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What is Business Partnering & how it gets you a seat at the decision-making table

finance leadership relationships Nov 07, 2022

I was introduced to the concept of Business Partnering while I was a Finance Director at Funding Circle.  I was already conducting elements of Business Partnering, but once I learned the benefits of it from both the business and finance’s (and my) perspective, I was able to step it up.


Being from a small team – and again this is different in the larger corporate world, it is generally the most senior finance person to form the Business Partnerships with the business.

So, what is Business Partnering and how can this help you and your business?

Essentially, it’s the concept of forming Partner Relationships (generally a support function with a more operational department head) and the goal is to encourage collaboration that in turn improves business performance.

From a Finance perspective, I see it as a method to increase communication with the business and to really add value (and essentially get you that seat at the decision-making table).

Looking at the chart below, it’s the bottom part of this chart that business partnering sits and it’s the area that Finance professionals who are in more Leadership roles should partake in.


So, what does that actually mean?

The goal of this relationship for you is that you are “part of the team” so to speak with the department that you are working with.

So, for example, the managers of the Marketing team need to review a potential marketing channel and you are part of this discussion and work with the marketing team to assess this opportunity and whether it’s worth testing or not.

In general, if a good business partnership relationship is formed – then you will be invited to have a seat at the decision-making table. 

If the business partnership relationship isn’t working – then you will only be told all the decisions (if you’re lucky) when they have been made, or even worse – only when payment is due.

In this way, you could look at the chart above in reverse. 

  • Business partnership isn’t working – Operational (hear of the decisions when payment is due or a Sales invoice needs to be raised).
  • Business partnership is in its infancy or needs a bit of work – Information (hear about the decision when made).
  • Finally, Business partnership is working – Influence (you are trusted to be part of the decision-making process and are asked for your insight and can make an impact on the decision made)

How can you start a Business Partnering Relationship?

Firstly, you will need to decide who you want to form a Business Partnership with.  If you have a larger team – you may want to delegate the “easier” departments and take on the more difficult ones.  This perhaps isn’t necessarily due to personalities!  But rather how crucial the department is to the Business success – largely due to the goals for the year. 

After you have worked out the who, success will come down to you and your team being able to prove that you’re trustworthy and that you can add-value.

Trust will come over time – but one way that trust can be earned (and quickly lost!) is to provide information or complete a task that you said you would by a given time and quality.

Proving that you can add value, is potentially the number 1 first thing to consider before you even start working out who your business partners are. 

And you can do this for all departments at once, and that is through your monthly reporting. 

If your Management Accounts are much, much more than just 3 financial statements, are interesting to read, offers insight and has forward-looking analysis each month – then the business should already know that you can add value to Commercial decisions.

Once you have this established – you can then approach your prospective business partners and ask them how you can support them. 

What information do they need? 

What do they find useful? 

What are their current sore spots (and think about ways to support them here) and

what are the short-term and long-term goals for their department.

If you can provide the above – you have a perfect springboard into developing a long and happy relationship!

If you need support and mentoring to improve your Finance Leadership skills, here are four ways I can help...

  1. Get your FREE Guide: Stepping into the role of Finance Director or CFO
  2. Follow me and let me know what challenges you are having right now.
  3. Register for the mini-course, Upgrade your Management Accounts and get noticed by the business 
  4. Work with me in the new / aspiring FD course and includes Q&A sessions where we can discuss all of your questions and how to apply your learnings to your current role. 


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