How to Study Accounting and Finance (without Losing Your Mind)

Satoshi Hirose, Akio Mori, Chieko Inoue, Yukinori Sakai
Posted: November 29th, 2021
Accounting & Finance
Person drowning in accounting and finance documents reaches up for help from a person in a business suit

Starting a business is a lot like starting a band: full of passion and excitement at the idea stage . . . and then you start thinking about logistics. As an entrepreneur, you need to fund your startup, keep track of day-to-day expenses, and share reports with stakeholders. Investors expect results. Employees need to get paid. Records must be kept and analyzed.

How do you deal with all this accounting and finance if you’re not good with numbers?

Even people who invest in an MBA often balk at signing up for accounting and finance classes. “I’m not good with quantitative subjects” is something business school faculty hear all too often. In fact, we decided they’d be the best ones to ask for advice on how to survive studying these subjects if you’re “not a numbers guy.”

4 Questions to Ask Yourself for Easier Accounting and Finance

Building a company without an understanding of accounting and finance in addition to various other fields is risky business. That means you’ll need to bite the bullet and face your finance fears.

You can start that process by asking yourself some simple questions to reset your mindset:

  • Why are you afraid of accounting and finance?
  • What could make these subjects fun?
  • Is there room for imagination in numbers?
  • What if I’m still not good at it?

Why are you afraid of accounting and finance?

The most important thing to remember is that the field of accounting and finance is not a world of one absolute solution. Even professionals make mistakes. There’s a common assumption that “others can do it, but I can’t”—that comes from lack of confidence and fear.

So how do you start getting over that fear?

Try to bring seemingly distant money-related subjects closer to home. Apply them to your own world. An ophthalmologist once told me something interesting after taking a basic accounting course:

“Studying accounting reminded me of studying blood test data as a med student. At first, I couldn’t make sense of it—there were dozens of incomprehensible letters and numbers. But once I learned the principles of each measurement and got a rough sense of normal values, I didn’t even need to examine the patient. Sometimes, my data was even more accurate than an exam!

“In both medicine and business, you need to be able to read numbers, or you won’t know when you are facing a crisis. Financial statements are like health checks for your business. Early detection can make all the difference. It gives you time to change your lifestyle and take preventative measures, not just treat symptoms. And like healthcare, the final cost of treatment, time spent, and prognosis improves with data.”

Akio Mori, Essentials of Accounting

Keep in mind that every day, your quality of life is enhanced because you are aware of numbers.

Akio Mori, Accounting & Finance Faculty at GLOBIS University

What could make finance fun?

Try to think of accounting and finance the way you think of hobbies—look for the fun of seeing things in numbers. If you like baseball, you interact with all kinds of numbers: batting averages, earned run averages, famous stats, and so on. If you like wine, you probably know that Japanese wine consumption is only one-tenth that of the French, or that there’s an ideal yield of grapes per hectare.

All of that is numbers!

So keep in mind that every day, your quality of life is enhanced because you are aware of numbers. Hold onto that, and I bet you’ll find it much easier to approach the numbers of your business with a more positive attitude.

Akio Mori, Finance I

Is there room for imagination in numbers?

Accounting is a way of expressing the results of corporate activities in numerical form. Therefore, the results of your daily business activities will appear somewhere in financial statements. If you keep in mind where they appear and how they affect the figures, the world of accounting won’t feel so distant.

But in order to decipher financial figures, you need to have some imagination. Focus on the connection between financial figures and business activities—not just complex accounting rules.

Think of it like reading a mystery novel: It’s a lot of fun to decipher the story of the company behind the numbers! Financial statements actually contain a lot of business tips. Why would you want to avoid such a treasure trove? If you become buddy-buddy with accounting, it’ll expand your horizons!

Chieko Inoue, Accounting I

What if I’m still not good at accounting and finance?

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you have learned management only when you have learned all aspects of management—including accounting and finance. You need to understand those interconnected relationships. Suppress the feeling of “I’m not good at.”

When you say “I’m not good at money management,” it’s the same as saying, “I can’t manage a business.” With that kind of negative thinking, you’re probably right. So think positively.

Satoshi Hirose, Financial Reorganization

The business values you calculate are based on future projections. There is no single correct answer.

Yukinori Sakai, Accounting & Finance Faculty at GLOBIS University

 


 

 


 

What Really Matters in Accounting and Finance

If you’re not a fan of numbers, resetting your mindset for a more positive approach is the first step. But then what? The wall of numbers might still feel overwhelming.

GLOBIS University lecturer Yukinori Sakai says are two concrete truths you can set as your foundation for accounting and finance study.

2 Essential Pieces of the Finance Puzzle

There are two things I think everyone should be aware of when it comes to finance:

  1. The business values you calculate are based on future projections—there is no single correct answer.
  2. The precision of your logic increases the validity of your figures and, by extension, the accuracy of your business model.

The value of a business is the sum of future cash flows. Roughly speaking, that future cash flow consists of sales to customers (cash-in) and costs and investments associated with sales activities (cash-out). These two things are different.

Sales

The key to sales is value. How many people are willing to pay for the value you offer? How many are willing to buy your value instead of a competitor’s?

Cost and investment

Cost and investment, on the other hand, are determined by different questions: What management resources do you need to realize value? How much will it cost to invest in those resources?

These factors—to whom, what value, and how you invest—determine your business model. What kind of strategy do you need? How should you analyze the environment? The more precise and logical your business model is, the more valid the figures based on it will be.

But again, don’t assume that there is a single right answer! Business models require iteration to improve and project the value of your company and business.

Yukinori Sakai, Accounting & Finance Faculty

Accounting and Finance Skills: Something to Look Forward To

One of the best moments in accounting is the moment when the total cash flow statement exactly matches the increase or decrease of cash and deposits in the balance sheet. Financial statements are a tool for communicating with stakeholders, so when those three financial tables match, it’s a moment of bliss—not only in terms of logic, but also as a kind of art.

There are multiple methods for calculating the price of a company, and they all come with various assumptions. Naturally, depending on the method or assumptions, the outcome will be slightly different. But if the difference falls within a certain narrow range, you can have confidence in your results.

That confidence is an incredible feeling.

Akio Mori, Accounting & Finance Faculty

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