5 tips for CFOs to master partnerships

To flourish as a Chief Financial Officer (CFO), you need to stop being seen as a bean counter. Instead, you become more valuable by repositioning the finance function: transforming your traditional CFO position and also becoming a business partner.

So, how and why should you master partnerships throughout your organisation? Here are a few tips:


What’s a business partner?

The standard definition of a business partner is literally someone who is a partner in a business. In this case, it’s a CFO who:

·       Enables the entire organisation to see and understand the organisation’s financial performance

·       Makes sure decisions are backed by financial analysis and prioritises resources

·       Collaborates with other departments to improve performance



1. Build your business knowledge

Move outside your comfort zone of the usual ‘financial circle’ of colleagues and meet the heads of the departments within your organisation. Persuade them to share with you how their particular department works, how it interacts and how it impacts with other departments and customers.

2. Don’t ask about cuts. Ask where to invest

Being a CFO/business partner isn’t just about spotting opportunities to slash costs. To nurture growth, you also need to invest, especially in boom periods when there’s revenue to spare.

Besides, it makes a positive icebreaker to ask, “Could your department do even better if, hypothetically, you had greater resources at your disposal”. But of course, don’t make any promises without detailed financial analysis.

3. Make sure they understand you

Chances are, you and your colleagues all speak English. But it’s worth remembering that outside of your financial department, not everyone will speak ‘fluent Finance’. So, if someone doesn’t understand what you’re trying to communicate, be patient. And see if there’s another way of explaining things.

If things look like they’re turning awkward, keep your focus on the business goals and the needs and priorities of the people you’re partnering with. 

4. Challenge ideas

Do you have all your financial processes buttoned down? Do you follow best practices and have you completed whatever reports and tasks you’ve been set? Good, that means you have the business skills and credibility to challenge old ideas and new recommendations in your organisation.

As long as you give a considered, insightful opinion, your views will become valued.

5. Turn numbers into insights and action points

Don’t present spreadsheets and complicated graphs and endless pie charts. Instead, convert your numbers into points your audience will understand. Perhaps you could present the information as a business story, with a start, middle and an ending. For added impact, you could include action points.

By following at least some of our suggestions, if you’re not already recognised as being part of your organisation’s elite management, you soon should be.