6 Skills for a Successful Move Into Industry

Are you a CPA looking to move into industry, or a company considering hiring one? We encourage our clients to focus on six key skills in their evaluation of any candidate:
  1. Excel skills often represent a large gap.  Excel macros or pivot table-level skills are required to effectively manipulate data for meaningful analysis.  More often than not, the business needs more than just an Accountant; it needs business leaders who can uncover opportunities to either make money or stop losing it.  It’s not enough to have a staff of Financial Analysts who know Excel; a truly effective CPA in industry will need to be able to effectively utilize Excel themselves.  This is especially true for C-suite CPAs who need to work on confidential M&A analysis.
  1. In a large company, an industry CPA will need to have strong ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) I.S. skills.  Even in a smaller or mid-size company, a CPA will need to quickly learn how to use and master the company ERP system.  In addition, reporting in many of the larger ERP systems is often less than ideal, so Excel will again be very important to the business until the company invests in add-on specialized report writing software.
  1. Effective people management and leadership skills are essential for a CPA to maximize their career potential in industry.  Managing staff in industry is often different than managing CPAs and students who work in public accounting.  Managing and motivating non-professional accounting staff in industry has its own particular challenges and opportunities.
  1. Process improvement skills are most important – especially at the Controller level.  This skill goes hand-in-hand with effective people management and leadership skills.  However, it also includes having a vision for improving such things as month-end reporting times, so more attention can be paid towards business analysis.  Of course, a more efficiently run finance department – and business in general – helps to deliver a more profitable and ready-to-compete organization.
  1. Strategy skills will be essential to maximize an individual’s career potential in industry. To properly qualify for the C-suite, strategic planning and on-the-fly strategic input skills are required to be an effective right-hand partner to the company leader.  Strategy skills, people management and leadership capabilities can be rapidly developed by participating in the CPA Ontario Controllership, CFO Leadership and Master Strategist professional development programs. For more information, visit:  www.cpaontario.ca.
  1. Relationships with funding organizations will be important to cultivate and continuously expand.  Related to this skill is effective treasury management skills, but hands-on treasury skills will likely only be required in either a mid-size or Owner managed company.  Dedicated Treasurers are employed by large corporations.  However, even CFOs working for large organizations need to know enough about effective treasury management to effectively direct the Treasurers that report to them.
Stephen Smyth is the CEO & Managing Consultant of Chief Financial Interviewer, Inc.