What is an Outsourced Business Partner?
Business Partnering has developed as companies realised that numbers on a report often mean very little to most levels of a business, sometimes even at the top, and they were largely just ticking a box. A Business Partner needs to have more than just the technical skills to make a report, they must also be able to present this data in a way that is understandable to the business, influence decisions using data, understand the business environment, and stand behind their opinions.
The real key to a Business Partner is that they are someone who can build a business relationship with all levels of the business and can translate numbers into the language of the business and back again as a result. It is this ability to talk with the business, not to the business, that enables the business partner to help companies take advantage of new opportunities, grow their business or reduce inefficiencies.
More than a Virtual CFO
Virtual CFO services are generally offered by bookkeepers and involve re-formatting your raw profit and loss to attribute costs to activities and sections of your business. While this can be useful to get a better idea of the profitability of various areas of your business, it is rarely actionable and is often ignored as it isn't in their business language.
Knowing that a particular area of your business is not doing well is not the same as knowing what you need to do to fix the problem. A business partner is able to interpret the data and communicate the information in a way that the business understands. More than that, by partnering with the business and understanding the operations, a business partner can recommend corrective action that's actually achievable and specific.
Not Just a Cheerleader
Business coach is a very broad term and can range from more of a virtual CFO type role to a purely supportive role centred around goal-setting and accountability. While having a person external to the business that you talk about your goals with can help with accountability and ensuring that you follow through on the aspects of your business that you keep putting off, it still leaves the question of how you will achieve those goals and keep those accountability promises.
It's one thing to say that you want to increase or decrease a number on your financials, it's entirely another to know how to do it. Not just that, it's critical to be able to measure and re-measure that progress in real-time. A business partner understands the importance of providing the tools to help a business track its progress, without needing to wait for their CFO to re-run their calculations, and has the skills to bring those tools to life.
Are you a Big Picture Person?
If your strength is in having ideas, networking and building relationships, it's vital that you have someone involved in your business in some capacity who can help you deal with the more hands-on aspects of the business' operations. One of the functions of a business partner is to help translate the lower level operations to a higher level outcomes-based view.