If you’re in financial management, you’ve probably read a few books about good financial leadership, or at least studied about it in university once. You know the theory – a great financial management candidate knows the technicalities, communicates well, and is a master planner and so forth. However, there’s often a disconnect between theory and reality – otherwise we’d all be almost perfect at our jobs. The reality is, to know “I need to be a good communicator” is easier said than done (excuse the pun) when you’re presenting financial results to a boardroom full of non-financial people.
In order to really become good at financial management, you need to translate the theory into reality. Here are a few tips on how to excel in your role, with a few scenarios and practical examples of how to do that.
- Keep information confidential. Good financial management is based on a relationship of trust that is earned by the accountant or finance professional.
Scenario: You’re being interviewed for a new financial management position, and your interviewer asks you to share some specific examples of where you increased the profit or margins in the previous companies that you worked for.
Interviewer: So, you worked for Company X previously? What was profit like while you were there? What did you increase it to?
Your response: Yes, I worked for Company X. Obviously, because I held a position of confidentiality, I can’t say explicitly what the profit margin was. But the CEO did give me permission to tell you that profits increased by 6% two years in a row, under my tenure.
- Keep current with trends in your industry. Financial management takes place in a world that is constantly evolving. Tax laws are being updated, reporting mechanisms are constantly being changed; even methods for valuing the business shift over time. A top financial management professional doesn’t feel that he knows so much that he no longer needs to learn. Instead he takes any opportunity time will allow for extra courses or seminars to keep up to date.
Scenario: Your boss gives the option of spending two days off work in a pursuit of your choice.
Boss: One of our clients is holding a two-day golf challenge at the end of February. You’re welcome to take some time off and attend. There probably won’t be many meaningful networking opportunities, but it will be a nice break for you. Alternately, if you feel like it, there’s a day-two seminar about what to expect in the 2016 tax reporting year held the week afterward.
Your response: I’d love to take some time off to practice my golf skills. But if I’m going to be spending two days out of the office, I’d rather spend it updating my tax knowledge before the rush. If the company is paying for the seminar, I’ll gladly take that opportunity – thank you!
- Involve all department heads when planning for the year. This isn’t easy, but you will earn respect and buy-in as you make an effort to include everyone in the financial management planning process.
Scenario: You’re budgeting for the year ahead. The head of marketing is in a rage because she heard via the grapevine that her budget would be cut.
Head of marketing: I’m not coming to the planning meeting. You never take into account my point of view any way. You don’t understand how crucial marketing is to driving sales.
Your response: I’m sorry you feel that way. Your input to the planning meeting is crucial. We are under pressure to cut costs, but the whole reason I need you at this meeting is to help the team understand why we need to keep your marketing budget untouched. I need us to work together to recognize another area where we can save costs in order to do that.
Financial management involves having a solid grounding and great technical skills, but in order to excel you need to go a few steps further. If your company needs some top class financial management where you can see some of these ideas in action, contact The Finance Team.