How to Let Go of the Ledger: A Finance Director’s Guide to Being a Successful Non-Executive Director

FD winning non-exec work

As an experienced Finance Director, your expertise extends beyond just crunching numbers and analysing financial metrics. Contrary to popular belief, not all finance directors are boring “numbers nerds” – some of them even have a sense of humour!

So, why should founders and businesses consider hiring an ex-finance director as a non-executive director? Here are a few reasons:

  1. Holistic view: Finance directors have a comprehensive understanding of the business, beyond just the financial aspects. They work closely with other functions, such as sales, marketing, and operations, to ensure that the business is successful.
  2. Strategic thinking: Finance directors are trained to think strategically and can offer valuable insights and advice on long-term planning and strategy development. They are skilled at analysing data and using it to make informed decisions that support business objectives.
  3. Risk management: Finance directors are experts in risk management and can help identify potential risks and opportunities for the business. They can also help develop and implement risk mitigation strategies that support long-term success.
  4. Communication skills: Finance directors are skilled communicators and can effectively convey complex financial information to non-financial stakeholders. This is an essential skill when advising founders and other board members who may not have a financial background.
  5. SME experience: Having worked with SMEs for many years, ex-finance directors understand the unique challenges and opportunities that small businesses face. They can offer tailored advice that takes into account the specific needs of SMEs and help founders navigate the complex business landscape.

Overall, the experience you gain as a finance director has given you a unique perspective and skill set that extends beyond just financial metrics.

As a non-executive director, it allows you to offer valuable advice on strategy, risk management, and communication, helping founders and other board members make informed decisions that support long-term success.

Here are a few hints and tips for any FD who is approaching their first series of NED interviews:

  1. Understand the role: As a Finance Director, you may be accustomed to a certain set of responsibilities and tasks. However, the role of a non-executive director is different, and it’s essential to understand the expectations and responsibilities before the interview. Research the company and its board structure, and familiarise yourself with the duties of a non-executive director.
  2. Highlight transferable skills: While your background as a Finance Director will be valuable, it’s important to highlight your transferable skills that are relevant to the role of a non-executive director. For example, skills in leadership, strategic planning, and risk management are all valuable assets for a non-executive director.
  3. Show your versatility: As a Finance Director, you may be perceived as someone who is solely focused on finance and numbers. However, it’s important to show your versatility and highlight your ability to think beyond financial metrics. This includes your experience in business strategy, risk management, and communication.
  4. Be prepared to ask questions: An interview for a non-executive director role should be a two-way conversation. Be prepared to ask questions about the company, the board, and the role of a non-executive director. This demonstrates your interest in the company and your willingness to contribute to its success.
  5. Show your passion: Non-executive director roles are often sought after, and competition can be fierce. It’s important to show your passion for the company and the industry. Share your experiences and ideas, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the opportunity to contribute to the success of the company.
  6. Demonstrate your ability to be a team player: Non-executive directors work as part of a team with other board members. Show that you are a team player who can work collaboratively with others, while still providing constructive challenge and independent thinking.

For Finance Directors who are used to being hands-on, transitioning to a non-executive director role can be challenging. The saying “eyes on, hands off” is often used to describe the role of a non-executive director, which means providing oversight and guidance without getting involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

It’s essential for non-executive directors to maintain a hands-off approach and focus on providing strategic guidance and oversight to ensure the long-term success of the business. The key is finding the right balance between providing valuable insights and not overstepping boundaries, which can be a challenge for Finance Directors who are used to being in the thick of things.

Ian Wright is the CEO and Founder of Virtualnonexecs,.com – the UK’s largest Non-Executive Director community. Join today for free CLICK HERE


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