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6 slogans for small business Finance professionals

By Andy Burrows

You can be a Finance business partner in a small company

As I’ve spoken with Finance professionals around the world about their careers, there’s a particular pain that is felt by those who work in small businesses.

Sometimes they talk about the fact that they want to be Finance business partners, but they’re stuck in the mundane tasks of Finance.

Sometimes they talk about the struggle they have trying to get involved with the business, because the business doesn’t see the need to include them.

There’s a perception in some places that to get real Finance business partnering experience you have to go and work in a bigger company.

But that cannot be right!

In the USA, 45% of GDP comes from small businesses. Nearly 50% of employees work for small businesses. And I bet the situation is similar around the world, possibly even more so.

Imagine the impact we could have on the economy if small business Finance professionals could help their...

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Business-focused Finance is NOT the same as Finance Business Partnering

By Andy Burrows

Those who have followed me for a while may have noticed that I’ve started using the term business-focused Finance. And you may be wondering whether it’s actually just the same as Finance business partnering. Or is business-focused Finance something different?

And to answer that question right up front I’d say that a large element of Business-Focused Finance is Finance business partnering, but I’m thinking of business-focused Finance as something broader.

What I've come to understand is that Finance Business Partner is a specific role often seen within Finance, designed to give various non-Finance functions access to the full power of the Finance function in managing business performance within their areas.

Finance business partnering is a phrase that’s either been used to describe simply what Finance Business Partners do, or to describe the kind of mindset needed within Finance.

I think that’s confusing.

It tends to lead to the...

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Confidence, Communication and Influencing Skills for Finance Business Partnering

By Andy Burrows

I want to give some helpful thoughts today about developing the behavioural skills needed for Finance business partnering.

I’ve written in the past about how essential it is for Finance business partners, CFOs, and indeed Finance professionals in general, to develop behavioural skills. And I know that other Finance writers are talking about this too.

And people are hearing the message, and I get asked about it. One question I received during a Finance careers event went something like this:

“I’ve worked in technical accounting and as a financial accountant, but my ambition is to do the best I can in my career. So, I really want to move to a Finance Business Partner role, as I feel there is more career growth potential in that area. My challenge is that my behavioural skills need a serious boost. What can I do to help improve my communication skills and my ability to influence or persuade my stakeholders, or even to simply be convincing enough at...

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Are Finance Business Partners only for big companies?

By Andy Burrows

There is a common frustration among Finance Business Partners.

Many of them almost feel as if they have been mis-sold the role.

They were promised that they’d be close to the business, as writers like me keep saying we must be in Finance. They were promised involvement in important discussions and strategic decisions. They were promised freedom from mundane number crunching.

And yet one of the biggest complaints from Finance Business Partners is that they still seem to spend too much time compiling reports, checking numbers, drilling down, building forecasts, and writing commentaries. And they hardly have any time left to spend with the non-finance colleagues they’re supposed to be partnering with.

And, to be clear, I’m talking about the way that Finance Business Partners feel about their jobs, not the way that others may criticise them.

So, for instance, this is a question that was sent to me during a recent Finance careers event:

“I am...

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Everyone's a winner with good Finance business partnering

By Andy Burrows

We’re accustomed, I think, to talking about a “Win/Win situation” as some scenario where everyone involved in a deal ends up happy with what they got out of it.

I haven’t got time to justify (and shouldn’t need to anyway) why “Win/Win” is the best outcome to aim for in any relational situation.

But one thing is certain. You don’t get Win/Win situations without having a Win/Win mindset.

And when we think of what Finance business partners, CFOs and Finance leaders should be aiming at, it must involve situations where everyone ends as a winner, certainly where the business is concerned.

For instance, as an example scenario, sales managers might feel they have gained some great insight from Finance that will enable them to convert more leads, whilst in the same interaction the Finance manager feels they’ve got sales managers to better manage risk.

These are the kind of interactions we in Finance want with our...

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Relationship building skills for Finance business partnering

By Andy Burrows

Today, I want to talk about relationship-building skills as a Finance business partner. And I want you to come away with tangible ideas as to how you can improve the way you build relationships.

If you’ve followed this loose series from the beginning, where I pointed out that Finance business partner is the new best route to a CFO role, you’ll know that I mapped out the three skills areas that are common throughout the continuum from Finance business partner to CFO.

And what I’ve done then is to focus in on one really important area of behavioural skills that I believe is the key to all the rest – “personal effectiveness”. And I’ve spent the last three articles expanding on the foundations.

And you may have found it quite weird that I started with skills that are very much individual personal skills. I mean, Finance business partnering is fundamentally all about dealing with other people. And so, you might expect that...

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The best Finance leaders choose important over urgent

By Andy Burrows

I’m continuing a series where I’m trying to show the power of some key ‘soft’ skills that Finance business partners should learn, and CFOs should have.

Today, I hope to show you how to make time to focus on what’s important. This is not simply prioritisation. And whilst you may feel that you’ve heard most of it before, I’m going to finish up by showing you why your prioritisation is probably not working in your daily organisation.

What I’ve said so far is that the core of the behavioural skills you need are all about “personal effectiveness”. If you can’t lead yourself personally, how can you lead or influence others as a Finance business partner or CFO?

There is a real difference between average Finance business partners and the high performing, highly effective Finance business partners and CFOs.

Average Finance business partners continually complain about not having time to do business partnering...

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Finance Leadership and influence starts with this one simple thing

By Andy Burrows

What you are reading, whether you realise it now or not, could lead to a turning point in your career. And I’m confident that I’m not overstating the case.

I count this as one of my most important articles to date, because what I want to talk about is something that I learnt that revolutionised my thinking about 15 years ago.

I hope that I manage to get this across clearly to you, because the things I’m going to talk about can:

  • Be a foundation for growth in your career;
  • Start to give you the confidence to do bigger things and make quicker progress;
  • Give you the ability to build new and more productive habits.

So, I hope that I manage to spark something important for you here in this short article in the same way that someone did for me during a 3-day leadership programme 15 years ago.

Are you stuck as a Finance business partner or CFO?

So, let’s first consider where you are now.

Do you find yourself complaining that you can’t do much...

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If you want to be a CFO, develop these 3 skills...

By Andy Burrows

There are three areas of skills you need to develop if you want to be a good Chief Financial Officer or Finance business partner – business acumen, technical skills and behavioural skills.

And my intention is to unpack these three areas a little bit, so that you can get to grips with planning your development journey more effectively.

In my last article I shared my belief that Finance business partner is the new best route to a CFO role. That is to say, core CFO skills are Finance business partnering skills. And well-developed Finance business partnering skills are what you need to be a CFO.

That’s why I’m talking about the two together, and why I believe that if your ambition is to be a CFO, you ought to be thinking about the same areas of skill that Finance business partners need.

And since with any skill you can’t develop it without practice, what better practice for a CFO role than a Finance business partner role?

So, let me tell you about...

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How to become a great Finance business partner... even if the thought scares you!

By Andy Burrows

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

Many of those who observe and comment on the state of the Finance function in general portray Finance people as being fearful of change.

The hype around robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence, the explosion in different tools on top of the ERP system and Excel, the speed of business change, and the cost pressure on Finance, add up to a significant feeling of uncertainty.

I have to say, when I work with Finance teams, I don’t necessarily feel that fear tangibly. People seem to get their heads down and work hard, and grab automation opportunities with both hands as something that will make their lives easier.

But I think it’s the way we characterise or explain things.

You see, I don’t think Finance people are fearful of losing their jobs, which is often the way it’s expressed by commentators (like myself). I’ve lost my job several times in my career – and it’s a...

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