Ep. 30: Fatima Mamod - Business Savvy Accountant

Fatima Mamod CA (SA), CIA, is an individual who is curious by nature, passionate and driven. She has an entrepreneurial, audit and consulting background with a proven track record off adding value and making a high impact within the businesses. Fatima focuses on people development and serves as a business coach, career coach, and public speaker to help business professionals understand the importance of accounting and accounting professionals understand the importance of being business savvy. In this episode of Count Me In, she defines who she calls a "business savvy accountant" and explains how they can function in all areas of business. Fatima provides plenty of practical examples and shares her own personal stories to help listeners truly understand the value of these combined skills. Download, listen, rate, and review!

Contact Fatima: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fatima-mamod-ca-sa-cia-60837876/

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Adam: (00:05)
Hey everyone. Welcome back for episode 30 of Count Me In. I'm your host, Adam Larson and our featured expert guests for today's conversation is Fatima Mamod. Fatima is a chartered accountant, entrepreneur and a business coach from Johannesburg, South Africa who joined Mitch for a conversation on what she calls the business savvy accountant. Let's tune in now to learn more. 
 
Mitch: (00:31)
In your opinion, what skills are most necessary for an accountant to be successful in today's business environment? 
 
Fatima: (00:38)
Okay, so I think the most important thing, I mean we are accountants by profession is definitely the technical skills. I think that goes without saying. But on top of that is to have a very important elements I think. And the second one is business acumen. And when I say business acumen, you know, I really mean where you can tie in your technical skills with helping the business achieve what that moods to. So it's not just knowing or understanding how the business works, what's the dentist process? It's actually tying in your technical skills with what the business needs. And I'll use the data's process as an example. So we all know you need to do a data's check in the beginning. You need to ensure that they have a credit limit. You've done the credit fitting, etc. Now as the accountant, you know that what I've realized is simple things like this, sometimes within the company, people don't understand the importance of it until you're way down the line and you're not getting the money from your datas. So what I find is communicate, talk and let your sales people know why it's so important and how this impact and fix them. And that's a difference between understanding the business and business acumen which is really important. and then the third thing that too, we are never taught as accountants I would say, is communication skills. We understand numbers. We never thought how to present those numbers through a story that business leaders can actually understand. I mean, how many meetings have we been in where the accountant is just asked to then present the numbers as he or she is going through it. No one's actively engaging. They either busy with something else because we don't present our numbers in a way that tells a story of the business. And I find it really useful and what has helped me a lot and I get very great feedback, is when I present with telling a story and I do that by talking to my colleagues beforehand saying, hey, I see our sales that actually up this month. That's great. What was the reason behind the, it's how did it go? Was it customer A and tying that in. So when you're presenting the people you've spoken to actually feel like they part of your presentation, they feel like you're presenting a part of this story. And that's really key. 
 
Mitch: (03:01)
Now, how do these different skills change or adapt when you're looking to be an entrepreneur? 
 
Fatima: (03:08)
So what are the three realized and running three, four businesses of my own and then successfully selling them off my technical skills. As much as I thought they would either be center around my entrepreneurship journey, they were not. And I think that's a big common mistake that we make as accountants. We feel that because you know, I'm a charted accountant, I know what I need to do with the technical skills at the center know I find that your business acumen, your business knowledge is the most important thing when you start your entrepreneurship journey. They, you know who you do business with, the client you get into, they don't really care whether you're a charted accountant video to qualify the content by proficient, they have a problem and they need to understand that you as a person have the skillset to solve that problem for them. And they may not even realize that it's an accounting problem. So you need to be able to, again, the business actually meant to show them that the skillset that you have actually matches, and this goes with any business where they use starting their retail businesses as well. Customers and consumers will come in with a certain need and you have to be able to identify and resolve it for them. The second thing that I find is really important is on the leadership side, we learn accounting, learn everything on that but none of us had really thought leadership skills. So in that post communication, networking, networking is, you know, a baby that everyone uses. Attend networking sessions. Why don't you meet with this one? But how do you it yet? What do you go and what do you want to get out of attending things? Because time is key on skins, 50% of your time attending different events and you don't get any leads from me. So it's your leadership, your communication. When you attend these sessions, who are you targeting? Who are you going to meet? How are you going to start the conversation with them? Need to think all these things through before you go in. And the last bit is you need to identify within your mentors who's the right people to help you unlock the path that you need forward. Because an entrepreneurship journey can get very lonely and you cannot really resolve everything on your own. So you need to understand that it's certain points you will need help. And who are the people you can turn to for help. I remember when I started my practice the first three months I had not one client, not one lead. And that was really because I sat and I said, you know, I'm qualified to offer service. This is what I'm worth and I'm not willing to talk, negotiate or even understand what's happening in the market. And three months with not a client and then realize, you know what, entrepreneurship doesn't work like this. 
 
Mitch: (06:03)
So you've used the word business acumen a few times now, but in preparing for our call, I know you referenced business savvy quite a few times, so I'm curious, what does an accountant who is business savvy actually look like? 
 
Fatima: (06:17)
So I could find an accountant who is business savvy, what do they look like? That's the person who has a seat at every table with business decisions that are being made with strategies in discuss. Your opinions are actually in us and you have people who make these decisions within the organization come through and saying, Hey, this is what we're thinking. we heard your presentation or you really helped us on this exercise. What are your thoughts around this? How do you think we should approach this new contract that we are looking at signing with this customer? Do you want to join him in the meeting? And then when you join in, in the meeting, it's having a voice on the table that's actually hurt. And that's when you realize that your business acumen has translated to becoming business savvy. People now know what you bring to the table and people can see you as beyond just being the accountant in the business. 
 
Mitch: (07:16)
Many of our listeners are more corporate accountants. So I'm curious, how does a business savvy accountant function in the corporate world as opposed to the entrepreneurial environment? 
 
Fatima: (07:29)
So the key difference in the key item that's different in the two, and I've had seats on both sides. When you're in the corporate world, you know that those deals are around, you know that customers are, they, you've got a client base, you've got that support structure that I mentioned that in an entrepreneurship journey it can get very lonely. In a corporate world who know you've got a team of colleagues, whether it's your peers, whether it's your seniors or with the subordinates you work with and who each one has their item that they work on. And then as a business savvy accountant, you would work on identifying them and bringing everything together through the numbers that would tell a story. And in an entrepreneurship journey there'd be all the inner work which really ends with you. So who need to be able to then find the pieces within your network that can help you. Whereas in a corporate world, you know, they sitting in the office with you and then you work on building the relationships, you work on getting the people together, you work on playing the part that you know what you can collect the information and help them to be able to get what it is that they want. Because when they get what they want, then you also ultimately achieve what you need to. 
 
Mitch: (08:45)
And what advice do you have as far as professional development to help guide accounting and finance professionals through their careers and into these successful business endeavors? 
 
Fatima: (08:56)
I think the first thing that's really important is, you know, sit and listen, observe, understand what it is that each person is doing and what it is that they need to achieve. Because once you understand that and once you miss it, you don't have so much of information that then you can use to translate and different needs that you can help to follow. And as you help others achieve what it is that they need to, you'd be able to progress your career as a business savvy accountants. And you know, I mean in the beginning when I never had a seat at the table, what I would do is to say, Hey, I hear there's a meeting on about this. I'm quite interested, could I come in to listen and see what's going on? I'm asked because until we are not known as the person to come to, you will need to show that you are willing to listen. You're willing to sit in and help them solve their problems. That could be the first one. Second is we don't invest enough time as accountants in our softer skills that comes from communication, leadership, empathy, and the way I would industry is evolving, I would call it evolution. We need to learn how to evolve with it. And that comes with understanding the softer skills. How do you listen to people that they actually feel like they heard and that they want you to help them solve a problem? How do you help people who are your subordinates to grow and progress? You know, how do you help solve business problems because you've got the number skill. But if you don't have the skills to take that knowledge and work with the business leaders and how to put in a solution that's into and not just say this is the process, this is what you need to do when you're going to follow it. But to say, Hey, this is the process. I understand we need to meet driven new targets of $10 million. I understand where currently it's six in the customer that you're looking at doesn't qualify based on the policy that we have. So I'm thinking how about we structured it in this way? So you're using your technical skills and then you mixing that in with business knowledge and communication to help everyone achieve what it is that they need to do. So definitely invest in soft skills. And the last point is getting into a lot of us work in terms of finding mentors within the business or you're appointed someone, which is great, but what I find really works is having a mean tool that's not within the business because sometimes you need to speak to someone who's not invested within the business, who has an overall external view so they can help you see the blind spots that possibly you or your mentor within the organization, obviously not. 
 
Mitch: (11:51)
You have very practical for many of these questions. So I'm curious a little bit about what your background has been. I know ultimately you're in business coaching and entrepreneurship, but how did you get to this point and what did you learn along the way to offer this kind of insight? 
 
Fatima: (12:08)
Yeah, so I started my journey you know, did my articles and the gene was always to be an audit partner. And as you go through the stages and as you take off, you know, okay, I'm the, you sit in, you realize that this really isn't what's giving me a deep sense of satisfaction in terms of what I'm doing. And that then evolved into every stage that's I've taken from being in the environment. I've been had the need to run my own business. And I'm so grateful that I did that because that's what helped me. I mean, till today I have my colleagues and ex colleagues who say, but the other finance controllers, they don't see things the way you do. Or please speak to your peers or speak to your boss. They don't understand. And I think that the reason why I understand is because I actually sat in their position as an entrepreneur saying, if I don't sign this deal that needs that, there's no money for me at month into to pay the bills. And that makes you realize that you need to go a bit further. The process is not the be all and end all. You need to abide by that. And that thing evolved. You know, once you've done with that. And when I ran my businesses, what I missed was the big corporate challenges because as a small business you don't have that. And the opportunity came for me to again get into business and I really want to make a difference on what the business to achieve it. And what got me into coaching and mentioned is the sheer happiness I get by helping people because they've got the skillset they know how to, they just don't know what it is that they need to do within the environment that they're in to unlock what they have to. And to be able to, through my experience, help them to say, why don't you approach it in this way or have you thought about this? And the most important thing is not to say you should do this or I think you should do that. Have you thought about this? Why about thinking of doing it in this way? Always phasing it in that way. And really Mitchell for me it was that happiness, you know when we achieve as a team, when you can actually see how people progress. I mean, in my business, some of my clients were people who were matching me, accountants who are now CFOs or running their own business because it's an evolving world and yeah that's why it's always what next, and that's been, I am now. 
 
Announcer: (14:44)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.
©2019, Institute of Management Accountants, Inc.