Commercial Finance: accounting’s fun, cool and sexy side. You might laugh, but really, you know it’s where you want to be.
One of the most frequently asked questions from newly qualified accountants is how to make the transition from audit, or a largely technical accounting based role, to the holy grail of commercial finance. It’s a career preoccupation, a real career-defining consideration that is high on the agenda of any accountant taking the first or second move post-qualification.
And it’s obvious to see why. As businesses, small and large, continue to focus on establishing finance teams that support business objectives, the dichotomy between “traditional” accounting and “commercial” accounting, is increasingly clear. A quick look at a selection of job advertisements from the top companies in Ireland will show the importance of such a function, and the availability of excellent opportunities in this area. Add to that that the skills developed in commercial finance are a pre-requisite for developing a career as a successful financial controller or CFO, and the question is firmly focused; how do I get there?
Proactive Pursuit of Profitability
It’s one thing to conduct P&L analysis after the event. Yes, you might do a great job as part of a monthly review pack, and spot some key variances that can be highlighted for future action, but what are you doing, right now, to affect the outcome of those monthly results? Commercial finance is about integrating yourself within the business to proactively use your expertise to drive commercial objectives, be they to drive down costs or to help the sales team make profitable pricing decisions on new contracts.
To move into this area, you must be able to demonstrate a proven track record of utilising real-time accounting skills and an intuitive proactivity to further commercial objectives. In addition, the ability to keep abreast of wider organisational, macro-economic and industry developments to make commercially informed recommendations is pivotal.
Mastering Stakeholder Management with Emotional Intelligence
One of the key skills of a commercial finance partner is the ability to distil complex financial data into meaningful insights and recommendations for non-finance business managers. On the flip side, it is about being able to translate incoming business requirements into financial strategies that will achieve positive outcomes.
To be successful in commercial finance, you must develop mutual understanding with leaders within your business. Focusing on developing skills to manage different personalities, to communicate with clarity and authority and manage conflicts effectively will build productive stakeholder relationships based on credibility, trust and integrity.
Getting that opportunity in commercial finance is about working smarter not harder. Think about where you are now. Where can you maximise your own development? Consider your daily duties in a different light, with less priority placed on task-completion and more priority placed on adding value to the wider organisation.
Don’t get boxed in; show your leaders you’re open for business.