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Asking the Right Questions In Business
 

Asking the Right Questions In Business

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Thomas Edison said he rarely picked up an object without wondering how he could make it better. I call that the curiosity factor. Either you have the curiosity factor, or you don't. It cannot be ...

Thomas Edison said he rarely picked up an object without wondering how he could make it better. I call that the curiosity factor. Either you have the curiosity factor, or you don't. It cannot be taught or learned, and is seldom spoken of. Yet in many professions, it is probably the single best predictor of ultimate success. Every business desperately needs someone who will leap headfirst into operations or finances with a dedication approaching a Pit bull on a pork chop.

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    Asking the Right Questions In Business Asking the Right Questions In Business Document Transcript

    • Ignorance (not Curiosity)Killed the Cat Cat:Asking the Right Questions in BusinessMy first job after public accounting was as Director of Internal Audit for a large regionalinsurance company. Given free range to determine my own assignments, I immediatelylaunched a review of the claims processing operation As Willie Sutton would say, operation. s"Thats where the money is."Back then, mainframe computers housed in cold rooms that took up an entire floor ,were the order of the day. Reports printed on large "green bar" paper with perforated . "green-bar"edges, bound together between heavy cardboard covers using bendable wires.On my second day on the job, I was flipping through a report of claim payments. It listedbasic information like policy and claim number, payee, amount, dates and so forth. Thereport probably had 50 to 60 claims per page, and was several hundred pages long.I spotted something strange. About every 15 or 20 pages, a claim would show a negativepayment. Based on my understanding of the system, there was no logical explanation . wasfor negative numbers. I started asking questions, lots of questions! .To make a long story short, I had stumbled across an internal control weakness thatallowed certain claims to be paid twice. As best as I can recall, I found about $125,000 of $125duplicates. That was not a lot of money to a billion dollar company even in 1978 dollars. company,Still, with an annual salary of $22,000, I cost-justified my first five years compensation arsthe second day on the job.My point in recalling this story is not to take you with me on a boring stroll downmemory lane. OK, that is part of it, but a very small part.My point is that other people who had worked with the claim report every day hadundoubtedly noticed negative amounts before, yet had failed to follow through with afew simple questions. If they had, they might have closed the control weakness years .earlier.Why? I offer two words: human nature. 1
    • People seem to have a natural tendency to accept most things as they are. Askingquestions and challenging the status quo is actually considered rude in many cultures.Sadly, it is career limiting in many corporate environments. Relax and remember whathappen to the mythical cat! I heard it was a mid-level manager in a Fortune 500company somewhere on the east coast.That is not to suggest people are by nature lazy, apathetic or any other negativeadjective. Its just how things are.Contrast that to Thomas Edison, who said he rarely picked up an object withoutwondering how he could make it better. I call that the curiosity factor. Either you havethe curiosity factor, or you dont. It cannot be taught or learned, and is seldom spokenof. Yet in many professions (including internal auditing), it is probably the single bestpredictor of ultimate success.Every business desperately needs someone who will leap headfirst into operations orfinances with a dedication approaching a Pit bull on a pork chop. If that is not you, gohire someone with the curiosity factor.You will be amazed at what valuable business opportunities are waiting to be discoveredjust below the surface. © 2012 by Dale R. SchmeltzleAbout the author: Dale R. Schmeltzle, CPA is the founding partner of CFO America, professionalconsultants dedicated to helping business owners define, implement and monitor the strategic andtactical elements necessary to achieve long-term financial and operational success. CFO Americaprovides fractional or part-time executive management expertise not available on an in-house basis.Dale has been a frequent author and speaker for numerous professional, civic and non-profit groups. Hewrote Highly Visible Marketing, 115 Low-cost Ways to avoid Market Obscurity. He has also taughtcollege level accounting and financial courses to non-business audiences. For more information, pleasevisit http://www.CFOAmerica.biz or follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CFOAmerica. Consulting CFOs & Executive Managers 2