The finance function & the World Cup:

It’s all about strategy, team formation & communication.
Football Strategy

Graham Thornton blog, Recently Qualified Finance, Qualified Finance...

Do I start Rooney on the left again or go with two up front? These are just some of the tough decisions facing England manager Roy Hodgson before this Thursday’s make or break World Cup match against Uruguay. When selecting the cream of England’s footballing talent, Hodgson looks for not only the best players but those that suit his tactical vision and will create a cohesive and harmonious working atmosphere. Hodgson must also get the correct blend of experience and youth.

With finance now the lynch pin for decision making and compliance within any business, the finance team is expected to provide valuable support to the entire company. It is the job of the finance director to create a credible finance function that will drive the company’s strategic vision. If we were to directly compare the England team with a typical finance function then Roy Hodgson would naturally be the finance director.

Strategy and team formation

The finance director is not only preoccupied with building the credibility of the finance function across the organisation, they also have to instil confidence among analysts, the board, employees and advisors as the one person who has all the answers. More recently the finance director has taken on further responsibility within the organisation – owning areas of the business that had previously not been considered their domain of expertise. The finance director’s level of understanding of the business has completely evolved from that of 10 years ago.

Tony Hinds, Divisional Finance Director at Dairy Crest describes his role as “a mixture of strategy, detail and team leadership…You need to get the team to work together and continue development of each member, 1 on 1s drive action and efficiency”.

Both roles centre on strategy and tactics. Whether England manager or finance director, each must have exemplary interpersonal and leaderships skills, have the ability to build highly effective teams and be a skilled communicator – with well-developed verbal and presentation capabilities. Both must possess superior problem solving abilities, be an accomplished manager of stress and time and be an effective delegator.

Honing the skills of the players and team formation

From goalkeeper to striker, the different positions of the England team require differing talents and skills. Within the finance function, each ‘player’s’ individuality and personal skill set has to be honed into a fully functioning team, each player supremely confident in each other’s roles and willing to help a team mate.

Peter Nwosu, EMEA Finance Director at Avon Cosmetics told Cedar that “pro-active leadership and development of the team” form one of the “four key pillars of the finance director role”.

The responsibility for building the right finance team falls to the finance director and can take months or even years depending on the business structure and objectives. As with ‘Woys’ role, it is the job of the finance director to hone his or her players skills to position the team for success.

The finance director is at the forefront of human resources. Like Hodgson, the finance director is responsible for the promotion of ‘players’, identification of weaknesses or gaps in the team, identifying skill shortages and recruiting talent. The finance director must also ensure that he or she recruits the right characters to fit the team, those that they can trust and rely upon and who complement the other ‘players’ and the cultural dynamic of the organisation. Building the right team with the correct blend of experts working in the most appropriate positions is critical to any organisations prosperity. Winning the best talent in the market is imperative to that success.

Mr Nwosu highlighted one challenge in his role as “upgrading the capability of bench strength, balancing the training of internal talent and the external war for talent”.

Each area of the finance function needs a different talent or skill, the manager must select the right forward thinking individual to play up front – in the case of the finance function the finance director needs to engage a senior leadership team representing the major business operations. From this position the captain clearly communicates the information or updated strategy to the team . Whilst on the pitch when the finance director is unable to, communication can then be passed seamlessly through the operating teams.

The England team is an integration of elite players from several clubs coming together to play on an international stage. Hodgson has recruited many of the Liverpool players into the England team, on the basis that these players train and play together every week and already work well as a team in the progressive style that Hodgson hopes to emulate.

Mr Hinds states “it is critical to find the right balance for your team. You need to be aware of the consequences of your actions and the impact on your team”

It is the manager’s role to keep developing skills, nurturing those he or she has learnt from other business cultures, in the same way that the England players have learned from their domestic clubs, but also to ensure they are working as a cohesive team.

Training sessions and team morale

Developing your team can be an arduous business. Roy Hodgson has experimented with multiple players and various formations before finding what he believes is the winning formula. As the tournament approached Hodgson prepared his players for the conditions and situations they would be facing through continuous coaching and support. It is the role of the finance director to train and develop his or her team to improve efficiency, quality and motivation within their team.

Mr Hinds say he “enjoys the empowerment of the team, seeing them develop and to the point where they make a difference”.

It is the role of the finance director to provide direction and to empower the team, communicating effectively to instil a strong morale amongst the individuals ensuring the teams works together at its best thus maximising delivery and performance.

In 2010, Capello closed the door on dialogue with the players. The players were left feeling alienated and disengaged from Capello’s vision of how the team should behave and perform. This led to the ‘Cape Town Coup’ by some of the senior players which would see them challenge the Italian’s authority.

This example could happen to any manager. Only by clear and constructive communication of the overall vision, two way engagement of the individual’s contribution to that vision and an agreement of goals can your own Cape Town Coup be avoided.

Let us hope that Hodgson has made the right choice in his hires for a successful World Cup.