Accounting Matters

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Or does it? I’m tempted to question whether the accounting profession matters. (I know that it does, but I’m entitled to some sarcasm.) Why bother with all the work when it all goes to pot in the end? Has accounting theory and practice, hammered about by political compromise, become so convoluted that even the brightest accountants and auditors risk doing their profession a disservice? If accounting matters, why?

WHAT’S THE PURPOSE OF ACCOUNTING?

There’s a fairly simple purpose to accountancy: to ensure trusted (and timely) reporting of relevant information for actionable and reasonable decision-making. Auditing assures that the meaning of what’s accounted for matches the veracity of what’s stated (at least as close as possible).

Accounting and auditing are rooted in these two straightforward premises. Although simple in premise, each can be enormously complex in practice. Furthermore, the theories which articulate the foundation that supports expertise in reporting can themselves be complex. Theory in accountancy is just as critical as it is in physics or chemistry or mathematics. Science, not superstition, is the basement of a sane economy.

OK, BUT WHAT’S ACCOUNTING GOT TO DO WITH ME?

But accounting is more than a theory or a practice: it’s a language.

In order for us to have any conversation about economics or finance or treasury matters, we need our language to be clear and free of corruption. A language, once muddled or corrupted, will corrupt the speakers. It will corrupt the community. So when the language of accounting breaks down, stutters, mumbles and slowly but eventually conveys poetic lies, an entire economic system begins its erosion: what was once a civilization transforms into a dysfunctional family.

Accounting has everything to do with you.

DO WE CARE?

I don’t fully understand the details of the mortgage-back securities travesty crime blunder. I’m guilty of being focused on my corner of the world. Still, I suspect that if we want to understand what went wrong then we’ll need to figure out where along the way the language of accounting, once convoluted or corrupted, generated confused speakers and disoriented listeners.

The purpose of any language is simple: to convey meaning among ourselves. The loss of a language is the loss of an important part of meaning. It’s the loss of culture. Everyday, languages around the world die and we don’t care. The language of the governing brain of our culture is accounting. What do we lose when that language is lost? Do we care? I guess that’s the question facing us today: do we care?

Accounting matters. Language matters. Meaning matters. If we don’t know how to speak in a trustworthy language, how do we expect to send and receive the right signals? How do we know the difference between the right signals and the wrong signals? Signals, of course, mean nothing without interpreters. And that’s why accountants and auditors matter: they are interpreters.

Accountants are the unacknowledged interpreters of the economic world.

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Time to Fly Through the Coming Economic Gloom

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Time is a funny thing. For those of us who don’t live at the quantum-level scale, time moves like an arrow in a forward direction. Business decisions move along the same direction. Your business can’t move forward if you lose your sense of temporal direction.

The best thing about the coming collapse of many industries is this: if you’re smart and ballsy and willing to offer things of value and meaning to others over a long span of time, you’ll do well. If, however, you program yourself for doom, your doom will be automatic. You’ll be a slave to the doom-machine in your own head.

Should we be furious about the stupidity of a certain class of consumers? Yes. Should we be furious about the failure of our auditors? Yes. Should we be furious about the costly ignorance of our political system? Absolutely. Rage against the machine is perfectly justified. Rage, no matter how deserved, doesn’t accomplish nearly as much as fortitude.

Time doesn’t go backwards and nor should your focus.

Time, like an arrow, flies forward (duh). If you want to get through the recession or depression or whatever the hell is in store for us, you need to move forward too.

Nothing lasts forever. Time has no time for it’s own long tail. And, frankly, nor do you.

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A Bad and Meaningful Day

Optimist or Pessimist? You Decide

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On a bad day, when one moment hits you hard, it’s easy for you to stretch the moment over the rest of the day. Our brains are probably wired that way.

I wonder how much we lose from bad days. The self-help crowd tells us to turn our dangers into opportunities. And I buy into that philosophy myself, usually.

Sometimes, however, a good day gone bad is just how things are. Happenings. You can read all sorts of meaning into anything that happens. If you’re optimistic, the meanings are bright. If you’re pessimistic, the meanings are dark.

But: if you pay close enough attention to that edge between optimism and pessimism, between bright and dark, you have a chance at experiencing something beyond optimism and pessimism: sight. Seeing things as they are, no matter how painful or pleasant, is really the only way to get to the truth of your life.

I don’t know what the mutual truth of our lives is. I don’t know your truth; maybe you don’t either. If I had to bet on that shared value, I’d say something good would come out of our mutual understanding. This universe permits synergy, which might be how good prevails over bad. Just a thought.

Today, I had a bad day. A bad thing happened and it hurt. That’s now a truth of my life. I don’t need to share the details with you, but I think you understand.

If I had to start today over again, I’m not so sure I would change things. There’s something about a bad day that has meaning. I suppose it’s up to us to choose the meaning and hope it matches the truth.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. What’s more, I hope you find meaning in whatever kind of day you’ve had. Because if you had a good day, then it means the world isn’t all bad. I’m cool with that. Are you?

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Experts Don’t Matter

Experts don’t have a monopoly on heroism. In fact they can be downright dangerous.

Do you think all those people involved in the mortgage-backed securities travesty were stupid, inexperienced amateurs who had no clue about what they were doing? Many of them were but there sure wasn’t a shortage of experts. In fact, those experts knew exactly what they were doing, expertly so.

Experts are good at what they do because of their experience, not necessarily because of their heart-felt caring for other people. People need expertise, not titles. If you claim to be an expert, then love what you do and care for the people you work for. If that’s what you do then you’re more than an expert: you’re a hero. Heroes matter.

For example, Social Media experts are everywhere. When they’re everywhere, they’re nowhere. In other words, they don’t matter.

So if you want to tout your expertise then you better possess a passion for making other people’s lives better, not yours. And you better do what you love in a way that sets you apart from the experts. 

Don’t get fooled by words. Experts don’t matter if they don’t care about you or if they’re all over the place.

Don’t trust the experts when you can invest in heroes.

Healthcare Has No Shortage of Blogging Content!

personal health information - the wrkshop    

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There are many health care professionals who don’t blog. Some don’t blog because they’re cool people who just aren’t nerdy enough to blog. At least until they figure out that blogging isn’t what MSM makes it out to be.

Others, however, are concerned about the liability consequences of using social media and they believe that shuts out what’s most important (Beth’s blog is worth a drop into your reader.)

I understand that perspective but I don’t agree with it. The healthcare industry perhaps offers more interesting blogging content than any other topic.

There might be a nursing shortage but there’s no shortage of things to blog about the healthcare industry.

WHAT HEALTHCARE BLOGGING CAN BE

Healthcare blogging isn’t about compromising patient or coworker dignity and confidence. It’s just common sense not to blog personal and confidential information. There’s more to it than that. If you’re a stunad, you’re on your own.

Here are some off-the-cuff examples of what healthcare bloggers can cover:

  • The economics of healthcare (e.g. exploring the elasticity of demand and supply curves of various healthcare services)
  • The need for appropriate healthcare technologies
  • The success and failures of good and bad HIT systems
  • The growing shortage of willing nurses in the profession
  • The growing shortage of family physicians entering practice
  • Mentoring the next generation of healthcare workers
  • Discussing the day-to-day problems facing health care workers (generalizations will do fine)
  • Emphasizing the strengths of the healthcare system and highlighting its weaknesses
  • Covering political discussions about healthcare reform
  • Debating the proper roles of private enterprises and governments in healthcare provision
  • Providing high-quality, up-to-date content for practitioners
  • Providing a sharable platform for the progress of on-going research projects
  • Providing regular, clinically accurate and practical medical knowledge
  • Contributing proposals on how to improve healthcare
  • Healthcare fiction is an un-tapped blogging genre (no shortage of inspiration)
  • Hammering the need for HIPPA and liability reform
  • Educating the public on the need to protect their privacy AND the potential benefits releasing their stories to the public in a dignified context

The list can go on for miles. If you have topics to add, type in the comments below (and get a Disqus account if you haven’t already). Each step has liability implications, of course. Hurdles are meant to be jumped. It’s hard work. So is blogging. Get over it!

HEALTHCARE BLOGGING IS NECESSARY

Healthcare imposes more limitations on public discussion on certain matters. By no means, however, do those limitations preclude intelligent, creative, insightful dialogue. In fact, the blogging platform is a powerful way to raise public awareness.

Healthcare blogging is a specialized niche and requires extra skills that most other blogging niches need to succeed.

My advice for healthcare professionals who are discouraged from blogging because of liability matters is to forget about blogging the details of confidential experiences. Those details, interesting as they may be, are not at all the foundation of consciousness-expansion.

It’s more important to find the meanings of those experiences, connect those meanings to the public at large, and convey relevant opinions and information.

Public discussion certainly would benefit from the insight gained from colorful illustrations. Then again, the public had no idea about every gory detail involved in our visit to the moon. The public still supported the mission and we got there.

Time will tell if we accomplish for healthcare what we accomplished for inter-planetary travel. I sincerely hope that we get healthcare right. Blogging is a small part of getting right. But it’s a part.

HEALTHCARE WILL EVOLVE INTO ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT BLOG NICHES

In the meantime, if you want to become a healthcare blogger, use your brain, your imagination, your passion, your dreams. Work hard to say something meaningful to the public. Just because you can’t talk about that fecal impaction and the exploding colostomy bag, doesn’t mean you have nothing to say.

Don’t be discouraged by the limitations. In fact, use them to offer high-quality, interesting and socially-redeeming online content.

You who deeply care about using the web to improve healthcare: things aren’t going to change without your voice.

Blog on!

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National Socialism Slouching Towards America?

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold

A week ago Sunday, on the eve of Lehman Brother’s bankruptcy filing, I asked a simple question on Twitter:

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I can’t say for sure if we’re headed for the kind of National Socialism that the Third Reich adopted in the 1930’s. It’s kind of eerie, however, that what started last week in the financial sector distantly resembled the events that preceded the Great Depression. The rise of Fascist dictatorships in the 1920s and 1930s saddled the Great Depression. Although global events are different, there are patterns we aught to recognize.

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We are in a Twilight Zone. For too long speculative investing was permitted to go unchecked. I believe strongly in free markets, democracy and capitalism. I also understand the problem of what economists refer to as market externalities.

Times like these are dangerous not so much because of market swings, foreclosures and bailouts as much as the psychological impact these convergences have on a public’s mind.

During times of crises, it’s natural for people to seek out scapegoats when they can’t find solutions or ways to remain calm. So it’s with some concern that in the confusion, anxiety and possible panic we could find ourselves mired in a dangerous cultural upheaval.

We can’t necessarily avoid political, economic and cultural tsunamis. Sometimes when your country loses its sense of direction, you need to focus on what you can do to preserve your own sanity.

What can we do during a dangerous time like this? I haven’t entirely figured that out, but here are some thoughts:

  1. Be optimistic about the long-run, but focused on your current needs
  2. Realize that it’s not the end of the world: our ancestors survived all sorts of hells
  3. Know that it’s never to late to change your mind, to see the world in ways you never saw them before
  4. Be kind to others
  5. Learn how to do at least three new things every week
  6. Find out what you love
  7. Find a way to do what you love

I wish that I could offer more specifics. What I can say is: think about the issues that matter most to you and our country. We have an election coming up in less than two months. Regardless of who wins, don’t despair if your candidate loses. There’s more to our political future than one election. However you vote, vote with consideration of what matters. Personalities come and go. Actions ripple forever.

With the specter of terrorism looming, with wars between industrial nations becoming more likely and with national economies entering dangerous times, it’s easy for nations to resort to the comfort of false gods.

If America deepens its journey into the darkness of national socialism, this century will be uglier than the last.

If it’s any help, remember what the doorman said:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

NEVER give Fascists an even break. Not a single one.

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Ten Commitments All Social Media ‘Experts’ Must Provide Their Clients

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Are social media and social media marketing something your business feels it must ’embrace’. Not sure where to start? Thinking about hiring a big firm like Forrester to help you out? In an effort to ensure you get your hard-earned money’s worth, offered here is cheat-sheet to help guide you. Why 10? No reason, other than lists of 10 seem to be social media friendly. The number of fingers involved in a handshake.

WHERE SHOULD I START?

Before I get to the list, a few words about social media. It’s not rocket engineering. You can figure out a lot by simply opening a Google Reader account and adding feeds to your list. Start with Seth Godin’s blog if you’ve never heard of him (he’s not a social media guru but his blog will save you from a lot of Charlatanism).

Check out ChrisBrogan’s blog and subscribe to his email, RSS and Twitter account. I never met the guy, but my intuition tells me he’s a straight-shooter; he’s authentic, cares about getting social media right and will help you if you call on him. He’s one of the few true pioneers of this immature puppy called social media.

Twitter is good as a mini-RSS reader. Who to follow? Well for a little contrarian spice and punchy temperance of social media Charlitanism, follow @aMANdaCHAPel. That Tweeter follows all the social media illuminati and from there you can follow Amanda’s victims followers. Many in the community don’t like those tweets, but skepticism is key to getting social media right.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA ENTERPRISES SHOULD DO FOR YOU

So what should social media consultants / evangelists / experts/ strategists/ tacticians / engineers / wizards do for you? If you were to pay a fee, what should you expect them to do for you? Here’s 10 (it could be 50 or 101, but I thought I go easy):

  1. Explain exactly what social media means in clear and falsifiable language
  2. Outline a specific plan of action on how to migrate your business model from the age of Mass Communication to Mass Connection (warning: this hasn’t been completely worked out yet, so you’ll have to get working on this yourself)
  3. Provide concrete evidence of how social media is relevant to your business
  4. Tell you, in clear language, what NOT to do (hint: befriending random targets is NOT part of any honorable business strategy)
  5. Define the terms of their relationship with you (e.g. will their fees depend on deliverable and measurable goals?)
  6. Offer open and honest communication with a commitment not to waste your time with tools and strategies that make no sense for your business
  7. Provide meaningful, relevant, easy-to-read reports on the achievements, blunders and lessons throughout the planning, execution and evaluation phases of your overall strategy
  8. Diligently monitor your online public reputation, your public image and the feedback from customers
  9. Help you meaningfully and productively expand your network
  10. Never lie to you about their (and your) failures

You don’t have to use electronic social media to maintain your business. Love it or hate it, however, your customers are increasingly going online on their desktops, laptops, mobile devices and other virtual connection-engines. Ginsu knife tactics don’t cut it anymore.

Don’t just set up a FaceBook account or use Twitter to randomly follow potential targets. That’s just a stupid waste of your time. There are intelligent uses for these tools. Use your brain. Don’t get bogged down with specific tools. You need a strategy: the tools are simply tactics (today’s tools can be tomorrow’s fossils). A tool is only as good as the brain connected to it. If you’re confused at this juncture then order this book and read it two times.

So the next time you get a call from Jeremiah Owyang (pronounced: Ow-Yang) wanabes pull out this list. Be open-minded, listen to what they have to say. But hammer them hard, bust their proverbial balls when they throw unverifiable claims your way; don’t tolerate vague language or promises that sound high-and-mighty. Use your head, damn it!

SOME CONCLUDING REMARKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

If there’s one lesson about the evolving phenomenon of social media, it’s this: every move you make is now going to be in the open for all to see. It’s a double-edged sword: you can promote yourself, only to fall on the blade. So make sure you get it right.

Your best insurance policy in this age of mass-connection can’t be purchased from AIG. Running a business in the age of mass-connection, however, does demand hard work: offer nothing but meaningful products and services. If you do that, and if you learn the elements of good social media habits, then your business should not only be sound but also heard. Heard meaning heard from other customers, not your self-gloating drivel.

Play with these tools on your own. Putz around before getting so serious. Again, this isn’t rocket engineering.

Words like conversation, engagement, community, sharing, embracing are all pretty-sounding memes. But you’re running a business, not a circus or a lily-patch. Even Barnum & Bailey and and gardeners understand the value of pragmatism and results rooted in something deep and palpable.

At the conclusion of social media marketing pitches, throw this acronym into the air, step back, and observe body language: ROI. There’s no right answer. It’s not so much a quantifiable number (as in the ROI of a widget-lathe). But the way the pitcher answers goes a long way in telling you how much they understand business, accounting, finance and common sense. If they look nervous, or sound vague, graciously say “Thank you, but no. Give me the names of three of your competitors and enjoy the rest of your day.”

WHAT THE HELL DOES A SCHMUCK LIKE PHIL BAUMANN HAVE TO DO WITH ALL THIS?

(This part of the blog post isn’t required reading. I just added it because you have a right to know that I have no experience in this field. But I am honest.)

You can follow me on Twitter. Following me won’t boost your revenues, but I’ll do my best to do interesting things and maybe link you to useful places. I’m no social media expert, but who in the hell is?

So what are my qualifications and why listen to me?

I used to be an accountant and could interpret and implement FASB pronouncements for Fortune 500 companies and piece together accurate SEC filings. I got out of the business years ago when I realized the profession started losing its moral edge.

Subsequently I became a critical care RN and figured out how to operate life-saving ventilators and infusion pumps. I learned how to tell family members that their loved ones were going to die and I fought like a warrior to defend the dignity of the last moments of fellow human beings: human connection is deeper than you know until you face death.

Right now, the pharmaceutical industry consumes my attention and benefits from my hard work. Perhaps along the way I’ll help that industry learn how to move away from the outdated marketing model of last century and toward the yet-to-be-discovered model of this one. Quality drugs are medically necessary for a healthy economy. Intelligent uses of social media just might help market those products at lower costs. Just a thought.

None of my history makes me a social media marketing genius. It just means I enjoy figuring out things and passing along what I learn in this short life to others in meaningful ways. I have an interest in the success of every honorable business. My son’s future depends on getting social media right. That’s my argument. You make your own assessment of my worth to you.

I hope the list above is useful to you. Feel free to use the content in this post however you wish. I hope you spend your money wisely. Lord knows last week showed us how easy it is for experts to blow a large portion of a world-englobing nation’s GDP. You’re smarter than those geniuses, aren’t you?

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