High Performing Finance Teams — Why you need them, what they do for your business and how to get them.

The Finance function is no longer just about the numbers.

All businesses benefit from a high performing Finance Team in-house as trusted, strategic advisers.

But traditionally the role of the Finance Departments was is to ensure compliance and that the cash flow was well managed.

Finance teams would remain in a silo, separated from the rest of the business, and would focus on processing transactions and meeting compliance requirements.

Today this model is obsolete.

Companies are expecting more from their Finance function; they are required to add tangible value to a business.

So what is the difference between a traditional Finance department and a high performing Finance team?

What should it look like and what can the management expect from them?

These are the five key elements of a high performing Finance Team:

  1. Trust

This is a two-way street. The employees must trust the management as this is essential for innovation and passion for the role and business.

The business and management must trust the employees and their output.

  1. Team spirit

A great workplace does wonders for employee productivity and quality of output.

A great workplace is more than the perks — it’s about the people and the team you are in. Morale boosting perks are great but team spirit is essential.

This can be built through knowing your colleagues have your back.

So, if an employee goes on leave or is away sick it’s important for them to know that they are going to come back to a back log and that the essentials have been taken care of by their colleagues.

From a practical point of view this means ensuring more than one person in a team knows how to do each task. Not only is this great for team dynamics it also ensures continuity for the company and develops each employee’s skill set.

  1. Chemistry

This is really important.

Having the right people in the right roles working together is a must when looking to have a high performing team in any company or function. In Finance it can be a more of a challenge.

The traditional Finance person is a number-loving individual who can find it personally challenging to come out from behind their spreadsheet.

But today this is something which is required of Finance.

It’s not enough to be able to ‘crunch the numbers’ — finance individuals have to have the right chemistry to work together and across the business.

They have to be able to engage proactively and positively with every individual in the organisation and this doesn’t always comes easily for Finance people.

If your Finance team have Chemistry you are a big step towards to high performance.

Whilst it make recruitment challenging, finding the right person is a worthwhile investment of time and effort.

The right fit will reduce recruitment costs in the long term as it has been proven that with the right team chemistry an employee will stay in an organisation longer.

  1. They keep their house in order

For many years Finance has been considered boring.

It should be boring!

If a Finance Team has their house in order there will be no surprises, cash flow will be proactively managed and all the compliance requirements will be taken care off.

The Directors of the business should be getting any operational bad news as soon as it’s identified and in a timely fashion, not six months after the horse has bolted — and not because the accounting function has fallen short.

  1. They are Ambassadors

Too long Accounts staff have been seen as a barrier to progress.

So Finance shouldn’t be a dark art to everyone else in the business.

A high performance team should be out in the business engaging with their colleagues so everyone knows what Finance does, what their Financial information means and why it is so critical.

Moreover, they should be partnered with non- finance staff so colleagues learn how to use their information to make informed business decisions.

To do this, your Finance team have to understand how the business operates too!

How can Finance give meaningful direction on operations or understand the business value in a proposed investment if they don’t understand how the business operates.

Part of being an Ambassador is to understand both sides so to provide meaningful support the Finance person has to be able see beyond the numbers and appreciate the business impact.

So how do you know when you have a high performing Finance team?

  1. Everyone in the business knows what you do, why you do it and how you do it.

If your business knows the value Finance add and considers them a meaningful and essential part of the company, then you are likely to have a high performing team.

  1. Your Finance Team think strategically.

When looking at the numbers a high performance team will ask the following:

  • What are the strategy assumptions which can be made and what are the numbers telling us?
  • What are the pitfalls?
  • What recommendations can we now make?

They also ask the tough questions.

The best Finance teams are directly involved in the business and have sight of, if not direct participation in, key deals.

If there are difficult questions to be asked or challenges need to be raised internally a high performing Finance individual will do just that.

The best Finance professionals are not afraid to speak out against a deal or an executive if it puts the business at risk.

  1. They will find a way.

If something looks to be a good idea but the numbers just don’t stack up, first rate Finance teams will explore various options and alternatives to find a way to make it work.

If it’s the right thing for the business they will challenge again and again to reach a profitable outcome — or if it can’t be done the Directors can be 100% sure it can’t be done!

In fact, the two things go hand in hand.

A company is not going to get the most from their Finance team unless they are engaged and high performing.

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