What makes a successful finance team? It’s seemed an obvious question right up until we actually had to judge ‘The finance team of the year’ category for the Accounting Excellence Awards.
The numbers, surely! Yes, that’s a biggie. No business can go grow without a strong financial skeleton, after all. But what we see with this year’s entrants was an uncanny knack of pushing the finance agenda to the forefront of the business.
This year’s finalists helped educate non-financial stakeholders, guided investment decisions, and even pitched on in product strategy.
There was little to choose between the three contestants in this year’s brand new ‘Finance team of the year’ category. But, alas, we had to pick - and we’re excited to share the news later this year at the Accounting Excellence awards.
All three finalists - the finance teams of Creative England, Dr Will’s Condiments, and Perkbox - would’ve been a worthy winner. Delivering not just the numbers, but business value.
As judges, we placed a massive emphasis on the finance team’s ability to keep their business’s finances on an even keel. But we looked deeper, too: How does a finance team influence the broader business? Does it educate, help, and consult with the business at large?
All three teams exhibited a stellar ability to break out of the backroom, operating right at the front line. Let’s zoom in on our three finalists, presented in alphabetical order:
Creative England deals with public money, so accountability is crucial. The judges praised the team’s project-based approach, with finance at the heart of its investment process.
This team continually looks to challenge the status quo. It seeks continuous improvements by looking at the details and uses smart technology to free up time where it can. And by freeing up time, it is able to develop commercial initiatives to add value to the business and support decision-making.
The creative companies it invests in enjoy a survival rate of 83% after three years – impressive compared to the average survival rate in this sector of 66%. This is a sign of its due diligence and the financial controls it puts in place.
The judges felt it was significant that the team had managed to save the business £250,000 over the past year by advising operational teams on travel and overheads. It also acted on feedback from the board to develop relevant reports, including a dashboard of equity and loan portfolios, to drive strategic decision-making.
This business has 44 shareholders and a small finance team. The team plays a crucial role in the company’s growth aim: to become the leading UK challenger brand in condiments.
The judges praised the way it implements its objectives and key results and keeps things simple. It sets one company-wide qualitative test once a quarter and three quantitative results to see if the objective has been achieved. Sales and brand/marketing teams set similar objectives and results themselves, which tie into the company-wide goal.
Each week, the teams set four key tasks to achieve by the end of the week – if achieved, the company will be on track to hit its quarterly objective. Finance monitors the achievement of key results and measures the success and contribution. The judges felt this clarity is extremely useful for staff.
This team understands the value of automation to free up valuable time. It integrated stock tracking in the warehouse and office in order to monitor the marketing spend on free samples sent to retailers and other buyers.
Following a leadership team meeting, the finance team undertook a project to streamline its reporting of revenue streams. It “used a mixture of macros (in VBA) and re-engineering our accounting system to ensure that our reports were produced in our desired format.”
The judges said it’s clear that this company’s finance team is a vital part of a rapidly scaling business and plays an integral role in its organic growth and acquisition strategy.
The Perkbox finance team takes an inclusive approach to the rest of the business, driving budget responsibility to line managers. The judges praised its policy of putting dedicated analysts in each business area, with analyst feedback data supporting decision-making across the business.
By improving its own performance, the finance team is also helping the business by embedding its learnings in the company’s own employee benefits products. As the entry says: “We [the finance team] work closely with the product teams to embed a good financial process design in our new products. This allows us to bring efficiencies and provide a slicker customer experience in that area too.”
For more information on the Accounting Excellence awards visit our homepage.
About Francois Badenhorst
I'm AccountingWEB's business editor. Feel free to get in touch with comments, tips, scoops or irreverent banter.