How to Sharpen Financial Competence for Directors and Executives

Financial competence is not a static variable, in that it is something that is ever-changing, and the skills associated with being financially competent must be sharpened consistently. The fact is that failure to have financially competent decision makers can be highly destructive to an organization. What is meant by “financially competent” goes well beyond being able to identify credits or debits or being able to properly read financial reports. Being financially competent should focus on one’s ability to break down the financial information provided in those reports and analyze how they should be used to determine the financial path of the organization going forward.

Furthermore, a person must be able to understand how risk factors into the financial decision making matrix and how that risk should affect the courses of action taken by the company. These are the things that separate competent financial management from incompetent financial management. This is likely a major reason why roughly 21% of all CEOs serve in a financial oversight position prior to becoming a CEO and why almost a third of CEOs have served in a financial capacity at some point in their careers. It is also important to realize that the outcome of certain situations has no bearing on the competence of the decisions that have been made. The fact is that poor financial leadership can still yield success from a periodic standpoint. In the same manner that an unskilled Poker player can have a run of “good luck” and win big in a night of gambling, so to can incompetent financial managers “GET LUCKY”.

The problem with depending on luck to manage the financial infrastructure of an organization is two-fold:

1. Luck does; and will always run out at some point in time
2. Financial management isn’t gambling; especially when considering what’s at stake whether it is the shareholders, the market, the employees, or the customers; there is simply too much at stake to make financial management a “Coin Flip.”

To ensure that the key decision-makers are financially competent it is incumbent upon management to analyze the knowledge of these individuals and provide opportunities for them to update and hone their skills as it relates to financial management. The good news is that most organizations generally select the financial decision-makers within their organization by doing a thorough search; this generally allows them the opportunity to select the person that they feel best can handle the position.

Furthermore, most organizations that utilize committees to help manage operations have a financial management committee (as it is considered to be the most common among companies with three or more committees). The problem is that many companies don’t understand the position enough to fully handle this search, so they end up hiring people that have had past success without determining whether the source of that success was luck or skill.

If the current global economic calamity has taught us anything; it has taught us this: When the economic climate is advantageous to organizations it is much easier to seem competent than when things go bad. In a good economic climate decision-makers can take huge risks and if they win they are superstars; if they lose there are generally opportunities to mitigate that loss (either by acquiring debt capital; increasing sales, or raising equity funds just to name a few).

In a bad market we have discovered that THE SAFETY NETS ARE GONE; and risky decisions have real consequences. In this market we are finally paying the price to learn that there is a real difference between corporate sponsored gambling and effective financial management. What we need to do now is train current and future financial decision-makers about what makes an executive financially competent, and what does not. This will produce more effective financial decision-makers and more importantly it will provide a future asset for companies that will assist them in diverse market situations; NOT JUST WHEN TIMES ARE GOOD.

The solution: The following are some of the steps that key decision-makers need to take in order to assist the company in building a more competent and more effective financial management infrastructure.

1) Your executive Finance team: To have a financially competent executive team; YOU NEED A TEAM; there is ALWAYS an inherent danger in leaving major financial decisions to a few individuals. The fact is that we are talking about money; and when that is the subject then many times self interest replaces corporate interest in the decision making hierarchy. Furthermore a company that has a properly chosen team of individuals to make decisions provides a system of checks and balances which mitigate the risks associated with these decisions.

2) Training Courses in Finance: Another conduit would be to get a day or two day workshop in financial training where current decision makers receive tutelage in financial decision making from an application standpoint instead of an academic or theoretical standpoint. Bringing in people that have a history of being competent financial managers will be helpful. But also teaching examples of how poor decisions have destroyed companies would be helpful as well. Many course offer sound coverage of financial topics of importance. However, it is important to check background, experience and credentials of the trainer before embarking on a course.

3) Get a Coach or Corporate Consultant: Coaching at executive level has proven to be popular in many parts of the world. Experts believe that the value an executive coach (whether it is a successful consultant, former executive, or entrepreneur) adds, significantly impacts progression and drives performance to a higher level. There are many coaches available but you need to ensure you get a coach who will listen to your concerns at the same time offer the right and relevant professional advice. With the advent of the internet, organizations also offer virtual coaching support.

4) Have self-analysis meetings: At least once a year all organizations should seek to have a meeting with all people involved in the financial decision making process (executives, senior financial/accounting personnel, board members, etc.) and simply have a brain-storming session that focuses on the direction of the organization; future financial needs, current financial position, etc. These meetings have a way of bringing issues to light that otherwise would stay in the dark; and furthermore you want all of these people to work well with each other, and this is a good platform to start from.

While most organizations believe that the decision making aspect of their financial infrastructure is at least competent; the fact is that many organizations aren’t aware of what constitutes competence as it relates to financial decision making. The fact is that, no matter where your organization is located, the WORLD HAS CHANGED for companies; to stay prosperous companies must focus on sustainability and not luck; they must focus on consistency and not major peaks. Financial competence has little to do with an education in finance, it has everything to do with how your executives can use that information and analyze the health and the future of the organization. Those that understand this are in an advantageous position; those that don’t are playing with fire.

CAUTION: While all the above (and others) may prove useful, the idea is not to micromanage and get bogged in deep financials. Keeping it simple is the message. I believe if boards can set criteria through Executive Policy Development from the onset, keeping it simple yet covering all financials of your organization is the way forward. Subsequent monitoring of the financial health at appropriate intervals will help you shape your organisation’s financial strength further. After all, it is all about accountability at board level.

Why Personal Finance Software Is Important

Why personal finance software is important

These days, technology has really revolutionized people’s way of life, including their financial life. Back in the day, most people used a pen and paper to document their earnings, spending, and finances.

What is personal finance software?

Home finance software refers to a financial tool that enables you to prepare a budget, track your expenses, and check your overall finances. These days, there is no valid reason why you should be disorganized and mired in debt because there are many good personal finance programs that you can use to keep track of your money, plan your future, and completely control your finances. If you have a PC or laptop, you are lucky because you can easily find good home finance software at little cost. Application programmers have now catered for the high demand for these applications as they now come with all sorts of functions and capabilities that can save your money, time and effort.

Analysis

You can now analyze your finances unaided. However, this kind of analysis can be much easier if you have some accounting background. Finance software will analyze your important financial details. Details such as your monthly expenses will stick out. Many personal finance applications also allow personalization. If there is one particular aspect you want to know about your finances, you can simply create a specialized analysis. Many personal finance programs can also give you a monthly analysis-an excellent way to see how you actually spend your money on a monthly basis.

Budget creation

We all know the importance of a personal budget. But creating a real budget that you’ll stick to is easier said than done. You can find a personal finance application that creates a realistic budget for you. Simply enter your basic information into the software and quickly create a simple budget.

Checkbook balances and bill payments

Sometimes you’ll fail to pay bills on time. When it happens, interest rates are more than likely to shoot up. Fortunately, you can avoid this mistake once and for all. Look for a personal finance application that’ll remind you when to pay your bills. Likewise, you can accomplish balancing your checkbook by just ticking a box. Sum up any amounts withdrawn from your account and check carefully anything that seems suspicious. Once you have everything on record, it becomes much easier to know how your finances are faring.

Trust yourself and no one else

When it comes to finances, it is best to keep track of all you have carefully. You may trust your finances with your financial adviser, but it is still important to know where every cent is at, always. With a personal finance application, your money will never be far away from you. Whether you are paying bills, balancing your checkbook, tracking your paycheck, or creating a personal budget, you should not live without personal finance software.

The Primary Cause Of Business Financing Frustration

Finding proper business financing is not easy at the best of times for most small and medium sized business owners and managers.

There are a number of reasons that collectively explain why the business financing market can be so difficult to understand and navigate.

But probably the single biggest reason is the lack of useful information about how the business financing market actually works.

Business financing information and education sources predominantly come in two forms: 1) Text books; 2) Major bank advertising.

If you’ve ever read through a educational finance text book or taken a business financing course, you already know how difficult it can be to apply the theories, principles, and strategies to a small or medium sized business.

Our formal education system provides limited information as to how the market place works, how to plan for financing requirements, how to manage periods of growth, decline, transition, start up, etc.

Sure academic books and courses can go through all these areas in great detail, but is the information practical, real world, something you can relate to and apply yourself as a manager or owner of a small or medium sized business?

In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO.

Most finance text books speak to big business financing dynamics that are not easily transferable to small and medium sized business scenarios.

Outside of the formal education system, the next great source of business financing information is the information provided by the major banks, which they tend to make available to you by the boat load through their broad based marketing campaigns.

Unfortunately, the information by itself seldom helps you determine if a particular institution would be able to provide you with financing, or what would be required to qualify for a loan.

The good news is that business financing sources continue to grow in numbers as more and more lenders carve out a particular piece of the market to service.

In order to take advantage of these alternatives, you need to have a solid approach in place when seeking business financing.

Here’s a short list of things to consider

>>> Develop a solid, ongoing, understanding of both your personal and business assets, income, and cash flow.

Regardless of the business financing model, these elements will always come into play to some degree.

Being able to demonstrate a solid understanding of your business financials is also an indication of your ability to manage the underlying business.

>>> Monitor and manage your personal and business credit.

Small and medium sized business financing is focused on both personal and business credit histories.

Regular reviews of both personal and business credit reports from the major credit reporting agencies are important to avoid errors and credit practices that can severely damage your borrowing power.

>>> Develop your marketing position.

Yes, seeking business financing is a marketing exercise.

When applying for business financing, you’re marketing your business to lending sources and they in turn are marketing their business financing programs to you.

Think of the lender as a customer to better understand what they’re looking for. Then, develop a business proposal that addresses all their potential needs and concerns.

>>> Research Lending Sources

There are lots of business financing sources. But there is also lots of variation in the types of business applications each one is prepared to consider.

Broad based lenders rely on credit history and net worth. As you get more specific in terms of financing application and industry, lender programs become more narrow and can be harder to locate.

You need to consider things like industry, sector, and geography when looking for business financing sources.

Financing consultants and business loan brokers can be an excellent source of information to aid you in this process.

>>> Qualify The Lender

Before you make a formal application, find out if the lender has the programs and lending track record to meet your specific needs.

Too often, the lender is doing all the qualifying.

>>> Compare your options

Depending on the scenario, there can be several financing strategies that could work for your business.

Make sure you take the time to compare before making a decision. The extra time spent could save you considerable time and money in the long run.

>>> Start Today

Regardless of what your business financing needs are right now, you should regularly invest time staying on top of your business financials, monitoring your credit, and researching financing sources that fit your industry and potential future requirements.

When the time comes to acquire capital, your proactive efforts can make all the difference in getting the capital you need with terms and timing that are acceptable to your business.