Today I have the pleasure of introducing my brother, Brandon, to the HR community. Brandon is an auditor for the federal government and has worked in the world of accounting for more than ten years. We’ve been talking about some of the needs that we have in the HR profession for being more number savvy, and that led to this interview. I hope you enjoy! If you have questions or want to know more about how HR can use accounting/finance principles to establish credibility and lead within the organization, just shoot me a note. Thanks!
Accounting for HR – An Interview with Brandon Eubanks
Ben: Let’s establish that you’re a credible source (despite being my brother, which should disqualify you immediately). :-) So, tell me a bit about your background (degree, certification, work experience to date, etc.)
Brandon: I have a BS in Accounting from UAH as well as a Master’s of Accountancy from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I currently have an active Alabama CPA license, and I also have an active Certified Fraud Examiner credential. I started my work in the accounting field at a small company just before I graduated with my undergraduate degree, and I landed a job at that same company upon completion of my degree. I worked at this company for a total of two years before I landed a job with my current employer (DCAA).
I became an auditor with the Defense Contract Audit Agency in 2005, and I performed in that job category for 5 years. I was promoted to an instructor at our agency training institute, and I served in that position for two years. Upon completion of those two years, I came back “to the field” as a supervisory auditor in Huntsville. In addition to my full time job as supervisory auditor, I also teach accounting courses on an adjunct basis for Athens State University.
Ben: It sounds like you’re in neck deep! But for some of the audience out there, imagining someone that enjoys accounting can be a bit “out there.” What drove you to choose accounting as your profession?
Brandon: I took an accounting course in high school, and I loved it! I actually started college going for a Mathematics major, but in the end, my true passion for accounting won out. When I changed my major from Mathematics to Accounting, I truly felt like I was where I belonged. Everything made so much sense to me in the accounting realm, and the majority of it came easy.
Ben: Okay, great. So let’s shift the perspective a bit. We’ve talked before about HR and what I do in some capacity, though I know it’s not your focus area specifically. What do you think HR pros need to know about accounting/finance to be successful in their role as a business leader?
Brandon: I think one of the most important things to understand regarding accounting/finance is budgeting. For most companies, the budget is king. Many hours are spent poring over the budget, and then many more hours are spent deciding how the company is doing compared to the budget. In my opinion, knowing what role the HR functions play in the budget would help HR pros to see the big picture. HR work is not completed in a vaccuum, even if it seems that way some times. Recruiting employees, changing benefits, and employee training all have a part in the company budget, and typically people can perform their jobs in a more precise way when they know how what they do fits into the company’s big picture.
Another important accounting/finance topic for HR pros is financial statements. If someone who isn’t in accounting/finance looks at a set of financial statements, other than noticing a profit or loss, he or she probably won’t know much about what those statements are portraying about the company. Is the company doing well financially? It takes more than a good year of income for a company to be thriving. Continuing from my earlier comments, knowing what role HR pros play in the company can help them to see what impact on the financial statements they are having.
Ben: Those are some excellent suggestions. But let’s say hypothetically that I come to you today and only have 30 minutes to learn some basics of accounting and/or finance to help me do my job better. What topics would you recommend to get the best return on my learning time?
Brandon: I would start with an income statement to help you get a picture of what decisions HR pros make and how they affect the company. Obviously, all decisions you make affect a company in some way (whether small or large), but really seeing numbers that relate to those decisions can help get a bigger idea of context. To me it all boils down to understanding where your role fits into the workings of the company, rather than simply focusing on the next task on your “to do” list.
Ben: I would completely agree. It’s easy to get bogged down and take the time to get a broader view of what’s going on. So let’s get philosophical. You’ve said a few times that HR needs to figure out how it fits into the organization. Why do you think human resources as a profession has a more difficult time of getting “attention” or “clout” in the organization when it seems like accounting/finance has it as a natural byproduct of the function it carries out?
Brandon: It is my perception that HR is seen as something necessary but only value-added some of the time. As a supervisor of five employees, I appreciate my HR specialists that I have to work with. However, I typically contact them only when I’m having trouble with an employee. It is my perception in these types of circumstances that HR is “holding back on the reins” while managers and supervisors are wanting to go full-speed ahead with disciplinary actions. So, in this way, HR is seen as necessary, but a roadblock overall in the process of an organization running more smoothly (in the eyes of the manager).
On the other hand, accounting/finance seemingly hold power over the entire company because the numbers they report can make or break a company. To me, that is why there is such disparity in the treatment of the two departments. One is seen as holding up the process, one is seen as completely necessary and somewhat powerful.
Ben: Thanks for your time! Any closing thoughts, wit, or wisdom to share?
Brandon: If I had any advice to HR pros, it would be to learn how you and your department fit into your company. Furthermore, if there is a way to educate employees (from the bottom to the top) on what HR does and can do for them, it could go a long way in battling that perception bias for managers and staff.
I hope you enjoyed the interview with Brandon! You can find him on LinkedIn here. Let me know in the comments what you think of this interview.
What are your thoughts on the topic? What can we learn from our accounting/finance brethren? Is this an area of strength for you or an area of weakness?