Some Aspects of Accounting for the Construction Industry
by EMIL F. BOHNE Partner, Minneapolis Office
Presented before the Annual Meeting of the Associated General
Contractors of Minnesota, Minneapolis—January 1961
AFTER REVIEWING the earnings statistics of your industry that you
have before you and listening to Mr, Knutson's remarks regarding the state of the construction industry, I hope you are not looking to me for all the answers to your problems. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that accounting is essential to every contractor, and many of the difficulties encountered are directly attributable to the lack of reliable accounting information. I would like to caution you, however, that accounting is the means to an end rather than the end itself; merely providing a good accounting system will not solve your problems unless management makes intelligent use of all in-formation and data made available. Accounting is only a tool of management
and unless management becomes skilled in the use of the information supplied by its accounting department full value will not be derived from such information.
Since Mr. Leck will have a lot to tell you on cost control and management use of accounting data, and since he speaks from the background of long and successful experience, I will direct most of my comments to the general aspects of accounting in the construction industry. In the remarks that follow I have drawn upon the material in a publication of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
entitled Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for Con-tractors. This is an excellent booklet and it would be well worth your while to read it.
First, let me say that there is no such thing as a standard accounting
system for your industry. There are many similarities in the operations of different construction companies, but a successful system must be tailored to the individual situation, A good accounting system, while it will not guaranntee profits where the bid is too low, will help direct your attention to areas where economies may be possible and thereby often enable you to salvage something from an otherwise unfortunate bid.
As a bare minimum, the accounting system must provide the