Real outcomes, that make a real difference.
We work with organisations and people to provide real outcomes for individuals, families, communities and organisations. These are but a few of their stories from accounting literacy education provided over the many years.
Behaviours you can judge us by: Bold | Accountable | Kind | Simplicity | Community
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We won't rest until every person on the planet has easy access to accounting literacy education and understands both what it is and how it is valuable, to them.
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Following is just a small sample of the real outcomes from accounting literacy education that have humbled us over the years.
1. So, I'm not stupid after all
As recalled by Peter Frampton, co-founder of the Color Accounting System™:
On a balmy evening in the late '90s in Cape Town, a young man came in to the classroom, probably around 22 years old: a proud black South African man, and he marched right up to me, his eyes shining brightly.
The week before he told me that he had previously paid with his own funds for four private, very expensive, 'accounting-101' type courses for adults because this subject hadn't been available in his school under the apartheid rules: under-educate black South Africans so they could only do menial work.
And so, he had somehow paid for these four very expensive 'accounting-101' courses and none of them had worked. He naturally blamed himself. He convinced himself that he must be stupid. Imagine the strength of his character then to try one more time...
At the time we were running over four consecutive Wednesday nights an early iteration of what became the Color Accounting System™. He came back to class for the second night and he's now standing right in front of me bolt upright with these big bright eyes. He says, "I'm so excited I couldn't sleep. I'm not stupid after all." For he knew even after the first night that he had this!
For this proud young man, this could be the difference between life in a shack, literally a tin shack in a township and a middle class life for him and his family and his descendants. It could make a generational change for them all. I mean, you have to be in Africa to know that level of poverty. This is the key that opens the locked door for him.
2. We could save about $80k per year
In early 2000's, Mark Robilliard was facilitating a corporate workshop for team leaders and middle-managers in the Head Office of a large multinational in Sydney, Australia. After becoming accounting literate using the Color Accounting System™, the final session in this particular workshop involved the participants having a quick review of their own work area and then discuss any thoughts on generating additional revenue or reducing expenses. One of the participants (the Team Leader in the internal mail room) shyly raised their hand and nervously said "I think we could save about $80k per year if we changed how we do this process." The CFO who just happened to be in the room was very surprised by this and asked them "How come you never brought this to us before?". The answer was simple: "No-one asked me - I didn't know it was my place to say anything."
What value would these type of business conversations have in any organization? Shouldn't everyone be accounting literate and develop a 'business owner' type mindset?
3. I can finish my MBA
Peter Frampton was teaching a Color Accounting class for a non-profit organization in Washington DC, in the early 2000s. Here he recounts that story in a podcast with Peter Margaritis.
Peter Frampton: There's always a moment in our workshops where I say, "And this is when the woman in Washington, DC said, 'I can finish my MBA' as she shrieked from the back of the room." And I mean, I literally said to the class, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, people. Sorry about this. I have to hear more." To her: "What? Are you serious?" She says this particular point, a trivial point really, that we just covered in the class, this stupid little point that she didn't get before had stopped her from passing the accounting module. So, she couldn't finish her MBA because of accounting. That's a little tragedy. That's her life being affected.
Here's a single mother working hard, trying to improve herself, trying improve the life of her children and yet, a tiny, trivial thing tripped her up. I'll tell you how trivial it was. It was the often-heard (and incorrect) statement that you have to have an entry on each side of the ledger for each transaction. I collect books that say this - it sounds logical but it's wrong. You can have two entries that cancel each other out on one side. She thought and had been told or misunderstood that you had to have an entry on each side. And she couldn't finish her MBA over that tiny little detail.
Peter Margaritis: So that was the magic right there, just her realizing that she didn't need that.
Peter Frampton: Just that, you know. Well, so now she could get her head around how it worked. She could get her head around the logic and grammar. And yeah, you can have two entries on this side, you can have two entries on that side, you can have one entry on each side. It all balances out. That's the genius of double-entry bookkeeping. And she went back and finished her MBA.
Our anecdotal inquiries over 20 years or more all around the world about MBAs tell us that the accounting module is the most feared and most failed subject. That's appalling.
4. Thank you to my high school accounting teacher
[The following has been lightly edited for readability - reproduced with permission from the student and the teacher]
"Hi Mr Crevier*,
I wanted to reach out to tell you that your accounting class has prepared me the best for college in comparison to any other class I took at high school. I'm a finance major but all business-majored freshman are required to take a basic accounting class which is 12 weeks long. I am completely coasting through this class right now, and we just took our first midterm which I got a 98% on. I wanted to tell you this because everything you taught me is what I use in class and I’ve just started to realize how helpful your class was as most of my peers are struggling right now. When I help tutor my friends I show them Color Accounting** and the BaSIS Framework we used in class (balance sheet on top, income statement on bottom) as it is not taught that way by our professors. The ways our professors teach us are quite confusing which is what holds many kids back, but the foundation I learned in your class is what I use to guide myself and others.
Thanks for preparing me so well."
- Rohan Vasudeva, Freshman, Indiana University - Bloomington (Kelly School of Business) - Major: Finance and Accounting
* Sean Crevier: Business Teacher at District 128 / Consultant at AICPA, IL USA
** The Color Accounting System™ and its component concept map known as the BaSIS Framework are owned by Wealthvox Innovation Ltd.
5. It's the accounting language that is amazing
Peter Frampton: Accounting is amazing. Accounting is absolutely amazing. And it's one of the greatest inventions in history. We say it goes back 500 or more years to Pacioli but of course, it goes back much further than that. Pacioli was just the first person who wrote it all down in his book, Summa de Arithmetica. But accounting literacy makes such a difference in people's lives. You know, in life we tease about accounting. We tease accountants. We call them bean counters and such, say they are boring. But actually, it's like grammar. You know, we take it for granted that you need grammar. We just converse with each other and rarely give it a second thought.
But you don't get to lead organizations or be a functional adult in a corporation without grammar and other skills. And yet we've tried to be functional people in organizations and leaders without the grammar of finance. Accounting is the grammar of finance and in the sense that it's just the basic language, you have to have it. And it hurts people when they don't have it. They bluff or stay silent in meetings and conversations when they should be engaging. They buy the BS and their silence becomes complicity. Companies go bankrupt, frauds happen. I mean, there's countless examples where accounting illiteracy cost society, communities, families or individuals a lot.
6. Crying in the bathroom
Mark Robilliard: In 2007, a lady contacted me about coming to an 'Accounting-101' public workshop in Sydney. She told me that her husband had started and operated a very successful furniture manufacturing business, but he had recently died and left it all to her. She had attended some board meetings and some orientation meetings with the CFO, but just did not understand what they were talking about. Notably, at the end of the board meetings she would lock herself in the bathroom and cry out her frustrations - she felt she was letting her husband down. She called me because someone had suggested an accounting literacy workshop, she was desperate and she wanted to know if we could help. I encouraged her to come and to bring her financials for a special 'post-workshop 1-on-1 session'. I arranged for a Chartered Accountant (experienced business adviser) to be on hand at the end of the workshop to give her some private coaching on her company's financials. By the end of the workshop her attitude had changed from fearful to excited as she knew she could better understand how the balance sheet and the income statement worked and the story they told.
But by far the best moment, was when the other participants had left and the accountant joined us. She sat with him and using her financial statements and new found confidence told him the story about how her business worked, and the areas where she needed more information. She was empowered, a leader and in the game.
7. You are responsible for your decisions
Mark Robilliard: In late 2017, we were contacted by a well-known international corporation based in the US that was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Our job was to provide financial literacy education for their middle-management tier: some 500 people - a course of action recommended by their auditors. The catch was that we had four months to get them all done in the US and overseas, and the success measures were to be used to help convince the court that the company could be released from Chapter 11.
Working closely with the client's Learning & Development function, we proposed that what they needed was accounting literacy education plus an application piece specific to this client's industry. We ran a couple of pilot workshops in the US and China which met the success criteria and we were away.
The court deadline was met and the company was released from Chapter 11. By the end of 2018 (the program was extended and is still used today), we had conducted 35 workshops (7 outside the US) for 641 participants with an overall average increase in accounting literacy of 57%. One hundred per cent of participants recommended the workshop to their peers. The workshop averaged above 9 (out of 10) on each measure surveyed with all participants.
Just think how many decisions are being made in your organisation today - this hour - this minute. How many of those decisions were optimal? What if you could improve that by even 1% - or 5% - or maybe 10%?