What can Finance possibly learn from a Magician?

I recently went to a great Fringe event at the Edinburgh Festival – Pete Firmin, a very entertaining magician. I walked out enthralled, and it made me think about what we in Finance can learn from him.

Magic is a very technical profession – you’ve got to learn all that sleight of hand stuff and it’s got to be very accurate. It attracts geeks who enjoy that sort of thing who practice by themselves for hours on end, often in their bedroom from a young age! Polishing the act to get it just right.

Yet to be a big success like Paul Daniels or David Nixon you’ve got to learn strong people skills. How to engage an audience, how to draw them into your story, how to entertain them, not just show off how clever you are at the magic.

Pete Firmin combined his magic show with a comedy act to make it highly entertaining. I suspect he was first and foremost a magician and then he learnt to overlay his comedy act on top of this to engage his audience.

It doesn’t matter how technically good you are, if people don’t like you, or they can’t relate to you, they’ll find fault with the tricks.

It’s the same with Finance.

I’m not saying we all need to make a joke of the accounting numbers or learn how to saw people in half to get the attention of the Board !

But we do all need to learn how to tell a compelling business story, drawing on just a few financial numbers to prove your argument. Not bombarding your business colleagues with a full spread sheet or the complete 20-page monthly management report pack.

The Managing Director at one of our clients recently said to me that “dealing with his Finance team was like trying to sip water from a fire hydrant!”

“Tell me what the numbers mean. Help me to know if I need to take any actions and what my options are? Better still; make a recommendation of what I should do about it.”

If you want your Finance teams to shift from being providers of information to influencing business decisions and business strategy, then you need to help them to have an impact and influence business decisions.

In other words, to change peoples’ minds.

So Ask Yourself:

  1. Is your Finance team like Pete Firmin the magician-cum-comedian?
  2. Have they overlaid the art of effective communication and engagement over their technical accounting skills?
  3. Or do they keep ‘polishing the numbers’ until they’re sure they are absolutely right?

If you want to find out more about the practical skills you need in commercial Finance, download a copy of our best practice report on finance business partnering by filling in the form on the right.



With kind regards,

Adrian Willmott,
Managing Director
e: adrian.willmott@arcusc.com
t: +44 (0) 207 608 5096

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