If you remember only one thing after reading this article, remember this…get out of your spreadsheets, and into your business. The better you understand what drives your business, the better you will be at planning and forecasting, not to mention analyzing actual results.
SWOT ON THE FLY
By getting out from behind your desk and getting into the different functional areas of your organization you will gain an understanding of what makes your business tick at a broader and deeper level than you ever will any other way. A key advantage this approach offers is it will enable you to do what I call, “SWOT on the Fly”. By periodically gaining exposure to different functional areas of your business, you will be able to identify your organizations strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
If you ever watch the “Undercover Boss” television show, you will hear CEO’s repeatedly praise the process of getting into the trenches of their business. They routinely find things that are working well and things that are broken in their business. This experience makes it infinitely easier to anticipate the contingencies you should plan for.
I have had the privilege of speaking at a number of national conferences where I have presented to audiences of FP&A professionals. There are usually anywhere from thirty to sixty or more people in a session, and when I poll the audience to see how many have spent any appreciable time out in their business, usually only a few hands go up. Most FP&A folks just have not had this type of experience. There are many reasons for this, and one of the biggest is corporate culture. Many organizations have a culture that dictates FP&A crank out endless forecasts and analyses, leaving time for little else.
A big factor in a more effective FP&A function is one that is overlooked by most people. In all the conferences, seminars, conference calls, webinars, and the like that I have participated in I have never once heard a discussion about communication skills. Aside from technical skills, this one skill set has the potential to affect your career more than any other single skill. I have seen statistics that say that as much as 85% of our success in business is determined by our communication skills.
Effective decision-making, good communication skills and being able to act on decisions are key attributes that significantly leverage your technical abilities. In our role as FP&A professionals, we are called upon to provide senior management with information to enable good decision-making. In the best case, we are asked to participate in the decision making process, by not just providing information, but by also analyzing information and communicating recommendations based on our analysis. If we have great information and are amazing analysts, but can’t communicate our recommendations effectively we will fall short of our desired outcome.
If you want to make big improvements in your FP&A function, start putting together a plan to gain exposure to your businesses functional areas to get a better understanding of what really drives your business. Start working on your communication skills, so when you make recommendations based on your insightful analysis, the message is understood loud and clear and it can be acted upon. Do these two simple things and you will have done more than most FP&A professionals out there and you will have a competitive edge.