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From Bean Counter to Trusted Business Partner

Monday 10 April 2017

Kevin Appleby

By Kevin Appleby
IASeminars Instructor

Are you a management accountant who is stuck in the back office? You want to get out of the number crunching and become a full member of the senior team in your business?

If you have just said yes to those questions then you are in the right place. We can help you make that transition from bean counter to trusted business partner.

There’s a glass ceiling in the accounting profession, and you must break through the ceiling to move your career forward. To move from finance manager to finance director you need to assimilate a whole new set of skills.

Breaking through the glass ceiling

The problem with being the finance manager is that you are on the bow of the ship, you are always looking backwards. You can see where the ship has come from and you can measure its progress very accurately, you can measure the speed you are travelling at and the size of the wake you are leaving behind. Remember the Titanic. All that information wasn’t much use when the ship hit the iceberg. The difference between the finance manager and the finance director is one is looking backwards and the other is looking forwards. The finance manager is stuck in the monthly and quarterly cycles, balancing the books, doing the reconciliations and chasing up the bills. The finance director is working with the leadership team to set strategy and plan the future, his domain is knowing the economics of the business, advising on the most profitable course of action, being aware of the funding implications of every decision, and offering robust challenge to his peers.

The route to becoming a finance business partner and then a trusted business advisor is one that takes time, but our course – Empowering The Management Accountant To Be A Trusted Business Advisor can help accelerate the journey.

The transformation is about much more than tools and methods

As you go through the personal transformation to become a finance business partner you need to acquire both hard and soft skills. As well as developing new technical competencies you need to take both yourself and the rest of your business team on a journey. They need to see you in a different light and become reliant on you for a different, more value adding service. To do that you need to show them your value and we will give you strategies and tactics that will enhance your ability to do this.

Let’s start with the budget

The new skills you need to acquire need to start close to your traditional finance role. You are likely already a key player in the annual budgeting process, and budgeting is the first place you can increase your role. Traditional budgeting adds very little value to the business, and the one thing that is certain about a traditionally constructed budget is that its wrong, and by the time you get mid-way through the year has become completely irrelevant.

The first place you, the finance manager can enhance your reputation is putting something better in place. Is it time to blow up the budget in your organisation? We can teach you how to do it, and move from budgets to rolling forecasts that take into account the changing business landscape and are much more meaningful to manage against. Successful forecasts don’t just come from the back office, they are the product of the whole business team working together and pooling business and market knowledge. The finance business partner’s job is to coral the rest of the team and consolidate the shared knowledge into a forecast everyone owns.

Your role in cost control is vital

Times often get tough, and the finance business partner needs to be at the centre of controlling costs. Do you know how to take cost out of your business? How to get your fellow business leaders to prioritise? How to give robust challenge? It’s not just about identifying costs that can be saved, it’s about actually saving them, and not spending the money.  Cost reduction requires a whole new set of tools and techniques. Tools you weren’t taught to pass your professional exams.

Cash is king

Every decision has an impact on cash, and one thing a growing business does is consume cash fast. Your role must extend to knowing the cash position of the business inside out, knowing how to generate extra cash, and being totally aware of the funding need long before your business hits a liquidity iceberg.

You need to own the KPIs

While historic information about the business is all very nice, most of the accounting information tells you about stuff that you can’t do anything about. The decisions you needed to take to change the company’s results needed to have happened months ago.

You are an expert at reporting the profit you made last month or last year. You need to become an expert in pulling the levers that change the profits you will make next month or next year. To do this you need to understand the economics of the business and not the accounting numbers. You need to know inside out which products and customers produce most profit, do the analysis that segments your customer base, and use this information with your colleagues to influence sales strategy. Sales strategy isn’t just the domain of the sales and marketing teams.

Become a key player in business strategy

So, the finance director needs to have a seat at the strategy table. The overall sales strategy sits above the sales strategy, the marketing strategy, the product development strategy, and the people that need to drive the business strategy are the CFO or FD with the CEO or MD. So, as a finance manager, what do you know about developing business strategy? No, it wasn’t something you learned in your accountancy exams, but it’s something you need to know now or forget being that trusted business partner.

Once that strategy is in place it needs to be implemented and cascaded through the business. Progress needs to be monitored and individual teams made accountable for turning it into reality. The traditional accounting numbers are little use here. The business needs performance indicators that give early warning when things are going wrong so you can take corrective action and get back on track not result indicators that report the past. Your role in reporting needs to change. You need to become the custodian of the non-financial metrics as well as the numbers with £ signs. Reporting is a core competence that sits best with the finance team, a team with the right disciplines and mind-set to report consistent accurate and relevant information every week or every month. The key is understanding what to measure. You probably have loads of data but very few useful metrics you can use to drive the business. We can show you how to develop measurement frameworks that can make a real difference and put you, the finance guy, in the driving seat of business performance

So, do you want to change?

Fed up with being a bean counter and ready to nurture the bean shoots as they grow instead?

Join us in London on 21 September for our 3-day course and we can work together to develop the portfolio of skills you need to advance your career and get you out of the back office and into the board room.

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