Many years ago when I was working for a Japanese conglomerate in their M&A department we purchased a German business based between Frankfurt and Cologne. A grand welcoming party was arranged, and my Japanese boss gave a speech in English, for which I provided a simultaneous translation into the language of our hosts. All was going swimmingly until my boss started to give a long rambling list of all of the business areas that the conglomerate was involved in. As he went on and on I became increasingly aware of the time, and the toll this list was likely to take on my German translation capacity. As he finished I took a deep breath and explained “The company does…everything!”
I was reminded of this when I gave a presentation on Social Media the other day. Yes, I know, an accountant talking about marketing. I can hear all those Twitter and Facebook gurus shouting at their screens “Why him? What does he know?” Well to put it simply Finance Directors are now expected to know, well, everything.
Because of their commercial business grounding and experience, most good FDs have come across many of the issues that companies have to deal with, be they legal, property, HR or operations. That a number of them make the transition from CFO to CEO is in no small part due to the diverse range of skills that they acquire throughout their careers.
As a part time or interim FD it is not uncommon for clients and contacts to seek my input on matters that go beyond the finance function. Often it is because they value an opinion from somebody who has recent experience from outside of the organisation. Because of this I always look to keep myself updated in all areas relevant to my clients and contacts, and to this end I keep in touch with a number of individuals and organisations with the right level of expertise.
So back to last week’s presentation. As a professional person running my own business, I have had to be aware of a number of sales and marketing techniques, one of which in today’s world is definitely social media. Therefore I was in a perfect position to explain the subject to a group of people, many of whom may have been unsure about how relevant it all might be to them, and take them through my own social media voyage of discovery. This naturally included insight that I have gleaned from real experts in the field.
So there you have it marketing bods and others. I am afraid the FD does need to know everything. However there is a ray of hope for you all. Most of all he or she needs to know where to find the expertise to provide the right advice to clients and colleagues at the right time. Demonstrate the relevant expertise and who knows….