5 Essential Business Skills Needed in Accounting

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It’s true that management accountants need the know-how to balance a budget, to complete a month-end report, and many other financial skills of managing a business. But other skills are equally important for success in our careers.

Mastering these 5 business skills will help you grow professionally and advance your career as a management accountant.

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  1. Verbal and Nonverbal Communication

Open communication and collaborating with your team are keys to success. Writing skills are necessary for clear and coherent reports. A very wise business leader once told me that he knew he didn’t really understand something until he could explain it succinctly, in writing, to someone else. Working on presentations and collaborating on special projects with employees outside of your department will help you cultivate this skill set.

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  1. Organization

Managing your workload isn’t easy when piles of papers have accumulated on your desk for the past three months. Organized employees have the most streamlined processes because they know where to find what they’re looking for, whether it be paper or digital. Organize your digital filing system in a clear and consistent manner; make sure your files are properly backed up, and important schedules and documents are available to your colleagues in your absence.

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  1. Leadership

Leadership skills are important for management accountants at every level of an organization. Taking charge of your work and your team will demonstrate your promotability. A leader emerges when the group is presented with a challenge, and one person demonstrates the commitment and competence to make sure the team delivers.

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  1. Time Management

Deadlines are an important part of our jobs as management accountants. We have regulatory filing deadlines and ever-increasing pressure for a rapid monthly close. Managing your time well reduces the stress of the deadline and allows you to prioritize your work. Streamlining the recurring work and completing it earlier in the month gives you more time to focus on new projects and innovations.

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  1. Use of Technology

In the age of digital offices and video conferencing, we need to be one step ahead of the cyberfraudsters. This means you’re continuously scanning the landscape for improved processes and accounting software and leading (or co-leading with the IT department) its implementation.

Accountants as Business Partners

Professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential are in the perfect position to be leaders in their organization. They have the balance of accounting and business skills needed to become trusted business partners. You can find learning resources, including webinars, online courses, and educational articles, at IMA’s website: www.imanet.org/learning-center/learning-center-overview.

Written by Doreen Remmen

 


PLEASE NOTE: In the spirit of collaboration, the Moments that Matter blog will be migrating to the Strategic Finance website later in August under a new name: “IMA Moments.” We are very excited for this collaboration. I would like to thank all of our loyal readers for following our blog for the past three years, and I’m looking forward to your continued readership.

 


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Tips of the Trade: Making an Impactful Speech

As IMA’s President and CEO, delivering speeches and presentations to the IMA community are part of my daily job description. One instance in particular is the speech I make at the Annual Meeting of Members during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. Every year I try to make my speech more dynamic and impactful than the previous year. But you don’t need the experience of a CEO to make a powerful presentation. Here are a few things I keep in mind when preparing a speech or presentation.

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Each year, the Chair, Chair-Elect, and I make a speech at the Annual Dinner during IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo. This is Bill Knese, former IMA Chair (2014-2015), making his speech last year.

Know Your Audience – It’s All about Them, Not You
IMA members come to the Annual Meeting for a few reasons, one of them being to hear about how the organization has performed on their behalf and what the future holds. It’s much like a meeting of shareholders in that sense; increasing the value of your membership investment in IMA is top of mind. The information isn’t always stimulating, but members get necessary and valuable information out of this meeting. It’s something they look forward to every year.

Avoid Tangents
Become very familiar with your speech or presentation before you take the stage – know your topic like the back of your hand. This will help you learn the flow of topics so that you can at least have a mental outline of your speech and “flex” (or be adaptable) to the needs of your audience. Also, keep in mind your time limit. Your audience might lose interest if you go on a tangent. Depending on the audience size and formality of the speech or presentation, you may want to ask your audience to hold questions until the end of your presentation to avoid tangents.

Be Personable, Be Genuine
Adding anecdotes to your speech or presentation helps your audience relate to the topics you’re talking about and, therefore, better understand the points you’re trying to make. Authenticity is key for making a connection with your audience – they’ll get to know you better, and you’ll be reassured that they understand the points you’re conveying. We are all human, and demonstrating you can walk in the shoes of your audience makes you more relatable and therefore influential.

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It’s important to accompany your presentation with visuals and to be passionate about the topic you’re speaking about. This presenter from last year’s Conference loves public speaking!

Engage Your Audience
The content of your speech isn’t the only thing that matters. Engaging your audience is important for making a lasting impression and reinforcing the points of your speech. You can do so in a few ways: ask questions to facilitate conversation, ask for their feedback or opinion on a topic, or encourage interactive exercises in small groups. You should also include visuals in your presentation to keep the audience stimulated.

All in All, Be Passionate
These tips are worthless unless you’re passionate about the topic you’re presenting. This will make the experience more memorable for your audience, and they will more easily connect with your message. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re presenting to an audience of 1,000 or a small room of coworkers.

What are your tips for delivering an impactful presentation? What was your most recent speech/presentation about?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

RELATED ARTICLES:

Five Easy Tricks to Make Your Presentation Interactive – Forbes
Preparing a Speech – Toastmasters International

A CEO’s Reading List

Becoming a CEO isn’t the end of the highway—it just means you’ve made it to the expressway. It’s the beginning of another journey. You count on more people, and more people count on you to make the right decisions and do the right thing. You influence a broader audience and become a primary face of the organization.

With this dynamic role comes more responsibility and challenges, and continuous learning and growth are vital to keep pace. You can get certifications, go to conferences and seminars, or travel the world to meet new people and learn about their best practices. Another way to learn and grow is through reading. These are the most influential books I’ve read that have helped me shape IMA into the organization it is today, one that we are all proud of in terms of its contribution to enrich careers, organizations, and the public interest.

My Top 5 Books

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Trust, Inc. by Barbara Brooks Kimmel taught me how to be a more responsible leader and to lead with integrity and trust as a table stake for performance and culture. The book is full of case studies about what works and what doesn’t. Being transparent is important for a business to succeed. I had the honor of authoring a chapter in this book.

 

 

 

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21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell taught me how to build followership—the great teams and board of directors with whom you work with every day. If you trust, empower, and enrich people, they will follow you, respect you, and trust you in return. And, in effect, they won’t be afraid of expressing their true feelings and opinions, which leads to the next book.

 

 

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Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott talks about having open and honest conversations with active listening skills. A responsible leader listens to his or her team’s opinions, even if they are in disagreement, and opens the lines of communication. The extremes of shy agreement or bullying disagreement just don’t work.

 

 

 

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A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter taught me to not rest on my laurels. If you want change to happen, you have to act immediately with a sense of urgency. Be open to change and adapt to the new environment. A CEO must be flexible in a changing world.

 

 

 

The Advantage: WhThe-Advantagey Organization Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni emphasizes the importance of a cohesive leadership team and a strong, clear vision of the future. It’s easy and fun to read because Lencioni writes in a narrative format that’s very relatable.

 

 

 

 

Live the Lessons

You would think your summer reading list would end at graduation, but reading is one of the easiest ways to continuously learn. The lessons I’ve learned from these books have helped me on my journey as IMA’s President and CEO. I’ve implemented many of these lessons into IMA’s business culture, and all staff and IMA volunteers live by these standards as it is our duty to our members and the global profession.

Which books are currently on your reading list? What are some lessons you’ve learned through reading?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

 

 

 

Related Articles:
Read 2014’s Best Business Books In Two Hours – Forbes
If You Want to Be a Big Deal, Never Stop Learning – Entrepreneur

My First 100 Hours as CEO

jenga_croppedAbrupt changes happen overnight…

It was April 18, 2008, my birthday. I was on vacation with my family when my phone rang. It was IMA’s Board of Directors, asking me to take on the title of acting president and CEO, an “overnight promotion” of sorts. 

And what a challenge it was. I was faced with restructuring the organization’s management and its strategy in order to remain competitive in a changing market.

Nothing quite prepared me for the task: not any advanced degree or my leadership experience as CFO at a major telecommunications company.

The first 100 hours would include the decisions that defined me as a leader.

Make Each Hour Count

Establish expectations and confidence.
First I had everyone (stakeholders and employees) look me in the eyes and not only agree that there was a need for change, but that they believed in the transformation.

With the understanding that this entire process was being watched and critiqued, I tried to be genuine, transparent, and authentic. It was essential for building trust.

Choose your priorities.
I couldn’t lose focus on the things that mattered most: cash and culture.

You can’t move forward as a company until you are in a healthy financial position. In order to put IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) on this track, I needed to eliminate excess spending. Things like renting plants and having a caretaker for them were no longer part of IMA’s agenda. So I bought the Senior Leadership Team plastic watering cans from Wal-Mart.

Neither cash nor culture can change overnight, but it was important that people started to see progress. Actions tell a story.

Create a “We will…” list.
I knew that to do my job, and to do it well, it required courage, conviction, and laser-like focus in achieving results. A “We will…” list communicates your non-negotiables with a set of actions that the entire staff is committed to achieve, not just consider. My list became the common thread that united our organization – they weren’t empty promises or feel good statements. We were defining our culture minute by minute, hour by hour.

Decide who will have a seat at your table.
Keep company culture and values in the front of your mind, now and always. The first item I crossed off my list was choosing my leadership team (who would “sit at my table”). This team should have skills and values consistent with the future direction of the organization, as well as the ability to tackle unexpected challenges.

No one plans for the unexpected. But with transparency, conviction of purpose, and reciprocal trust, difficult circumstances can become opportunities for organizational growth.

That birthday five years ago is one I’ll never forget. I was given an invaluable gift. I began my journey as a leader overnight with the support of the people around me. Together we created an environment, strong enough to give us a visible future again.

Until next time…
Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson