Building Your FP&A Persona | FP&A Fridays, LIVE from Clubhouse
Rowan: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to FP& A Fridays. How we doing?
Chris: Good morning.
Rowan: Glenn from Global Growth, head of FP& A over there. We also have our friend Chris Ortega out of Emarsys. How you doing, Chris?
Chris: Awesome. Living the dream. Beautiful day out here in Indianapolis, Indiana. Summer's here. Let's get it.
Rowan: Yeah. Well, I got to see Glenn yesterday. He came to the Planful office for a little bit, which was nice to see him in person. It's been a while. So guys, today, we've got some amazing conversation. We're going be talking about how to build your FP& A persona inside and out. So we're going to talk about the different personas that we see inside of FP& A, we're going to talk about how do you go about building it, and why do it? Why have a persona? Why try and actually go and create and shape your environment like that. And just some of the common challenges, pitfalls, and difficulties that you may encounter. For those on the Clubhouse, we'd love to get you up here and ask any questions. So feel free to raise your hand and Vicky, our moderator will bring you up onto the stage and we'll make this as interactive as possible. But first, I'd like to start with Glenn. Glenn, you've been working in FP& A for a long time, part of strategy, part of finance, what sort of personas do you see when you are working in that environment?
Glenn: Well, most people in FP& A, it's natural that we are more introverted than extroverted. People in finance tend to gravitate towards the numbers. Oh, I want to be doing the data analysis. Let me sit in front my computer and build my Excel model, that type of thing. But to advance through your career, you actually have to start making those connections. You have to start building trust with people outside your organization and you have to build your brand. Now, the thing is, a lot of people might not be familiar with really what a brand is. It's more than just reputation. It's what people think and feel about you. And I think of a common brand that we know like Coca- Cola, you could think about if someone could say Coca- Cola, you know immediately what their logo looks like. You know what it tastes like. You could picture it on a hot summer day and you're like, oh, very refreshing, a little bit on the sweet side, whatever. You get all of that stuff. That's your persona. And so most people in finance roles typically have an initial persona of, oh, if I ask this person a question, inaudible they're technically sound, I could bring them into a meeting and they could be a technical expert. What most people in finance don't have is that strategic partner, that thought partner that says to an executive, hey, I could be there in any situation and help advise you from not just a financial side, it comes from a bigger picture side. And that takes time to build out and you have to work at changing your persona and your reputation with the organization and build that brand internally. But you can also be doing that externally to help really create that platform for yourself. Most people in finance don't do that.
Rowan: Yeah. I think, Chris, I'll turn over to you, when I see and speak with a lot of folks in many organizations, it's just having an awareness of how you can shape your own persona, I think is really important, regardless of whether you're in finance or not. Some people just don't have that awareness that, oh, this is how people perceive me, or this is how they have that brand reputation. Right? And really important to create and shape that. Chris, what personas have you seen as you've worked through FP& A teams?
Chris: Yeah. I think Glenn talked a little bit about it. For me, starting off my career in public accounting, when I jumped right into accounting, you see so many different personas even in public accounting, right? So for me, I was always the type of... And I'm an extrovert by nature, but I think what public accounting showed to me was that there's a time and place to be extroverted and there's time and place to be introverted. And for me, being in public accounting was a tremendous experience, but I knew I was different. I knew my thought processes, the way that I looked at things was different. So for me, I looked at that as an opportunity to help educate and just inform others inside the business, as well as the clients I was supporting, but really early in my career, I knew that for me, coming out of college, having accounting finance experience from a degree perspective, I knew that my persona, my personality and what those things were, were better aligned towards more of what finance and FP& A was. So for me, I think, accounting, finance, FP& A people wear four different hats in terms of the persona that they have inside the business. And specifically, I'm going to talk about inside the business. And then as we get more conversation, I'll talk about the external persona. But inside the business, there's really four key personas. There's scorekeepers, there's constraint operators, there's discipline operators, constraint advisors, and valued advisors inside the business. So for me, I think when you think about inside of a business, typically accounting and finance, FP& A fit one of those four modes. How do you measure those four modes? Those four modes, if you look at the X axis low to high, that's going to measure business insights. If you look at the Y axis low to high going up, that's going to look at financial efficiency, right? When you're in the top right corner, which is high on financial efficiency and high on business insights, those are valued advisors. That is holy grail persona what you want inside the business. How do you know you are that persona? Ask your business leaders and say, hey, what's the value proposition of the accounting financing FP& A for us, right? If that leader, organization, stakeholder, teammate says to you, hey, finance is great in providing the numbers. You guys get us the numbers on time, not really a valued advisor persona. That answer to that question is the lower left hand corner which is going to be low on financial efficiency and low on business insight. Those are your traditional scorekeepers. So how you rank and how you look at financial efficiency, how you deliver business insight through knowledge, partnership, and collaboration, that's really going to identify internally what your persona is to the organization and mine to all the of listeners is ask them that simple question, right? What is the value proposition, accounting finance and FP& A brings to you? That's going to tell you exactly where you fit at on that spectrum, which I think is always important to understand is establishing the baseline and when you're able to do that, at least you know where you're at and how you can enable your team, how you can get resources, how you can further impact your value proposition to move across those different personas inside the organization. And also again, I think for the listeners too, you're going to operate in different environments. There's been environments where the most value proposition we bring to the team was being a scorekeeper. So it's not to say because you're a valued advisor that may actually be a disruption to the business, or because you are a constraint advisor, that may be the best place you could be at, right? If you're in a startup high growth company, there's been times where I've had to operate as just a scorekeeper, where I'm going to provide value to the team and to the organization is by making sure they know what the score is, right? The people out there playing the game, they need to know the score. They need to know how many timeouts we have left. They need to know how many fouls people have. That's what they need to know. And that's where I'm going to be best positioned. So it's a very fluid and you should be able to guide, but at the same point, you should always be driving towards that north star which are value advisors inside the business. So that's where I've seen the internal personas for accounting finance and FP& A.
Rowan: Chris, that's super helpful.
Glenn: Can I add one thing?
Rowan: Yeah. Keep going, Glenn.
Glenn: Is that even if you're at one place in those four different personas that Chris was talking about, you can change that. You can be proactive and you can change where you are and how you are perceived. And that's one of the things that a lot of times people don't recognize, they think, oh, well, I'm viewed this way therefore I have to be like this. And no, you don't. You can go over and you can really change how you're perceived, what your reputation is and what that value is that you bring. You just have to be proactive and put a little more effort into it.
Rowan: Yeah, 100%. We have a concept here at Planful of environment shapers and environment takers. And what Chris was talking about, the valued advisors and that's where you're an environment shaper. And when you're at that level, you have the self- awareness, self confidence, self leadership where you're able to actually operate in those four different modes that Chris was talking about. I would also say that within, inside the FP& A team, right? Not every team is a team of one. You may have a collective group of folks. One might be the scorekeeper, and that might be the best role for them. They get to play bad cop every day and they get to be the scorekeeper. And the other persona, typically your controller, right? And other folks might be at that constrained advisor role, or they might be right at the valued advisor role and that's the best time for them. And so if you are sitting there thinking, how do I get to valued advisor level and you're in a team, think about your teammates and think about what roles do they fit, how can you go and learn from those folks to say, oh, actually, I'm going to go and learn from this valued advisor, how they got there, what they did, and how they're trying to create and shape their environment with inside the business as well. So, Chris, let's just talk for a moment. How do you go about building that persona?
Chris: Yeah. Great question. And I think that's always a good question I get from people when I talk about those four quadrants of where people need to be. Right? I think the first thing is in any situation, if where you're trying to build, you have to know where you're at today, right? Where are you at today and what is the business need, right? So in a lot of my experiences at small, either small, medium, large entrepreneurial public, all the different experiences that I've had, I've always came in and said, okay, what is the... And this is what I get, what is the value proposition that we want the team to have. Right? And again, Glenn mentioned to it, Rowan, you talked about it. You wear different hats, right? So it's never about, oh, we're always going to be constrained in buyers isn't where we're at right now. But establishing where you're at in terms of your business insights and financial efficiency is the first place, establish the baseline. So if you know when I first started at Emarsys to share my example of my experience that I had. When I first started at Emarsys, I don't even think I was on one of the quadrants, right? There was no accounting, finance, FP& A operations five years ago at Emarsys North America to lead the America's operations. There was nothing there. So for me, the baseline was all the experience I had before, what I needed to be. So I came into and I said, okay, what does high performance and partnership mean to me and that was the cornerstone of what I wanted to bring to the organization. I said, day one, I don't want to come in as like, oh, we got a finance person here, but everybody had their own experience about what a finance person was. So for me, it was about, okay, I want to know what high performance and partnership's going to be, and how in the whole first year at Emarsys, it was just me. I had an external accounting team that I worked with. I had internal stakeholders that I worked with, but the whole first year, we didn't even make any head count enhancements to it. It was the whole, first year was almost like a probation year. Like, Hey Chris, can you figure this thing out? But then once I got to it and said, okay, then when I brought on my next person, I said, okay, how do we continue to carry that high performance, high partnership to the team, right? What are the skillsets, not necessarily the work experience or the job that they did. I was looking and says, what are the skill sets that we need to compliment high performance and partnership? Right? One of the major changes we were making were moving people over from accounting, outsource to insource. So I needed someone attention to detail. I needed someone that could collaborate. I needed someone that had urgency to deliver results. I need someone that had great accountability. So I looked at those skill sets in saying, okay, as we continue to build down this road of being valued advisors, here are the skill sets in this particular element that I need. Now, again, that first hire was a cystic controller position. But the responsibilities wasn't my major concern, right? It was about, okay, how is this person moving us higher on the business insight and making sure that we're having the most financial efficient processes as possible, right? Again, moving down that spectrum to get to holy grail which I would tell you from experience, there's very few organization teams or industries that I've met, both working in or consulting on that people are in that valued advisor role. Right? But that to me is like you almost treat it like a business strategy as you go through, as you make incremental investments in resources, as you make incremental investments in technology, as you make incremental investments on process optimizations, you're moving down that line of being that valued advisor. So for me, it's a very... And I'll tell you, I failed on the people side of that plenty of times. Even I admit I failed, I have failed and said man, I own that I didn't do a great job of making sure that we had the right resources in the best position for them and in the best position for the business at the time to make sure they're aligned, to make sure they go correctly. So you got to treat it that way. Right? And I think for all the listeners, one key takeaway, the most important place is establishing your baseline, because that's going to tell you how you can build. That's going to tell you the skills inventory of the people you have right now, right? Maybe you have like you mentioned earlier that scorekeeper, that they love to do that job. And maybe in the business, that's what you need at that time. So for me, it's always established in the baseline where you're at, where you're at is going to inform you what you need to do to where you want to go. So I think for me, those are the best examples and frameworks for people to follow to move down that value advisor spectrum.
Rowan: Yeah. Glenn, I'll hand to you in a moment. I think one of the key takeaways there from me, Chris was to just take stock, right? Write down where you are right now, how you are feeling about yourself, your persona, your engagement, and then think about the pathways to get there. Glenn, you've talked to me before about being a self confessed introvert, right? And naturally being an introvert, then trying to move to being a valued advisor, you need to step out of that and become a little extroverted. Maybe not. You can't change who you are, right? How did you go about doing that?
Glenn: Yeah. For most of my life, I was an introvert. I've taught myself else to be an extrovert, which is not an easy thing to do. You have to put yourself into uncomfortable situations at times. And the way you do that is you build up your own confidence. You have to start with a success and then build on that. And you have to say, okay, I know I am the expert at this. I have to go into a situation with that confidence. And then you put yourself out there to speak up a little bit more, to reach out to somebody, and to try and engage with them, to become that trusted advisor. Now you don't go from not having a relationship with someone to a trusted advisor overnight. Takes time to build that up, but you got to go and start taking those steps. If you were trying to climb a mountain, you don't go from the bottom to the top in one step, you got to take one step at a time and you got to start working and getting yourself up that mountain. And so really, you need to look at who you are. And you guys said it, you got to know who you are, and then you got to say, if this is where am, this is my baseline, what is it going to take for me to get there? And some ways to go about it, is find a mentor, find a coach who's really good at doing that. Maybe someone who you saw, who was more like you, who's gotten and migrated themselves into that higher level. Ask them about how to go about doing it, what tips they can provide you and practice it. The number one thing that happens is that if you do not do this often enough, it doesn't become a habit. If it doesn't become a habit, you will fall back to exactly where you were before. So you have to keep working at it and it is, it's work. And it does pay off in the end, but you have to be dedicated to it, because if you're not, it's going to just come off as, well, you tried something, your heart's not really in it. And you're just really not going to succeed. And then if you work hard at something, and you stay to it and you're determined and you keep pushing yourself forward, you're going to succeed at whatever you do.
Rowan: Yeah. A couple of tips I've received around how to make a behavioral change, right? Because that's what we're talking about. We're talking about a big behavioral change. You said at the start of the show, Glenn, often introverts, they want to be sitting inside the data. They want be doing analyzing. And that's a natural feeling for finance folks because that's where they believe they add a lot of value. Right? And we definitely need to be spending time on all of those things. So when you look at your calendar at the start of the week, maybe start color coding your calendar, right? And have red is when you're doing internal things and you're doing work. And green, when you are sharing, and reporting, and advising and try and over time, shape your calendar to look a little more green versus a lot of red, right? Just helpful tips like that, I think are really important for folks as they try and create that behavioral change. It doesn't happen overnight. And every week will be different, right? The end of a month or the end of a quarter, it's going to be all red, and that's okay. That's okay. But that following week, it needs to be pretty much all green, right? That's when you're out there doing that, finances happens in cycles. It's just natural. But during the intra months or intra periods, try and be a little more green, right? Start thinking about how you can shape your calendar to spend more time with other folks that may lead to a red week because the people ask you for lots of things, and then you go away and you do it. And then you come back and have another green week. But look at it from that type of perspective would be one piece of advice I would have for folks.
Glenn: Yeah. In fact, actually Rowan, when I started my career and I was using Outlook, I did something very similar. But what I did was when I blocked my time for me to be doing work, that was one color. If I had a recurring meeting on a weekly basis, I'm meeting with a business partner that would be a different color because your mindset's a little different. You're a little more comfortable. It's a regular thing that you're doing. And then for ad hoc meetings, those are the ones that say, okay, I got to be more prepared. I got to think about what I'm doing, going into the meeting and how I'm going to add value. And so those would be a third color. And that really did help me because when I would look at Monday, what does my week look like? I would sit there and say, oh, Tuesday, I got a lot of these one- on- ones recurring meetings. Okay. I'm pretty comfortable. Make sure I'm prepped for that. But, oh, Wednesday, I got a lot of these ad hoc things. I got to make sure I'm on my game for those. Those are new concepts, new ideas. This is where I need to go over and show people that I can be more than just the data provider, that I could go over and really have an input. And those colors actually really did help me. So I've used that in my own career.
Rowan: Awesome. Chris have you used any-
Chris: Yeah, that's go for all you guys, because me coming into a new role now is like I'm on these conversations all the time and I'm having to pivot so much in between like, okay, I need to sit here for an hour and a half and be more of a consultant advisor to somebody asking a question, right? Then after that's over, I'm even in between, after that's over, I'm shifting immediately into okay, I need to be a problem solver mode. I need to be tactical. I need to change that lens. And I'll be honest, that has been something for me that is... With what I'm going through now, it's been a huge learning curve for me because I'm just so used to being tactical and Emarsys business, every conversation is we get to it, we solution, we align, we get it done. We execute. But now it's like, no, that's going to take four or five different conversations to get along to finding out, okay, this is where I need to come into. I'm an executor mode. Right. So Glenn, your example about setting those calendar, that was just like a huh moment for me that I just had was, I need to have these be to me triggers like go, I need to get it done, because it's go time. Or I need to have it a different color where it needs to be transitioning to something else. And I think to me that would be a visual cue to put me in the right mindset because I'm learning I need to operate Chris as an advisor. And I've had feedback from people tell me they're like Chris, you should be advising them on what we should do. Not dictating this is what should be done around it when I'm like, okay, like that's a fair point, that's feedback. But I think being able to be almost like a air traffic controller of what value. And again, a lot of it too is understanding the audience that you're a part of. Right? I think that's so key. Right? When you're in a conversation, a lot of times I say, okay, is it now for me? Would you like for me to find my opinion or are you just looking for me to listen to understand, right? A lot of times, most of the time you just brainstorm it with you or... Because the worst you can do is think a person is coming to you to solution, but really they're just coming to you to understand. And then now you have this disconnect because they're like, no, no, Chris, I just want you to understand, I want you to brainstorm. I want to be pie in the sky with you versus like no, I'm trying to go in solution mode. So I think for me, those are some really, really good when Glenn said it, I was like, I'm going to do that to my calendar now because I think that would cue to me to say, okay, Chris, change your mindset. You just got at this meeting, very tactical. You got those and just be fluid with it. So I mean, that's awesome.
Rowan: From my-
Glenn: ...one step further.
Rowan: Go ahead, Glenn.
Glenn: Chris, I love what you were just saying. And you could even color your calendar and saying, what is my role in these meetings? Am I leading the meeting? Am I in there just in support, am I there to learn something, am I trying to inform somebody of something else? And in your calendars you could have eight or nine different colors. Don't make it to a point where you have to have a legend to figure out what you're looking at. But have something set up in a way that you know, okay, I'm leading these meetings. I need to make sure I have everything set up beforehand versus I'm being invited to this meeting just to hear what's going on, I don't have an active role and that can also help set your mindset in the right way, going into your days, making sure you're prepped because the one thing that's going to happen, if you are an introvert, you have to go and think ahead of time, how am I going to be extroverted? Right? It doesn't come naturally to you. So you need to plan this out. And so if you have a meeting that says, oh wait, I have to lead this next coming call, you should be thinking about what's my agenda. What do I want to get out of the meeting? What does everyone else want to get out of the meeting? And how do we achieve that? And so though, just by sometimes seeing those colors on your calendar, it triggers something in your mind that says, oh wait, I got that blue meeting coming up versus that green one over there. And that can really help you.
Rowan: Yeah. It's really important I think to just have that self- awareness. I've said it a couple of times here, as you are building out your personal brand, your personal identity within an organization, you have to have a plan. We've talked a lot today about taking stock, preparing, thinking through things and that's really important, especially the earlier on you are in your career, right? You can probably wing it a little more, the more mature you get, because you're at that valued advisor level, you've got pattern recognition to see what's going on in the world, but earlier in your career, you need to have that plan. One thing I would also say, coming from the business side of things is Chris said it before. He said, just ask people what their perception of you is and you'll figure out where you are in those buckets. The one thing that business leaders don't know though, is they also may not have encountered the valued advisor role before. And they've only ever had scorekeepers in their finance world, or maybe they've had constrained advisors, right? So if you come to them and say, what value can I bring to you? They may go, I don't know, because they've never had that partnership. They don't know what a powerful high performing FP& A team may look like and what value it can bring to them. So you may actually have to say, look, here are the things that I can do for you, here is what I am able to do. This is my skill sets. As Chris says, my skills, passions, and talents. These are the things that I believe I should be doing for you, which of these would be a priority for you. And again, that takes a little extra version, right? It takes having that plan but also don't just assume that you can go to the business and say, here I am, I'm your valued advisor, leverage me as you will because they just don't know. And it's really important to remember that. I've worked in a lot of functions in an organization. I don't don't know what everyone does every day. I don't live that life. I try and have the empathy for that, but I therefore often don't know what they're capable of. And the same is true for finance professionals, right? There's a perception that exists among business leaders that the spreadsheet people and that's wrong, right? It is wrong but you have to understand that that is their world view of you and you have to go and shape it and change it. But it's not a easy thing to do. Glenn, what sort of changes have you had to make or partnering like that, where you've had to say someone doesn't get what I do. Here's how I go and help them understand what I do and create value for them?
Glenn: There's a lot of different approaches and you have to gauge the room and what's the personality. I'll give you two different examples. One time when I started working at Charles Schwab, I was told by this executive, hey, when I want something from you, I'll let you know. And I immediately challenged him on it. And because he was an executive and I said, yeah, I appreciate that. But that's not how I work. I'm going to be proactive with you. I'm going to engage. And I started pushing myself into his leadership organization saying, I'm going to throw out ideas. I'm going to talk to you about where you are going and how I can help you get there. And that's just who I am. So I even then would go over and make a little joke of it and say, and I apologize to you because I am not the person that you thought you were going to have. You just have me to deal with so sorry, but this is the direction we're going to go. And he was a little taken aback, but it turned out, I ended up being one of his most valued advisors because he wanted somebody who was not going to just sit back and say, tell me what to do. He wanted someone who would do things on their own. And his experience with finance was finance people didn't do that. So immediately when I stepped into that, he was like, oh, well, okay. And then are you a little nervous? He said, well, we'll see how that goes. And it went well because I had to go and deliver what I was just talking about. There are other times that you get somebody who says, you know what? I'm not interested, not looking for any engagement. Just send me my numbers. Tell me what I need to know. So when I'm talking to my boss, I'm not getting yelled at, or I can answer the question. And in that case, you just need to go and say, okay, we'll start there. We'll see where it goes, but you need to go over and build that trust and say, this guy is not looking for a conversation. He's cut me off at every turn. And so what I'm going to do is I'm going to deliver on exactly what they're asking for. And every once in a while, I'm going to throw it in a little tidbit. Hey, by the way, I was looking at this, I don't know, maybe this helps you tell this story a little bit, or I thought when I was looking at what we're doing for this other organization, that's similar. I thought this might help you, do you like this? And you throw it out there and you don't push yourself on there. But instead you're saying, I'm going to put something in front of you. You react to it. You like it or not. If not, fine, we get rid of that. If you do like it, great, we could continue. And you start making those incremental steps, but you have to really gauge that room. Because if you step in the wrong way and trust me, I have done this many times in my career where you push yourself on someone and they're just like, get out of my office. I don't want to deal with you anymore. They pick up the phone, they call your boss, say, I don't want this guy to be my business partner, too pushy. Right? I have been there and you really have to go and gauge where that person is. And so you take one step and say, oh, did that work? And say, great. It did. Okay. I'm going to take another step. I took a step. Nope. That didn't work. Okay. I'm not going to go down that path again. And part of that is experience and some of it is that experience just comes from just failing miserably and understanding why. And that's what coaching is for. That's why you go to your manager. That's what you talk to your CFO or your head of FP& A or whoever it is that you feel comfortable talking to, to get that advice and say, oh my God, I think I just totally screwed up this thing with this person over here, how do you think I could go and fix it? And then you listen to him.
Rowan: And that's what this podcast and Clubhouse is for, too. Come get some advice from people that have also failed before. Right? We've all done it. And hopefully we can find some shortcuts for you. So Chris, you are someone that has built a persona for sure. How have you gone about that? And what's in it for you?
Chris: I think. Yeah, this is great. So when you talk about... One of the key things is finding that alignment between who you really are in business and who you really are outside of business. And I tell you, for me, that has been a journey and I'm not even saying I'm even close to where the true journey and ultimate legendary greatness that I'm going to achieve is going to be. But for me, for those listeners that are earlier in their career, for those people, even later in your career, right? Because a lot of people they find out they want to do FP&A, so they move from an accounting and they go into FP&A and they make that jump. Right? But for me, it was like, I know what is important to me, what my why and my purpose are outside of work. How can I find organizations and teams and challenges and opportunities for me and my career to align the two. Because the moment that you're aligned in both who you are, Chris outside of work and Chris Ortega, who I am inside of work, once I found that in organizations and cultures and teams, and once I found out that that wasn't going to be aligned, right? I knew that early in my career in public accounting was, I'm not going to be the partner route. I'm not going to do 20 years into this right now, just because this doesn't align to where I see myself having the most value. So I think the first thing is, is having that alignment, who you are outside and inside, right? The second step around it as well is like for me, I know that I approach accounting, finance, very unorthodox and a little bit differently. I knew that in all the organizations I was a part of, but I didn't force that on people. And I was self- aware and I learned this the hard way. Right? I've learned this the hard way, sometimes I could come in and it's like, Chris, not even you talking, your energy's too much. You just need to find a way to keep that energy in a containment perspective. And for me it was like, well, I'm self- aware to knowing pockets. I need to do that. So I need to dial that down. But also at the same time, I let people know I'm not going to permanently shine that light. And if you're expecting me to permanently keep that down, I'm not going to be the right person for this. And to give an example on that, when I first started at Emarsys, right? The first time I met all of my APAC and EMEA and Vienna colleagues internationally, right? There was also a persona that they had of what they thought accounting and finance was inside of accounting and finance. Right? So there's even layers within teams that you're a part of. Right? And for me, it was like, no, Chris. When we ask you stuff, you're asking us why too much. And I said, well, the reason why I asked why is because it's important for me to understand what I'm doing. So that way, if somebody asks me, I can empower them with the same knowledge I gave them. Right? And they were like, well, we don't, I operate that way. We get told what to do and we do it. I said, I understand, I respect that. And that's the persona and the value that you bring to that leader, but this is the other way of seeing around it. Right? And for me, it was like, you got to make sure in that second step that it is always like you're finding the best ways. And this is what I do. I find the best ways in every situation personally and professionally to make sure that I'm leveraging my skills, passion and talents in the best way for the end user, not for myself. That's key. Let me take a step back for everybody on that. Make sure you're valuing, maximizing your value proposition and what skills, passion, and talents you bring to the table, not for your own self interest, but how is it to maximize the other people around you. That is where you get exponential. That's where you go from scorekeeper to value to... You just multiply exactly who you are. You command attention, you get respect, you get the opportunities to be at the seat at the table when you approach it that way. Right? And that to me has been something throughout my career is I am not the senior director of global finance for Emarsys. I am the person that is helping and serving whoever in our global organization. That is what I'm meant to do. Now, if it's through numbers, if it's through listening, if it's through decision making, that's where I use my skills, passion and talents to impact that. But I think for me, that has always been my north star and how I've aligned those external and internal personas in the accounting, finance and FP&A.
Glenn: And if I could add one thing to that, is that you need to not only understand really who you are, where you're trying to go, but you got to be consistent. One of the best compliments I ever received, actually I've received it twice about eight years apart, once from my wife, once from my boss. And it was, you were the same person, whether you are talking to a CEO or a janitor, and to me, oh my God, that's just my favorite compliment because my response, especially when I was talking to my boss, I said, yeah, it takes a lot of energy to be me. I don't have enough energy to try and be someone else, too. And that's the thing. You have to recognize that if you are going to be one way in a particular meeting, and you're some completely different way in a different meeting, your persona, your brand, your reputation's going to be all over the map. You've got to be consistent. And you have to make sure that you're hitting that mark every single time and be who you are naturally, even if you're a natural introvert, that's okay. And you're pushing yourself to be an extrovert. That's fine. But you just got to be consistent across the board because the second somebody thinks, oh yeah, you know what? You're very nice when you manage up, when you're talking to your boss or the executive, but when you talk to people below you, you're a jerk. That two- face approach is something that you don't want to have associated with yourself. So make sure that you are consistent across the board with how you talk to people, how you approach people, how you interact with people.
Chris: Oh, oh. Sorry, Rowan, just to jump in on what Glenn said. One, if there's a nugget to give everybody, the one thing that I always have where it doesn't pass the smell test and the radars go off for me, if your words don't align to your actions, if those are not aligned, if you say, hey, I'm going to deliver this. Rowan, I'm going to deliver this lead generation analysis to you tomorrow by the end of day. And then I don't deliver? And that's literally, if I take one thing that I measure every person against, myself against, business strategies against, leaders against, companies against, that's my sniff test. If what you say doesn't align to what you're walking, if your walk doesn't align with your talk, and your talk doesn't align with your walk, we got problems. And the last thing you want to do as a superstar accounting, finance, FP& A person is not have that alignment. And I will tell you from experience, I have seen and worked with and had on my team some of the most talented accounting, finance people of all time, they have destroyed their personal brand, their persona, and their value proposition individually, because they don't have that alignment. So I echo that off of what Glenn said, because that is vital to make sure your words are aligned into your actions.
Glenn: Yeah, absolutely agree.
Rowan: Yeah. It's so powerful, especially to use a word that Glenn said, if you're consistent with that too, leaders start to see, wow, this person, this individual, they tell me they're going to do something and they deliver every time. I can trust that person. And even if potentially the quality of work might not be that high, right? If you're struggling with something and it's like, but you delivered it. And then you can iterate on that with someone. And so, I work with... In marketing, there's always this quest to be perfect, right? To have the perfect design, to have the perfect blog, the perfect this. And we all try and absorb so much time to make it perfect. And we don't want to give it to the boss until it's perfect. Stop it. Right? Show progress, show progress. If it's not perfect, tell your boss. Say, hey, I said that I was going to deliver this by end of day, here it is. There are three things I still want to do to make it perfect. Do you need me to do those? And the boss may say, eh, 80, 20 rule. Nah, keep moving on. Right? It's okay. And that's what leaders want to see. And that's how you lead, is actually doing that yourself, right? Lead yourself into those places. I would also say to recap today, not recap, we're not at the end, but one of the big things that we've talked about today is alignment, right? Chris, you were just talking about aligning your expectations with your actions. We've talked about aligning your persona with business leaders, with who you're partnering with. Chris, you even talked about aligning different finance teams, right? It's so important to think about how am I aligned with this person? How am I aligned with this team? How do I fit in? And so if you are sitting there and you're saying, well, how can I add more value, start with that question of how am I lined up with everyone else? What are their expectations? What are my expectations? And because if you can get aligned, right? You don't always have to be completely aligned with everyone and that's okay. But if you can get that core framework together, it makes your job so much easier. I can't stress it enough. Just write it down. Draw it on a whiteboard, draw it on a piece of paper. How am I aligned here with these people? And if you can't do that, then call them, right? And try and figure it out. Glenn, how have you done... You've obviously had a lot of experience doing that organizational alignment, how do you start the... And especially for someone that might be a little earlier on in their career, typically the listeners and participants in this Clubhouse.
Glenn: So there's a few different approaches you can take. First of all, if you're in a meeting and you're there physically together, you're right. Draw it out, make sure... And one of the ways to do it is you're going to have a leader, especially if you're more junior in your career, you're probably hearing from somebody who is more senior. Once they go, they're going to tell you about, okay, here's what I'm thinking. Repeat it back to them. Just say, hey, I just want to make sure we're on the same page. This is what you're saying. This is what you're looking for. They come back and say, yep, that's it, good. You got the alignment. You got that confirmation. If you don't do that, you may be thinking you're going one way, they're thinking you're going a different way and then you have that misalignment. And that's a mess. The other thing to do is to talk to people about what they do. If I was to go over and say, hey, Rowan, you're running marketing. Let's talk about the impact that marketing is making. What is it that you look for? What are your drivers? And I learn from you, so that then I could use that knowledge that you were giving me to apply it to what I'm doing and give it right back to you with a little bit more on the, hey, here's where I come from finance, for strategy side of things. And your response back is typically going to be, oh my God, you get it. Because I'm effectively taking your words and I'm enhancing what you're doing and having... And what you really want is you want that business leader to say, to say, oh, Glenn, he gets it. He understands what I'm doing, because if you go in there and we talked about this on a few podcasts ago, I don't know, a couple weeks or whatever it was. Where if you go in there and you say, I'm going to do what I want to do regardless of what the business is doing, you're not going to have that alignment. You have to say, hey, business leader, what is it that you need? How can I help you? And then you need to take what you're doing and adjust and adapt to make sure you're delivering that value. You still may need to go over and get a couple other things from your needs, from the finance side. But you got to still deliver that value back to the business and saying, here's what they need. And the only way you do that is by talking to them and confirming that what you're going to do is going to be what they're looking for.
Rowan: Yeah, 100%. And if anyone's listening and they're not in finance and accounting, still do that, do it.
Chris: Do that in your real life. Do that in your personal life, too. Just be that person.
Glenn: Do that with your spouse, your girlfriend, your husband, whatever it happens... Whoever, your mom. Yeah. It will work in any relationship.
Rowan: Yeah, it's-
Chris: And Rowan, I just want to add to what Glenn said. I think it's... Glenn, man. I sit here Glenn and I just to all listeners and everybody, Glenn absolutely learned so much from you, man. I think from my experience and what I've seen is like the Achilles heel to alignment is the other A. And this other A. I don't mean to cuss, I don't mean to be frank, but this other A makes that S out of you and me, assumptions. Please, the number one killer of any alignment is two people making assumptions. Let me give you an example. If I say, hey Rowan, it's Friday, right? And I'm just assuming, oh yeah, I'm assuming this is going on. And I'm waiting. I'm scheduling my whole day, assumptions destroy alignment. And the biggest way that you can just eliminate assumption about, I'm assuming you're going to do this, or I'm assuming this is the way it's going to be, or I'm assuming you're making this decision and thinking this way, have direct proactive conversations. Address it immediately. Right? If you think, if you like... Last night, I'm having a misunderstanding with our head of professional services. And I said, hey, I'm looking at it this way. How are you looking at it? Are you seeing it differently? And we approach the... And this is with all of our leaders, right? Our top salesperson, our professional services, me in finance, the leader of sales ops. This is all the top people. And I said, hey, I may have made a wrong call. I own this mistake. I made an assumption this is how you were thinking about it. I own it. I'm sorry. This is what I'm thinking about. Are you seeing it this way? And do you see this as a likely next steps? It was addressed immediately. I owned it and now we're back aligned. But too many times and for those young professionals, even older professionals, right? Having proactive, direct conversation and communication, immediately destroys any assumptions around it. That is the worst thing that you can have around alignment because people think you're marching in the right direction and nobody had that check in point. Alignment is destroyed.
Glenn: I got a good little quick story.
Rowan: Go ahead, Glenn.
Glenn: Just to add to that, I was maybe five years out of college. I was working at Franklin Templeton and somehow I gained some confidence from the CEO. I always used to like to call myself a glorified peon because I was a peon in the company. I was a senior financial analyst, but I had exposure somehow to the top executives. And Marty Flanagan, who was the co CEO would call me up to his office once a month. And he would draw something out. And I had no idea what Marty was talking about. I was so over my head, just sitting in the room with him and he would say, well, Glenn, I'm thinking about this. And he's like, I couldn't... He had horrible handwriting. I couldn't read what he was writing. I had no idea what was going on. And then he would say, okay, so can you do something like this? And the first thing that's going through my head is what? But I went over and said, okay, I think you were saying something like this. And I thought about what I can actually do. And I redrew what he said and said, I think you're going in this direction. And then he would come back and say, yes, that's exactly. And every time I'm like, oh good, got it. Wow. Lucky. Lucky guess. But it was by me confirming with him, going back to him and making sure that we were aligned and not walking out of the room, not understanding anything that Marty had said. And then me trying to figure out what he wants. There's no way I was going to hit what Marty was looking for. But instead I went over and I restated it. I went back to him, made sure before I left that room that I said, this is what you want. And he said, yeah, that's perfect. And then I was like, oh, no problem. I got that. And then it was like, I went over and it was easy for me to succeed. And like an hour later I sent him data and his response was like, oh my God, Glenn, this is totally amazing. And I was just like, oh, this was a simple thing. He didn't know that. But it was just to make sure before you walk out of that room, you know what that deliverable is, and you've aligned the expectations so that you can hit them.
Rowan: Yeah, it's so important. I mean, one of my favorite slides, every time someone presents something to me, whether it's a model or whether, or its analysis is the first thing, here are the assumptions that went into this, right? Because it's just, they get it straight out on the table. And I immediately can react to those assumptions first and say, oh, before I look at this analysis, I now understand where that person was coming from. I understand what thought they may or may not have put into it. And I can then evaluate whatever I'm looking at based on the assumptions that they've documented for me. Right? And the same should be true of your financial plan, document the assumptions, because some people will look at a plan and they're like, oh, that's completely messed up. And it's like, ah, and then you have a conversation about it and guess what, ah, it's not messed up because of the assumptions that they've made, right? Based on those assumptions, the plan looks solid. If you've got a different set of assumptions, that plan looks terrible. And so it's really important that if you are making assumptions, as part of... Modeling is a key thing that FP& A people do all the time and you have to make assumptions to do modeling, right? There's no way you can build a model without any assumptions, but just document them. And the same can be true of any work that you're doing, exactly what Glenn said, right? Just reaffirming, recalibrating with Marty was the way that you got through that, what would've been a very tough kind of feeling, right? You're the CEO. You're like, why am I here? Hope I don't screw this up.
Glenn: I'm going to take that one step further. Yes, you have to do assumptions whenever you're doing model, what I would say is before you leave the room, confirm and align with the key assumptions. This way because the last thing you want to do is Rowan, if I'm going to do a model for you, if I'm going to do some kind of analysis and I haven't talked to you, what those assumptions are. If you look at it and say, wait, that doesn't even make sense to me, I've wasted a lot of time building out that model because the results won't be any value. So I want to go and say, all right, my major assumption, I got five things that I'm going to be driving this off of. I'm looking at growth rates of this. These are the different areas that'll be impacted. This is what we're looking at. And just confirm those assumptions before you leave the room so that then, the minor assumptions you might say, oh, you know what? I wasn't looking for a 5% growth rate. I want that six and a half. Okay, fine. That's easy enough to change. But the structure of the model of what you're doing, it's so key to get that alignment before you leave to make sure you're building your model in the right direction. The fringes could be adjusted. But if you're way off on those key assumptions, like, oh, we want to grow internationally. Okay. I'm going to assume you're going to grow everywhere. You come back to a leader and say, I can't grow everywhere. I was thinking Europe, there's a very different type of model and approach. So align on those key assumptions.
Rowan: Yeah, absolutely.
Chris: Yeah. And Rowan, tying this back to personas, right? Valued advisors don't run away from proactive, direct conversations. They don't. They don't. I mean, so when you talk about a persona that you want... I'm a direct communicator when I'm talking boxing, when I'm doing fitness, anything. I'm a direct proactive communicator, right? And when we talk about a lot of today about personas, that is a persona of a valued advisor. They're going to meet it and say like, look, good and bad, right? Assumptions are good and bad. Right? You're going to have assumptions. Sometimes they're like, look, this is what it's going to be. But the thing about that is you want to be proactive. You want to be direct in your communication about it, right? The last thing you ever want to do in public private or any persona that you're going to have, is not be that person that proactively communicates. I'd rather have someone tell me something's horribly about to go wrong and I should be aware of it. And this is what could go wrong than never not tell. Any leader would say that. I'd rather have anybody, any leader is going to always say, I'd rather have somebody in the trenches with me that's going to say, hey, look, if we keep marching in this direction, we're going to come across some lands mine. I want you to know, but here's where we're going and that's what's going to happen. Right? I value that any day of the week than like, you did this awesome analysis and do all this great stuff. And I'm surprised by it. Another thing, please, please, please, please make your take away. Do not have your leaders have surprises? Tell your leaders surprises well in advance because the moment that they figure out a surprise and they're like, man, the last thing you ever want to do in any persona you're trying to have is to blindside people. And I think what we're talking about with this alignment and modeling, and assumptions, valued advisors run towards proactive, direct conversations.
Rowan: The only surprises leaders like is bottle of champagne, something positive, a little gift on their desk. Nobody likes any bad surprises.
Glenn: Higher revenue.
Rowan: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. Or bookings or the surprise you went over your bookings target or your lead goals like good guys surprises are good.
Rowan: That Bluebird win. Yeah. That's a good surprise. But someone's also in trouble for sandbagging their forecast at that point. Yeah. So gents, we've got a few minutes left. Today we've covered a lot of key topics as we talk about FP& A becoming that business partner and adopting those key personas and how to do that through alignment, through planning. We talked a lot about personal planning, organizational planning and then just really making sure that you document as you go. Right? I think that's another really important part of the process. Is there any final words that either of you want to share around this building out your persona?
Glenn: Yeah. I'll chime in, so know where you are, right? A little bit of recap, know where you are, know where you want to be. If you don't want to, if you're not comfortable being that trusted advisor, that's not the direction you want to go, recognize it. Don't push yourself into it and be consistent. I think that's the thing that... And actually I'd say one other thing, be honest, don't try and sugarcoat something. Don't try and say something that you're going to commit to doing something you don't do it. Chris talked about that earlier. Those things are just so important because it all comes down to one word, trust. Is that if you're going to be an advisor, they have to trust you, which means that you have to deliver on what you say. You have to back up what you do and you have to be open and honest and they have to respect and understand and trust the words to come out of your mouth.
Chris: My final takeaway with Glenn is walk and talk the same way you do inside and outside the business.
Rowan: Yeah. I love that.
Glenn: I like it, too.
Rowan: All right, gentlemen, thank you so much. This has been FP& A Fridays on Clubhouse every Friday, 10: 00 AM Pacific. We'll be back next week with a great set of discussion topics yet again, thank you all so much for joining us here on Clubhouse. Really appreciate it and have a great weekend, everyone.
On this round of “FP&A Friday”, Rowan, Chris and Glenn share how you can start building your FP&A persona. Tune in to hear their conversation on developing high performance habits, the different FP&A personas, how you can change your persona, and environment takers vs environment shapers.
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