No. 16 – My Introductory Bookkeeping Course

After what I believed was a disastrous first day at work, things got better as that first week progressed. On the Tuesday, I took in a ceramic mug and so Bill only needed to carry two plastic cups of coffee in the mornings and afternoons as I was able to carry my own heavy mug by the handle. My task was made even easier by the fact that the mug only got filled to three-quarters capacity.

The ticking and checking work still remained tedious, though the boredom was slightly alleviated as Bill and I checked different areas of the client’s records and we alternated who did the calling out of the amounts.

Bill kept emphasizing that my boredom would become less after my upcoming bookkeeping course was over when I would understand better where this work was leading.

“By the end of this week,” he told me when we were drinking coffee one afternoon, “I’ll be sure that the underlying records are basically accurate, which will allow me to go on and produce accounts for the building of this bridge, which I can be sure will accurately portray the financial position of this venture. In turn, that information will be consolidated with other reports which are being worked on by other staff members, on different building contracts which the company is currently undertaking, to produce accounts for the company as a whole, which will be published.”

Although that made me feel that I was a very small cog in a very big wheel, it was the start of me understanding ‘the bigger picture’ and I was grateful to Bill for starting to clarify it for me.

Mid afternoon on the Friday, Mary and I said goodbye to the company’s staff and the three of us walked back to our own office, with Bill and I taking it in turns to carry the heavy comptometer, swapping over every hundred yards or so. Back in the office, I had my first real chat with Anna, the only other student taken on by the firm that year, and we were both told where to go to attend our bookkeeping course, which was scheduled to last two weeks. As Anna lived on the other side of Glasgow to me, and I would get off the train two stops earlier than I had during my first week, while she needed to travel further, we agreed to meet up at the venue at 9.00 a.m. the following Monday.

I had assumed that, as maths was my best subject at school, bookkeeping, which I had imagined would be little more than simple arithmetic, would come easily to me. As usual, I was totally wrong.

As the lecturer, an elderly retired Chartered Accountant, about the same age as I am now, went on and on about debits and credits, assets and liabilities, income and expenses, I became more and more confused. He talked about General Ledgers, Purchase Ledgers, Sales Ledgers, Day books, Cash books, Books of Prime Entry, Bank Reconciliations, Journal Entries, and a whole lot more gobbledygook, which, by the end of my first week, had me completely confused. Bill had told me that the course would help me understand things a lot better, but I went home after the first Friday in a state of complete overwhelm.

I can remember playing golf with an old school friend on that middle weekend. Sandy, who was also going to become a Chartered Accountant, but was going to do it ‘the other way’ from me, by going to university for three years followed by two years of Institute training while working in an office. He had represented the Academy by becoming the first team rugby union captain, and he was the school’s half-mile athletics champion, but I, despite my wobbly hands and awkward gait, was a slightly better golfer than he was, probably because I had started playing earlier than he had, and had practiced and read more about the golf swing than him. However, we loved playing with each other whenever we could get together.

He hadn’t started his first year at university when we played that game, and, between shots, I asked him, “If you put money into your bank account do you think you would make a credit entry in your bank account, or a debit entry?”

“A credit entry of course,” he replied, “It says so on my bank statement. If I deposit money, my credit balance increases, so the entry must be a credit.”

“Well, in my case my debit balance decreases,” I said with a laugh. “But you’re wrong, if you were keeping your own financial records, you’d make a debit entry to your bank account.”

“That’s got to be bullshit,” Sandy said. “It has to be a credit.”

“Well, I’m still a bit confused myself,” I replied as I prepared to hit a 7 iron to the next green, but I hope I can explain better next week after my course is over.” My 7 iron approach finished 5 feet from the hole, but Sandy’s wedge shot ended up in a bunker. “That was your fault,” he shouted angrily. “You’re spouting rubbish, and that put me off.” I smiled and hoped that I would be able to explain this apparent anomaly in better detail when Sandy and I next played golf together the following Sunday.

Things did fall into place, both for Anna, who had indicated that she was as confused as I was, and me over the following week. Certainly not completely, but a lot of the loose ends were tidied up. On the final Thursday afternoon, we were given a short test, and the tutor worked hard that evening so he could give the 30 or so of us who were in his class the results on the Friday morning. Anna got a score of 70% and I scored 65%. Not brilliant, but it was a lot more than I would have guessed I would get if you had asked me what I thought I would score the previous Friday evening. The tutor then spent the rest of the last Friday explaining the correct answers to all of the questions, and that was a great help in clarifying everything even more.

The following Sunday, after our regular game of golf, I took great delight in explaining to Sandy, why, if I was keeping my own financial records, I would make a debit entry in the account that represented the money in my bank, after I made a deposit. The bank would say that it was a credit, because it would be a credit in their books, while it would be a debit in mine. Also, in my records, I would have to make a corresponding credit entry which would indicate where the money I had deposited had come from.

“That sounds plausible,” Sandy replied. “But I’m not entirely convinced. I start uni tomorrow, so we’ll see what they say.”

My two-week-long bookkeeping course, was similar, in a lot of ways to me starting a new technique in my Internet Marketing Strategy. It could have been trying Facebook advertising for the first time, or making my first video. It may have been setting up a new domain that ran on WordPress, which I was unfamiliar with, or trying to attract visitors to my blog by blog hopping. It could have been a hundred and one other things.

The first week was disappointingly difficult. I was confused and upset that it wasn’t as easy as I had imagined it would be. But I didn’t give up. I kept reminding myself that “other people make it work, so the fault must lie with me, not the system.”

By the end of the second week, the pieces had started to fall into place, but I have to say that it was a good three years before I really knew that I understood bookkeeping completely, which, after all, is only the basis of accountancy.

So please, all you budding Internet Marketers, don’t jump from strategy to strategy, just because, for the first few days or weeks, or even months, it seems to be more difficult than you had hoped. Keep at it, and, in the end, you will succeed.

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