Influencing other decision makers can be a challenging task for accounting professionals. In finance, you may often need to work with other departments like CMOs, CEOs, or other more senior finance leaders. You may be faced with the difficult task of flagging risks to other departments, assessing the businesses’ priorities, or requesting more hires for your finance team. In this article, we will cover how to influence decision making in finance going into 2024, to make sure that you start off your year with the right toolkit for success. This article covers:

  1. The difficulty of influencing decision makers in finance
  2. Using “what if” scenarios to influence other decision makers
  3. Pushing-back when you need to
  4. Negotiating more hires for your accounting team
  5. Key Takeaways

1. The difficulty of influencing decision making in finance

When we talk about influencing, what we really mean is making your voice heard. You want others to respect and contemplate your ideas. Sometimes, you will have insight on a topic that another department does not. Sometimes, your skillset will allow you to see different things to other professionals, such as risks or opportunities, and you will need to see eye-to-eye with other professionals in order to respond.

A difficulty when influencing other professionals’ decision making in accounting is that you are often going to be working with leaders outside of finance.  These professionals may not always understand the struggles of your department, or they may be focused on different areas to you.

For example, in a time of high cash flow, departments outside of finance may feel secure and willing to pour funding into new areas. They may be less risk aware and more optimistic. Whereas, a finance leader in the same business may be more cautious. They may be instead focused on identifying threats to cash flow and firefighting. Here, due to different day to day experiences within a company, there is a difference in mindsets when faced with a situation. The difficulty would be bridging the gap between these attitudes, in order to protect the interests of the business.

2. Using “what if?” scenarios to influence other decision makers

In order to maintain success in a business, you have to mitigate risk factors. In finance roles, pessimism is often a strength, as it allows you to constantly be aware of threats to business success.

In order to get buy in from decision makers, you need to make them see what you see. You need to be the pessimist. To influence decision making in finance, take the leader that you are speaking to through worst case scenarios and ‘what if?’ situations. For example, “what if the funding that we’re depending on for this project were to fall through. What would our solution be?”

Posing questions like this to leadership both encourages buy-in from other decision-makers, and ensures that contingency plans are in place. After posing that question, if the funding for that hypothetical scenario DID fall through, you and other decision makers in the business would be prepared to deal with that.

Essentially, as a financial professional, you want to focus on grounding directors and other decision makers even in times of high cash-flow, to make sure that your situation stays that way.

3. Pushing back when you need to

In the above example, you are coming to other decision makers with your influence. However, what if it’s the other way around?

Often, managers from other departments might come to you as a financial professional with a list of essential or urgent tasks for the business. However, as a senior finance person, to manage that you can bring back that ‘what if’ scenario. For example: “what if we didn’t do that task, how would we circumnavigate that?”

Interrogating lists of requests in this way allows other decision makers to consider what is truly essential versus what is a ‘nice-to-have.’ It assesses risk, creates contingency plans, and can create more efficient budget spending.

4. Negotiating more hires for your accounting team

Finally, one of the most difficult requests to make to other decision makers is growing your finance team when you really need it. As a financial professional, you’ll understand that money underpins most things (if not everything) within a company. If you need to request to hire new finance talent to support you, you will need to highlight the time benefits and ultimately money saved by doing so.

One way of doing this would be to use a recruiter to help you, who will have access to salary surveys to help you to influence hiring decisions and allow you to estimate hiring costs. If you would like to download our salary survey, click here. Recruiters can also provide insight into the market like what size finance team your company size typically has in your industry. They can also provide upfront costs (like a retainer) and expected time frames to help you to present your case and budgeting to decision makers.

Ultimately, if the ‘what if’ scenario method fails to establish contingency plans, your next best option is to break down costs for other decision makers.

5. Key Takeaways

Overall, the answer to the question “how to influence decision making in finance” can be broken down into three areas: Pessimism and risk awareness, posing questions to other leaders, and assessing finances. Using pessimism as a strength, you can have the foresight for risks that other members of the business may not see, such as not enough hires, or a high dependency on one income source. By posing “what if?” scenarios to decision makers and interrogating what is necessary, you can help your business to overcome threats, avoid unwanted surprises from the market, and focus on true priorities. Finally, in addiction to posing these key questions, you can also back your concerns and requests up with monetary and time incentives for the business you are in, which can be used to request finding for new hires for your team, or for new software to save the business time.

If you would like to discuss finance recruitment or your career in accounting, contact us here.