Understanding the fundamentals of finance will help your staff make better decisions

Accounting Made Easy's Mark Samowitz says the way accounting is taught is flawed, and he can fix that.

Mark Samowitz, Accounting Made Easy CEO, believes that there’s an inherent flaw in the way that accounting is taught, and that this scares accountants and non-accountants alike. 

“Accounting is taught using textbooks, in lectures and most of all as off-by-heart learning. Everyone is taught to memorise concepts instead of being helped to understand them,” he says. 

This rote learning, without underlying understanding, means that when finance people speak to non-finance people, they don’t know how to explain what they mean. “This leaves people feeling threatened, and scared to engage with accounting language,” Mark says. “They nod and smile, but have no cooking clue what was said to them.” 

Terms like “accrue for that”, “write that off” or “provide for that” give rise to accounting transactions. They have an impact on income, expenses, balance sheets and income statements in some way. 

“For the person making the statement, its’ clear that there’s an impact, but for the person who’s accounting scared or accounting illiterate, that statement might as well have been said in another language.” 

It’s in this space that Mark’s company Accounting Made Easy plays. The company takes people who are scared of the language of accounting, who believe that they are not good with numbers, and who wish that they could understand more, but don’t have the time to go on a three-month or six-month course, and helps them to start understanding accounting. 

“We can do it in a day,” Mark says. “And we’re not going to scare, frighten or threaten.” 

The process is gamified, interactive and fun, with the principles of accounting emerging as the trainers run a real-life simulation of a business. “You’ll understand what a balance sheet, income statement and cashflow statement are because you’ve prepared one from the ground up. That’s how we remove the fear from the subject – we let people play and get involved with their hands. The success lies in the fact that we make it visual.” 

For every concept that Accounting Made Easy teaches, they have a visual “game” to help people to understand it. Puzzle pieces, movable parts and interactive charts allow the participants to make the connections for themselves. “That’s the beauty of what we do. We dispel the fear of the subject in a day, and make it understandable, accessible and logical to anyone in the business who needs to understand finance.” 

While this single-day, gamified approach may seem appropriate for finance beginners, Mark says that it also has value for actual accountants. “The course will show them how much of what they say is not understood, and also, they will see how to explain or present it in a way that it is accessible. Accountants who come on our course have said to us, ‘Thank you, you’ve given me the skills to talk to my staff in a different way.’”

The trainers themselves are all qualified chartered accountants. Mark says that Accounting Made Easy looks for three things in their trainers: accounting knowledge, personality, and a passion for empowering people. 

Mark says that while the fundamentals of accounting can be taught in a day, a second day will allow the trainers to customise the learnings for the client’s company. “Our trainers can come back on a second day and look at your financial data and your transactions. That’s where the learning process becomes real and can be the start of behavioural change in the business. Around 90 percent of our clients opt for that second-day follow-up to get the chance to apply those fundamentals to their own work environment.”

The purpose of all of this, he says, is to help employees make better business decisions. “You can’t make decisions based on stuff you don’t understand.” 

Accounting Made Easy has trained over 20,000 people in over 100 JSE-listed companies, as well as in many unlisted organisations as well. Mark and his team follow up with their trainees after three months and six months to assess whether the training has changed the way that they work, and the feedback they receive is that they are making better decisions than  they would have prior to going on the course. 

“We often get the question: How can you teach so much in a one-day course. And we say it’s because we’re not going through endless chapters of textbooks. Instead, we’re taking people on a visual journey, on a road that can be travelled much further than what a lecture-based course can do. If you think about reading a book and watching a movie – we’re watching the movie.” 

If you would like to find out more about Accounting Made Easy call 082 788 7722.