change. They invite change to incur in the business, initiate change or they allow continuous change to be an integral part of their business environment. Management’s leadership and the use of the Lean tool set will lead their company into the next successful era of the company.

Monday, December 8, 2008


For the past decade, market conditions have strongly suggested that a company’s future success must be based on innovative thinking, innovative ideas and innovative strategic plans. This subject has been written about in books and college business journals for years. The resounding message is innovate or perish.

Because the alternative to being an innovative company is watching a company start down the path of bankruptcy to their eventual demise, there is an enormous incentive to make innovation an integral part of a company. Management has been trained that everything is about results, and that concept is still very valid today.

Management is held accountable for continuously improved earnings and the overall success of the company. The challenge is getting innovative ideas so that the company begins to generate better and better results.

To begin becoming an innovative company, management should hire the perfect candidates who can create innovative ideas, translate the ideas into a plan, and then implement the plan. Unfortunately, this pool of candidates is very, very small.

There is another solution to becoming an innovative company. This solution works when management better understand the weaknesses and strengths of their current staff. For example, you may already have an innovative thinker on your staff. This is the person who has good ideas but never seems to get them implemented. This person often cannot stay focused long enough to complete a project, and they never seem to consistently produce results. On the other hand, you may have a person who never seems to have any ideas of their own, but when they are given a project, they perform well. Your company may already have the resources to become an innovative company. You just need to become more effective at utilizing the resources you have.

After you have assessed your staff, you may find that you need an innovative thinker. To find the innovative thinker, a change will be needed in your hiring practices. There is an entirely different process used when looking for innovative thinkers because of their unusual abilities. The innovative thinker may have moved around more, they are looking for a company which wants new and fresh ideas, they are looking for a company where there is an environment of change, and they may have worked for younger companies.

When hiring a candidate, ask questions which require the candidate to find a solution to a challenge. This means asking questions that have a set of conditions, so the candidate can explain how they would solve the problem. Other questions should be conversational and open-ended, so candidates can explain what they mean. Based on the candidate’s answers, you can decide if the candidate is an innovative thinker by whether their emphasis is on generating ideas or if their emphasis is about implementing a plan to get results. The questions need not even have relevance to the position they are applying for. The intent of the questions is to see how they respond.

Remember, the mantra is innovate or die.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


One of the first steps when starting a business is selecting a business entity. Generally the main issues are business control, liability and taxes. The following is a summary of the business entity types. I always recommend consulting with an attorney about liability issues or CPA about tax issues if you have any questions related to the business entity selection. It is much easier and cheaper to select the correct business entity than to undo a mistake.

Sole Proprietorship

  • Owner has complete control over the business entity and is responsible for all decisions related to the business.

  • Liability
  • Owner is solely liable. His or her personal assets and any business assets are open to attachment in any legal case.

  • Tax
  • Owner reports all business incomes and expenses on personal income tax return.

  • Continuity
  • Business terminates upon the owner's death or withdrawal. Owner can sell the business but will no longer remain the sole proprietor.

  • General Partnership

  • Each partner has the authority to enter into contracts and make business decisions in accordance with the partnership agreement.

  • Liability
  • Each partner is personally liable for all business debts.

  • Tax
  • Each partner reports partnership income on their individual income tax returns. The partnership business entity does not pay any taxes but is required to file an informational tax return.

  • Continuity
  • Unless the partnership agreement stipulates otherwise, a partnership business entity dissolves upon the death or withdrawal of a partner.

  • Limited Partnership

  • General partners control the business and are responsible for all business decisions.

  • Liability
  • General partners are personally responsible for partnership liabilities. Limited partners are only liable for the amount of their investment.

  • Tax
  • The partnership business entity is required to file an informational tax return, but does not pay income taxes. Each limited and general partner reports their share of partnership income or loss on their individual income tax returns.

  • Continuity
  • Death of a limited partner does not dissolve business, but death of the general partner might. The partnership agreement generally contains provisions about the dissolution of the limited partnership.

  • Limited Liability Company

  • The owner or partners have control and authority over all the business decisions.

  • Liability
  • Partners are not liable for business debts.

  • Tax
  • The owner or partners report LLC income on their individual tax returns. The Limited liability company business entity is required to file an informational tax return, but does not pay income taxes.

  • Continuity
  • Different states have different laws regarding the continuity of LLC's.

  • Corporations

  • Shareholders appoint the board of directors, who in turn appoints officers. The officers hold the highest authority. Officers and the board of directors are responsible for the decisions of the corporation.

  • Liability
  • Offers liability protection. A corporation's debt is not considered that of its owners. Owners can be liable for the business debt when they do not follow the laws about making and approving business decisions. This is know as piercing the corporate veil.

  • Tax
  • The corporation files and pays income taxes. Shareholders only pay taxes on the dividends they received from the corporation.

  • Continuity
  • The corporation is its own legal entity and can survive the deaths of owners, partners and shareholders.

  • S Corporations

  • Shareholders appoint the board of directors, who in turn appoints officers. The officers hold the highest authority. Officers and the board of directors are responsible for the decisions of the corporation.

  • Liability
  • Offers liability protection. A corporation's debt is not considered that of its owners. Owners can be liable for the business debt when they do not follow the laws about making and approving business decisions. This is know as piercing the corporate veil.

  • Tax
  • Shareholders report their share of corporate profit or loss on their individual income tax returns. The S Corporation business entity is required to file an informational tax return, but does not pay income taxes.

  • Continuity
  • The corporation is its own legal entity and can survive the deaths of owners, partners and shareholders.
  • Monday, October 20, 2008


    By Kerry H. Walters

    An innovative Controller has a set of ingenious approaches that go far beyond the traditional Controller tools related to providing financial information to management and controlling accounting and financial processes, procedures and information. The innovative Controller has a comprehensive toolbox that helps a company reach a higher level of conscious awareness about achieving new growth, reducing costs, increasing profits, and developing contingency plans for unfavorable events that may affect the company’s future.

    The innovative Controller’s array of progressive tools should contain at least the following:

    Ø A leadership tool of vision, the ability to see where the company is currently, where it needs to go and how to get there.
    Ø A leadership tool for finding the processes and procedures across the company that should be changed and achieving the results that allows the company to successfully reach their goals and objectives.
    Ø Lean tools that eliminate waste leading to cost reductions and increased profits.
    Ø Leadership and training tools to create innovative changes within the company increasing market competitiveness and customer loyalty.
    Ø Costing and sales tools that continues to keep the company competitive in the market.
    Ø Leadership tool of passion, the energetic desire to bring success to the company.
    Ø Forecasting and projection tools that will prepare management for market upswings and downturns.
    Ø Leadership tool of persistence, the ability to overcome unforeseen challenges and complete the project.
    Ø Leadership and training tools related to employee growth, effectiveness, efficiency, and the stability of the company’s number one asset; their employees.

    Innovate ideas, innovative toolsets, innovative people and innovative changes are essential if companies are going to continue to succeed in today’s economy. Many companies have been optimizing processes, services, products and markets for years. The next step is to benefit from the results of innovation. A Controller with their innovative toolset should be a driving member of the company’s management team that will maximize innovation across the company. They will change the company’s systems, processes, products, services and markets that will lead to long-term growth in revenues, stronger customer loyalty, cost reductions and increased profits.