Nobody knows your business better than you do. After all, you are the CEO. You know what the engineers do; you know what the production managers do; and nobody understands the sales process better than you. You know who is carrying their weight and who isn’t. That is, unless we’re talking about the finance and accounting managers.

Most CEO’s, especially in small and mid-size enterprises, come from operational or sales backgrounds. They have often gained some knowledge of finance and accounting through their careers, but only to the extent necessary. But as the CEO, they must make judgments about the performance and competence of the accountants as well as the operations and sales managers.

So, how does the diligent CEO evaluate the finance and accounting functions in his company? All too often, the CEO assigns a qualitative value based on the quantitative message. In other words, if the Controller delivers a positive, upbeat financial report, the CEO will have positive feelings toward the Controller. And if the Controller delivers a bleak message, the CEO will have a negative reaction to the person. Unfortunately, “shooting the messenger” is not at all uncommon.

The dangers inherent in this approach should be obvious. The Controller (or CFO, bookkeeper, whoever) may realize that in order to protect their career, they need to make the numbers look better than they really are, or they need to draw attention away from negative matters and focus on positive matters. This raises the probability that important issues won’t get the attention they deserve. It also raises the probability that good people will be lost for the wrong reasons.

The CEO’s of large public companies have a big advantage when it comes to evaluating the performance of the finance department. They have the audit committee of the board of directors, the auditors, the SEC, Wall Street analyst and public shareholders giving them feedback. In smaller businesses, however, CEO’s need to develop their own methods and processes for evaluating the performance of their financial managers.

Here are a few suggestions for the small business CEO:

Timely and Accurate Financial Reports

Chances are that at some point in your career, you have been advised that you should insist on “timely and accurate” financial reports from your accounting group. Unfortunately, you are probably a very good judge of what is timely, but you may not be nearly as good a judge of what is accurate. Certainly, you don’t have the time to test the recording of transactions and to verify the accuracy of reports, but there are some things that you can and should do.

  • Insist that financial reports include comparisons over a number of periods. This will allow you to judge the consistency of recording and reporting transactions.
  • Make sure that all anomalies are explained.
  • Recurring expenses such as rents and utilities should be reported in the appropriate period. An explanation that – “there are two rents in April because we paid May early” – is unacceptable. The May rent should be reported as a May expense.
  • Occasionally, ask to be reminded about the company’s policies for recording revenues, capitalizing costs, etc.

Beyond Monthly Financial Reports

You should expect to get information from your accounting and finance groups on a daily basis, not just when monthly financial reports are due. Some good examples are:

  • Daily cash balance reports.
  • Accounts receivable collection updates.
  • Cash flow forecasts (cash requirements)
  • Significant or unusual transactions.

Consistent Work Habits

We’ve all known people who took it easy for weeks, then pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline. Such inconsistent work habits are strong indicators that the individual is not attentive to processes. It also sharply raises the probability of errors in the frantic last-minute activities.

Willingness to Be Controversial

As the CEO, you need to make it very clear to the finance/accounting managers that you expect frank and honest information and that they will not be victims of “shoot the messenger” thinking. Once that assurance is given, your financial managers should be an integral part of your company’s management team. They should not be reluctant to express their opinions and concerns to you or to other department leaders.

Corporate Financial Reporting is part of corporate reporting that consists of financial statements and accompanying notes that are prepared in conformity with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The financial statements are summaries of business transactions during the financial year of the corporation. The business world has many forms of organizations ranging from the for profit sole proprietorship, partnership and incorporated businesses with limited liability to the not for profit organizations whose existence is not mainly driven by financial gain.

Regulations that govern the preparation of financial statements largely apply only to the incorporated entities. This has given rise to accounting standards setting bodies and legal provisions that form the frameworks used when preparing the financial statements. The process of preparing the reports in accordance with the GAAPs and legal requirements presents advantages and disadvantages to the organizations and to other interested groups. The International Financial Reporting Standards are increasingly being adopted by many national accounting standards setting bodies leading the way to a single set of accounting standards all over the world. It is therefore worthwhile to look at the advantages and disadvantages of financial reporting to create an awareness of the complexities that corporations and accounting professionals contend with.


A number of advantages of corporate financial reporting can be enumerated and perhaps among the most important is that organizations are able to compare their individual performance with others in the same industry or line of business. This is because the established principles, standards and regulations ensure that there is a benchmark to be followed in the preparation of financial reports. Recognition of income, expense, assets and liabilities is standardized by the existing framework and any deviation can be countered with disciplinary or legal action. Organizations strive to prepare their financial statements to closely match the set frameworks as much as possible. In some countries for example Kenya, this has been translated into an annual competition (the fire award) where companies performance in this area is assessed by professional bodies including the national accounting professionals body with the aim of awarding the company with the best prepared financial statements. This in turn promotes staff and professional development which is a desirable aspect in the growth and wealth creation of the corporate organizations.

Investors and owners of companies in jurisdictions where corporate financial reporting follows strong established and clear frameworks can make the appropriate investment decisions. Corporate reporting in this case enhances the development of understanding of the activities of the companies and at the same time keeps the companies themselves on their toes as the wider society is well-informed of the expected reporting standards. This also acts as an incentive to managers to perform at their best and to institute control measures that aid the organization to comply with the frameworks.

Requirements of corporate financial reporting lead to timely preparation of financial reports. This is desirable to the stakeholders who may be more interested in the organizations immediate past rather than wait for a long time before the outcome of their input is known. When financial reports are prepared and published within the stipulated time, it is possible for necessary actions to be taken to correct any anomalies that may have led to undesirable outcomes. In a more serious case where a material error happens to be discovered, it can be corrected and the necessary measures taken to avoid a repeat of such occurrences.

IFRS give room for flexibility as they are based on principles rather than rules. As principles are based on value, corporations can adopt the standards that best suit their circumstances as long as fair value is adequately reported. This also encourages professional development as accounting standards setting requires qualified academics who can develop the required standards after lengthy and rigorous discussions and considerations to come to a consensus.

Overall, corporate financial reporting acts as a control measure as management, owners, employees, customers, creditors and the government are dependent on the reports in their decision-making. For instance the government in taxation of companies relies at the outset on the financial reports prepared and examined by qualified public or certified professionals. Trends on the growth of the companies can also be quickly determined by comparing sets of reports for different periods.


Corporate financial reporting does not bring desirable results only. There are some undesirable outcomes that should be mitigated against. The consideration of cost guides many companies in their operation. In preparing corporate financial reports in accordance with laid down standards and rules, expertise is required and the company has to engage highly qualified professionals for this task. The fee payments to qualified professionals can be prohibiting especially to small companies controlled closely by their owner managers. Compared to larger companies the small entities do not have adequate resources to implement adoption of the standards or even to train or employ qualified staff. In many instances such small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are tempted to forgo compliance with certain aspects of the standards or rules leading to problems with regulatory bodies including the government.

Freedom to adopt standards that suit the particular circumstances of the company leads to manipulation of reports. Disclosure of important information is in jeopardy as there is no legal enforcement for implementing the standards. Even where the government imposes legal obligations on what financial reports are to be prepared, there are still loopholes that can arise especially when the accounting standards and the legal stipulations are not in conformity in some areas.

For multinational companies, there are challenges in preparing their consolidated financial reports especially where operations are in countries with different accounting standards and legal regimes. There are also other challenges in dealing with for instance exchange rates, interest rates and transfer pricing where treatment of such aspects may be considered differently in different countries. Taxation and existence or non-existence of dual taxation treaties also poses another challenge.


It can be concluded that corporate financial reporting is essential and the gains from following accounting standards based on principles far outweigh the disadvantages as freedom to prepare reports in whatever way organizations deem appropriate may lead to financial chaos.

In the olden days a career in finance did not offer anything more than a back-office recording keeping job. A finance person was understood to be a record-keeping person in an organization.

However, with the evolution of business landscape, the role of finance has evolved and become more challenging. In today’s organization a finance person occupies a much broader role involving decision-making, planning, controlling the financial operation of a business.

Within finance, one can find a variety of job roles that are not limited to just the accounting field. You can explore financial career options in various industries such as financial service, financial planning, fund management, regulatory compliance, trading, financial management, and so on.

These different jobs require you to have completely different skill sets, and you can choose a financial career that suits your personality and skill level.

If you are analytically oriented, you can choose a career in risk management, where your job is to measure and manage the risk faced by a bank or a financial institution. Alternatively you can also join the insurance industry as an actuary where you ass the risk of loss, and design and price new insurance products. These jobs require number crunching skills. You are also expected to be very diligent as a small mistake can turn into big losses.

On the other hand, if you are a very outgoing person and like meeting people, you may be better suited for selling financial instruments. You may want to join a bank or an insurance company, and promote their financial products to prospective customers. In a bank, you are expected to sell their financial products such as deposit accounts, credit cards, personal loans, home loans, etc. For a career in sales, most organizations provide you a thorough training on their products and common techniques for selling. You are expected to be a go-getter with the ability to close deals quickly. In most financial services institutions, you are paid a decent salary and a commission, which is based on your sales targets.

One more lucrative career option is in trading. As a trader you use your employer or client’s funds to trade in financial products such as equity, bonds, currencies and currencies in an attempt to make a profit. Traders study the financial markets and identify opportunities to make profit. This is a high stress job and requires you to have strong analytical skills and a tough attitude. A career in trading also offers good salaries with bonuses and incentives linked to your performance.

While these are a few important career options available in finance, a person interested in this field can choose from a much wider array of job roles. Best of luck with your financial career!

The term “financial skills” covers a range of activities that a professional buyer or procurement executive needs to have if they are to deliver value for money and manage commercial risk for their organisation. However, these skills are not always covered by conventional training which means that a buyer could be creating needless exposure both for themselves and their career as well as their organisation.

There are six financial skills that everyone who works in procurement should acquire.

1. Financial analysis – this covers the use of financial ratios that enable you to identify suppliers who are under performing compared to their competitors or who might be financially vulnerable and so create a supply risk for you. Ratios compare one financial value with another in order to give you an insight into the way that supplier is run. For example, liquidity ratios look at the ability of a supplier to meet its short-term financial obligations by dividing the value of current assets (such as cash and inventory) with the value of current liabilities (such as creditors). Other ratios tell you how efficient the supplier is in turning sales into profit, generating sales from the use of assets and its ability to grow.

2. Activity based costing – this is a method that takes all of the costs of an organisation and assigns them to the products or services that the supplier sells. The big difference between this approach and more conventional costing methods is that it first allocates costs to the activities that create those costs and then to products or services in direct proportion to the amount of those activities that they use in their production or service fulfillment. What this means is that you get a clearer picture of the true costs of making a product or delivering a service than you get from conventional means. The importance of this for the buyer is that they get an understanding of what drives costs and so what actions suppliers can take to reduce them which in turn lets them reduce the price to the buyer and still make an acceptable profit.

3. Understanding profit and loss accounts and balance sheets – the profit and loss account shows a buyer a summary of all the transactions a supplier has made in a period of time (such as a year) with the resulting profit they make and the balance sheet is a snapshot of the financial position of the supplier at that point in time. Accounting policies that the supplier adopts can make a big difference to the declared profit; for example, a supplier can choose how much to charge each year to the profit and loss account for an asset it has bought and this can have a major impact on the profit in any one year. Knowing what accounting policies a supplier uses can help a buyer to understand their accounts and so make sure that the financial ratios that are used to get an insight paint an accurate picture.

4. Understanding cashflow – the lifeblood of any organisation is its cashflow as it can only pay its bills on time and remain solvent if there is cash in the bank. It is important to understand that this is not the same as its profit. For example, if you sell something for $100 now and give your customer 14 days credit then you will not physically receive the cash for another two weeks. If you have bought materials that have been used to make that product and your supplier has given you only 7 days credit then you will have to make a payment to them before you receive the cash from your sale. If you do not have the money in the bank then you may be in difficulties. Understanding the concept of cashflow and how to calculate and analyse it is an important tool in predicting the solvency of your suppliers and their vulnerability.

5. Understanding break-even analysis – this technique calculates the level of activity your supplier needs to have if it is to break even. Levels of activity above the break-even point result in a profit for your supplier and levels of activity below it means your supplier is operating at a loss. The importance of knowing this figure is in negotiations. If your supplier is already above its break-even point and has included your current level of purchases in its calculation, then any further business from you will provide a “super profit” (that is, profit over and above its expected amount as their fixed costs have already been covered). You should be able to negotiate a price reduction based on this information.

6. Price and cost modelling – one of the key questions that procurement people ask of themselves is “am I paying the correct price for this item?”. Price and cost modelling helps to answer this question. Price modelling involves comparing the price you pay against some yardstick of reasonableness such as the price paid last time or a benchmarked price. Cost modelling goes further and is a technique in which you build up an understanding of the cost of the materials, component and other costs that go into the items production or delivery (if it is a service) so that you can assess whether or not they are reasonable and whether the subsequent profit is fair.

Accounting is usually seen as having two distinct strands, Management and Financial accounting. Management accounting, which seeks to meet the needs of managers and Financial accounting, which seeks to meet the accounting needs of all of the other users. The differences between the two types of accounting reflect the different user groups that they address. Briefly, the major differences are as follows:

    • Nature of the reports produced. Financial accounting reports tend to be general purpose. That is, they contain financial information that will be useful for a broad range of users and decisions rather than being specifically designed for the needs of a particular group or set of decisions. Management accounting reports, on the other hand, are often for a specific purpose. They are designed either with a particular decision in mind or for a particular manager.


    • Level of detail. Financial reports provide users with a broad overview of the performance and position of the business for a period. As a result, information is aggregated and detail is often lost. Management accounting reports, however, often provide managers with considerable detail to help them with a particular operational decision.


    • Regulations. Financial reports, for many businesses, are subject to accounting regulations that try to ensure they are produced with standard content and in a standard format. Law and accounting rule setters impose these regulations. Since management accounting reports are for internal use only, there are no regulations from external sources concerning the form and content of the reports. They can be designed to meet the needs of particular managers.


    • Reporting interval. For most businesses, financial accounting reports are produced on an annual basis, though many large businesses produce half-yearly reports and a few produce quarterly ones. Management accounting reports may be produced as frequently as required by managers. In many businesses, managers are provided with certain reports on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, which allows them to check progress frequently. In addition, special-purpose reports will be prepared when required (for example, to evaluate a proposal to purchase a piece of machinery).


    • Time horizon. Financial reports reflect the performance and position of the business for the past period. In essence, they are backward looking. Management accounting reports, on the other hand, often provide information concerning future performance as well as past performance. It is an oversimplification, however, to suggest that financial accounting reports never incorporate expectations concerning the future. Occasionally, businesses will release projected information to other users in an attempt to raise capital or to fight off unwanted takeover bids.


  • Range and quality of information. Financial accounting reports concentrate on information that can be quantified in monetary terms. Management accounting also produces such reports, but is also more likely to produce reports that contain information of a non-financial nature such as measures of physical quantities of inventories (stocks) and output. Financial accounting places greater emphasis on the use of objective, verifiable evidence when preparing reports. Management accounting reports may use information that is less objective and verifiable, but they provide managers with the information they need.

We can see from this that management accounting is less constrained than financial accounting. It may draw on a variety of sources and use information that has varying degrees of reliability. The only real test to be applied when assessing the value of the information produced for managers is whether or not it improves the quality of the decisions made.

The distinction between the two areas reflects, to some extent, the differences in access to financial information. Managers have much more control over the form and content of information they receive. Other users have to rely on what managers are prepared to provide or what the financial reporting regulations state must be provided. Though the scope of financial accounting reports has increased over time, fears concerning loss of competitive advantage and user ignorance concerning the reliability of forecast data have led businesses to resist providing other users with the detailed and wide-ranging information that is available to managers.