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Mastering Financial Acumen: The Path to Sustainable Business Success These days, the rate of change in business is accelerating. Alongside this, it is becoming even more necessary to grasp financial principles if a company is to enjoy long-term success....

By Deanna Ritchie

This story originally appeared on Due

These days, the rate of change in business is accelerating. Alongside this, it is becoming even more necessary to grasp financial principles if a company is to enjoy long-term success. Financial acumen is a way of thinking that combines financial insight and business intelligence. Put simply, it’s about understanding, using, and communicating the financial elements of a business.

Without adequate financial acumen, a business leader can’t be said to be totally competent. Their strategic decisions will be as good as those that any competent person could make, but they may not be as good as the competent person leading the business next door. So, financial acumen is important at a personal and organizational level.

This article underscores the significance of financial intelligence for business triumph. It clearly defines financial intelligence and its payoff, which affects the bottom line and the near-term and long-term competitive picture. “In the complex, fast-moving world of business,” it says, “nothing else comes close to delivering”—to “crushing it,” in contemporary parlance—like financial intelligence does.

The Importance of Financial Intelligence

Why is understanding money so important? It really comes down to this: you can’t make good decisions if you don’t “get” the numbers. At its core, financial acumen is about reading and understanding financial statements. That’s important because no matter what a company does or how well it does it, underneath it all is the bottom line. And for as long as companies have existed, the role of financial managers has been to ensure that the line is good.

Understanding financial information and being able to use that information to make business decisions is at the core of financial acumen. Figuring out how to do this with the limited resources available to a company is a high-stakes game for which not everyone is cut out. No modern business leader—great or small—ought to lead without a direct hand in figuring all of this out. And to do that, your financial acumen must be above average. Market conditions, economic analysis, budgeting, strategic planning, cash flow, and all the other good (and not-so-good) bases for making financial decisions must be crystal clear.

Informed Observations

Dr. Maged Malecki, a renowned dentist at Boston Dental, urges his colleagues to better wrap their heads around the financial side of their practices:

“Financial acumen is as crucial in dentistry as clinical expertise. To provide the highest quality care, a dentist must understand the economic landscape of their practice, encompassing everything from cost management and efficient resource allocation to strategic investments and revenue optimization. This holistic approach means delivering excellent clinical outcomes and ensuring the practice’s sustainability and growth. By mastering dentistry’s financial and medical aspects, practitioners can ensure patient satisfaction, expand their service offerings, and secure long-term business success. Ultimately, integrating financial insight with clinical skill enables a dental practice to thrive in a competitive market.”

Hilary DeCesare, an award-winning peak performance and business coach and founder of The ReLaunch Co., adds her perspective:

“Financial acumen is not just about numbers; it’s about understanding the story behind those numbers and using that insight to drive transformation. In my 23 years of coaching, I’ve seen firsthand how mastering financial principles can elevate a business from surviving to thriving. The 3HQ™ framework I developed focuses on aligning the head, heart, and highest self, which includes a strong financial foundation. By tuning into their financial health, business leaders can make more impactful decisions, foster resilience, and ignite growth. Financial acumen is the key to unlocking a business’s full potential and creating lasting success.”

Operational Efficiency

Their professional positions highlight money management as a totalizing imperative by stressing the importance of its contribution to two organizational drivers that are indispensable to any ongoing industry: operational efficiency, which refers to increasing the speed and amount of production relative to the financial and labor investment expended; and, relatedly, macroeconomic stability, which refers to minimizing fluctuation in activity, employment, inflation, and similar factors. These professions differ over the specific portfolio of skills and knowledge that constitute financial understanding for different kinds of jobs but universally stress them as a ‘need to have.’

Effective Ways to Improve Your Understanding of Finances

1. Education and training in the financial sector

It is important to constantly educate oneself to develop the level of judgment and experience required in finance. At no time can this lack of personal expertise and business knowledge be more dangerous than for an entrepreneur. Individuals with great ideas who lack the acumen to responsibly handle the enormous potentiality of wealth implied in a new business’s success can become their worst enemy. Uninformed and untrained in the basics of personal finance, they can multiply Murphy’s Law a dozen times.

2. Make use of financial tools and software.

Making use of financial tools and software can facilitate the financial management processes. These tools offer up-to-the-minute data and enable the management of resources that are consistent with the budget. They let the business or nonprofit generate detailed financial reports. These tools of the trade take for granted that the organization has the right team to embody the accounting principles. With the team and the principles in place, the moment-to-moment management of the organization’s resources becomes doable for anyone with an accounting background. Given the basic accounting principles that structure and guide all these applications, anyone can choose to work in any of these financial applications.

3. Create a strategic financial plan.

A strategic financial plan sets an enterprise’s goals and the necessary steps to achieve them. It projects the company’s revenues, devises strategies to keep expenses in line, and–where to put it? –indicates the amount and “character” of investment anticipated.

It is common sense that businesses should do their best to clearly set forth these strategies in what are called financial (“or economic”) plans. Revisiting and updating these regularly is desirable for many reasons, not least of which is that the business environment—certain to change sometime soon—will require adjustments on all fronts.

4. Connect with financial professionals.

Working with financial specialists, such as accountants, financial advisors, and consultants, can be very helpful. These professionals can interpret complicated financial information, find likely dangers, and develop good financial plans. They also work with an unfettered view. It’s what they do. They often see the outside world of finance more clearly than we do on the inside. Most important, however, is to have the financial experts up us a store of good ideas. They keep the conversation going, make us aware, and do all this talking, so we hardly realize that we are “consulting,” which is a fancy word for talking.

5. Keeping an eye on the company’s financial performance is a must.

Maintaining a strong financial condition requires routinely reviewing the financial performance of a business. This applies especially to leaders, who can then analyze the key economic measures: cash flow, profit margins, and return on investment (ROI). In assessing and reviewing these, they keep an eye on the overall economic condition of their company. With this information in hand, they can make proactive decisions and adjust strategies, potentially averting disaster or leading to even greater success.

6. Encourage the spreading of a mindset oriented around financial intelligence.

It is paramount to the organization that everyone on our team understands the economic benefits or harms of what they do. Poor decisions made at any level of our organization can greatly cost the company we work for, and we have to ensure that those making decisions understand what those costs or savings imply. With that in mind, we provide our employees with some level of financial acumen to better understand the implications of what they’re doing at any given time.

Practical Uses

A strong financial understanding is not exclusive to large corporations; it is just as important for small businesses and startups. A small business owner who can decipher financial statements can find money-saving opportunities, change pricing strategies, and make good investment choices. Likewise, startups with a good grasp of economic concepts can manage their cash flow, bring in investors, and scale up their operations—all of which can lead to business success.

Think about the technology startup that grew enormously because of strategic financial management. The business was at a tipping point and needed to improve its cash position. It opted to organize and optimize its financial practices and hired a financial consultant to assist. In a relatively short amount of time, the business was able to turn around its cash-flow problem and significantly increase its revenue.

The company handled its cash flow challenges, overcoming them by producing a very strong (and, of course, a top-secret) financial plan, which included optimizing its budget and making impeccable investment decisions. They got not just any kind of funding but significant amounts of money that far exceeded what the companies in the survey sample mentioned. And, compellingly, they did so over a sustained period. Theirs is a story not of one-offs but of using financial skills and robust funding to drive durable growth.

The broader Success of a Business can be linked to its financial acumen.

A good understanding of money is crucial for achieving business goals. It directly affects multiple parts of a business’s functioning. This includes some of which the finance chief is directly — and indirectly — responsible for.

When it comes to strategic decision-making, leaders with financial savvy can figure out the financial meaning of the actions set in stone during the decision-making process. Three critical decisions making an economic impact are (1) mergers and acquisitions, (2) market expansion, and (3) product development. Good financial leaders can ensure that all these critical strategic moves are aligned with long-term business goals and provide a positive financial impact for the organization.

The business protects itself from potential financial problems if it understands, anticipates, and takes action to guard against possible risks. This means controlling the amounts and timing of cash that flows into and out of the company’s various accounts. It also means managing and controlling the types and amounts of funding (i.e., financial resources) that come into the company from various sources.

Allocating Resources

Allocating resources is a key part of financial management. When done well, it results in investment decisions that offer the greatest possible return on investment. In this case, “investment” refers to spending that pays off in the form of improved programs, services, and activities. This also includes operational decisions that offer the greatest possible efficiency.

Businesses with robust financial management teams are better suited to function and expand during an economic downturn, with an almost unheard-of ability to find still-green pastures of opportunity. These companies possess a financial language that not only helps them maintain, present, and, yes, hide-to-look-for-latter amusement but also helps investors, customers, and competitors to understand what is going on subtly.

Becoming a true financial expert is an ongoing process. It takes commitment, knowledge, and on-the-job experience to reach that level. And for business leaders, it’s not just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. With a grasp of basic finance, leaders can make the decisions needed for their business to thrive. Good decisions depend on a solid understanding of financial realities and the consequences of those decisions.

And leaders who know it make the best decisions.

Becoming proficient at finance, using complex financial instruments, and having a culture that values financial knowledge are essential to making this vision a reality. The business environment has become more sophisticated. As such, understanding finance will remain a key attribute for individuals and organizations that want to thrive. Because if you don’t get the money right, you won’t be around for long.

Businesses can attain enduring prosperity by implementing these strategies and consistently adhering to financial principles. They succeed in the long term because they build on a firm foundation. Financial acumen, demonstrated at every level of an organization and embedded at the core of its culture, is instrumental in solidifying that foundation.

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