Learn How Your Finance Department Can Inspire Growth

Almost all departments within all companies have an untapped ‘cognitive surplus’. A ‘cognitive surplus’ is the difference between the specific tasks an employee is assigned to do and what they actually are capable of doing – the actual versus the potential work.

It seems obvious, but to tap into it the ‘Cognitive Surplus’ can make a huge difference.

Companies such as 3M, Dell and Google have all implemented what is called ‘20% time’ or ‘innovation time’ – one day of their working week, dedicated to whatever projects they like… provided it benefits the company in some way.

Does it pay off?

One might wonder: Does it pay off? Well, at Google this has resulted in successful projects such as Gmail, Google News and AdSense, and according to ex-employee, Marissa Mayer, as many as half of Google innovations are a result of ‘20% time’.

But, while this approach might be considered something market leaders can utilise, many finance departments perceive they barely have the time to complete all the necessary work at present, never mind crafting new and innovative ideas, supporting procedures that aid business growth.

Yet finance departments really do need this ‘innovation time’.

In this slow and sometimes contracting economy, the next two years will be critical for businesses. It will fall largely on finance departments to walk the thin line between productive spending and managing a dwindling pool of resources. Additionally, with a host of new financial regulations coming into place in this two-year period, financial departments will be instrumental in helping businesses to remain compliant without losing their current standing.

This extra pressure and workload will make it difficult for finance to inspire new talent whilst holding on to the employees they already have. Finance professionals require stimulating challenges without being overloaded with extra work – they need ‘20% time’ to effectively tap-in to their expertise, and not have their time consumed by lengthy, repetitive tasks – that can be automated.

How to make time for tapping into ‘Cognitive Surplus’ in the finance department

One way in which businesses can help free up some of their finance department’s time to complete tasks, is by automating the tedious and time-consuming tasks that turn prospective talent off finance work. Reconciliation is one such set of tasks that finance professionals find particularly tiresome and time consuming. Fortunately it is now possible to automate account reconciliation, processing hundreds of thousands of transactions in just minutes rather than hours or potentially days.

While significantly reducing reconciliation errors, automation also frees up large chunks of time that could be dedicated to maintaining compliance, providing strategic insight in this tough economy.

This additional time could even become the rarely considered ‘innovation time’ your business needs to inspire growth and stay competitive.

Truck Financing Options Have Tightened Requiring Credit Strategy

Conventional truck financing poses serious challenges because of the economic conditions that face banks and independent truck operators. Diesel fuel has reached record highs of $4.50 or more, and the cost affects truck profitability more directly than any other expense. The rise of food prices destabilizes the market further, and industry-wide defaults have made bankers more skeptical about truck financing. The Kenworth brand, manufacturers of popular industrial trucks, has restricted internal financing approvals even more tightly than the lending market at large. Kenworth financing proved difficult to obtain at the best of times, and deteriorating market conditions now make the task nearly impossible. Kenworth has pulled funds and imposed substantial down payments of 10-30 percent.

Long-haul trucks face the strictest financing qualifications. Startup businesses must provide significant down payments and enjoy excellent credit to qualify. Established trucking companies without sterling credit might need to produce 10-20 percent down. Trucking entrepreneurs can maximize their chances of approval from any lender by finding the best deal possible. Repossessions, auctions, off-lease trucks, and private sellers can generate substantial risk/reward benefits that might make a deal more attractive to lenders. Truckers can suffer credit denials from numerous conditions such as slow payments, tax problems, keeping poor financial records, or getting poor FICO scores, which analyze overall credit worthiness.

Poor credit need not disqualify owners from financing options. Leveraging business or personal collateral can guarantee the sale and leads to loan approvals. The extra collateral allows lenders to bypass credit score criteria in the decision-making process. Heavy equipment, fully owned trucks, commercial and/or residential real estate, and co-signers can facilitate approvals. Outright equipment collateral can lead to fast approvals within a week. Real estate might take longer, often requiring two weeks or more to clear titles. Lease/purchase programs generate tax benefits, and the method might lead to quicker acceptance.

Regardless of what method truckers choose, they should obtain sufficient insurance coverage to protect their assets and livelihood. Full purchase-price coverage can offer peace of mind, and accident and health insurance will indemnify truckers for circumstances beyond their control. Credit life insurance, physical damage coverage, and other alternatives provide complete protection against all possibilities. Repossessions and off leases make trucks available at favorable terms for first-time buyers or established owners seeking to expand operations, including strict loans from the internal Kenworth financing department. Truck financing opportunities exist for those people willing to shop carefully and exploit all their options.

Aligning Sales, Services and Finance

Take any company – in any sector – and it is quite likely that important departments function independent of timely input from each other, though closely interrelated functionally. To streamline work processes and improve productivity, the Finance and Sales departments should be coordinated. If each has well-established processes in place and sticks to these, the required alignment and achievement of common goals will not happen. This drift is accelerated when these departments use standalone solutions for CRM and accounting. To get these disconnected systems into sync is a time-consuming task and the organization itself may be willing to let the drift continue rather than making a one-time effort towards alignment. In a professional services organization, the services team gets caught in the crossfire. Sales department sets over-optimistic targets and Finance strictly monitors and controls each dollar earned and spent.

Customers are also affected by the divide. The finance department may not know the status of a sale or outcome of a customer meeting and may chase debts/issue invoices inappropriately. The service department may not be aware of issues raised by customers to other departments. Customers reporting issues may not receive good service if the departments are uncoordinated. In such situations, the company is damaging its customer relationships, operating inefficiently, impacting cash flow and jeopardizing future bookings.

One Solution for All

The solution to this issue is ensuring that all the departments in the organization work together towards a common goal. The customer’s needs, issues and most importantly cash flow cannot take a backseat because of a lack of internal coordination.

All the affected departments must work together towards resolving this problem. They must ensure that all the major processes are aligned and that personnel are aware of the overall scheme of things. Organizations can get the much-needed sync by switching to a common cloud platform for the sales, services and finance departments. By working from connected CRM that shares the same data as the financial application and professional services automation tool, errors and discrepancies that inevitably occur when separate systems are used can be eliminated. Manual efforts are dramatically minimized, hence reducing the work of the sales team and the risk of making mistakes. A common platform is also ideal for monitoring whether a customer is credit worthy. The sales team can consult the credit background before selecting prospects or deciding what discounts or deals to agree with customers. They can view the status of the credits and also help with collections. In this way, all the three departments, sales, services and finance, complement each other.

Collaborative Tools

Organizations can also benefit from the collaborative tools available with cloud platforms like Force.com from Salesforce.com. Built in business collaboration tools like Chatter provide a stream of business alerts and conversation, which dramatically helps to improve intra-organizational communication. This real-time collaboration is very important for all the departments of the organization to have visibility about every aspect of the business relevant to them in real-time.

Involving Finance in Six Sigma – Do it Early and Fully

By involving the finance department from the early stages of the project, you can have appropriate data at all stages to ensure that the project is on the right track.

Involvement of Finance

Throughout the project phases, the finance department works with the various teams to identify the benefits of the project. Teams benefit from the additional input by the finance expert’s participation. They agree upon the calculation of benefits upon implementation of the project. Before transferring the ownership of the solution to the process owner, a second review of the expected benefits is done using the gathered data.

The Belts do not have to take care of this function, which would be done by the finance personnel. After the project is executed, a final review is done to verify if the expected benefits are being achieved. If there is a deviation, it is discussed with the process owner, the reason for its failure identified, and areas of improvement marked. 12 months after the implementation, the company finds and reports the benefits. After that, a baseline is calculated using the improved key performance indicator (KPI).

Only those benefits beyond that baseline are reported. If there seems to be any improvements needed, a new Six Sigma project is generated. Some benefits are also achieved during the DMAIC process. All benefits, as well as key performance indicators, are reported every month in a prescribed format.

The KPIs that need to be improved are then taken care of. A comparison of both with the target set is done to find any improvements.

Here are some of the advantages of full involvement of the finance department:

Reliability

The finance department will be calculating the benefits honestly. There will be no misrepresentation of the data for the sake of records. Rather, they will report correctly, as savings and cost reductions are a matter of importance for them.

With the finance department involved in finance activities, the responsible team would be free to concentrate on improvements expected of them.

Standardization

Standardizing the calculation of benefits is constructive. By have consistency in the data generated for comparison, the results can be reliable and meaningful.

Incorrect Benefits

A process owner calculating the benefits may not be considering the effect that the process has outside the project. This effect has to be calculated for the overall success and profit of the organization.

Audits

Like other financial activities, the project results and benefits are also available to internal audits and other reviews of benefits.

Budgets

A successful process improvement should be included in the next financial budget. This will ensure that the improved KPIs become a permanent part of the system.

Proactive Finance

As a member of the finance department will be involved in the project, they will be in a better position to understand the business, and the factors and results influenced by the project.

The department will have a proactive approach to overall business improvement.

Accountability

The finance department is responsible for calculating and reporting the benefits of the process changes at various departments in the organization. By using their financial knowledge, they are in a position to ensure that the Six Sigma project has accomplished more than the previous year.

Six Sigma projects can be successful if implementation is linked with quantifiable financial results. By involving the finance department fully from the beginning, companies can ensure that project becomes successful financially.

Managing Responsibilities In Departments

All organizations, including businesses, have managers. They may not be called managers because there are some other titles which can be used such as, leader, director and so on. No matter what is the title, the task is the same or much of similar and no matter what is the organization. If you are a student in a school or if you are in full employment, the managers of your organization will have to fulfill a few tasks. These tasks are to plan, organize, co-ordinate, command and control In other words, people also say that managers “POCCC.”Most businesses have departments organized on “functional lines.” This explains a functional structure of the business.

These departments are Human Resource department, Marketing Department, Accounting and Finance Department and Production Department. Every department plays its role in running a stupendous business.
• HUMAN RESOURCE DEPARTMENT:

Managers in this department are responsible for, recruiting staff, preparing job descriptions, planning and implementing staff training programs, keeping staff records, disciplining and warning staff if necessary, negotiating with workers, interviewing and selecting staff and predicting number of employees needed for the business. This department is very vital for the business in many ways. With the increasing cost of recruiting staff, it is necessary for the HR Department to manage people firmly.

• MAKRETING DEPARTMENT:

The managers in this department will be responsible fore, market research into existing or new markets in order to identify new market opportunities, planning new products, working closely with Research and Development Department and Production Department, deciding on the best marketing mix product and also make sure that this is put into effect and also keeping records of the sales of the each product. Without effective marketing, it is not possible for a business to survive. The marketing managers play a key role in keeping in contact with the consumer to those products will meet their need.

• ACCOUTNING AND FINANCE DEPARTMENT:

The main responsibilities of the managers include, recording all financial transactions with other firms, collecting all of this data together and presenting it in the form of regular accounts, preparing budgets for whole of the business, keeping control of the cash flow, deciding on the most appropriate methods of finance and analyzing the profitability of new investment projects.

Focus On The Walk Not The Talk

Leading by example is precisely why leaders focus on always doing exactly what they say. Your actions should be aligned with what you are saying. Although, it’s tough to practice what you preach; you need to model the change in behavior you want to see. The core of focusing on the walk not the talk is to be the change you want to see in others.

In other words, you need to assess your own behavior first before communicating these changes to your fellow because changing habitual practices isn’t as easy as simply making a choice. It’s very important for a leader to be consistent with their actions. The single most essential component to effective management is trust. Everything will go out the window when trust is lost. And in the eyes of most people, a lie is a lie.

Too often leaders want to run and/or hide from their mistakes. Don’t make excuses, but be clear that you recognize where you went wrong. Being sorry isn’t admission of defeat. It revisits the human aspect that people screw up for a superfluity of reasons. You are not an exemption. It is a great start to admit your mistakes and apologize. However, be clear in asking for support in moving forward. If you choose to ignore it than acknowledge it, don’t be flabbergasted if things don’t get better.

Show people what the organizational values mean through your behaviors. People learn by observing their leaders. You must focus on your walk more than your talk. Bringing values to life is a behavioral issue because you are a role model for your people. Your values can be seen in terms of your behavior, where you go, what you say, how you spend your time and how you deal with problems and crises.

Actions speak louder than words. Everyone has lapses. Make sure that you acknowledge whenever you find yourself off track and in breach of values. When problems catch you off-balance, your immediate reaction might be contrary to your personal or organizational values system. Remember, subordinates follow your lead.

As a leader, you need to help your people succeed. You must smooth the way for them because there are always impediments and obstacles to achieving goals. You must identify these barriers, remove or lessen them, or show your members how to deal with those that can’t be removed.

People desire for recognition. The main reason why people leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. Recognizing a worthwhile behavior is the single best way to ensure organizational commitment. Although none of us would work for less money than we feel is fair, money alone isn’t enough for encouraging long-term high performance. People cannot be motivated when they feel that what they are asked to do is worthless or contrary to their fundamental values.

Most of us want to feel that we are valued as people, not just mere staff. We want to be respected for who we are, not simply for what we do. We also respond positively to be with others who share similar beliefs and with whom we can build relationships. That’s the very reason why we need to focus on the walk not the talk.