Three Questions All Hospitality Accountants Should Ask Themselves

Written by: Shane Middleton
“There has to be a better way!” We hear it all the time – even in the accounting department. The truth is that we are always hardwired to want more and better. We are always looking for that miraculous, game-changing “easy button,” not realizing that often we don’t get the most out of what we have right in front of us. Why do we do this? Two truths tend to arise in this scenario. Either we do not like to admit we are doing things wrong, or we realize that we can change, but the work of re-programming and evolving seems too cumbersome. The truth is that until we make the most of what we have, nothing new in the marketplace will give us the results we want. That goes for our teams and our technology. The good news is you were right in the beginning. There is a better way, and it has been here the whole time. So, the real question is: how do we unleash it?

Step 1: Are We Focused?

According to a recent survey, 82 percent of accountants say their job is more demanding than ever, while 87 percent agree that clients expect more flexibility and better service levels from accountants without increasing rates. Accounting is a busy profession and in hospitality, it is easy to feel like we are doing everything for everyone. However, there are a couple of truths that we are all guilty of. We take problems from other departments as our own. Yes, I am talking about all that time spent on accounts receivable reconciliations and chargebacks, among other things. We also create work that does not produce material benefits. We make sure there is a copy of each invoice in the purchasing system, the accounting system and the balance sheet reconciliation workbook. What material benefits are we getting by ensuring the same document is in three separate places?

We need to ensure we are focused on tasks that create value and technology tools that promote practical efficiency to accomplish what matters.

Step 2: Are We Accountable?

Being accountable is more than making sure those month-end reports get out on the right day. Let’s talk more about that truth where we absorb other departments’ problems as our own. Property management must be held accountable for the monetary consequences of hotel operations. Accountants need to be held accountable for the accuracy of the reports that are issued and what those reports tell us about the decisions we need to make. But the bigger problem is not others holding us accountable for things we should not be responsible for. It is us holding ourselves accountable to let others own their respective responsibilities, so we can bring value to the table in accordance with the value proposition that a well-run accounting team affords a company – timely and accurate reporting with an analysis of our financial wins and opportunities. Accountants should be free from entering invoices, tracking down chargebacks and reconciling sales tax. We, as an industry, are diminishing the value that we could get from our accountants by asking them and allowing them to focus on such tasks.

We need to make sure we are accountable to ourselves and the maximum impact we can have in our organizations.

Step 3: Are We Thought-Forward?

We all hate to use this term, but standard operating procedures, or SOPs, are so important. Writing an SOP does more than just set a standard of rules; it forces us to think about why we are doing a task, how a task adds value to our organization today, and how it sets us up for success in the days ahead. Thinking beyond today is so critical. If we only fix today’s problems, we will never stop putting out fires because we are not putting energy towards anticipating the next one. Sometimes a task is just a task, but a task is also often an opportunity to elevate your team members. Your processes are there to grow your team’s skillsets. Likewise, the technology you implement should drive success in your organization in more ways than just making things faster. It should expand the perspective of your team, grow your level of efficiency, and cultivate a space to anticipate future problems that can also add to the ROI of that solution.

We need to be thinking procedurally, culturally and technologically about how the processes we follow, the tone we set, and the tools we use drive us forward effectively and efficiently – not only for today but for the future.

By asking these three questions of ourselves and our teams, we unlock vast potential just waiting to be tapped into. So, you are right; there is a better way!

As the strategic partnership manager at M3, Shane Middleton works closely with internal teams, as well as industry service partners, to develop and maintain the best collaborative relationships serving today’s hoteliers. He also works with M3 product and services teams to add a practical perspective of a hotel operator in the processes and design of service offerings and product features.

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