Hurdles Finance Professionals Can Overcome to Deliver More Value
There are two types of accounting and finance professionals, those that ensure the appropriate controls and compliance are in place so that the numbers are accurate and consistent – let’s call this preserving value, and then there are those who are coming out from behind their desks, engaging with the business on meaningful problems, solving them, being a trusted sparring partner and financial mentor – let’s call this creating and capturing more value.
So what’s stopping us from being both?
Some of this has to do with our image as a profession. As accounting and finance professionals we’ve had many thousands of years recording transactions, some of us can even build up an entire business from a box full of receipts or a shopping bag of transactions, so imagine what we could do if given other non-financial type data. Imagine what we could do if we started combining the financials and non-financials together (like the cost of customer retention or impact of service failure rates on earnings per share).
Low expectations historically
As accountants and finance professionals we’re pretty darn good at preserving and safeguarding company assets with our technical compliance and controllership skills, and as such, we’ve not really expected any more from ourselves and likewise some of our organisations have been slow to expect more from us. This is why they do not proactively seek our advice on other than financial topics, because they don’t know any better.
Complicated spreadsheet and terminology
Also we talk in terms of rev rec standards, lease accounting, NPVs, ROIs, EBITDAs, GMs, GAAP, etc…. We hide behind complicated spreadsheets that we deliberately design complicated making it difficult for others to decipher them. As accountants we’re the brunt of many jokes, and
if you wish to get out of talking to people at a dinner party just say you’re an accountant. Conversation just stops, I’ve tried this, for fun. It’s uncanny.
In fact this is highlighted well in a study published in the Australian Finance review and highlighted recently in a TEDx talk by David Boyar of #SequelCFO who utilised an example of a family BBQ, to reinforce the poor image point. From a personal finance perspective studies show 4 out of 10 people won’t talk to anyone about their financial affairs, hopes and dreams, 2.5 will talk to their business partners and colleagues, 1.5 will talk to a family member or friend, and just 1 will just talk to an accountant (the rest will talk to a mix of other advisers). The same study also found if you spoke to your business partner you had a 50/50 chance of getting positive advice you could execute, a coin flip, a friend a 25% chance,
even though an accountant has an 83% chance of giving you positive advice,
a massive increase, but fact is, people don’t want to speak to us.
So why aren’t accountants being involved in these conversations? Would we still have 9 out of 10 business failing if we were? Our great unknown is putting ourselves out there, as accountants and finance professionals we are risk averse, we don’t take risks, and a fine example of this is in venturing out from behind our desks, it’s a risky activity.
Extroversion / Introversion anomaly
And there’s an anomaly here. Did you know only 35% of accountants tested as introverts in a recent study (most of us are extroverts), but we have this perception of being boring and risk averse relative to the sales reps in our organisations who are considered more extroverted, out there, engaging with others, making things happen. So at the moment we should be spending less time buried in numbers and spend time on influencing and leveraging our assets to unlock value creation opportunities with the organisations we serve.
So what do you think, have we been slow to grasp value creation or do we have an image problem?
Andrew runs #SITN Show. He brings on guest mentors to his Strength in the Numbers Show to share their stories and hard won lessons and practically figured out how to address their image problems to build on the compliance and controllership skills to create and capture even more value in and for their organisations. And, ultimately help finance professionals learn how to leverage their strengths in the numbers faster so they can have a more fun, rewarding and successful career as a finance professional.
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