I have read several articles recently in the press about Accountants in business taking leadership roles. The articles say that one of the important traits for CFO’s to possess is that they actually get to the grass-roots and understand what’s producing the numbers. That means taking time away from the office and spending it with other teams. This can be as simple as actually getting your sleeves rolled up and doing another job for the day.
As a FD I spent time with my company’s Field Sales team at Christmas. I worked with them on the Supermarket shop floor ensuring that stock was always available on the shelf whilst frantic shoppers filled their trolleys. It gave me a fantastic insight into the pressures, processes and workarounds the sales team did to get their job done. It was most illuminating to understand that the perfect desk top procedures or IT systems did not quite work as smoothly in the field. Nothing delivers the same knowledge as doing the work yourself.
So what is the role of a Finance professional in business? As an Accountant there is a lot of clarity around the role and its functions and responsibilities. But if all your time is spent buried in data or meetings where do you get the information to shape your thinking?
It is all too easy to criticise from the sidelines or ‘lay the law’ without appreciating the reality of the situation. Spending time visiting a difficult customer or relocating to a European business unit to understand industry differences have rounded my thinking in the past. I highly recommend making opportunities to spend time away from your desk and in the broader business environment.