Successful growth businesses have innovation and entrepreneurship at their core, but to what extent does strategic finance within your business support or hinder such an environment?
The stereotypical finance lead is a risk averse, number obsessed, blocker of new ideas. Someone that senior executives must manoeuvre around to take the business forwards.
This is perhaps unfair to the majority of senior finance professionals, but I’ve met many in this mould and I can understand where the bad reputation comes from. It is sometimes the case that growth businesses will persevere with unsuitable personnel or do without a strategic finance lead entirely.
At the other end of the spectrum there are a breed of finance professionals who support growth businesses through high levels of engagement, commercial acumen, and creative thinking.
They help to lead innovation and continuous improvement within the business and contribute a unique perspective and valuable skills to the executive team. These people are worth their weight in gold and can often have an immediate financial impact on a business.
Regardless of whether you are looking to develop your existing personnel, bring in external support, or appoint a CFO/FD, there are certain characteristics that you should be looking for if you’d like to end up with a finance leader who helps rather than hinders the growth of your business.
Here are some of the most important characteristics of a strategic finance lead, for a growth business (in my humble opinion):
- A Strategic Partner to the Business
Someone who seeks to understand the business and the market in which it operates, such that they can engage fully in the strategic planning, forecasting, and decision making of the business and properly impart their knowledge and skills.
- An Informed Risk Taker
The senior leader who ultimately protects the financial position of the business, but does so with a strategic outlook and who also helps others to understand risk and opportunity levels to promote measured risk taking for commercial and strategic reward.
- A Collaborative and Confident Leader
An inspiring and confident individual who is comfortable at the top table, with the necessary gravitas and influencing skills to be impactful across the organisation and with key external stakeholders. Someone who can present persuasive business cases for change and provide constructive advice and challenge to others.
- An Expert With a Learning Mind-Set
Someone who is appropriately qualified, skilled, and experienced, but who is also always curious, eager to learn and to seek new ways of working for the improvement and development of the business and the team.
- A Promoter of Financial Awareness
The senior leader who can raise awareness across the business, of the commercial models employed by the business and the overall financial strategy. Someone who enables others to think commercially and who encourages a culture of innovation.
- Analytical, Intuitive and Responsive
An individual who can quickly analyse data, in combination with good market knowledge, to intuitively establish the success or otherwise of newly adopted strategies and quickly spot new opportunities.
Thinking about these characteristics, along with any broader qualities and behaviours that ensure alignment with the culture and values of your particular business, should help you to develop or appoint an outstanding strategic finance lead who can add real value to your business.
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