You Want To Be A Commercial Manager? Really?
If only I had a dollar for every time a Finance Manager has told me they want to move to a ‘more commercial role’.
The surprising truth is that there are very few who have a firm grasp on what ‘a more commercial role’ actually means.
The allure of ‘a more commercial role’ is so strong that many of our clients have changed the title of their ‘Finance Manager’ vacancies to ‘Commercial Manager’, in response to the higher volume and quality of candidates that ‘commercial’ roles tend to attract. So while people might imagine there’s a big difference between a Finance Manager and a Commercial Manager position; the reality is that for many companies, it’s merely a change in job title.
In fact, for many people I meet, their ‘Finance Manager’ role actually IS a commercial role – it’s just all about how they perceive it (glass half full and all that jazz).
Here are my top tips for transforming your Finance Manager role into something more commercial:
CASH IS KING…
Many Finance Managers don’t place much importance on the accounts receivable/credit control function of their department, as they view it as ‘transactional’. Commercial Finance Managers, however, will have a good handle on the cash flow and how it impacts on the business. They make it a top priority to develop good relationships with these teams.
….BUT WITHOUT RELATIONSHIPS, YOU HAVE NOTHING.
Cost-cutting has been essential for most businesses over the past few years. Unfortunately, for some Finance Managers this has meant managing cash flow by slowing their creditor payments – which effectively transfers the problem to the next business (often the SME who is very reliant on cash flow for immediate survival). Commercial Finance Managers have instead built relationships with these suppliers and negotiated terms that both businesses will be able to cope with. Being commercial is about honouring agreements for the benefit of both businesses; after all, businesses are reliant on their suppliers also.
REVIEW COSTS, BUT APPLY MATERIALITY.
I recently caught up with a commercial Finance Manager who is a very sharp operator. She’d recently been given the directive to cut all discretionary costs, including undertaking a cost-benefit analysis of their newspaper spend across the nationwide business. It turned out that the cost of her time to do a review was far greater than the few thousand dollars of savings they made as a result of her recommendations. She soon left the company to join one where she was making real commercial decisions, rather than mucking around with immaterial costs.
KNOW YOUR COMPANY, KNOW YOUR COMPETITION.
When you look at the numbers all the time, it’s easy to sometimes forget what they actually represent. The commercial Finance Manager will always aim to have a good grasp of how the company is doing, what their margins are, and what the future holds. The exceptional ones will know how the competition is going, what the industry benchmarks are and how they impact on the future of the business.
REMEMBER, YOUR ROLE ALWAYS HAS COMMERCIAL ELEMENTS.
Perhaps you’re responsible for the compliance elements of the accounting function, but not the ‘commercial side’. Even so, there are many aspects you should be covering in your role that are absolutely commercial. For example:
- Continually reviewing your team’s structure, ensuring it’s operating at full effectiveness
- Building relationships with the wider business to ensure the shared service function is delivering adequately and that you understand the business
- Ensuring your reporting covers commercial elements, such as supplier reviews, lease reminders, and good debtor reporting.
IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET!
You don’t necessarily need to change companies to get the commercial role you’re after. Make sure the business is aware of your desire for more commercial work – yes, this probably means sticking your hand up for more work! And operating like a commercial Finance Manager – building relationships, looking for opportunities to add value – will increase the likelihood that more commercial responsibilities will come your way.
Your Finance Manager role could be ‘more commercial’ than you think. But it’s up to you to make it that way.