Best Practices

Mastering Your First 90 Days: A Finance Leader's Guide to Success

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As a new Finance leader, the first 90 days are critical to quickly grasp the lay of the land, build bridges with key players, spot opportunities to make a noticeable difference and develop your plan for the company's financial well-being. This balance between immediate impact and long-term planning is key to setting the stage for a tenure that's remembered for all the right reasons.

For a complete guide to your first 90 days + a downloadable playbook flow-effort, high-reward initiatives, check out our 90 Days to Impact guide.

Quick wins: low-lift, high-reward projects

It's essential to demonstrate your ability to make a swift impact. These projects are designed to optimize resource utilization, streamline financial processes, and drive innovation. By focusing on these strategically selected projects, you can create an immediate, tangible impact and set the stage for sustained improvement. 

The following initiatives require a low effort but promise high rewards:

  • Reduce unnecessary expenses: Conduct a thorough expense audit, pinpointing overfunded or underutilized areas, and identify less costly alternatives.
  • Streamline cash flow management processes: Review your current system thoroughly, and make improvements to any areas causing unnecessary delays or inefficiencies.
  • Implement process automation: Identify repetitive, manual tasks that could be automated and implement automation solutions.
  • Enhance financial reporting accuracy and relevance: Ensure that the data being used is accurate and up-to-date. Customize reports where possible to make them more relevant to the specific decision-making needs of the audience.

Worthwhile investments: optimization and operational excellence

As you leave the learning phase, it's time to start putting all you've observed into action. This period will focus on strategy development, enhancing financial reporting, cost optimization, strengthening controls, and nurturing your team.

For example, you could:

Optimize working capital management: Improve your receivables collection processes, manage your payables effectively, and efficiently control your inventory.

Evaluate and optimize vendor contracts: Look for potential savings, negotiate better terms, and seek competitive alternatives if necessary.

Enhance risk management processes and internal controls: Develop a more robust risk assessment framework, implement stronger internal controls, and regularly audit these controls to ensure they work as intended.

Implement tax planning and optimization strategies: Implement effective tax strategies, stay updated with the latest tax laws and regulations, and take advantage of all available tax benefits.

Achievable strategic initiatives: collaborative projects for lasting success

These initiatives move beyond the finance department. They involve collaboration across the organization and drive strategic decisions that affect the company's financial performance and operational effectiveness. These actions can significantly transform the company's financial landscape when implemented effectively. To realize sustainable growth and resilience, it's crucial to incorporate the perspectives of all stakeholders.

For instance, you could:

Drive strategic cost management initiatives: Scrutinize your cost structure, understand the cost drivers, and implement initiatives that align costs with your business strategy.

Foster cross-department collaboration: Break down silos and foster collaboration across departments which can lead to more informed decision-making and improved operational efficiency.

Optimize capital structure for improved financial performance: Carefully balance the cost and risk of your debt and equity financing options.

Expand into new markets or geographies: Conduct thorough market research, understand the legal and regulatory landscape, and develop an effective market entry strategy.

Scalable Improvements: Beyond Your First 90 Days

As a finance leader, your long-term objectives should pivot towards shaping a resilient finance function that responds to business challenges and drives sustainable growth and continuous improvement. These initiatives are about building a resilient, forward-looking finance function. 

For example, you could:

Enhance investor relations and attract new investment: Maintain transparent and consistent communication about your financial performance, strategic initiatives, and market opportunities.

Implement digital transformation for enhanced financial processes: Implement digital technologies and tools in your finance functions, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning for financial analysis or blockchain for secure transactions.

Develop and implement sustainability and ESG initiatives: Incorporate sustainable practices in your operations, promote social responsibility, or enhance your corporate governance structures.

Strengthen risk management framework: Adopt advanced methodologies that can effectively identify, assess, and manage a broader range of risks.

Design and implement a strategic talent development program: Establish leadership development programs, skills training, or mentoring initiatives.

The journey toward impact and influence

Now, Finance leaders are expected to be strategic partners, digital pioneers, and culture influencers. They are tasked with driving business performance, leading digital transformation, and fostering a culture of innovation and resilience. By focusing on quick wins, worthwhile investments, strategic initiatives, and scalable improvements, leaders can navigate their initial days successfully. But the real challenge — and opportunity — lies in leveraging their unique position to drive strategic change, create value, and shape the future of the organization.

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