Burdsall: Mr. Fix It, CPA

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Pull someone out of an accounting quagmire and they might just offer you a job. CRS Temporary Housing was living in a jumble of customer numbers. Billing was a tedious process for the agency that required the displaced policyholders' insurance companies to pay around the tenth of each month for the following month's rent (with the average client staying six months), while others paid in one lump sum. Employees were spending days manipulating data in their homegrown system to account for all the funds.

Clearly, CRS needed help as it planned to move its accounting office from California to Phoenix. So the agency contacted Scott Burdsall of Burdsall Consulting Services, a CPA and Certified Information Technology Professional with several years of expertise in Sage Accpac, CRS's accounting software system.

After evaluating their processes, Burdsall determined the organization had outgrown Accpac Pro Series for job costing of each placement, so he upgraded the housing provider to Accpac ERP.

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Previously, there were 18,000 account numbers and the chart of accounts was 900 pages long, including housing revenue listed by anything from state to salesperson. Now, it simply includes account code and region and is only five pages long.

"They were trying to account for every possible scenario of anything anybody would ever want to ask for," Burdsall says. "Management was getting things they weren't looking at. I simplified accounting."

Retooling the process also helped on the back end.

"What took four people three solid days to do for billing, now took one person 90 minutes twice a month. (The agency) reduced 16 people in accounting to five. Now I can close the books in three to four weeks, not six," Burdsall says.

CRS is saving $300,000 to $400,000 per year in payroll alone by his estimates, and saved more than $20,000 in software because of the upgrade pricing it received by staying within the Sage product family.

As a result of his efforts, CRS offered Burdsall the job of controller and he began his new career in early 2006.

It was not the first time he had stumbled into a title.

While doing tax work for San Jose, Calif.-based CPA firm Petrinovich Pugh and Company from 1994 to 2002, he became responsible for helping boot up and troubleshoot the network simply because he knew something about computers.

Burdsall was thrown into a situation he was not prepared for, being dubbed the "IT guy" when the person formerly in that position left the company.

As an Accpac reseller, PP&Co. "had clients on Accpac Plus-DOS users- and I was supposed to be an expert and I didn't know anything about it," Burdsall says.

He called Accpac and the company told him things were changing with the Windows 2.0 version and he should come out for training. That was in August 1996.

From there, things slowly took off.

"I took us from diskless workstations to hard drives. I installed a hard drive in my own local computer that included Lotus for Windows 3.1, and from there everybody wanted a hard drive and Windows on their computer."

Nobody had even used a mouse before that.

"CPA firms as a whole are often labeled behind the curve in technology," Burdsall says. "We were in Silicon Valley. We didn't need to be leading edge, but we needed to be right there. When people called us and we didn't use a mouse, that was embarrassing."

Soon he was helping his clients put similar infrastructure in place at their offices, and he started consulting on Peachtree and QuickBooks in addition to Accpac.

"Making these changes helped prove that although we've existed for 50 years as a firm, we still were able to change. We kept up with changes in tax and accounting as well as technology."

It also allowed him to branch out on his own from 2002 to 2006, bringing about 20 Accpac clients and 50 individual tax clients with him, before taking on the role of CRS Temporary Housing's controller.

Now he's in charge of 50 employees and all financial statements for the organization. As Burdsall explains it, "The buck stops with me."

Alexandra DeFelice is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at alexandra.defelice@sourcemedia.com.

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