WITH BUSINESS becoming faster-moving than ever there is a real need for all aspects of an organisation to be focused on its key drivers. All functions must be focused on supporting the business to make a profit and they must add value – this has really brought finance teams to the fore. Finance needs strong leaders to ensure the function is involved in the discussion about these drivers, not just reviewing performance, but forecasting and looking at how things are changing.
Employers rely on finance teams to transform their business and really help drive the strategic direction. Often it is the finance director that will have to make very difficult business decisions. This requires effort to collaborate with different functions across the business and talk in a language that they can understand. But it also requires some personal brand management.
Think about successful high-profile business leaders. What do they all have in common? They have a strong personal brand and clearly understand the need to work on their own reputation. Just as major consumer packaged-goods companies promote their core products to the marketplace through extensive marketing and branding campaigns, leaders need to do the same to promote themselves within their company and their industry. This is essential if finance leaders are to get ahead in their career, but also get support from other functions across their business.
In order to drive changes and bring fresh, innovative thinking they will need to successfully engage with stakeholders. Gaining respect from the business and making sure employees understand reasons for change is essential if they are to gain support and create the necessary momentum to move forward and deal with what the year ahead brings.
While it is essential for the financial director to form these relationships and be visible, they are also dependent on their team doing the same – after all they are an extension of themselves. Therefore, leaders need to work hard to ensure they have the right people and invest time to motivate their finance team so that they are working to the same goals and able to support the finance function in becoming a trusted advisor across the company.
Having a finance function that adds real commercial value and one that the rest of the business will pick up the phone to and ask for advice is critical. Finance professionals that make the best leaders are those who manage their personal brand effectively, are forward-thinking, possess strong communications skills, integrity and are able to motivate their team.
Developing excellent communications skills and building a strong personal brand not only helps when forming relationships with people in the business and getting their buy-in, but also when looking to move on. Finance leaders need to invest time to understand their unique selling point and develop their brand, because only the strongest brands will survive.
Nik Pratap is a director at Hays Senior Finance