5 Ways Finance & Accounting Make a Difference

I start with a story. Once upon a time there was a young couple who used to go to the beach for a walk together every Friday morning before they made their way to work . . .

. . . Early one morning after a big storm had passed they were walking along the shoreline and found a vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Then off in the distance, the couple, both noticed a small boy approaching.

As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the couple could see that the was occasionally bending down to pick up an object of some sort and throw it into the sea.

The boy came closer still and one of the couple called out, “Good morning young man. I’m curious, what is it that you’re doing?”

The young boy passed, looked up and replied, “Throwing starfish into the sea. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high they will die unless I throw them back into the water.”

The other partner replied, “But there must be many thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

Now the boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the sea. Then he turned and smiled and said, “But I made a difference to that one!”

I really enjoy this story, it’s my take & shortened version of Loren Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower” and it’s so simple, yet so effective.

Naturally, we may not be able to take on all of the problems in our organisations as there’s hundreds of decisions a day our stakeholders need to make, from big, company-impacting decisions, to tiny, hour-affecting ones. There’s simply loads of starfish that need tending to and with the sheer volume & weight of them it’s actually quite easy to forget how much of a difference all of us in accounting & finance can make on our organisations. We sometimes forget we’ve an incredible opportunity to make a difference to our organisations and here are 5 ways we can help:

1. Increasing Wealth from existing resources

Business is not all about the money. Part of it is about increasing wealth for other stakeholders like, customers, staff, community, etc… . Accounting & Finance can use their broader view of the field of play in and around organisations to guide businesses, leaders and managers towards achieving sustained profitable growth in the wealth they contribute from their activities for these stakeholders.

2. Better control over decision making

Everyday there are more decisions to be made by leaders and managers than they possibly have time for. Everyday there are new problems to conquer. Accounting & Finance can help establish better controls around decision-making that improve the likelihood of capitalising on business ideas that are valuable to stakeholders. For a quick read on making quicker and better decisions see The CFOs Dilemma: Speed Or Accuracy?

3. Getting ahead of issues before they grow too big

Even when things are going well all hell can break lose at any moment, especially, when you least expect it. Because Accounting & Finance are trained to take a balanced view of the past, current and future they help organisations get ahead of issues, reduce the risk of going too far off course and assist in leading them back towards more successful outcomes.

4. Create safe environment to review performance

People make mistakes and there’s an old saying that when you “outlearn your competition, you out earn them.” The impartial and detached viewpoint accounting & finance teams have relative to other colleagues means that they can create a safe and constructive environment to carefully review performance. These learnings can be utilised in the future by managers and leaders to more quickly build wealth and capitalise on ideas.

5. Tackle One Problem at a Time

Even though Accounting & Finance can make a difference to our organisations we will only deliver the previous four benefits in direct proportion to how much we’re wanted by the organisations we serve. So what do we do? Do what the boy did in the story, we simply tackle one challenge & problem at a time. Many of us fall in the trap of being so busy solving what is immediately in front of us we focus on the wrong things. We fail to distinguish the important from the urgent. So, proactively get out from behind our desks, find others in our organisations whose important problems we are trained to help and solve them.

There are many ways we can make a positive difference.

In what ways are accounting & finance making a difference in your organisation? Let’s all contribute to make this another resource for other aspiring finance business partners so please share you comments and ideas with our global finance community.


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