My wife and I are determined to get our two teenagers in and out of college with no debt. This is easy to say but super-hard to do. To help make this happen, I took on a part-time job teaching financial and management accounting at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise in Downtown Los Angeles. I know, I know — some of you are shocked to think, a high profile fashion school would have me as a part-time professor but there you go.
Last week, a student asked me if I’d ever considered writing a text book on financial and management accounting. I said I hadn’t. He went onto say that although he felt that a text book I would write perhaps wouldn’t be acceptable to meet the academic criterion of higher education he was sure it would sell big time and that accounting students would significantly benefit from it. I took this as a compliment and it set me thinking about how I teach and what I teach.
Although I diligently work through each and every chapter of the text book with these Bachelors students who are from all over the world, I began to see that what I teach is business acumen more so than financial or management accounting. That although, it’s important for these students to understand debits and credits to regurgitate it to pass an exam, I’m more interested in them mastering the subject as potential future business owners or senior leaders.
The majority of small businesses that fail, do so because of a lack of business acumen not because of a lack of business ideas. As employees, I have noticed how someone’s career progression is limited if they don’t understand the language of business; who can’t find their way around the primary financial statements and because of human ego, they don’t have the humility to ask when they hear jargon and terms they don’t really understand. These senior leaders nod their heads in meetings but understand little about business financial intelligence. It’s really an injustice to the organizations they’re meant to led responsibly.
I thanked the student for his kind words and asked him if there was anything I could do better as his accounting professor. He paused for a few seconds and said there was just one thing I should consider. “What’s that?” I asked. “You could have a better fashion-sense!” he replied. Charming.