The most underrated skill in the professional world

Imagine working 6 months with your team on a project.

After 6 months, today is the big day! It’s the day of your presentation to the Board.

You have your deck of slides ready, you worked until 11pm the day before (you wanted to make sure that your slides have the best design and that you have an excellent wording). Now it’s your time to shine and you have 20 minutes to convince the board to invest in your project.

You go through the slides (of which you are really proud of) but after a couple of minutes you feel the interest and the attention of the room going down. You find yourself repeating several times the same information because your audience looks puzzled…

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Now you start thinking, what is wrong? Why are they not excited by your project? Why don’t they see how hard you and your team worked over the last 6 months?

Ultimately, the board’s decision comes: “We are sorry but this is not a priority. We can not approve your project”

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Actually, you are not even surprised based on the way your audience acted over the last 20 minutes.

This has to be frustrating, right?

And why? Not because of your work ethics or the quality of your work.

So why? This is simple but overlooked by many of us: your speech and yourself were not convincing enough. You underestimated the importance of public speaking skills to win the positive opinion of your board.

Why I wanted to improve my public speaking skills

I have experienced this in different occasions. In many situations, a finance professional may not articulate well the story behind the figures, no matter how fancy a spreadsheet looks.

This is why, I made one of my priorities to change that. And the change started last week with the help of Ursula Witthöft. She coached me during one day to improve my public speaking skills. It was the best training I had since more than 5 years.

This the reason why I strongly advise you to take a course on public speaking. I wish I would have done it before. But don’t take the advice from me, just see what Warren Buffet has to say:

“If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett told business students that public speaking is the most valuable skill they can learn.

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It’s one of the most underrated skills for professionals. Moreover, it’s rarely taught, neither in the professional world nor at school. But it brings you so much value!

10 things I learned about public speaking during my training:

To close this topic, I wanted to share with you, 10 things I learned about public speaking during my training:

 

  1. Public speaking can be learned by everyone.
  2. The way you look, stand, act and speak is responsible for more than 90% of how your audience perceives your message. Your content counts for less than 10%!
  3. Work on your handshake: put all the chances on your side to make that first good impression.
  4. Work on your posture, your eye contact and the way you walk to win the room (check online for exercise to improve posture)
  5. Activate your body to have a clear mind and all your body aligned (Ursula has a really good exercise called “The Nut” (Die Nuss in German) to activate the core body before a presentation)
  6. Work on your articulation and your tone (your speaking muscles need a bit of stretching and practice, but you see really quickly an improvement
  7. To speak louder, visualize yourself as if you were talking to somebody at the end of the room.
  8. Think about where you place your hands and how you stand (hands should be visible, open and you should be on your two feet)
  9. Imagine the audience being a group of friends and that you are going to tell them a story. You should speak in a natural way.
  10. Get excited about your topic: if you are not excited, who is going to create the excitement in your audience?

Last lesson learned (and for me the most important one): invest time to prepare your performance not just your slides. Don’t only rely on Powerpoint!!!

Top qualities for Finance Professionals

Few weeks ago, I participated in a Q&A session with students from my business school about jobs in Finance. One of the most asked questions was about the qualities needed to be a good finance professional.

In this article, I share my view on the key skills and qualities to have when you want to work in Finance and how they bring value to your organization:

  • Accounting knowledge: knowing how to read financial statements and how the business activity is translated in the general ledger of a company, should be mandatory for every individual wanting to have a career in finance. This is even true for people wanting to go in the direction of financial planning and controlling. For example, one needs to understand how the capitalization of assets like WIP or a change in a provision can have a direct impact on the P&L.
  • Business acumen: finance is involved with many different departments and through different types of operation. Being able to understand these transactions and their financial treatment is what is expected from you by your business partners. For example, you need to be able to evaluate how delays of deliveries to a client can affect your revenues (this is the case if you have a liquidated damages clause in your terms and conditions with your client).
  • Analytical skills: the amount of data and information is constantly increasing. As a finance professional, this translates into a need for you to be better at understanding the big picture and identify what this information means for your organization. The better you can digest it and the faster you can communicate actionable knowledge to your peers and partners the more valuable you are for your company.
  • Business partnering: in a company, finance is a support function. What does it mean for you? You should see yourself as a service provider and you should see your business partners from other departments as your (internal) clients. Ask for feedback and put yourself in your business partner’s shoes to optimize the way your provide the best service you can.
  • IT and Data literacy: transformation is everywhere and digitalization plays a significant role to achieve this transformation. Today mastering Excel and knowing how to use an ERP is a minimum… but being able to program RPA (robotic process automation) software or create an automated report from a BI tool will give you much more opportunities and will help you to secure a position in innovative finance teams.

Let me know in the comments which qualities do you think are the most important for finance professionals.

Do not hesitate to share this article to somebody starting his career in finance.

Thank you for reading

Nicolas Boucher

What I learned about Cash

Cash is King but do you know your King?

In this article I will explain you what I learned about Cash this year and what you can use to improve your cash management.

Like most of the Finance Managers, I bring a specific focus on reaching our targets and report on how well (or bad) we do in comparison with these targets.

Most of the financial KPIs are P&L oriented. Therefore Balance Sheet items like Inventory, Receivables and Payables are not the first priority… but play a significant role in the evolution of your cash balance!

This year I learned how to monitor a cash balance, how to plan the cash flows and which action plan can you implement to obtain results.

 

How to monitor your cash balance?

You need to understand your cash flow. From a theory point of view, you have two methods: the direct and the indirect methods

The direct method uses actual cash inflows and outflows from the company’s operations (think about looking about your bank statement).

The indirect method requires more accounting knowledge as it starts from the net income and involves different adjustment from P&L non cash items and balance sheet movement with cash items.

As a financial manager you need to understand and be comfortable with both methods. Most probably the indirect method will be used for reporting as this is the one which has more consistency and can be mapped with the other types of reporting (P&L and Balance Sheet). Here is a link to help you improve your understanding about the indirect method for cash flow statement.

https://www.myaccountingcourse.com/financial-statements/cash-flow-statement-indirect-method

Understanding the impact of the different components of your cash flow statement should be your priority to monitor your cash balance and as finance manager it should also be your responsibility.

 

How to plan your cash flows?

In theory it is easy: plan your cash in and your cash out.

In reality this is more complex.

For your cash in, you need to use your revenue forecast combined with the payment conditions in place with your clients. If your are in an industry where there are advance and milestones payments not related to revenue, this brings another layer of complexity but can not be forgotten. I recommend using the 80/20 rule and focusing on the main projects/clients to get a quick estimation of your cash in.

Planning your Cash out can be easier thanks to the recurring costs having a monthly frequency with short payment terms (personal costs, utilities, recurring raw material). For non recurring expenses, you need to focus on the biggest item and use the information from your procurement team to plan when a purchase order will be fullfilled and with which payment terms.

Finally you need to be aware of exceptional events like Financing or Investing which have significant impacts on your cash balance. Considering your role as finance manager, you should already be involved in these transactions or at least the significant ones.

 

Which action plan can you implement to improve your cash?

  • Communicate, explain, repeat
  • Put it at the top of the management agenda
  • Breakdown the action plans specific to each department:
  • Sales: improve payment terms with clients (negotiate down payments and short payment terms), accelerate the closing of deals
  • Procurement: avoid down payment and push the payment terms as far as possible
  • Project: compute and monitor the cash balance of each project
  • Collection of overdues: automate the dunning process and escalate significant issues to management and key accounts/project managers
  • Inventory: monitor level of inventory against forecasted sales, reduce lead time, optimise stock buffer, reduce delays
  • Finance: automate reporting, improve understanding of cash flow statements, bring transparency to management and key business partners, escalate collection issues, use factoring to accelerate cash payment from receivables
  • Management: translate cash objectives in team and individual objectives, put cash in the management reviews agenda, follow up cash as KPI, delay investments, optimise the process between a cash milestone achievement and the issuance of the debit note to your client

 

Let me know in the comments what do you do in your company to improve your cash flows and how do you monitor it.

Thank you for reading.

Nicolas

Note: my contribution is written in a personal capacity

How to optimize your LinkedIn summary? 5 tips and examples.

Nowadays, everybody has a LinkedIn profile which replicates accurately their resume. But how can you differentiate yourself from the others?

You will notice that few people have a summary on their page. Therefore, one of the best way to stand out from the crowd is to write and customize your summary.

Here at High Performers, we give you 5 tips to guide you to optimize and improve your LinkedIn profile summary.

1) What should you write in your LinkedIn profile summary?

There is many way to get the best out of your LinkedIn profile summary. You could do so by doing the following:
– List key words about your expertise, experience, skills and education to maximise your LinkedIn ranking for search by recruiters
-Write about yourself, explain your journey in the professional world and what makes you a valuable asset
-Show your creativity! Attach a creative presentation of you, tell a story, show yourself from a different angle and leave a special impression

2) How to stand out?

You already made the first step by deciding to write your summary! Now what to write to make your LinkedIn Profile summary special?
We recommend to explain here what drives you, what do you stand for, what is your mind-set, your objectives but most of all be genuine.
You can inspire yourself from the great examples that we have listed below, but also from your LinkedIn network. There are great LinkedIn profile summaries out there!
Finally, you can stand out by a call to action at the end of your summary. This call to action can be an invitation to connect, to help or to share a story.

3) Describe your mind set and your main skills

The summary is an opportunity to use the key words which will help you to improve your LinkedIn Profile ranking. But be
You can also list special skills and knowledge that are not traditional in your industry and demonstrate why this is an asset to you.
Being able to show your mind set is one of the great advantage of the LinkedIn Profile summary and that could make the difference in the eyes of a potential recruiter!

4) Attach a photo, a presentation or a video

Did you know that you could attach documents in your summary? That’s maybe the best tip to stand out make your profile come alive with some examples of your work or maybe a presentation of you! You can attach many different types of documents:

  • Video
  • Images
  • Audio
  • Presentations
  • Slide Shows
  • And More!

5) Last but not least, talk about your personality and your personal interests

One of the best way to connect with a potential recruiter can be through personal interests. Actually, doing so will increase your likeability factor. The summary is an excellent opportunity to let you share what you love doing, what you are doing outside of work, what you are currently reading and maybe explain what is special about you and what your friend and family love in you.

If you want to read more about the topic, we recommend you the post “7 LinkedIn Profile Summaries That We Love (And How to Boost Your Own)” from the official LinkedIn blog.

Edit May 2020: Add a banner with a call to action or a description of your profile. Check mine here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bouchernicolas/

Finally, as a bonus, we have attached here some examples of the best LinkedIn profile summaries.

LinkedIn Profile summary “short version”

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LinkedIn Profile summary with call to action

Bildergebnis fĂĽr linkedin profile summary best

LinkedIn Profile summary “out of the box”

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If you liked this post it will mean a lot to me if you share it around. You can also leave a comment below to contribute with your ideas.

Learn new Excel tricks and tips

Even if you think that you master Excel, I recommend you to visit the website of John Macdougall “How to Excel” where you will certainly learn something which will help your productivity (and will give you the possibility to impress your colleagues thanks to your new Excel skills).

Here is one of the best post where he presents a compilation of the best Excel tips and tricks ranging from beginner to pro that will save you time and make you more productive: Amazing Excel Tips and Tricks

Here is just one new trick that I learn today:Excel tricks and tips

If you right click and drag a range instead of the usual left click, then you’ll able to do more than just cut and paste. A whole menu of advanced options is available.

  • Move Here – This will cut and paste the selection to the new location.
  • Copy Here – This will copy and paste the selection to the new location.
  • Copy Here as Values Only – This will copy and paste only the values to the new location.
  • Copy Here as Formats Only – This will copy and paste only the formatting to the new location.
  • Link Here – This will create a simple cell reference formula to the old location in the new location.
  • Create Hyperlink Here – This will create a hyperlinked cell reference to the old location in the new location.
  • Shift Down and Copy – This will copy and paste the selection to the new location and shift down any previous data in the new location.
  • Shift Right and Copy – This will copy and paste the selection to the new location and shift right any previous data in the new location.
  • Shift Down and Move – This will cut and paste the selection to the new location and shift down any previous data in the new location.
  • Shift Right and Move – This will cut and paste the selection to the new location and shift right any previous data in the new location
  • Cancel – This will cancel the action.

Are Controllers the Data Scientist of Finance?

I find that Data Scientist and Controllers share a lot of similarities in their work. We could even say that the controllers are the Data Scientists of Finance.

I found valuable insights in the article “What The Data Scientists Really Do” from the Harvard Business Review which confirm the similarities.

Here are the parts I found the most interesting in this article:

Sure, machine learning and deep learning are powerful techniques with important applications, but, as with all buzz terms, a healthy skepticism is in order. Nearly all of my guests understand that working data scientists make their daily bread and butter through data collection and data cleaning; building dashboards and reports; data visualization; statistical inference; communicating results to key stakeholders; and convincing decision makers of their results.

The skills data scientists need are evolving (and experience with deep learning isn’t the most important one). „Which skill is more important for a data scientist: the ability to use the most sophisticated deep learning models, or the ability to make good PowerPoint slides?” He made a case for the latter, since communicating results remains a critical part of data work.

One result of this rapid change is that the vast majority of my guests tell us that the key skills for data scientists are not the abilities to build and use deep-learning infrastructures. Instead they are the abilities to learn on the fly and to communicate well in order to answer business questions, explaining complex results to nontechnical stakeholders. Aspiring data scientists, then, should focus less on techniques than on questions. New techniques come and go, but critical thinking and quantitative, domain-specific skills will remain in demand.

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