When someone thinks of a Finance & Accounting professional, most people picture someone with glasses in a dim-lit office with a calculator in hand, crunching away at the numbers. Sadly, there was a time where this picture was quite accurate. Happily, those days have come and gone. The future face of Finance and Accounting requires a lot more than their predecessors. I feel there are 4 key things that any up-and-coming finance professional needs to be aware of to ensure that they have a successful and fulfilling career.
From a personal standpoint, you need to be outgoing as well as resourceful. From a career development standpoint, you need to invest time in business partnering and becoming cross-functional.
You can no longer get away with locking yourself up in your office and having minimal amounts of communication with others. Today’s Finance professional needs to actively seek out information from others. You cannot be afraid of someone saying ‘no’, ‘go away’ or ‘not now’. At the very least, you should turn every ‘no’ into a ‘not now’. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is paramount to your success. What I have seen from my clients is that they will often hire someone who is personable even if they don’t have all of the experience or skills they desire over someone that has every single thing that they want from a technical standpoint but lacks communication skills. Personality and the ability to communicate is highly desirable for finance professionals.
Thinking outside of the box can get you very far in any industry and this is no different in Finance & Accounting. Creativity will get you very far as well as get you noticed by your superiors. This also means sharing ideas or concepts that you have found useful. There is no use in being the only one in your team maximising your efforts. This key knowledge should be shared and hopefully, eventually implemented in your company’s Standard Operating Procedures. A good example may even be creative ways of presenting financial data. Numbers do not have to be so cut and dry. Think of ways to let the picture you are trying to paint stick into people’s minds. Numbers and visual graphs can paint a picture just as well as a photograph if they’re used correctly
As stereotypical as it sounds, being a Finance professional is not all about being a Finance professional. The goal of having these skills isn’t simply about crunching numbers and providing data to stakeholders about whether the company is profitable or not. Your role is to know your business inside out. This means knowing all of the departments within your organisation and not just only the Finance Team. This also means not only identifying problems but also coming up with potential solutions. This, however, may not be something that you are taught in school but is definitely a subject you should be working on in your own personal development. Perfection is not expected but over time, you should really set yourself apart from your peers by just putting yourself out there.
If you are a subject matter expert at, for example, Accounts Receivable, you need to step out of your comfort zone and start learning from the other subject matter experts in Accounts Payable and General Ledger. You cannot limit yourself to what you are great at. If you dream of being a Finance Director or Chief Financial Officer one day, you need to be good at a lot of things, not just a few. What this means is that you need to know what type of roles will lead you to your end goal whatever that may be. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to change industries. For example, FMCG companies do things differently than Technology companies because they have different financial needs. The more you know about various industries, the more it adds to your market value which in turn, will convert pipe dreams into a future reality.
In order to fulfil your true potential, you need to push yourself to become as outgoing as your comfort level will allow. You need to know all of the moving parts of your business, and this means speaking to everyone that you think you can get the relevant information from to help you with present problem areas and the potential solutions. Lastly, you need to push your Finance and Accounting boundaries, don’t be afraid to step outside of the box and gain experience that you would have never gained otherwise.
by Donnie MacLary