P&V’s LOL #8: Accounting is the art of telling the story you want to tell with the figures you have at hand

Tom Conley

I was introduced to this Law of Life by Tom Conley when he was CFO of Yankee Fleet back when Carol & Jerry Hill owned it.  Vickie and I have worked with hundreds of people and I think it’s safe to say that Tom Conley was among the most fun.  Look at the photo and imagine him saying,  Accounting is the art of telling the story you want to tell with the figures you have at hand with that little impish grin.  No laugh.  Not even a chuckle.  Here’s the best part: he doesn’t remember saying it.  Really, Tom?

Come to think of it, this photo from his website is the first time I’ve seen TC (as we called him) in a suit.  When he worked at Yankee Fleet, he performed every imaginable task from stocking boats with bait (imagine doing that in a suit) to marketing, advertising and (of course) accounting.

As far as I can remember, TC formulated this LOL in response to my assertion that Yankee Fleet should pay us a lot more money for the work were doing based on how much we contributed to their bottom line (we cut their ad budget by 2/3 and more than doubled their on-line sales in only a year).  My point was, Just look at the accounting.  Even if you add up all the money you’ve paid us to build and promote your websites, you’re still way ahead.  Of course, his quip completely disarmed me and we quickly agreed on a discounted price for our next project, making TC perhaps the best negotiator I’ve ever encountered.  We’re smarter now.

On his never-ending cost-cutting quest, TC once asked, “What if I just send you the code?  Then what would it cost?”  He said it over the phone, so I couldn’t see that grin.  At the time we were building a high-end, database driven engine for him to mange 4 websites, build newsletters, sell gift certificates, track comment cards, etc.  Even though he was kidding, TC liked to dabble in HTML and I’ll bet he actually thought he could save us time by sending us some code, which he never did — thank goodness for that!

As for the wisdom of his LOL, well it’s self evident, isn’t it?  This time of year, all you accounting folks, struggling with year-end, are trying to tell one story to the tax man and an altogether different story to your investors.  Isn’t that fun?

It couldn’t possibly be as much fun as working with TC.  Now that he’s got his own consulting business, we don’t get to fight over pricing and dream up ever more clever ways to market, promote and analyze the whale watching/deep sea fishing business.  Those were the good ol’ days.

Speaking of good ol’ days, check out this video of George Harrison and Eric Clapton performing Taxman live!  (In this video, TC’s the guy who dims stage lights–before Harrison has a chance to say Thank You–just to save a couple of bucks on electricity;)


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