SME Finance Leaders Must Get “intimate” with Day-to-day Business

Business growth should not be taken for granted but must be continually managed to succeed, says ACCA SME Global Forum

HONG KONG, Aug. 13, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Finance leaders need to be closer to the day-to-day workings of the business to avoid it becoming static, warns the SME Global Forum of ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

In a new paper on the subject of business growth titled Building the finance function in growing businesses, ACCA’s SME Global Forum says that finance chiefs must start acting as business partners with a clearer view of the day-to-day workings of the business to make informed decisions and understand the whole impact those decisions will have. The Forum also says that much of the discussion on business growth assumes that growth is a potential option for businesses at all times, when the reality is very different.

Charlotte Chung, Senior Policy Adviser at ACCA, said: "There is a lot that separates the finance function of a static business from one geared for growth. The SME Global Forum has looked at what makes a company grow in detail and a key starting point is the notion that growth is not something businesses can dip in and out of at will; it requires constant management and analysis using timely and accurate data. Without this, rapid growth can be scuppered by what might seem to be very simple risks, such as overlooking loyal customers.

"The underlying theme in unlocking a business so that it is fertile for growth is the pivotal role of the finance function. Finance leaders must start acting as business partners — getting their hands dirty and being more intimate with the day-to-day workings of the business. CFOs and FDs of growing businesses must become the central information hub for the business – consolidating, synthesising and disseminating information to where it is required, be it to meet new regulatory and compliance targets, scan their environment for funding or business opportunities or make the case for new activities such as exporting."

The ACCA Global SME Forum makes key recommendations for businesses on developing an environment conducive to growth. Recommendations in the Building the finance function in growing businesses, include:

  • Ensure business plans for growth are designed to be ‘living documents’ — focussing on aligning everyone’s efforts in the relatively short- and medium-term while being the central point for updates on any changes and developments. The business plan must be able to adapt to the fluidity of the markets it operates within.
  • Invest in data infrastructure – a growing business needs to be able to perform data mining and have access to actionable real-time information. This information will also reveal where the cracks and gaps are as the business goes through rapid growth.
  • Focus on balancing the benefits of outsourcing with the need for self-sufficiency through building in-house capacity — both must be developed in tandem to ensure growth that is robust against external challenges.
  • Develop and grow strong financial leadership — this may require building a network where advice can be readily sought, for example, the board, support staff and external advisors.
  • Understand what growth will look like for your business over the long term — growth is not the same for all businesses; it is important to monitor how growth may be impacted by factors such as where it occurs in the business cycle, market changes and finances. It is also crucial to understand how growth may impact on the business including staff fatigue and customer bases.

Charlotte Chung adds: "Across the world, there is a major policy focus on supporting SMEs, but merely encouraging more SMEs to form will not deliver the desired outcomes; enterprise policies have to be accompanied by efforts to understand and support the sustainability and growth of businesses. Growth has many challenges; and a large proportion of young SMEs fail to grow because of a lack of appropriate and timely support, including in-house resources. ACCA’s own research shows the importance of an evolving finance function and its symbiotic relationship with the growth of a business, from its informal setting-up of processes and systems onwards."

Read the full Building the finance function in growing businesses report here.

Notes to Editors

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.
  2. We support our 170,000 members and 436,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of 91 offices and centres and more than 8,500 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.  
  3. As the first global accountancy body entering into China, ACCA now has over 23,000 members and 48,000 students, with 8 offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Hong Kong SAR, and Macau SAR.
  4. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accounting professionals bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.
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