5 Ways a Graduate can Help your Finance Director

help your finance directorA graduate can help your Finance Director by addressing some of the problems which they don’t have either the time or ability to deal with.

These are issues that will help you run the company better and in some cases you are having to handle yourself.

Perhaps the Finance Director has been with the company since it began and their skills don’t extend beyond preparing the accounts. Maybe they don’t have staff with the skills which will release their time.

I’ve listed 5 ways for a graduate to help your Finance Director which may resonate with you. They assume simply taking on the graduate for a short project to deliver the improvement. Depending on the strength of your Finance Director, you may also benefit from the graduate being mentored. You may also benefit from support in determining the project scope and requirements at the start.

These are all projects which I have carried out at clients, mentoring graduates and delivering good results.

1. Sales & Margin Analysis

Invoicing, month end, paying suppliers, chasing customers. They all have to be done but tend to put analysis work down the priority list. However the Finance Director should also be adding value to your bottom line, through analysis and investigation of sales, margins, customers and products.

If you’re not receiving the analysis you need to run your business, it’s a good piece of work for a graduate to do. They are strong on Excel and have developed good analytical skills at University.

2. Investigate Stock Losses

All companies who hold stock incur losses. The easy solution is to suggest theft but it is rarely that. Generally it is the visible tip of an iceberg.

When an item physically moves – received from the supplier, taken out for a job, transferred to another location or despatched to the customer then it needs to have a corresponding entry in the books. The loss occurs where the book entry doesn’t mirror the physical movement.

It may be that the person controlling stock needs your backing to stop employees removing stock from the shelves and not recording it. Perhaps the process needs to be mapped to understand where the weaknesses lie. Maybe you need to invest in a better business system.

3. Budget and Year End Preparation

For the finance team, budgets and year end are an extra bolt on of work in addition to their daily duties. A lot of it is analysis in Excel, ideally to be done by finance staff then reviewed by the Finance Director.

In reality staff are already busy and may not have great Excel skills, so it falls on the Finance Director to do the work. Do they have the time? Do they have the skill to quickly manipulate data in Excel?

If you got more analysis done prior to the year end audit by a graduate, you could ask the auditors for a reduction in fees as they’d have less work to do.

4. Save staff time by finding shortcuts with the latest technology

According to a Government report by Lord Young on small businesses, the key to growth is embracing technology to cut costs and operate with a small number of staff. It is also the underlying message on the report The Future of Work : Jobs and Skills in 2030.

Many businesses don’t continuously keep up with technology but make stepped changes. In between times though there are a lot of quick wins that can be gained by using existing technology more smartly. For all of my clients, I task a graduate with finding and solving these easy fixes so we generate some quick positive results to help the staff with their jobs.

5.  Ad hoc analysis for the other directors

Maybe you and your fellow directors accept that you can’t expect much analysis from the Finance Director to help make decisions about the business. But is it right to have such low expectations?

It’s not just financial analysis a graduate can help out with. Finance should provide support across the whole business and make sure information generated by others aligns to the central finance data. Maybe helping out the Finance Director with a graduate can also make a difference to others in the company?

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