As a CFO, do you have a business mindset?
You have just been appointed CFO and in your new role, it’s easy to get caught up in routine financial tasks such as budgeting, forecasting, closing, processes, improving cash flow, top priority projects and more. But is this really what your GM and your management expect from you? Like many newly promoted CFOs you may think that you are already a Business oriented person… but do you really have a Business-Mindset?
Business-Mindset means do you, as a CFO, have a way of thinking that enables you to uncover and see problems as opportunities, and then turning those opportunities into a business?
Do you, as CFO, have an understanding that everything around you is the result of someone having an idea and executing it?
Indeed, in my view, this is how, as a CFO, you will deeply help your business.
We talk a lot about finance as a “Business Partner” and there is a lot of writing on this topic. However, being a business partner does not necessarily mean having an ‘entrepreneurial’ spirit, that is, being focused on the business.
In my opinion, one of the most important things for you and your finance team is to be business-minded, wherever you are and whatever you do in finance.
Of course, financial management helps the organization determine what to spend, where to spend, and when to spend. It gives a better view of the organization’s financial condition, which describes in more detail the financial treatment of the organization. But if you want to make a difference, you need to be entrepreneurial and understand how your role helps the business.
Here are my tips and advice that will help you gain a business-mindset and understand the role you will need to play in helping your business.
Sometimes we feel like we don’t have time to go out and chat with non-financial colleagues.
Even Financial Business Partners who pretend that’s all they do, are in fact most of their time stuck behind their desks, gathering numbers around the balance sheet and income statement.
If controllers can get up from their desks more easily, why can’t accounting, tax and payroll teams do the same?
We often tend to forget that virtually everyone in finance has some level of interaction with people outside of our department.
Then it’s about doing more…
Take the opportunity to meet non-financial stakeholders and you will see the beauty of the job. Use all formal and informal opportunities to speak with stakeholders. Don’t just send DSO reports, or store KPIs through the mailing list… Go out, meet the sales teams, logistics teams, etc.
No, you and your team aren’t “stuck in the back office” as much as you think.
Go out and ask questions, take interest in other areas. Ask your sales and customers service team to work closely with AR accountants, it will have a great impact on your DSO reduction for example.
Curiosity and leading to understanding are the starting point for closer collaboration and working relationships where you can do more to help the business.
Indeed, remember, the finance people are there to help the business perform better, though, they have a “protecting role”, but they are also facilitators.
Of course, prepare for discussions, prepare reports, collect background knowledge and formulate good questions. And listen to answers.
This point seems obvious and yet … CFO/Head of Finance and our teams are very often pressed by deadlines to meet and we naturally tend to have a first glance to know the answer. However, it is necessary to listen and keep in mind what is important to see how you can help others.
When you are liaising with your non-financial colleagues, listen to their priorities, understand their problems. Ask them outright! Active listening is a way to gain business-mindset. You will learn a lot in understanding and will get great new ideas… transforming many problems into business opportunities.
Oportunum est, ut arbitror, explanare nunc causam, quae ad exitium While this does not mean that you always agree with your interlocutors, it also does not mean that you do not represent the interests of the company. Still, careful listening will help you better understand the situation and the financial figures that you find yourself facing.
Ask your Accounting Payables team to go and meet their internal clients, they will better understand how they can improve the accruals process together.
Ask others what you can do to help them while keeping their priorities in mind, rather than just trying to give them more work to do. Not only does this potentially help the business, but it also builds confidence. It shows that you really care about helping them, not just about getting your business done.
See how you could help them simplify their lives and create value for the business, without protecting them by giving them the ideas. The whole company is focused on business, value creation and the market and this is what will help you find common ground.
The help you provide will help make your collaboration excellent and your understanding of the business will increase. Of course, as a CFO / Head of Finance, you can’t pay for everything.
A customer who doesn’t pay is a bad customer. Before you immediately turn your back, work together to find a solution that works for the company and meets your common goals.
You are of course very busy, but you and your Finance team should seize every opportunity and meet the other teams because it is important to know what they are doing, what their main concerns are and how they fit together.
It’s also a chance to share what you know, to share about finance (people often read us the wrong way!), And to show what else you could do to help them.
They will be your eyes and ears, they will defend the interests of the company, but above all it will allow them to acquire a business spirit through this sharing.
We avoid these opportunities too often, mistakenly thinking that it will give us extra work. But what a gain of time afterwards! And in addition, the vision of your financial management will be transformed. you will become a source of proposals and involved in the company!
In a nutshell it is very important to keep in mind how you can help the business, how the finance team can help the business, how you can create value for the business? And all this while protecting the asset (obviously!).
As mentioned in the introduction, business-mindset is a way of turning problems into opportunities. Thinking out of the box, is probably not what could be a first asked to a CFO/ Head of Finance.
So, after having talked and actively listen to others, interacted with non-financial departments, understood constraints… the question for you and your finance teams is how to be bring value to the business?
As CFO/Head of Finance, what can we do the add value to our business? what can we do to make the difference, what makes us different and remarkable? do we have an understanding that everything around us is the result of someone having an idea and executing it ?
As a first steps, and before even jumping and complex activity here bellow few actions, that as CFO / Head of Finance, we should keep in mind and have it on our day to day action plan.
Remove barriers to adding value and demonstrate results, doing it step by step and area by area.
Be agile and have a business mindset to evaluate how you can remove obstacles, ensuring that the entire company is focused on the outside company world, and not over spending time in sticky processes, reports and controls.
Yes, CFO / Head of Finance, are paid to control and put controls in place, but the ones which will serve the business, not only the one which will help to sleep calm at night.
So, you will need to Changing behavior, will drive you to a change of processes.
Analyze and improve: you can identify where lags are occurring, or inefficiencies are surfacing, and fix them for greater process efficiency. Sometimes, workflows may require additional tasks or the removal of irrelevant or redundant tasks. These can also be brought to light with analysis.
As a basic example, I guess you do not want to punish for best salesperson, with very slow and over complicated expenses reports..
So as CFO/ Head of Finance with a business-mindset, you will analyze how you can remove the obstacles of the heavy/slow sales force expenses report while protecting the company asset.
This simple example can be expanded to many areas within the company.
Use effective best practices, most of the time the ones you already have within your organization.
Keeping agility mindset, pressure to reduce operational costs and improve efficiencies and support improvement by addressing fundamental drivers of financial capability.vement.
For example, increase process speed by identifying and eliminating redundant tasks, as in many corporations it tends to be over complex / cumulating controls over the time.
Keep in mind that, as a CFO / head of Finance, you should stop fixing and start improving.
As a newly promoted CFO / Head of finance, you will for sure need to work on all financial aspects, but you shortly you will have to focus on the business. I would then recommend you to do it with an Intrapreneurship spirit.
What does it mean? We used to improve competitive positioning and transform corporations, their markets, and industries when opportunities for value-creating innovations are developed and exploited. Large, established companies are now being forced to find new ways to adapt to increasing pressure from smaller, faster and more agile companies.
Looking to the business with curiosity, develop connections inside and outside the company, get new ideas, support improvement by addressing fundamental drivers. As a representant of the Finance, you and your team, will surprise by bringing to you finance with new ways of working, bringing openness and curiosity.
But do not take it wrong: having an Intrapreneurship does not mean that you do ‘creative finance’. No, you are still here to protect the company, but do it with a business mindset.
I hope these points are helpful and give you ideas on how you can turn a new role, as CFO/ Head of Finance that you thought was ‘technical’ into one that has business impact.
Indeed, it is a question of having the right state of mind; having the spirit of enterprise will make it possible to bring value to your company. You and your teams will be perceived very differently, you will really be the Business partner, with the right mindset. And you will make the difference.
So if you feel that you need to be accompany in order to faster your Business mindset as newly promoted CFO / Head of Finance, and accelerate the start in you new job,
I can help you to take-up your new position in a more serene, calm and confident manner.
Let’s discuss how you, as a newly promoted CFO, can acquire/develop the Business Mindset required to be a Great CFO.
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