Blair Morrison, CEO

Simple Questions Aren't Always So Simple

How much time does it take to answer a “simple” question like, “What was our revenue for X customer last month?” I once had a private equity investor grumble at me with a tone of complete and utter annoyance. He had asked one of our portfolio company’s controllers that question and received the response, “Can I get back to you on that tomorrow?”

I was aware that it was going to take a lot more time than the investor expected to answer such a “simple” question. Why? Because I knew a few things that investor didn’t. I knew how much work the controller had to do this week (it was month-end close and there was a strict 10th of the month deadline imposed by the investors).

I also knew that in order to fill the request, the controller would have to stop whatever he was working on. He’d then have log into the reports section of the accounting system, pull down the customer revenue report, copy out the summary data for that customer and then email it to the investor. Sound familiar

The “simple” request could take him up to 15 minutes by the time he navigated to the data, then typed up the email to the investor. “15 minutes is nothing, just do it now!” you might think as a manager or investor. But how many of those requests can you respond to in a day before you end up doing nothing else but respond to one-off data requests?

Not to mention the distraction away from closing the books, re-opening the correct accounting files and resettling back into “Oh what was I working on… ah, here we go,” takes another 5 minutes. If you get just 5 requests like this a day, that’s 20% of the controllers day spent on “easy” answers.

After asking 5-10 more “simple” questions like this, the same investor wants to know why on Friday the controller isn’t ready with the financials and demands he provide them by Saturday morning.

This isn't just a problem when investors are involved

The “quick questions” from management and other team members add up and can take over an account or controllers week.

If this sounds familiar to you, get excited! We are working on a Where Financial Professionals Spend Their Time survey to help the rest of the world understand why the answer to those quick questions isn’t as simple as you think. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when this survey is available.

Also, a reminder that with AutoCFO, we can turn the previously annoying “simple request” into something you can answer in seconds. Who’s the rockstar now?

If you want to save time and be a rockstar, give AutoCFO a try! Sign up for a free trial today.