How FP&A Can Partner With The Business

Anders Liu-Lindberg

Part 4 of the 6-part FP&A Business Partnering series on how FP&A professionals can improve their effectiveness by establishing strong working relationships with business stakeholders.

FP&A professionals know their trade very well when it comes to the technical skills used to plan, forecast, and execute a company’s strategy. However, to truly influence strategic direction, they need to be able to influence their stakeholders. This is best done through business partnering.

To do this, certain skills and tools are needed that are not common to FP&A professionals. Sure, you know how to present numbers or discuss the implications of your forecast. But can you communicate well with stakeholders? Do you know how to build trust? Do you meet with them face-to-face or stick to emails?

The partnering tools

To be clear, you cannot build a partnership without meeting in person. That goes for your personal life and your professional life. To build your partnership, you need to think about how to do that. You probably have formal meetings with stakeholders where you can try to make an impression, but often, you won’t be the only attendee. Hence, you need other interactions to stand a fighting chance of creating a meaningful partnership. Those could be, but are not limited to:

  • A regular one-on-one with your stakeholder to talk about how (s)he sees your deliverables and what you can do to help even more.
  • Casual conversations at the coffee machine or in the elevator. Granted, it’s difficult to plan these, but at least you can have an idea for what to do when they happen.
  • Ad hoc meetings where you bring new and interesting insights to your stakeholders that positively surprise them.

Then, when you have arranged a few good encounters with your stakeholders, you need to know how to communicate with them. Some people like it short and sweet, so you need a 30-second pitch. Others like to talk about what goes on in their personal life, like their last holiday or what they did over the weekend. The third type wants you to go through your whole thought process before they will either accept or reject what you have to say. Naturally, you have your own preference. But if you don’t know the preference of your stakeholders, you will go wrong most of the time.

Next, you need to think about how to build trust. That’s simple: Be dependable. Deliver what you say you will deliver when you say you will. Never overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t miss deadlines.

Demonstrate that you care about your stakeholders and find ways to connect with them on a personal level. If it’s strictly business, they probably won’t trust you. Finally, make it about your stakeholder and not about you.

Now it’s time to create your action plan for building a partnership with your most important stakeholders.

  1. Think back on previous interactions to figure out if you need to create more interactions or just use the ones you have better.
  1. Analyze your interactions to determine stakeholders’ communication style.
  1. Consider how you have delivered on your promises to your stakeholders in the past. Do they think you’re credible and reliable? Are you always making it about business and little about anything else? And are you making it about solving your stakeholders’ problems or more about shining yourself? Getting this last point right will make or break a successful partnership.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3

Follow this simple recipe, and you will be much more effective as an FP&A professional to influence your company’s strategic agenda.

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This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.

Anders Liu-Lindberg

About Anders Liu-Lindberg

Anders Liu-Lindberg is the head of the Global Finance Program Management Office at Maersk and has more than 10 years of experience working with finance at Maersk, both in Denmark and abroad. Anders is also the co-founder of the Business Partnering Institute and owner of the largest group dedicated to finance business partnering on LinkedIn, with close to 5,000 members. His main goal at Maersk is to create a world-class finance function not least when it comes to business partnering. He is the co-author of the book “Skab Værdi Som Finansiel Forretningspartner” and a long-time finance blogger with 20,000+ followers.