Do you choose your contractor’s tools?

I am going to go against the grain with this post. File it under Dissenting Opinions. Think of me as a Devil’s Advocate, except that I actually do believe what I am about to say.

If you hired a contractor to build a house, would you specify which tools should be used during the building process? When you go to the doctor, do you tell him which kind of stethoscope he needs? Probably not, but why? Well, if you’ve thought about it at all, it’s probably because you trust their judgement to choose the tools they like and that they know will help them do their jobs. I hope it seems strange to even think about telling these people which tools they should use.

Yet, people do this all the time with their accountants and bookkeepers. They choose the tools that these professionals use. In this case, the tools are the accounting software. To be frank, it is frustrating because I know the tools better than the business owner does, plus I understand the foundational concepts upon which the tools are based. If I recommend QuickBooks Desktop, for example, it is not because I am a dinosaur who is trying to block the business owner from his data (I’ve seen people suggest this very thing in that situation). I recommend QuickBooks Desktop for a particular client, it is because I believe that it is the better solution for that client’s business. Furthermore, if I am the one who is working in it, then it doesn’t make sense to me that my advice is disregarded.

Why is it not strange to tell a highly-trained accountant which tool she should use, yet it is strange to tell a doctor which tool he should use? I think it is because people believe they need 24/7 access to their financial data, so they want the tool that will give then that access. But I wonder if this is actually true. Do they truly NEED such access? Does it help them increase sales or profitability in a definite and measurable way? Or, as I suspect is the case, is it just that they are naturally curious about what is going on? I certainly do not blame anybody for being naturally curious about the financial status of their business. In fact, that is a good impulse but I’d prefer to channel it in a better direction. I am not suggesting that business owners should be in the dark, but there is a time and a place to review financial reports. I seriously doubt that most business owners need to do it every day via their phones.

I wonder if studies have been done to see which business owners are more profitable:

  • those who tell their accountants which tool to use, thereby having 24/7 access to their financial data.
  • those who let their accountants choose the tool, thereby possibly not having such access.

I am skeptical that the former are more profitable or successful over the long term than the latter. I say this for two reasons: if the former are spending time every day looking at the accounting on their phones, then they are not performing the other business tasks that they got into business to perform. They also have implied that the advice of their accountants is not important to them. That is never a good sign.

The trend in the small business arena seems to be to have non-accountants choose the accountant’s tool. For those businesses that go along with this trend, I wonder if they will be more successful over the long term than those who let their accountants choose the tool. I am skeptical that they will be.



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