Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade is a retired U.S. Army officer who was blinded just prior to his r

Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade is a retired U.S. Army officer who was blinded just prior to his retirement. Charlie Simms has been hired to watch over him for a weekend while Slade’s family goes on a brief vacation, but things start to go a bit haywire for Charlie when Lieutenant Colonel Slade decides to take a trip to New York City to live the high life one last time, including staying at the Waldorf-Astoria, eating at a five-star restaurant, and other pursuits before committing suicide. During the trip, almost as an afterthought, Slade informs Charlie that he always appreciated the look and feel of a Ferrari. In an attempt to prevent Slade from actually going through with his suicide plans, Charlie entices Slade with an opportunity to drive a Ferrari.

Slade accepts that offer with enthusiasm, and Charlie actually finds a back-street area with no traffic that the Lieutenant Colonel can drive on. Slade starts out slow at first, just barely pressing the gas and keeping the wheel steady, but he quickly starts to speed up, popping the car into another gear. Charlie begins to panic as the Ferrari moves faster and faster and obstacles appear in their path. Then, the blind Slade decides he wants to “see how this baby corners.” Charlie protests, but Slade insists. He will turn the car with Charlie’s help or without. Finally, Charlie relents, and he gauges each of the passing streets until he tells the blind man he can turn. Slade does in a skid and a screech of tires that culminates in a successful turn. The Ferrari handles like the fine piece of machinery that it is, Slade is happy, and Charlie has successfully done his duty.

Now, you might find yourself asking, what in the world does this movie Scent of a Woman have to do with accounting, especially considering that accounting is all about processing the financial activities of the firm. However, if you think of the financial activities as information, then the relationship becomes a little bit clearer. Think of a company’s decision makers as a blind man driving a Ferrari. They know what the firm can do and how it can handle, and can keep it on track moving straight ahead. In a sense, that’s simply business as usual as long as they can navigate any roadblocks. But they may not have the information necessary to steer the firm in a new direction or onto a new path.

Enter the accountants. Accountants take the financial activities of the firm, summarize them into usable data, and then analyze that data, producing financial reports that are then used by the firm to help make decisions. Charlie is, in a sense, the accounting arm of Slade’s driving enterprise. He cautions Slade based on available information, assesses the situation in light of new information, and then makes a recommendation that allows the blind man to make a turn at a fairly high speed. Accountants do much the same thing, ultimately providing information that is then used to make decisions.

In the following chapter, we will explore accounting in a little more detail, starting with an understanding of the basics of accounting and the accounting profession. We will outline how accounting reports are used and who uses them, and we will describe the changing environment for accountants in the modern era. Then we will take you through some of the basic accounting procedures, including the accounting equation and the accounting cycle. Finally, this chapter will cover some of the basic financial statements like the balance sheet, the income statement, and the statement of cash flows, closing with some of the current trends in accounting. Such information is important because, even though you may not become an accountant, an understanding of basic accounting information will allow you to make better decisions for and about your business.

Discussion Questions

1 After the Enron scandal in 2001, ethics in accounting procedures have been an issue at the forefront of business. In what way does the scenario described above deal with the ethics associated with accounting?

2 Assuming that Charlie and Slade work for a firm, how does the Ferrari fit into the balance sheet? Explain your answer.

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