Mara Garcia is the CFO of Phonexa, an all-in-one marketing solution for calls, leads, clicks, email, SMS, accounting and more.
Finance departments are always evolving due to the ever-growing demands of the accounting and finance world. With waves of new fintech tools and the evolution of finance professionals, today’s finance departments look much different than finance teams from yesteryear.
I’ve seen the transformation of finance professionals and departments firsthand, as I have experience organizing a fundamentally sound finance department to meet the demands of today’s corporate sector. I was an auditor in public accounting for seven years prior to transitioning into my role at an all-in-one marketing automation platform.
Today I’m the CFO of Phonexa, leading the company’s tax, accounting and finance teams while spearheading the company’s next stage of financial growth and expansion. By determining the adjustments my team needed to make in order to keep pace with the changing demands of the finance world, we were able to improve workplace productivity while increasing the bottom line. Here are some tips to consider when forming a fundamentally sound finance department of the future.
Identify Your Team’s Strengths
Identifying the strengths of each individual team member will help you pinpoint which members can benefit from cross-training. Finance teams are currently being redefined, as traditional accounting roles have been modified by the wave of emerging technologies. Gone are the days of team members being locked into one role. Today’s finance teams still need individuals who excel in data entry, are spreadsheet wizards and produce accurate financial statements in a timely manner. However, today’s demands require that finance teams have individuals who are trained to be critical thinkers and have the ability to adapt to the new technologies introduced on a regular basis to streamline financial reporting.
You have to recognize which team members excel in certain areas, and which team members need additional training when taking on added responsibilities. In addition to the personnel on hand, your team can also utilize various tools to streamline most of its daily processes. At Phonexa, we were able to automate most of the finance department’s work by employing an integrated accounting platform. By automating most of the department’s work, our team members are able to explore other projects and use their strengths beyond the boundaries of spreadsheets and general ledgers.
Keep An Open Dialog
Maintain a continuous dialog with your team to encourage critical thinking within your department. A team member who is taught or already possesses a certain skill should be able to explain the process of what they do and why they do it in order to apply that knowledge in other areas within the department, or when training fellow employees.
An open dialog regarding your company’s tech tools is also essential to prevent disruptions that can stifle your department’s productivity. One disruption you may encounter is your team working faster than the technologies you utilize. Your tech stack needs tools that communicate as effectively as your team members do. Track your team’s feedback and make adjustments or upgrades as needed.
Restructure If Needed
Unforeseen circumstances can force your team to make adjustments on the fly. No circumstance made this more evident than the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to prevent potential disruptions to your financial operations, every team member needs to be interchangeable, meaning, everyone should be able to do each other’s job while sustaining proper internal controls. Certain checks and balances must always be maintained. Thus, making changes to your departmental structure can improve the output of your department.
This is where cross-training pays dividends. In the event of a staff shortage—which most businesses endured during the pandemic—one person should be able to perform the duties of every absent worker. These circumstances aren’t ideal and will occupy more time than normal, but the work will get done and your department can continue operating as normal. Even though team members should be cross-trained, it’s crucial that we still have proper controls to ensure we have enough checks and balances in place to prevent errors.
Final Thoughts And Tips For New Team Leaders
When you step into a leadership role, it’s important to remember that you’re not just someone’s boss—you’re more like a guide for your entire team. You have to be open to constant communication with your team, especially since they are the ones who know the details of your department’s daily tasks. When reviewing someone’s work, you have to accept that you aren’t always going to be 100% right as every team member evolves and grows into their role.
When I ask questions, I always communicate that it doesn’t mean that I think they are wrong or their work is inaccurate—it means that I want them to explain why their process is correct. This presents an opportunity for a learning experience that will benefit team members, as well as team leaders. The learning experience will also show team members how they can develop by giving them the ground they need to learn, grow and succeed.
Remember, your team is just as vital to your success as your leadership abilities. If your team succeeds, you succeed; if your team fails, you also fail.