Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the best picture mix-up during the 89th Annual Academy Awards last Sunday. Did you gasp like I did, when the producers of “La La Land” had to explain there was a mix-up and the real winner for best picture was “Moonlight” (shot and produced right here in Miami)? Turns out the biggest mistake in Academy Award history was made by an accountant, who is a partner at one of the world’s largest accounting firms. That was the real plot twist!
Now we’re learning Brian Cullinan, who handed presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty the wrong envelope as they walked on stage, was tweeting just before the mistake was made. Sources say he had just tweeted a picture of an actress immediately before the envelope fiasco. Was he distracted by all the celebrities? Was he multi-tasking? No one knows for sure, but both he and his fellow accountant, Martha Ruiz, from the firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), aka the people who carry the briefcases containing all the winners, will no longer be on the team working for the Academy.
As a bookkeeper, who happens to be an accountant, I was talking to my team here at Brigade Bookkeeping about staying focused during a big project. Here are some things I learned from the Oscar anomaly and things you should think about if you have an accountant or bookkeeper working on a big project:
- DOUBLE CHECK FOR MISTAKES – In my line of business, double checking your work is crucial because it involves money and someone’s livelihood. Everyone makes mistakes, but if your accountant or bookkeeper is repeatedly making errors and can’t explain why, then you should be concerned. At Brigade Bookkeeping, we have procedures in place to check our own work so our clients books are mistake free.
- AVOID DISTRACTIONS– We now know a distraction caused the best picture mistake at the Oscars, but distractions are the biggest reason why mistakes are made. When we do our clients books, we don’t multi-task; we focus on the task at hand and then move on to our next job of the day. If you don’t work with us, then make sure to ask your current bookkeeper or accountant if he or she multi-tasks.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY – Although the PwC accountant made a big mistake, I love the fact that the company took responsibility immediately and apologized to everyone involved for the mistake. Individuals and companies are too quick to blame the other guy or shield themselves behind attorneys who tell them not to admit fault for fear of a lawsuit. I admit, I’m not an attorney, so you may want to double check with your own counsel, but I say, when you’re wrong about something, stand up and take responsibility.
- GET A SECOND OPINION– If you’re unsure about the accuracy of your bookkeeper or accountant’s work, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion. This is your money and your future we’re talking about.
Everyone makes mistakes, but the key is learning from them. I’m sure the producers of the Academy Awards wish that the accountant in charge of Oscar winning envelopes would have been paying attention and double checked that he was giving the correct envelope to the presenter. But that didn’t happen, making a moment in history a WOW moment no one will ever forget.