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Maths and commercial acumen: the perfect marriage

NO LONGER just bean counters in ivory towers, the role of the finance professionals has evolved, and those who can marry the maths with commercial acumen are in high demand; more so now in the public sector than ever before.

There are many schools of thought on where the FD sits and how much the individual gets ‘hands on’ with parts of the business, especially the commercial elements. Some of the most successful leaders delegate virtually all the regular work to their staff, freeing their own time so that they can facilitate and orchestrate everyone else’s performance and focus on key areas. This may improve morale and it may also result in a better product and a less stressful life for the FD.

When I was in Chicago a few years ago, I attend the Kellogg School of Management looking at brand positioning and consumer buying strategies. A big part of this was looking at our roles….”decision-making, negotiations, and team-building skills really are the essence of leadership.” The logical extreme of building a team of trusted employees and focusing on the big picture is that leaders should “do nothing” when it comes to everyday functioning.

Rumour has it that on occasion I have been known as a “control freak”, not because I don’t trust the teams, but because I want to make sure that we deliver to the best out of ability…..”What would it be like if all of your team members were living up to their potential? Where does the role of the FD fit then? Of course, that’s a perfect world, we need to know what is going on in our organisations, the question is to what level?

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Walking the floor can be incredibly motivation for the staff whilst equally there will always been comments “doesn’t he have a job to do?”

When FDs rise up the ladder, it is critical that we stop doing the operational detailed technical work and delegate in part. Successful leaders must shift and, literally, do less of what they used to do, even though they were good at it,they feel so comfortable using their old established skills.

The demands on financial directors times will always be challenging. In reality I spend more time on strategy and business development and a smaller proportion of time on detailed finance. However, the core job is always the cash and the bottom line. Is there an answer?

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor is finance director at Hadlow College 

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