Let’s say you’re a business owner, and you’ve got your finance team in place, either in-house or outsource. That team may range from one to many people any of whom may be part time or full time. For this post, let’s assume you’ve got all the players in place from bookkeeper to tax accountant, and everything in between.
But how do you know if you’re dealing with a top-notch finance team? Because it’s not about having all the right players; it’s about what those players can do.
In other words, does your finance team meet the gold standard?
What Is a Gold Standard Team?
Before we go any further, what defines a Gold Standard team? I caught onto this concept from one of my favorite mentors, Dave Marberger (the CFO when I was the Controller at Tastykake).
Dave challenged me to work with my team of fifteen people to set and live up to the expectations of a Gold Standard team, defined as:
A team of professionals that is fully aligned with your business strategy and has a 360-degree perspective on your business model; in addition, they integrate with your entire organization, add value with everything that they produce, and are never considered as a group that should (literally) be confined to the “back office”. This team is dedicated to your company’s vision and has the knowledge, expertise, and “financial finesse” to take your business to the next level.
A gold standard team isn’t around just to file invoices, generate reports, or crunch numbers all day. Those things happen as a byproduct of what they’re actually there to do: to add value to every client, business leader, employee, service provider, and shareholder in their organization.
Gold Standard: The Special Sauce
In my experience working with CEOs, entrepreneurs, and leaders across a wide variety of industries, I’ve had the privilege of seeing gold standard teams in action. And I’ve also had the experience of helping my clients to bring their teams up to a gold standard level.
For example, we were working with one organization that was struggling with productivity and maximizing profit, so we went in to assess their team and processes. We found that there was one person who spent a solid chunk of time each week pulling numbers from a report, compiling them on a spreadsheet, and then sending them to their supervisor to review.
When we dug deeper, we found out this person actually had no idea what these numbers even meant (she was never trained). She had no idea where the report came from, why it was significant, what systems and processes it was connected to, or what her supervisor did with the reports.
As it turned out, the supervisor was taking the spreadsheet and realigning the data with the original report the person had been working from! So, essentially, there was zero reason for this spreadsheet to be created, except for the fact that it had “always been done that way.”.
To be fair, it wasn’t this person’s fault; she was just doing what she’d been trained to do. But in a Gold Standard team, the leadership makes sure that everyone understands how her work connects to the bigger picture. She knows why her work matters.
Here’s how that situation would have played out on a gold standard team:
Mary: “Where is this data coming from and why are we compiling this spreadsheet? I want to understand exactly what it is, what system it relates to, and how it ties into the bigger picture of what we’re working on. Jason, what are you doing with this data once I pass it off to you?”
Jason: “I’m doing X, Y, and Z.”
Mary: “Oh! Well, if you’re doing X, Y, and Z, then we don’t need to waste time plugging these numbers into a spreadsheet. You can pull the data for X, Y, and Z directly from this report. Let’s do a test run, stop creating the spreadsheet for a week, and see how the new process runs.”
::holds off on the spreadsheet for a week, business functions fine, no one and nothing falls apart::
Mary: “Great! Looks like we can eliminate the process.”
Jason: “Great! I’m glad we looked at this!”
And just like that, with some ownership and initiative, a process was improved. Onto the next one for that team! THAT’S an example of Gold Standard teaming. That’s the difference between working just to work versus adding Gold Standard value. On this team, each member helps the others up the hill to the highest expectations for service.
When it comes to your finances, you don’t want to settle. Your finances are the lifeblood of your business, and you should only trust that to the very best. Take a look at the team you have in place and ask yourself, “Does my team meet the Gold Standard?” If the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, let’s raise the bar!