Lessons Learned From my Time as a Financial Manager / Controller
While I have worked in public accounting for most of my career, I spent a few years as a financial manager early in my career. During this time as a financial manager, I learned a great deal, and that experience has continued to help me as I work with clients of Kruggel Lawton.
Here are just a few of the major lessons I learned. Perhaps those of you in similar roles will have similar feelings.
Always try to take care of your owners. When you work in a privately-owned, owner-operated business, there are times that you have to put your own preferences and ego in the back seat and focus on helping the owners of your company achieve their objectives. As long as it's not illegal, unethical or immoral, your primary role is to advance their interests, which may not always be the same as your own. I found that taking the time to explain some of the reports to the owners - what they should be looking for and what they meant - was very important to them.
The importance of building and cross-training your team cannot be emphasized enough. Hiring and developing a capable team to support the business, not just accounting but payroll, benefits, receptionist etc. is a vital. Hiring people who are flexible and willing to learn multiple tasks is important to ensure that the business needs can be covered when people are out of the office on vacation, unexpected illness or other leave situations.
Having good software applications that provide meaningful business information is crucial. Whether it's industry-specific applications or more broad-based accounting systems like QuickBooks or Peachtree, it is important to have the right tools to provide owners, managers and employees with meaningful answers on how the business is performing. The financial manager needs to become very proficient in the systems that drive this part of the business.
No financial manager or controller can master everything, so relying on expert advisers and service providers is crucial. In addition to the financial manager, the most valuable outside advisors for the owners are people with expertise in tax, estate planning, legal services, employee benefits, payroll, and information technology. Maintaining good relationships, effectively representing the company, and being able to manage and recommend changes while dealing with these external providers is an important part of the financial manager’s job.
In conclusion, I am grateful I had the opportunity to work in this role earlier in my career because it was challenging, varied, and rewarding work. In our roles in public accounting, we often work closely with financial managers and controllers, so I can appreciate the challenges that they face and can relate to their experiences.