11 February 2016

Without the right finance people your business will fail

Business transformation expert Rita Trehan explains the importance of getting the right people capability to guarantee organisational success.


All companies rely on accurate, timely and robust financial information. You can't run a car without an engine and you can't run a business without an effective finance function. And that means you need the right people, with the right skills and the right capacity.

So many businesses today think that all you need is the right financial processes, systems and technology in place. Everything else is just ‘bums on seats’. But as a business transformation expert and consultant, I can tell you that I’ve lost count of the number of businesses that have failed because they had just this attitude. Systems are not enough. You need the right people capability to guarantee success.

So many businesses today think that all you need is the right financial processes, systems and technology in place. Everything else is just ‘bums on seats’. But as a business transformation expert and consultant, I can tell you that I’ve lost count of the number of businesses that have failed because they had just this attitude. Systems are not enough. You need the right people capability to guarantee success.

Imagine a scenario where as a CFO, you find yourself walking into a company that finds itself short. They have some great financial systems and processes but they’re short on the people they needed to bring it all together. How do you fill the gaps and fill them quickly, especially if you are a public-traded company? Your shareholders and investors are watching you. And they’re not just watching to see if you can count. They’re watching to see if you can think too. Can you deal with the myriad of financial rules and regulations that are constantly being thrown at you? Can you ensure compliance, accuracy and avoid the pressure to fall back on a little ‘creative accounting’?

Think big, think world class 

New CFOs often find themselves in exactly this position. They need to scale up the finance function fast. But before they can do this they need to assess the calibre of the people already in the team. They need a dual approach: a robust talent acquisition strategy and a focused assessment and development strategy. But if you’re the CFO or even the CEO, the most important part of all – no matter the size of your business - is to really commit yourself to building a truly world-class financial team.

Commit yourself to securing the very best people

It’s easy to fall back on the traditional methods of securing talent such as working with search firms. But to attract the very best financial talent you need to network within the industry, learn about the businesses in your sector that are going places and actively do your own headhunting.

Think about holding CFO seminars inviting people within the industry to network and learn about upcoming trends – often you’ll learn about financial stars who are getting itchy feet – and that’s your opportunity to strike. Engage the current pool of talent and make them ambassadors for your company; talk with peers and engage their networks.

Once you’ve attracted attention you need to sell the employee brand to prospect hires and really court potential future talent.

Develop and assess the talent you already have

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions to assess the finance capability in large firms, and it can be done very efficiently and quickly; although you may need someone like me to help you through the process!

During my time at AES Corp., I worked with a leading global consulting firm to develop finance profiles for key functional disciplines including treasury, tax, accounting and FP&A. Then we assessed the talent via one-to-one interviews using finance and leadership expert interviewers, who assessed individuals’ functional and personal competency levels. From these a strengths- and development-needs profile was drawn up. I found that this is the very best way to get an accurate picture of the skills gaps and strengths within an established team.    

Once you know how the land lies, you can address training needs. I did this by creating a suite of online learning modules built around actual case studies, supplemented by a bespoke financial leadership program developed in conjunction with a leading university.

Creating the right outcomes for your business

The finance function sits at the heart of every business. What you’re aiming for is an efficient, effective team that can anticipate issues, challenge the business, drive innovation and focus on profits. You need to build a world-class team. Every member must understand how their work affects every other part of the business and be able to lift their vision away from the numbers and towards the business strategy and goals. If you can develop, train, reward and retain this team at the heart of your organization, the business will never fail.

Rita Trehan is a business transformation expert and chief HR officer teaching companies how to rethink business: www.ritatrehan.com


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