My family and I went away for the weekend and attended an evening event at a winery, complete with open bonfire and star gazing. Whilst we had 'mulled' over the decision to attend one of these events well before we arrived, we didn't pull the trigger until that afternoon. As a result, we ended up paying a premium. I'm not talking about missing out on an early-bird discount, I mean that because we booked the event so last minute, we ended up paying for our children who would otherwise have attended free of charge. How often are you approached with last minute requests? A 'Finance sign-off' on business projects, deals and contracts is a common feature of a robust internal control framework. However: how many times does this request come across your desk merely a few days before the deal is due to be done? What is the cost of this to your organisation? I don't need to explain to you how valuable finance expertise is when entering into a new arrangement. Whether it's preventing an unexpected financial derivative to sneak in or simply ensuring the accounting implications match the commercial intent, it can make a huge difference. There is nothing worse than reviewing results only to find out the timing laid out in the agreement is all wrong. But...we also know how long it can take to make these sorts of changes to contracts.
"Time isn't the main thing, it's the only thing" - Daniel Pink
Why is everything so last minute? Simply put, the business doesn't understand the value your input. This may be for several reasons:
• They aren't aware that your team can help ensure their commercial outcomes are realised. They see your team as back-office.
• They don't think you (or your team) are reliable. Do your team consistently deliver or do you find yourself constantly chasing your team on behalf of your peers?
• Does the business have someone else who can do the work for them internally? If they are a department with a 'shadow finance team', they will view the 'Finance sign-off' as red tape, not value-add.
What to do? Like the situation we found ourselves in on the weekend, it was frustrating to know we had given money away. But more than that, it was frustrating to know that we could have influenced that outcome by taking a few simple steps:
1. Presence: Make a point to know what's on, and the timing of each of deal/event/agreement. The easiest way to do this is to ask your peers, 'What's going on for you over the coming months?'
2. Profile: Talk to the person in charge of the agreement as early as possible. You don't need to commit anything straight away, but get a basic understanding of the nature of the deal, like a 'drop-dead' date. Also gain from this conversation the most important outcome of the agreement and how your team can contribute to delivering this.
3. Process: Ask your team to carry out any other preliminary research that will inform your decision or type of guidance and support you will provide. Have relevant knowledge at-hand.
4. Depth: Nominate someone else in your team as the point-person in charge of providing ongoing day-to-day support. Introduce that person in your team to the person entering into the agreement.
5. Deliver: Agree an internal deadline for making your final decision.
To truly influence decisions, you need to be involved in the decision making process early. Are you?