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What is Strategic Finance? How to become a strategic finance business partner

Hello there, fellow finance femmes! Let’s talk about a game-changing shift in the world of corporate finance leadership. It’s not just about crunching numbers anymore – it’s about becoming a true corporate strategic finance business partner.

And guess what?

This evolution isn’t just important; it’s downright essential, especially for all you ambitious women out there ready to elevate your career.

We’re no longer just in the background; we’re the in the forefront often task to guide and steer our organization’s strategic ship. As we dive into the seven steps that lead to being a vital strategic finance business partner, remember, we’re not just learning skills here – we’re unleashing a whole new way of making big waves in our careers.

Imagine standing at a crossroads, where the path to strategic finance opens up before you. It’s not just about crunching numbers; it’s about steering the ship towards success. Remember, even the most seasoned sailors were once unsure about the sea. Embrace the uncertainty, conquer self-doubt, and step into this role with courage. You are not just an observer – you’re the co-captain.

Alright, let’s kick things off by embracing the fact that you’re most valuable role in your organizations is not just to balance the books and send out financial reports….your role is to guide, to advise & to help move the strategic ship in the right direction.

So the first step to becoming the ultimate strategic finance business partner is embracing your role as a strategic financial partner. And to do that, here are 7 steps to start your journey.

Step 1: EmbracE the Role of a Strategic Finance Business Partner

  • Mindset Reset: First up, let go of any imposter syndrome or doubts. You’re not just a bystander; you’re an integral part of the decision-making squad. Don’t forget…..you are the expert of your own experience.
  • Speak Up: Don’t shy away from voicing your insights. Your financial perspective adds weight to discussions. So, at meetings, don’t just be a spectator – be an active contributor.
  • Network Like a Boss: Connect with people across departments. It’s not just about work; it’s about building relationships. And who knows, your casual coffee chats might lead to brilliant collaborative opportunities.
  • Stay Curious: Be hungry for knowledge. Seek out mentors, take courses, and stay updated on industry trends. The more you know, the more confidently you can stand as a strategic partner.

Step 2: Quality Reporting

Quality reporting means that you are ensuring that your financial reporting is accurate.

The second step in this journey to becoming a strong strategic finance business partner is to  ensure the accuracy of your  financial reporting, the bedrock of sound decisions.

Think of it as creating a photograph or a picture that reflects your company’s financial health.

A photograph is meant to accurately capture what was happening at a certain point in time. If even one thing is off about the picture…..someone who wasn’t at the party is in the image, or someone was wearing a different colored shirt….the whole picture is wrong. And no one trusts that the picture is a real picture.

I’ll never forget the time when I submitted a financial model to a client and the net income on the balance sheet didn’t tie out to net income on the P&L. Turns out there was a check figure missing in our model and we missed that tie out. It didn’t foot due to a simple formula error that missed one line in it’s sum but that small error lead to doubt around the entire model. With that one small error everything in the model seemed untrustworthy.

And if I’m being honest, the client not only lost trust in my model but always lost trust in me.

It was a tough experience but one that taught me a valuable lesson…..

that experience taught me that every detail matters. 

To become the ultimate strategic finance business partner, accuracy is your superpower. A misplaced formula or an overlooked figure can have ripples throughout your organization’s plans. 

Accurate financial reporting is like building trust, brick by brick.

Basics of Accurate Financial Reporting

  • First, always nail the basics – create strong & effective processes, create check figures in all your reporting and reconciling regularly.
  • Also, always try to lay a solid foundation by ensuring that the data you gather is accurate from the outset. Implement standardized procedures for data collection across departments and verify the sources to minimize errors right from the start. 
  • Automate when possible so many errors come from manual processes as we are only human and humans often make mistakes.
  • Develop a practice of cross-validating figures with multiple sources. When different data points corroborate each other, it adds an extra layer of confidence in the accuracy of your financial reporting.

In the dynamic world of corporate finance, accuracy isn’t just a goal; it’s a commitment to the integrity of your work and your credibility. Your attention to detail isn’t just about numbers; it’s about nurturing a culture of trust and reliability.

Step 3: Master Financial Analysis

Numbers can be daunting, but here’s the secret: they tell a story. Just like unraveling a gripping mystery novel, diving into financial statements reveals insights and trends. Therefore, developing strong financial analysis skills is critical to your path to becoming a strategic finance business partner.

One of my “aha” moments was when I spotted a large dip in revenue during a period of sluggish sales. At first, it seemed like our pipeline was just declining and our sales team was having a hard time closing as many deals as we had anticipated. But as I dug in more. And I broke out of revenue into the components of revenue (sales from new customer + sales from returning customers)….I realized it wasn’t a sales problem, but this was actually a retention problem.

Our decline in revenue was due to poor customer retention not new customer sales.

My ability to analyze the numbers deeper prompted a deeper investigation and ultimately, a recalibration of strategies.

Therefore, to become better at financial analysis think about diving into data like a detective, continue to ask questions until you truly understand and the information and what you uncover is often the exact way you’ll guide your organization forward.

Financial analysis isn’t just about crunching numbers; it’s about decoding the narrative hidden within.

 Remember, numbers are more than digits; they’re the threads of a story waiting to be woven. And you are the best positioned person in the organization to tell these stories well.

Step 4: Cultivating Industry and Business Acumen

Picture this: you’re at a cross-industry meeting, and your insights about market trends leave everyone astounded. That’s the power of industry and business acumen.

  • Immerse yourself in the industry’s rhythm, understand its beats, and dance to its tune. When you can seamlessly blend financial strategies with business goals, you become the bridge between the numbers and the vision.
  • Dive into your company’s operations. Understand how every cog turns, how departments collaborate, and what drives success. This isn’t just about the dollars; it’s about the big picture.

Acquiring industry and business acumen is like studying the language of your business landscape. It’s about understanding the subtleties, predicting the market’s next move, and positioning your organization for success. 

Once, when I delved into our competitor’s strategies and uncovered a gap in our own approach. This realization led to a game-changing pivot that set our company on a new trajectory. 

Business acumen isn’t just knowledge; it’s foresight.

Step 5: Building Collaborative Relationships & Building Trust

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

Hellen Keller

 Collaborative relationships are the pillars of progress. I once found myself at an impasse while proposing a new budget approach. It wasn’t until I invested time in understanding my colleagues’ perspectives that a shared vision emerged. 

Trust is a currency; invest it wisely, and watch your influence grow.

In the realm of strategic finance, you’re not an island – you’re a linchpin. Your ability to collaborate across departments and build trust is like constructing a strong bridge between diverse islands of expertise.

There have been so many times when a collaborative effort resulted in a streamlined budget process. By working together, we dismantled silos and created a unified financial strategy that resonated across the organization. 

Collaboration isn’t just teamwork; it’s synergy.

Step 6: Strategic Planning and Forecasting

Strategic planning is like preparing for a grand voyage. The winds might change, but the direction remains steadfast. Long-term strategic financial planning aligns your compass with the company’s true north.

Tips to building a solid strategic plan

  • Set Clear Goals: Start by understanding what your company aims to achieve. Is it growth, expansion, stability? Once you’re clear on the goals, your financial strategies can align seamlessly.
  • Data, Data, Data: Collect and analyze data like it’s gold. Historical performance, market trends, customer behavior – it’s all in there. This data treasure trove guides your decisions.
  • Scenario Building: Don’t just stick to one plan; develop multiple scenarios. What if the market goes left when you expected right? Having backup plans keeps your ship steady during storms.
  • Risk Assessment: Identify potential obstacles and assess their impact. This helps you prepare for the worst while aiming for the best.
  • Collaborative Blueprinting: Work with different departments to create your financial roadmap because you’ll often learn much more about the organization by having conversation with others you won’t find in the numbers. This will also help you craft a shared vision by the entire team.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Your plan isn’t set in stone. Iterate and adjust and iterate and adjust often. Remember, flexibility is the key to strategic success.
  • Regular Check-ins: Don’t wait for the worst to hit because it’s much harder to re-direct your course. By regularly reviewing your plan’s progress you can continually adjust your direction to ensure you’re on track to your destination.

Remember, being a strategic financial planner isn’t about predicting the future with a crystal ball; it’s about equipping yourself with the tools and insights to navigate confidently through the unknown waters of business.

Step 7: Effective Communication & Strong FInancial Presentation Skills

Imagine explaining complex financial jargon as if you were telling a captivating story by the campfire. That’s the magic of effective communication. As someone who once drowned my audience with  too many numbers and too much data in a financial presentation, I learned the value of simplicity. 

Share the why behind the numbers, share the challenges you face as you strive towards business goals, break down complex ideas, and craft presentations that resonate. Because you’re not just presenting data; you’re weaving a narrative that guides decisions.

Communicating financials isn’t just about relaying information; it’s about creating a connection to the numbers and inspiring action. As a financial storyteller, you are translating the language of finance into a actionable insights and steps to move your organization forward.

I remember a time when I transformed a dense financial report into a visual presentation that captivated our board of directors. Because I was able to simplify concepts, I turned data into a compelling narrative that inspired action.

 Communication isn’t just about talking; it’s about sparking understanding.

Your Journey to becoming a strategic finance business partner.

So there’s your ultimate roadmap to becoming a strategic finance business partner. As you work & move through these seven steps of strategic finance mastery, remember that every journey is unique. These steps aren’t just checkpoints; they’re your foundation for growth.

Remember, in the world of strategic finance, you’re not just shaping numbers – you’re shaping organizations and your career.

And if you’re ready to take your career to new heights, unleash your true potential, and make a real impact in your organization, let’s chat about one on one coaching together!

Your journey to success begins with a single step, and I’m here to guide, support, and amplify your unique voice. Because you deserve to elevate and you deserve to SHINE!

So, let’s connect and explore how together we can elevate both you and your organization. Get in touch today and let the transformation begin!

August 12, 2023

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From Cookieprenuer to a C-Suite Financial Executive, Liz knows that living outside the box is possible and wants to empower others to know they can do the same.

Financial Executive. coach. Female leader + AAPI Encourager.