Ep. 19: Ben Wann - Business Partnering
Ben Wann, CMA, MBA, CPA, Operational Controller for Groupe SAVENCIA comes to Count Me In to talk about business partnering. Ben is a lifelong learner who is focused on finding dynamic solutions and championing change in an organization. He is also the Co-Founder of The Numbers Guys, a digitally based organization with the goal of removing the noise around financial mastery. In this episode, he talks about the future of the finance profession and what it means to be a strategic business partner for your organization. Ben has authored courses on Excel, Business Process Improvement, among others, and has written numerous articles on various areas of finance. He is a focused, analytical leader who is focused on measuring what matters most!
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/ben-wann/
The Numbers Guys:
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Hey everyone. Thanks for joining us again on Count Me In. I am Mitch Roshong and my cohost is Adam Larson. Our guest for today's episode is Ben Wann. Ben is a CMA, MBA and CPA and is currently pursuing his CSCA specialty credential. He is an operational finance leader and a finance business partner who came to talk to us at IMA about the future of finance. Adam, you interviewed Ben for this episode. Give us a quick preview of what Ben shared.
Ben is a passionate leader dedicated to process improvement, finding dynamic solutions and is constantly working to learn and improve his own skill sets. In our conversation, Ben explains what it means to be a true business partner and talks about how these strategic leaders can champion change for the finance function of their organizations. He is all about opportunity and growth and I think he will give our listeners a lot of actionable insight. So now let's hear Ben Wann's perspective on the future of finance.
What is finance business partnering and why should we care?
Finance business partner- it's the mindset that an accounting professional doesn't just do accounting. We're not just reporting the numbers, looking back, we're integrated with the business and we're creating value, an active partnership with the operation side of supply chain management. You know, we're growing, we're and adding value wherever we can.
I recently saw that you wrote an article entitled the business is to soccer to help explain this philosophy. Could you maybe give a high level overview of your analogy?
Yeah, yeah. I had a fun writing this one. So the analogy that I used is that for most of the time that accountants have been around, we've been in the goalkeeper position, right? We're making sure nothing gets past us and in my analogy, I refer to, you know, like report and mistakes and all sorts of data issues that we're constantly trying to monitor. But now with different technology, we have the opportunity to play a different position on the team. And that's the midfielder. And my main argument in the article is that finance is now the mid-fielder and that's position that can fluidly move from defense to offense. So then making sure that businesses numbers are sound, and then then moving forward and helping to create some winning opportunities and some goals by providing, you know, the right insights at the right time.
I think that's a great analogy, you know, so in line with that, you know, what's some advice that you would have for someone who wanted to champion the change in the finance area? They wanted to go from the goalie to the midfielder?
Yeah, that's a question a lot of people are asking. I think that the big thing that you have to do is start to increase what I would call your orbit of awareness. So you have to go out there and read about what other finance business partners are doing so that you know what you have to do. A lot of times it's too easy for us are heads down and get siloed. But if you look around, you can find out what other people are doing to advance themselves. You know, sometimes it's taking leadership training courses. I learned how to build your influence, sometimes just become a more technically strong. But there's, there's a lot of people who've done it already and just no one who to talk to, like who's been in a similar situation as you are now. That's a great place to start.
You know, there was another article don't ask permission if you want to change the world. You know, there's a particular line that sticks out to me, but you know, one that I'll mention in a moment, but, you know, I was hoping you could explain your ending. What was your ending message in that article?
The ending message for me for this article is that you can't wait for opportunity and if you want to advance in accounting, you know, opportunity doesn't knock, build the door. I guess the overall premise too is, you know, don't ask permission to, to make a change. That makes sense and I've kind of built my career around this and I had a lot of success around it. So that's why I'm advocating for this message of probably professionals who are looking to grow and advance in their own careers.
And you know, a particular line I wanted to kind of point out was, you know, the problem here is that my colleague saw a roadblocks instead of opportunities. Could you maybe comment on that a little bit?
Yeah, It's, it's too easy to get stuck, right? So I went to, my colleague had a few suggestions on how she had this one report where it was done weekly. So we had 52 separate weeks of reports instead of one big report that's more comprehensive, you know, and what she got held up on is that she didn't think she had the ability to make these changes. I don't know if it she didn't think she had the technical ability or it was outside the scope of her work. But yeah, so it takes some time to work through these things. But I would suggest trying, just try and get some feedback from maybe your manager, your peers to see if something's working. That's the best way to start seeing roadblocks as opportunity.
So what do you think is on the horizon for the future of finance?
For me, I have been, in my career, I've seen the same companies struggle with the same problem and I think that we're getting closer to a solution. And the big problem for many organizations is that we spent way too much time trying to get the data out of the system and provide some sort of analysis. Usually when we're done it's taken too much time and it's not comprehensive or timely enough to solve the problems of business and answer the main questions. And what technology's doing now is it's providing a lot of low costs and then what's called low code, no code solutions that is really going to be key to putting the tools into more hands.The democratization of data is a term that's been going around. So more people are being able to access the data. and it's easier, you can't break the system. So I think that's going to be a huge thing, if finance wants to move forward, that we take these steps sequentially, right? We stop spending 70% of our time doing non-value-added activities and we get the building blocks in place.
So what advice would you give to somebody you know, who's, let's say they're, you know, the higher ups in the company are chasing whatever the flavor of the month is, whether it's blockchain or AI or whatever that key term is that they're jumping on and saying you have to do, you know, what advice would you give to the people who are actually doing the work to say, hey, how do you help them slow their horses or get them to realize that maybe we shouldn't jump in so quickly?
That's also a good question. I think the key is that the finance leaders need to talk to their teams to see how they're spending their time and to understand what they need to be able to do to do their jobs better. A lot of times, you know, these employee engagement surveys show that when employees had the right tools in their hands, they're more confident that they can do that job at hand. And you know, I think if employers talk to their employees, they would see it. These things are critical and it'd be really a value add to the business and that'd be my suggestion. Talk to your teams, see what they need and help them get the tools to do the job more effectively.
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