Anders Liu-Lindberg, co-founder, COO and CMO of the Business Partnering Institute, comes to Count Me In to share his insights into business partnering. Anders has ten years of experience as a business partner at global transport and logistics company Maersk. He’s a long-time blogger and co-author of the book “Create Value as a Finance Business Partner” (link in show notes). His conversation covers exactly what business partnering entails, how to get more time as a business partner, and the development process for ultimately creating an impact for your organization. To learn the steps necessary to become a business partner and be better prepared for future changes in the industry, download and listen now!
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Hey everyone, thanks for coming back for episode 45 of Count Me In. Our featured guests for today's conversation joined us from Denmark as Anders Liu-Lindberg spoke with Mitch about the popular topic of business partnering. My favorite part of the conversation was Anders simple and clear equation. Insight times influence equals impact. Let's listen in for more valuable insight and hear what else Anders has to offer.
Recently we've heard a lot about the term business partnering. So in your perspective, what is business partnering?
Thanks for asking that question. And I agree that a lot more posts than information is coming out about business partnering these years. But for me it's, it's really quite simple. Business partnering is insights times influence equals impact. What I mean with that, I mean, you've got to have some insights then you can share with business leaders that can improve that decisions. but You gotta be able to influence that decisions before you can improve that decisions? So if you insights and could influence decision making, you have impact. You have the ability to change business decisions, ideally for the better. Let me, let me try and break it further down. So what is insights? Insights is when you bring something new to business leaders that one, they didn't know and two, will help them make better decisions is if all you bring to them as information that they know already nice, but it doesn't help them and to what you bring to them as somebody they don't know but doesn't help him. It's even worse actually because you take away capacity from them to focus on making better decisions. and insights can come in really three broad, broad categories. There's the operator role, we optimize processes to drive efficiencies in both the finance function but also in business operations. Then there's the controller role, which is where we managed risks, which all the numbers and with you, who is this performance to see how things are going. Then there's the advisor role or recovery, new insights and perspectives that can help the business grow. That's really what insight is all about. And that of course means it can be lots of different things as long as it satisfies the first two criteria. You don't know it, but it can help make better decisions. How influencing is then more the secret sauce to this because I think finance professionals have been turning our insights for years, but maybe not gotten too far with it. You need influence to go the full mile. What does influence is about being customer centric or focus on your internal stakeholders and build trusted relationships with them? I said, if they don't trust you, it doesn't matter what you bring to them. It's about understanding the industry that you're a part of and your specific business. And if you don't understand the business, it is also hard for them to trust you and feel that you have something valuable to say. And last but not least, you gotta be assertive and communicate with impact. If you cannot communicate the result of your findings in a language that they understand, you're not getting very far with the insights either. But if you could do all of that, then you can have impact, can ensure better and more profitable business decisions. You can drag performance by tuning all these insights into action. So that's to me what, what business partnering is all about.
I think that's a great explanation and I really, appreciate your detail and explaining it all. So a lot of our accounting and finance listeners, they are hearing regularly about how they have to become business partners. Right. And with the explanation you just provided, what kind of, you know, advice would you give our listeners for becoming business partners or, you know, how do you get more time in that role to really secure their position in the organization?
Yeah, so I think the first day was really making a personal choice to step outside your comfort zone. There's many finance and accounting professionals, they have a comfort zone that starts and ends with their desk in front of their Excel sheet or that BI tool, right? I mean, that might be a bit black and white and maybe it's not exactly like that, but I think many, many finance professionals can relate to the fact that every time they had to go talk to someone else, it's feels a bit uncomfortable. Especially if that someone else is outside of the finance function. So I at least from personal experience, if I go back five, 10 years, I feel that. And to some extent I still feel it today, but I've made a choice long ago to step outside my comfort zone and go where business partnering happens, which is together with other people together with, with business leaders and other other business stakeholders. So thing. That's really the first step because if you make that choice and you say, I'm going to stay out of my comfort zone and try to go do these things, everything becomes easier from there. I was saying it gets more comfortable right away over time. It will. Yeah, but that's what you need to do and yes, you will fail quite a few times probably before you succeed, but Hey, that's, you know, that's the new mantra these days, right? Fail fast to succeed sooner. So I think that's really key here. Then we can talk about all the skills that you need, you know be storyteller, communicate better, how to build relationships, understand other's perspectives and so forth. That is also hugely important. But we start with making that choice.
So what if our listeners are, you know, an accounting and finance professional is able to step out of their comfort zone. They take this first step, how do they measure their impact? You know, how can they actually become that business partner? When can they appreciate taking on this new responsibility?
Yeah. So if you talk about measure impact as a business partner, I think there are, there are three things that you can look at. The first thing is does the business that you support deliver better results? Do the meet of beat the targets that we've set for them. So that's, that's one, right? That gotta be some sort of a business impact value creation part in them too The second is do the business leaders or the business stakeholders, internal customers call them what you want. Do they feel like that you actually helping them achieve these results or are they're thinking, Hey, you know, it's great you're there to your business partner. But hey you're not helping me and it's me and my team that are driving these facades, right? Because if they think you are helping them and you're delivering better business results, then to me you have an impact as a business. Then you can always ask. The third step is to say, okay well I'm going to try and go even further document my impact as a business partner. So you do some value cases where you work specific problems or challenges that the business is facing and together with them you come up with solutions that changed behavior and drives better business results and that you can document more clearly on some more one off cases. So I think those are three of the main things you can do to document your impact as a business partner and feel like you are creating value and I feel like actually the second piece where the stakeholder says, okay, yes, my business partner is helping me deliver these results. It's the key step yet. Right? Because then you'd get the recognition from the business decor that you've actually done business poverty. The guy was able to deliver the results that the business wanted or not. You've done business partnering. So to me that is the the most important recognition together.
You said earlier, it's important to fail fast in order to succeed earlier. And you also just mentioned you may go to certain stakeholders and they may say, you know, your information is not helping me. So what can an individual do to learn and develop in order to make sure that the insights that they're trying to provide actually are helpful to those who they want to partner with?
Yeah, so I think there's a, there's a pretty simple model that you can try to utilize for this. We call it the NASA, so need, acceptance, solution, acceptance. So first you got to identify the needs of your customers. Sometimes they will tell you directly, sometimes you will overhear them in a conversation talking about some of the challenges. And at other times you, you sometimes have to guess a bit to say, okay, I have a thing that they probably need this. Right? Then you go and bring a proposal for what you want to do to them and say, well I have understood your need like this. So if I do, like if I do these things, would that help you solve this issue? So we get acceptance that these are the needs that they're looking to have solved. Once you have this acceptance, you started working on the solution and it's not just work two months on a solution, then I showed in one go, well you probably check in with them along the way to make sure you're on the right track. When you develop the solution, then you present it for final decision and guess the acceptance again that this is the solution they want to go for. So I think it's a simple force, that nead acceptance, solution, acceptance, then then you can sort of work in a more structured way with your business, big holders to, to solve the challenges that they're facing.
I love that acronym. I think that's very clear and very specific as to what an individual can do. So thank you for sharing that. Also, you know, we kind of kicked this off by saying business partnering with something that was new. You know, it was almost revolutionary for the finance role and in what you're trying to aspire to. Right. Based on the changes in the industry. So in your opinion, you know, as everyone aspires to be these business partners, what do you kind of see is coming next in the finance and accounting industry? What do you anticipate coming for the future of all of our listeners right now?
Yeah, so, so I think, you know, business partnering, it's been around for for 20 years as a concept that, you know, some say that I've been doing business partnering like, like forever. So in some ways it's not really a new concept. But, I think what's, what's new is, is one that one more companies are realizing that this is what they need to do, do to be successful in the future as a finance function. And also more and more companies actually able to succeed with this. Right? Because if I look at myself, we've been trying to succeed with business partners for many years, let's say 10 or even more years. What struggled in the beginning because we were not yeah. About what is it really that business partner is not about what is business partnership do and we're clear about how do we ask you to succeed and create value. That is getting more and more clear now to most to most companies as we talk more about it. And we have frameworks like we were looking at first and night business I'm used to that I'm caught up. And then more companies also have the frameworks to say what does business partnering mean for them and what should people do and how do they create value? Okay. Those are sort of the two things that are more and more prevailing that you know, pushes the business partner moving even more, but it's not going away anytime soon. I think we'll would just see more and more of this in the future. What's happening also of course in the finance function is that the artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, all these things. They are also driving, driving a second wave. And the second way was really that we need more insights to make better decisions. I have to optimize processes, we get all the data into a data Lake or something like that. And then we run some statistics or IP rhythms on and then become some sort of trends and patterns out of it. And now I think, I think we will get more and more that. and now that just means that there'll be a lot more insights that the business partners can bring to their stakeholders. So I don't think we should expect any revolutionary things coming anytime soon in the future. We're publishing more and better off the same, but the emphasis on business partner will just be more and more and more. Whereas the emphasis on machine learning and artificial, all that stuff, it's really high at the moment. I don't think there's any finance function that is not thinking about how can we utilize this to our advantage. But many of them are not really realizing that. Okay. So once you have it, then what? Then you need a business partner that can take all that information and go to the business and figure out how do we use this to make better decisions. So I think we'll just see the current trends he magnified even more. And business partnering will be what most finest functions and finders and accounting professionals need to really step up to succeed in the future.
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