Partnership is the most important thing in FP&A. The good news is that you have plenty of partners all around you inside the organization. These are the same people you work with on business initiatives every day.
You might be asking yourself: Why are relationships with business partners so important?
The answer is simple: The business shouldn’t serve finance…finance should serve the business.
As you begin to make connections and foster these key relationships, it’s important to keep in mind three types of business partners you might encounter. That way you know how to build these relationships and collaborate effectively together.
1. The “Change of the Goal Post” Business Partner
The “change of the goal post” business partner loves to change their direction and they expect you to keep up.
You’ve been here before…you have clear timelines in mind and you’ve done all the checks and balances. You know what data set you need and you feel confident about the direction you’re heading.
Then, this business partner says: “What if we look at it this way instead?” And, you’re totally unprepared to handle the analysis.
The best way to deal with this type of business partner is to understand their point of view from the start. Try to predict their “what if’s” by preparing a couple of different scenarios ahead of the conversation, so you have a couple of paths that you’re ready to explore.
2. Hot or Cold Business Partner
The cold business partner doesn’t know what to look at or how to look at it…they tend to say, “Nah, our metrics are fine” even when they’re not. They say that “sales volume is good” or “pipeline is good” and they don’t understand why they need to look at everything.
For the cold partner, you need to warm them up to get the conversation moving in the right direction. Ask them for input, but come prepared with a few recommendations that will encourage them to bring ideas.
The hot business partner is on the opposite end of the spectrum. They want to look at 50-60 variables all at once, so you need to chill them out. The best way to do that is to suggest 5-6 variables to measure and help them understand why focusing on a manageable amount is a better way to work with data.
3. Trusted Business Partner
This last type of business partner is the Holy Grail of FP&A partnerships. The trusted business partner is always engaged and thoughtful.
Right off the bat, you click—you know what’s expected of one another and you work well together.
The relationship with this type of partner is essential because you bounce ideas around and feed off each other’s energy. You will find yourself reaching out to them to help with future projects long after working together initially. These business partnerships last a lifetime, so take really good care of them.
You’re going to get into sticky situations with your business partners sometimes. Knowing how to navigate these challenges will help you capitalize on opportunities and earn their trust. Together, you’ll develop a deeper relationship and the end result will be improved collaboration and higher FP&A performance within your enterprise.