Corporate Accounting: How We Land the Plane


By Jim Harper, Controller

If I only had a dollar for every time someone asked me about taxes this time of year. “You must be really busy right now with all your tax returns huh?” You mean the one tax return my company files? Or maybe you mean the one tax return I file? Even better, on March 31st, when every friend, acquaintance and family member asks how much I would charge them to do their taxes.

So then, what does a corporate accountant do if not taxes? Who in their right mind would want to do this for a career? And why would someone want to be an accountant for DataXu? My hope and goal of this post is to answer these very questions in a way that is more exciting than the big reveal on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

I’ll answer the third question first since this is the easiest. Why would you want to work for DataXu?  In my many years as a corporate controller, I’ve worked for countless companies.  Some bad, some good, some great, some fun, some not.  DataXu combines virtually everything I’ve liked about my favorite places to work. The technology and product offerings are cutting edge, rapidly evolving, and position DataXu as a leader in a fast growing market. The company also encourages and supports the use of advanced technology in the accounting group (trust me folks, this is a rarity).  My group uses best of breed forecasting, budgeting, and ERP and stock option software. Faster, more accurate information equals happy accountants.

I don't have a calculator this large, but you get the idea
I don’t have a calculator this large, but you get the idea

To answer the second question, who would want to be an accountant? Here is a simple test.  If you get a rush of euphoria similar to what Andy Dufresne felt as he raised his arms towards the heavens in his escape from Shawshank, just from balancing your check book to the penny or from getting a “buy one get one free” coupon at Domino’s, YOU, my friend…want to be, and should be an accountant.

One of the hardest things I can think of is answering the first question of what I actually do in an understandable way that doesn’t cause an outbreak of narcoleptic fits. But I do have a contextual example: if you’re a pilot, you rely on your controls to tell you what’s going on with the plane and where to fly, whether there’s good or bad weather ahead, stormy or sunny, on time or delayed. You don’t care who checked the tires, the rivets, and the engine, or who put the bags on or loaded the tasteless chicken dinners. But that is exactly what accountants do for the companies we work for.  Much like the pilot, our management team relies on the work we do behind the scenes to run the company successfully.

At a more granular level, here are some of the things we accountants do every day.

  • Pay the bills
  • Negotiate contracts,
  • Invoice customers
  • Create annual budgets and monthly forecasts,
  •  Pay employees
  • Produce financial results and reporting in every possible cut and view of the business to internal and external stakeholders

At a higher level, we also develop and implement policies and procedures designed to streamline workflow and safeguard company assets; control and manage the company’s cash and investments; file state and federal taxes, open new offices, and negotiate leases; and analyze sales deals to ensure profitability and revenue recognition, and review and approve credit limits for our customers. Basically, we’re required to understand all aspects of our business in order to provide insights and commentary on the data we present and provide solutions to improve efficiency, speed and quality of the data.

We do not wear pocket protectors, blue suits, crunch numbers in a dark corner while scowling at co-workers, carry protractors, slide rules or calculators (Ok, maybe the calculators), but we do help land the plane.

In the words of Paul Harvey: there you have it, the rest of the story …..