Growing up, my family – which includes my mom’s parents and her sister’s family – took a month-long “vacation” from Sunday dinner from March 15 – April 15 every year. Why? Because my grandfather, a retired military accountant for the Veterans Administration, spread his entire tax kit out across the three dining tables in my grandparents’ home, leaving us nowhere to sit our 12-person gathering. And when my grandmother opened her business in 1982, my grandfather added her business bookkeeping and accounting to that process.
Setting the Standard: Ledger Book Accounting
He’d already spent 1 full day each month meticulously organizing, cataloging, and entering each credit and debit into a practice ledger and then, once satisfied that it couldn’t be more correct, into the official old-school ledger book by hand. But then he’d spend a full month re-tallying everything in the practice sheets, and again in the official month-to-month ledger book before embarking on his annual pilgrimage. That’s what I learned to call it as a child because he spent so much time talking loudly to God, and not always using his nice words.
That pilgrimage took him through the annually revised tax code, completing every possible permutation of deductions so that he could figure out the minimum he owed the government. You see, he and my grandmother made a magnificent business team: she analyzed consumer and market trends and selected the investments and he served as her financial backer and accountant. They always owed taxes as the end of the year but were determined to pay as little as possible.
Building on a Traditional System: First Bookkeeping Software
My grandfather’s system worked so well that he passed it along to my mother, who applied the same redundant (that’s a good thing in accounting, by the way) bookkeeping and accounting system to her business, which she sold in 2011, and continues to use as her base system for managing her own personal accounting.
But while she continued to apply those fundamental GAAP accounting systems to keep everything straight, I was able to convince her in 1996 to start using Microsoft Money to keep better track of her business’s regular bookkeeping and monthly, quarterly, and annual reporting; after all, it came free with her first box-style desktop computer and back then, no one even considered using a professional system like the early Quickbooks for home use.
That first year when she was able to turn in her year-end financials to her CPA for the business taxes, he bought her season tickets for the local college football team. Yep! It was that big a deal to him to have his business clients make the transition from all of that paper that had to again be entered by hand and calculated and corrected in his system before it could be turned into tax statements. But to receive an electronic file on that 3.25” floppy was like winning the lottery, making it easy and time efficient to run the taxes and make room for even more clients and his own business growth.
But that didn’t stop my mom from continuing in her father’s footsteps. The last and first day of each month is a tricky time to call her still and we never have family dinners then because, like her father, she spreads all of the statements and receipts out on the dining table and gets to work – every month without fail.
In 2009, when Microsoft announced that it was no longer developing or supporting Microsoft Money, well, that wasn’t a good day. And since you can no longer download the original program (there’s a replacement program), my mom spends a lot of time and energy keeping her laptop in good shape because when it goes, she’ll have to grow with it to a new accounting package.
The Value in Redundant Bookkeeping
Though she no longer does the bookkeeping for her own business, she now volunteers as the bookkeeper for several small charitable organizations. And when her laptop went kaput, she lost two years of electronic records for those organizations.
After she recovered from heart-stopping fear, she gleefully shot me – her tech-happy daughter – a big, fat “I told you so.” Naturally, I’d given her a lot of grief over keeping ledger books and doing so much work every month when she could just keep it on the computer once.
But if she hadn’t had those laboriously organized and cataloged ledger books, she wouldn’t have been able to recreate the missing two years in a new program to pass on to her successors in those organizations.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far
So I’ll let you in on a little secret. For all that I’ve abandoned pencil, paper, and calculator in favor of a cloud system when I do my own personal weekly reconciliation, I’ve got every statement and every receipt neatly organized in an 13-slot accordion file and tucked away in my home office. Just In Case!
CeCe Mikell is the Editor in Chief for Cleaning Business Today, coming to the cleaning industry from a 15-year career as a college professor of communication and business. She also works with several cleaning business owners on business development projects.
Originally published on June 16, 2015 at CleaningBusinessToday.com.