If you work in Finance or are planning a career in Finance there’s one thing we must talk about. It’s not your skills, diplomas, certifications or even your experience within the finance function. No, we need to talk about business. After all, if there’s no business there’s no finance function. I have previously written about how people working in a business finance or FP&A function need to get more serious about understanding the business in “We Need More BUSINESS In Business Finance”, however, this really goes for all finance professionals regardless of sub-function. If you don’t understand the business you work in, you become detached from it, and if you’re detached from the business how can you help add value?
So how can I learn more about the business?
There are many finance processes that link to the business not least billing and accounts receivables where you have some sort of direct contact with customers. Typically, this contact is with the customers’ accounts payables department yet even with this kind of contact you will pick up on what’s going on in the business. You will see what’s billed and how much of it. You will also be able to follow the trend in the invoicing to see how your business is doing. So, working in billing is not a bad starting point. Of course, I just told you a few weeks ago that these roles are becoming fewer and fewer in the frontline and you need to learn continuously also when you move on from roles in billing etc.? So, you need a more structured approach to learning about the business and here are some of the actions I suggest you take.
- Use resources already available to you like company intranet news, external business news, quarterly and annual statements/presentations etc.
- Network with other people in the finance function who might know more or simply develop a relationship with people from other functions
- Talk to your manager about how (s)he sees the business doing currently
- Most importantly though you must stay curious and show an interest. The moment you get too absorbed in only doing what’s in your job description you have lost. Look beyond your job and ask to be involved in cross-functional projects that let you work with the business as just one example
The good news is that it’s all up to you. If you want to learn about the business the opportunities are there so why not take advantage of them?
You cannot advance in the future finance function without business knowledge
So, here’s your call to action. In the frontline finance functions, you will only get/keep a job if you understand the business and can help add value. If you’re not able to do that essentially there’s no reason for you to sit in the frontline. Sure, there can be local or structural exceptions but as a rule, you cannot sit on the sidelines for this one. Start exploring the business and you will most likely also become much more motivated to do your job.
Tell me what you have done lately to increase your understanding of the business you work in? Do you have some other helpful tips on how to do it? Do you agree this is even necessary at all? It’s time to wake up and face the music of what’s happening in the finance function. Start today!