PODCAST: Shine a light, then pave a way
By: Dean Dorton | June 25, 2020
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Justin Hubbard, show host and Dean Dorton’s Director of Accounting and Financial Outsourcing, introduces Unhinged. The world is far too unstable for a linear, one-dimensional line of thinking. It's time to unhinge and recreate our thinking process.
Alright, everyone. Welcome to the first episode of Unhinged, brought to you by Dean Dorton. My name is Justin Hubbard and I’m the Director of Accounting & Financial Outsourcing at Dean Dorton. I’m coming to you from beautiful Lexington, Kentucky. For those of you who don’t know, Dean Dorton is a public accounting firm. We have offices in Lexington, Louisville, and Raleigh. Dean Dorton specializes in technology and in business advisory services.
So, what is Unhinged? Accounting firms doing podcasts—you may never have heard of that before. As a firm, we’re known for providing excellent client service and technical thought leadership, but Unhinged is an avenue for us to take it up a level to be more engaging, perhaps less formal, perhaps less politically correct. Maybe hopefully entertaining, but always thought-provoking.
So, what about that name Unhinged? I’m told that there’s a somewhat controversial book out now by that same title. I just wanted to dispel any concerns that we have any associations with said book or said White House, but the word unhinged kind of wreaks of chaos. Well, then you might be thinking, “What does that have to do with accountants?” Right? After all, accountants thrive on routine, order, deadlines, regulations, fancy Excel files, balance sheets balancing, pristine reports that may or may not ever be read. We love our suits, our ties. We love a good Toyota Highlander. There’s nothing unhinged about any of those things.
That may all be true, but this is going to be different. If you go to the Google machine and you search for the word “unhinged,” you’re going to find a range of definitions. Many of those definitions suit the direction of this podcast.
For example, definition number one: highly disturbed. Yes, I am highly disturbed by the amount of waste and inefficiency and useless information coming to business owners from their accounting departments.
Definition number two: unstable. Check. Look out your window. Look at the news. There’s nothing stable about the world we live in. Let’s narrow down to the accounting landscape. The accounting landscape is changing faster than ever. We are living in the slowest pace of change that we will ever see for the rest of our lives. If you want to marinate on that for a while, press pause. The business world is changing faster than ever. The only certainty is uncertainty and the only stability is instability.
Definition number three: distraught. Yes, I’m very distraught by the disconnect between what business owners and decision-makers need to successfully run their operations and the information that they have access to. The information they need is right there. Accountants have been programmed to deliver financials based on rules that don’t help business owners run their business.
Definition number four: having no hinge or hinges. Copy that. The hinges that the accounting community currently operate on are super restrictive. Accountants are forced to think linearly. We go to rules and regulations to build our financial statements, try to appease those rules instead of trying to add value to the business owners, the managers, the operators who desperately need that information to make decisions today, not three weeks from now. The world is far too unstable for a linear, one-dimensional line of thinking. It’s time to unhinge and recreate our thinking process.
And then lastly, definition number five: mentally unbalanced. Well, time will tell about that one.
So, as I said a few minutes ago, I’m Justin; I’ve been with Dean Dorton for 14 years now. For the record, that’s 12 years longer than planned and perhaps 13 and a half longer than Dean Dorton wanted. Prior to joining this fine place of employment, I worked in the corporate accounting environment for an entrepreneur in the Louisville area. Prior to that, I was in school at UK—University of Kentucky. And prior to that, I was a kid in Appalachia being raised in an entrepreneurial family.
My roles at Dean Dorton have included kind of the gamut. I started off as a grunt associate preparing tax returns and audit workpapers across a number of clients and a number of industries. I’ve been an audit partner for clients all over Kentucky and the East Coast. I’ve worked with construction companies, coal companies, security companies, nonprofits, public universities, private universities, hospitals, addiction recovery centers, heavy duty truck dealerships, and on and on. I’ve always been proud of the fact that I know a little about a lot of industries, but I’ve always been drawn to business. I love talking to people about their business.
Now, I lead our outsourced accounting group. We call it the Accounting and Financial Outsourcing team. I work with our team to add value with our clients. We take over our clients’ entire accounting operation or co-source with them, giving them access to a robust suite of tools and really elevate the value of the accounting information.
On a personal level, I’m married to my wonderful wife of 16 years. We have four children ages 10 through three, and yes, that has been a handful over the past 10 weeks with this COVID-19 situation.
So enough about me. As you’ve probably figured out, this is an introductory episode. The goal here is to give you a taste of what is to come with Unhinged. It’s also a time for us at Dean Dorton to walk through the mechanics of the podcast. Doing something this organic, this rough around the edges, unpolished if you will, is new for us. So we’re going to roll the dice and see how it goes. And it’s also a 10 to 15 minute test to see if I can go without saying anything so inappropriate that this gets canned on lift off.
This is my first time in a podcasting studio. We have our own studio here at Dean Dorton—that’s how committed we are. I’ve got to tell you, it is a dark room with four black walls, spotlights. To the best of my knowledge, I’m by myself or at least no one is within six feet of me. So we are COVID compliant here at Dean Dorton. This is actually my first time back in the office since the quarantine hit. I’m normally in my comfy home office, which overlooks my gardens and my yards. I see my kids playing. I break for lunch to go grill a hamburger.
Back to business. So what are we trying to accomplish with this? What are we going to be talking about? What’s our goal? What’s going to be the flavor of the things that we do? We have two goals that we’re going to try to accomplish: simply shine a light and then pave away. We want to shine a light on key trends within the accounting and finance world that are going well, common practices that are helping others to succeed. We also want to highlight common practices that don’t make a lot of sense. For example, why do we focus so much time and energy on the month-end close process? Why are our numbers only right once a month?
We’re going to be shining a light on movement in a local and regional economy. Think startups, think governmental movements, a big one here recently was stimulus money. And we’re also going to be spending a lot of time talking about ways to improve your business, paving a way to becoming a more modern, more efficient, more valuable, more successful organization. Don’t worry, we will be having guests throughout this journey. You’re not going to have to listen to my hillbilly accent each time. And certainly, we hope to have fun doing this, and we hope you find it fun as well.
A list of potential topics: big data. Everyone is very focused on data, data, data, data. How do you know you’re getting the right data? Or how do you know you don’t have too much data? And how do you know you’re getting any value from the data that you have? Nine-tenths of the data we have access to currently was created in the past 24 months. We are data accumulators. It’s out there. We just got to figure out what to do with it.
Another topic: cloud services. Cloud services, this is a buzzword. I don’t like buzzwords, but this is important. Things are migrated to the cloud, services are available via the cloud. That could be very, very important to the future of your organization. We’re going to identify what works, what doesn’t work. What are proper applications? When is it time to evaluate a new potential service offering?
Topic number three, in no particular order: the end of the month-end close. I already talked about this briefly. Why are your numbers correct one time per month? Why does your accounting department run itself ragged the first five to 10 business days after month-end? It makes no sense if you step away and think about it. The only explanation I hear over and over and over is, “Well, it’s the way it’s always been.” Automation, the tools are here. Alright? Technology is advancing. Automated applications are around you everywhere. You’re probably using some and you don’t even recognize it. Artificial intelligence, smart technology. On and on, it’s all available, it’s economical, it’s scalable. Let’s go, let’s use these things.
Delivery models: we live in something that I’ve heard called the “blank-as-a-service” world. Fill in your blank. If you pay enough money, you can get it as a service. Whereas 10 years ago, there was significant pride in perhaps doing everything yourself. Now we have no problem paying someone to do it. For example, you can pay a service to get your HVAC filter changed every six months. We pay for razors to be delivered to our doors monthly. We have strangers sending us clothes based upon a few questions we answered in an online survey. We go to Kroger and we pay people to do our grocery shopping for us because we don’t want to go into the grocery store. Many of us just spent a ton of time learning to do online school with our kids due to the COVID pandemic. We’re getting accustomed to key elements of our lives being delivered to us in a very unique, nontraditional way. If you step back and look at it, it’s exciting. It’s new. It’s not going to stop. So jump on it.
Lastly, one of my favorite topics: team engagement. We’ve got about four generations currently working in most workplaces. We’ve got boomers, Gen Xers, millennials, and now Generation Z. How in the world do you manage a workforce made up of four different distinct generations, each having their own priorities, each having their own world views, each growing up with their own social crisis that has shaped their outlook on work, on authority, on family? It’s pure chaos to try to do it, but at the same time it’s fascinating. And it’s so important that you at least acknowledge that people are different and there are good reasons for them to be different.
So, as I said before, this is just an introduction to the Unhinged podcast. And our goal is to be engaging, entertaining, somewhat unfiltered, but definitely thoughtful. And we want you to learn something or to at least walk away thinking about something differently. So, with that, I’m going to leave you with a quote. Ending in a quote sounds very 1995, but I digress. William Durant was a pioneer of the automobile industry. And he said, “Forget past mistakes, forget failures, forget everything except what you’re going to do now and go do it.” Alright, I’ll talk to you next time. I’m out.
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