Double Entry Deviants : The Role of your Finance Professional

I have often blamed John Cleese for the perception that accountants are boring, introverted nerds with a total inability to relate to normal people. The words “I’m an accountant “ can elicit a guarded response from people.

The words Financial Controller and Finance Director might translate into a slightly better response, but you may still get a glazed look. So as finance professionals how do we change that perception within the teams we work with and provide the service and get the feedback we need to promote financial growth and stability within the companies we work for.

The truth is numbers can be boring and a lot of management disengage with the mention of Profit and Loss. The challenge is for the Company Accountant, Financial Controller, Finance Director, or CFO make the numbers meaningful to team and the business.

The key to the role is communication and should be incorporated in the title. Chief Financial Communications Officer or Finance Communications Director.

To communicate properly you must know your team and you need to provide the information in a meaningful way for different sections of your management team. Your sales director may find graphs easier to understand than numbers. Too much detail can also be counterproductive. However, if your MD has a financial background he may want to delve into the detail.

Communication works both ways; and your Sales, Operations & Managing Directors provide you with understanding and explanations as to why the numbers are saying what they are.  Engaging with the team on a more frequent basis than just the monthly management meeting is important.

Other areas where you need to develop soft skills and communication is with the sales team. A Sales Manager once described the Company Accountant as a “Sales Preventative” rather than a Sales Representative.  There can be conflict between the accountant and the sales team when the accountant is trying to reduce credit risk on slow payers while at the same time asking why sales targets aren’t being met.  Communication on who the slow payers are, and any new credit terms need to be flagged to the sales team in a timely manner. The sales team need to appreciate credit defaults don’t equal sales.

Monthly accounts have the drawback of being historic and if they aren’t produced within a reasonable time after the month end, they lose their sell by date. Use timely figures to help the team forecast future performance. Agree a schedule and push the information to the team, don’t wait for them to ask for it.

Our role is to interpret the information for our “internal” clients that are our management teams.

In summary, be timely – forward looking – push information – know you audience – tailor information to your team – different team members need different information in different formats.

Lastly, develop your systems to help you create timely information and beware of loving Excel too much. I know I do!

Myself & Caroline Stone Strictly Deise Dancing for the Waterford Lions Club

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