Accounting professionals don’t usually get hailed as heroes. They’re especially overlooked in movies and TV shows—the stars of those heroic tales tend to be cops, doctors, lawyers and the super kind of heroes that don tights and masks.
In the real world, though, accounting professionals do heroic things for small businesses and other clients all the time. Not to toot my own horn, but I’ve saved the day for customers on more than one occasion. For instance, I’ve had two separate clients who were unnecessarily losing thousands of dollars on shipping and delivery costs each year. We were able to detect the problem during monthly and quarterly reviews of the financial statements, and rectify the situation so that each client could come about ahead on shipping. Then there’s the small business owner whose “partner” turned to be a bad guy. My financial sleuthing (tracking cash receipts that never got deposited) uncovered the fact that the partner was yanking cash from the drawer. I’m inspired every day by my grandmother—who did manual bookkeeping for a steel company and her final working days, a technology company. I remember going in to work with her when no one else was in the office…and the time that she helped me file my tax return!
It turns out, while heroic movies and shows are dominated by men and women in police uniforms, doctor’s scrubs and capes, Hollywood has given us a handful of flicks in which accounting professionals get their due. Here’s a few—if you can think of any others, let me know.
Oscar Wallace in The Untouchables
Accountants love this movie, because it’s the flick that famously reminded the world big bad Chicago gangster Al Capone wasn’t taken down by crime-fighting cops or a rival’s machine gun, but accounting professionals. The guy leading the effort to take Capone down with tax-evasion charges is the unassuming, bespectacled federal accountant Oscar Wallace, played by Charles Martin Smith. G-man Elliot Ness was just Wallace’s second fiddle.
Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
If you stop channel surfing to watch this movie when you discover it’s on for the umpteenth time, you wouldn’t be alone. People get a kick out of how Tim Robbins’s clever accounting work sticks it to the unscrupulous warden that’s been lording over all the inmates at the penitentiary. Sure, it’s his creative number-crunching abilities that help the warden rake it in in the first place. However, Dufresne employs his skills to turn the tables on the warden and take his tax-cheating butt down. He also sails off into the sunset with the dough!
Loretta Castorini in Moonstruck
Played artfully by Cher, this widow is surrounded by family in their Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, but she’s struggling to find love. While she seeks romance, she spends her days keeping the local economy afloat by handling the financial accounts for a number of small businesses in the area, including her aunt’s Italian grocery store.
Jonathan Mardukas in Midnight Run
Known as “The Duke,” this wily accountant, hilariously played by Charles Grodin, holds the books (and tons of secrets) that stand to take down a murderous mafioso. A bounty hunter (played by Robert DeNiro) is charged with keeping the accountant alive long enough to hand over the books to the feds and testify against his former boss.
Itzhak Stern in Schindler’s List
Oscar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) is the hero named in the title of the film, but it’s this dogged accountant (portrayed by Ben Kingsley) who deserves a shout-out. After a lifetime spent obsessively keeping track of accounts for his various small-business clients in pre-World War II Germany, Stern connects with Schindler, who’s furiously working to set up a “business” that’s actually funneling Jews away from camps and into his factory. It’s Stern’s knack for poring over ledgers and connecting numbers to info that makes it all possible.
While some of these stories do sound truly heroic, they’re more about paying close attention to an important function of any business. It’s more than likely your small business could use an accounting hero—contact me at Daliah@MySmallBusinessPro.com and let’s talk about the possibilities.