How do you become more involved in strategy?

How do you become more involved in strategy?

Last week’s newsletter discussed the three most significant issues affecting new finance leaders. Number one is imposter syndrome; number two is feeling overwhelmed with tasks; and three is insufficiently involved in strategy.

You can do something about these if you start addressing them during your first 100 days in your new finance leader role.

You must start tackling this before day 1 of the 100 days. As soon as you know you have secured your new role, it would be best to consider how you will approach it and do some research.

Before Day 1 – The research period

Doubtless, you did some research during the recruitment process. You will know quite a lot already. Write down what you know and then answer these initial questions:

  • What is your remit in your new role? How will that support the company strategy?
  • What are the mission, vision and values of your new company?
  • What are the company’s strategic objectives for the next three years?

Next, could you find out as much as possible about the company, its industry, and the competitive marketplace? The three essential tools of strategy SWOT, PESTLE and 5 Forces will give you a framework for your research. You could even go further and do some competitor analysis.

You can populate these tools before you arrive and revise them during your first 100 days.

Start with a PESTLE analysis.

This will allow you to learn about the external factors affecting the company. Before you land on day one, you should have a reasonably complete PESTLE analysis.

A PESTLE analysis is a framework used to assess the external factors that can impact a business or organisation’s operating environment. It examines six key areas: Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological, Legal, and Environmental. By conducting a PESTLE analysis, you will understand the external forces that can shape their operations and identify potential opportunities and threats.

Next, could you think about Porter’s five forces?

Begin to form a view about competitive pressures in the marketplace.

Porter’s Five Forces is a framework developed by Michael Porter to analyse the competitive dynamics of an industry or market. It helps businesses understand the attractiveness and profitability of an industry by examining five fundamental forces that shape competition. By applying Porter’s Five Forces analysis, companies can assess the overall competitive landscape and make informed decisions regarding their market strategy.

The five forces in Porter’s framework are as follows:

  1. Threat of New Entrants:
  2. Bargaining Power of Suppliers:
  3. Bargaining Power of Buyers:
  4. Threat of Substitute Products or Services:
  5. Intensity of Competitive Rivalry:

By analysing these five forces, you can gain insights into the overall competitiveness of the market. They can identify potential threats, understand the power dynamics between suppliers and buyers, evaluate the risk of new entrants or substitute products, and assess the intensity of competition. This analysis will put you in a great place before you talk to the business leaders of the commercial teams.

You can begin a SWOT analysis.

A SWOT analysis is a simple way of laying out the business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. PESTLE and Five Forces will already show you where those opportunities and threats might lie. Once you are properly in post, you can have conversations exploring your new business’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, you will quickly determine what needs to change by aligning strengths with opportunities and weaknesses with threats.

The images in this post all come from the GrowCFO Digital Toolkit. The toolkit gives you access to templates for all the analyses I’ve suggested in this newsletter. The Toolkit is available to all GrowCFO Premium members.

During your first 100 days in post

Days 1-10 Induction

During your initial induction, it’s essential that you confirm your remit. Could you take some time out with your boss? It would be best if you were clear on your role and what’s expected of you. But this is an ideal opportunity to ask questions about what you must do to help deliver the current strategy.

SWOT forms an excellent framework for discussion as you meet your colleagues for the first time. You can use your forum with them to understand their views across the four boxes of the SWOT; you should be able to enhance your initial view considerably and confirm or dismiss some of your early assumptions.

From conversations during induction, you should be able to update all the analyses you have already been working on and develop your viewpoint of where the company needs to be strategically headed.

Days 11-30 Discovery

With induction over, you can start digging deeper. This is the time for you to learn about your team and the processes and systems you inherited. It would be best to begin forming a view of what needs fixing. What is broken, and what needs to change to align with the vision of where the company needs to be in 3 years?

As well as a SWOT for the overall business, could you produce one specifically for the areas of the company within your remit? This will cover the finance team and any broader responsibilities you have.

You can spend more time with the rest of the business, too. This gives you plenty of opportunity to extend the analysis you have started and form your own opinions about your new company. You end up with SWOT, PESTLE and five forces fully populated, not just by you but with information gathered from the entire business team.

Days 41-70 Blueprinting

Your blueprint for your finance team will articulate your vision for finance in the next three years and communicate the changes you will need to implement. This is an excellent opportunity to make sure you have the people and tools you need to be proactive in business strategy.

To be fully involved in strategy, you will need to provide insight backed up by solid financial analysis. Your finance team and the systems they use must be able to supply that information. Are they good enough?

If the answer is no, you can now ensure you can fix it. You can build whatever you need into your finance function blueprint and ensure that you have ratified that mandate with the leadership team by the end of this phase.

Days 71-100: Could you roll out your plans?

It’s time to get your team working on things that will be useful later on. It would be best to start building an economic model of the business to supplement the accounting numbers. The starting point is revenue segmentation, and you can follow this up later by segmenting cost and profitability, too. This will be robust information to have at your fingertips when talking to the rest of the leadership team and is your key to accessing the strategic conversations in the business. You will likely throw up new insights, which will be strategic conversation starters.

Here are a few alternative ways to segment revenue:

  1. Customer groups
  2. Product/Service Categories.
  3. Geographic Segmentation.
  4. Channel Segmentation.
  5. Transactional Segmentation: (order size, etc).
  6. Industry Segmentation.

It’s important to note that these alternatives to revenue segmentation are not mutually exclusive. Depending on your business and strategic objectives, you can combine multiple approaches or customise them to suit your needs. The key is to select the segmentation method that aligns with your strategic priorities, provides meaningful insights, and enables effective decision-making.

Beyond the first 100 days

Suppose you have undertaken a thorough business analysis with SWOT, PESTLE, 5 Forces, and revenue and profitability segmentation. In that case, you have placed yourself in a position to be party to any strategic conversation. You will not only bring insight and analysis to support or challenge ideas from the rest of the leadership team. You will have an informed view of where the business needs to go strategically. This will prepare you for a great first year as the finance leader and make you the CEO’s trusted copilot.

Do you want to know more about becoming a dynamic finance leader? Take a look at the GrowCFO Future CFO programme.

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