Part 6 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.
Looking at the term “business partnering” in a global context, you don’t really get a straightforward view of how it is implemented in companies around the world. You can find several open “finance business partner” positions, although they are mostly centered around the UK. If you look for open “FP&A business partner” positions, though, you don’t find even one. This raises a question when it comes to FP&A: Is business partnering a job role or purely a mindset? Since you can’t find any open roles, the answer must be that it’s more of a mindset than a job role (at least for now). Therefore, it seems important to look at the mindset of a business partner.
The key attributes of a business partner mindset
There’s not one version of the truth, and you may have different key attributes from those on this list. But typically, these would be the most important ones.
- They are purpose-driven: They are driven by more than just a paycheck at the end of the month. This is essential because a business partner’s primary role is to ensure the success of others.
- They act as if company money is their own money: In all their decisions, they ask themselves: “Would I do this if I had to pay for it myself?” This question is important not only when it comes to spending company money, but certainly also when it comes to the company’s product(s). Assuming it’s for normal consumers, the business partner would also ask: “Would I buy this product?”
- They see it – they own it: If something goes wrong, they do not point fingers at someone else but rather take responsibility in front of their stakeholders to get it fixed. Likewise, they wouldn’t just point out issues with performance. Instead, they would offer suggestions as to how to improve performance and ensure it gets done.
- They think “customer first”: They always think of their internal stakeholders or the company’s customers before they think of themselves. As above, a business partner is only successful if stakeholders are successful; which typically goes hand-in-hand with happily paying customers.
- They are role models: Everyone else in finance (or the whole company, for that matter) looks up to them and follows them whether the business partner has a formal leadership role or not.
In summary, you want people on your team that have this mindset, as they are critical to the long-term success of your FP&A team and the company overall.
Couldn’t anyone adopt this mindset?
Yes, that’s the beauty of it. This mindset is not reserved for FP&A, finance, or anyone else. But there’s no reason why the FP&A team can’t take charge of driving this mindset, especially with their colleagues in finance. To make it even more tangible, let’s look at a few situations where you should drive this mindset:
- The management team is going on an offsite. You make sure tickets are booked at an optimal time, get a group discount at the hotel, and optimize the venue to ensure ideal conditions, wasting minimal time on logistics.
- You’re in a meeting with some important stakeholders, and they’re discussing how a recent change in process is making their jobs more difficult. You remind them why the change was made because it’s without a doubt making the customers happier and improves profitability.
- You’re at a strategy meeting, and people are discussing a lot of different ideas for regaining market share by creating new products and going into different markets. You make them pause and think about the company’s purpose and mission statement. This helps the team regain focus and spend time discussing initiatives that could really make a difference.
In conclusion, if everyone thinks and acts like a business partner, there’s a lot of money “lying on the street” ready to be picked up. Just think about what a difference that would make for the whole finance department and FP&A, as well as making a positive impact on company performance?
If you have read the full series on “FP&A Business Partnering,” you not only know what it is, but also how you can implement it in your FP&A function, how you can use it to improve company performance, what tools you can use to partner with your stakeholders, and what it takes to develop a business understanding. Finally, you have learned how to get closer to the business and what a true business partner mindset is. Now you’re ready to begin your journey of becoming a trusted business partner to your most important stakeholders. I can assure you they are waiting for you with open arms, so what are you waiting for?
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This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.