Top Skills and Strategies for Standing Out in Finance

February 23, 2023 Mimi Torrington

Accounting intern learning the best ways to stand out in finance

Winning at the finance game requires a specific set of skills. It's not just about financial literacy or accounting; soft skills are equally important. You might wonder what these skills that help you in standing out in finance are and how to learn them, but don't worry. Stephen Newland, Director of FP&A at GrowthLab Finance-as-a-Service, got you covered.

Stephen has worked in a finance role at various organizations, including startups, early-stage companies, nonprofits, and Fortune 500s. He earned the Certified Management Accountant designation in July 2022 and has an Honors Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Cincinnati. Before GrowthLab, Stephen held finance roles in organizations like Gravy, Qoins, North Point Community Church, Buckhead Church, Delta Air Lines, and GE.

Show/Hide Transcript

Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we’re talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately get results. With your host, Megan Weis. Let’s jump right in.

Megan - 00:00:31: Today, my guest is Stephen Newland. Stephen is the director of FP&A at Growth Lab Financial. He leads a team of analysts responsible for developing financial models, analyzing business valuations, and providing ongoing financial support to a number of startups and small businesses. Stephen has worked in a finance role at a variety of organizations including startups, early-stage companies, nonprofits, and Fortune 500s. He earned the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation in July of 2022 and holds an Honors Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Cincinnati.

Megan - 00:01:11: Stephen, thank you very much for being my guest today.

Stephen - 00:01:15: Yeah, thanks for having me, Megan. I’m excited to be here.

Megan - 00:01:17: Yeah. Today we’ll be hearing your story, of course, but we’ll also be learning about some of the mistakes you made throughout your journey and how you put those to good use, particularly early on in your career. And now you use those same lessons to help others too. So I’m excited to learn from you. So let’s jump right in.

Stephen - 00:01:36: Perfect. Let’s do it.

Megan - 00:01:38: First and as always, let’s start with you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?

Stephen - 00:01:43: Yeah, I love starting here. I grew up in Ohio, Cincinnati, Ohio. And I actually in college, I was like, I just want to get out of Ohio. That was my thought process. I love Cincinnati. I love where I’m from now. It’s funny how that turns around, but I actually interned down in Atlanta, Georgia, with Delta Airlines, and right out of school, I love the airline industry. So I moved there and I moved to Atlanta and started my career in corporate finance at Delta. Did that for a number of years, and I just really got this itch to want to go into the nonprofit world and particularly on the personal finance side. And there’s a story there that I’d love to get into. So I went and did that. Help people budget and pay off debt for about six years. So not corporate finance related, but very much finance related. And so many lessons that I learned on that side that are very applicable to corporate finance. After that, I just decided I really wanted to get back in the business world. So I jumped into the startup world and pretty much I’ve been working with startups ever since. It’s been about four or five years now. I’ve been working with various startups and now more on the advisory side.

Megan - 00:03:10: Just curious, what do you enjoy about working for startups?

Stephen - 00:03:14: Oh, that’s a great question.

Megan - 00:03:16: I imagine it’s stressful.

Stephen - 00:03:19: There is a level of stress that some days you’re like, wow, this is a very stressful industry. Or very stressful like the size of the company. I think you’re just constantly solving problems. So I’ve always loved that. I’ve always enjoyed puzzles and solving problems, so there are more problems than there is the time at startups, especially small and scaling startups, and so I think that’s what makes them fun.

Megan - 00:03:46: I like being a Sherlock Holmes, too.

Stephen - 00:03:50: That’s a good way to put it.

Megan - 00:03:53: So as you look back on your career, are there particular stories that stand out in your mind as turning points?

Stephen - 00:04:00: Yeah, it was when I was in corporate finance, like I said, at Delta, I had been in the background. I had been paying off a bunch of student debt, so I paid off about $55,000 in the first four years out of school.

Megan - 00:04:15: Wow. Congratulations.

Stephen - 00:04:17: Thank you. Yeah, I remember being in my room in college right before I graduated, and I put together a plan, and I said, okay, four years. I can do this if I really buckle down. Once I paid that off, I guess I always tell people I have my mid-20s career crisis, and I said, I got to go work at a nonprofit. I got to go and just help people do this. And so that’s what triggered me to go run financial literacy program. But that was a really big turning point because I had really been doing well in corporate finance and kind of moving up the ladder. So I got a lot of questions like, are you sure you really want to do this? And so that was a big turning point for me.

Megan - 00:05:01: I’m just curious also, how did you end up at Delta? I don’t think that they came to Cincinnati to recruit.

Stephen - 00:05:09: Yeah, funny enough, we had...

Megan - 00:05:11: Or maybe they did. They’re a hub, right? In Cincinnati.

Stephen - 00:05:13: Yeah, we had a hub, and there was, I forget the connection. We had a connection with the cargo department. That was, like, our connection. And so yeah, I can’t remember the exact reason, but part of it was we had a hub up there.

Megan - 00:05:29: Okay. Yeah, I always forget that that’s a hub for Delta.

Stephen - 00:05:35: Yeah. You don’t think of it as a big hub. Yeah. It’s not what you would consider a bigger hub.

Megan - 00:05:41: No. Cincinnati is a pretty small city, but it’s a good size.

Stephen - 00:05:45: Yeah.

Megan - 00:05:47: So talk to us about Growth Lab, which is finance as a service company, and how it works, how they work with companies to optimize their finances for growth.

Stephen - 00:05:59: Yeah, it’s kind of the standard bookkeeping on the tax side. But what I primarily am working with is on the FP&A side, and really what we’re trying to do is productize FP&A, and so we’re trying to figure out how we know the core things that most customers need, most startups really need. They need, like, a forecast. They need a plan for their cash flow. And so that’s really what we’re primarily focused on, is giving them a lens into the future through the forecasting, making sure that they’re spending cash efficiently.

Megan - 00:06:36: So who would you say the ideal client is?

Stephen - 00:06:40: Oh, that’s such a great question. I think it’s the startup that has kind of reached that point where they feel like they just are wearing seven hats. You know, the CEO or the cofounders are wearing seven different hats and they’re like, I’ve got to just look for I’ve got to start offloading some things. I can’t do this anymore or I can’t give this to the attention that it needs. That’s kind of when, you know, I’ve reached that perfect point to reach out to somebody.

Megan - 00:07:11: And is it like a platform or a service or a combination of the two?

Stephen - 00:07:16: Yeah, it’s a little bit of both. We primarily use a handful of tools internally. Drab is a big one that we use for our FP&A planning amongst a few others there’s Basis and Sift or a couple of other ones, Fathom. So we kind of combine. We kind of figure out which technology is going to be the best for that customer, and then we’ve got a plan to kind of build their forecast within that platform, and we meet with them regularly to review that and update it.

Megan - 00:07:49: And let’s switch over and talk about you and some of the mistakes you made that were early on in your career. And can you share a little bit about those?

Stephen - 00:08:00: Yes, I will never forget this first one that always comes to mind. I think it’s the first mistake I would probably say I remember from my career. And I was going in for like a monthly financial review and I had prepped the full deck ready to review it with one of the department heads at Delta. And my boss, he always wanted to review it ahead of time and he got his calculator out during this review and he was adding up the numbers down a column and I was like, that’s interesting. And then he said, oh these don’t add up. And I was like, oh no, this is my first month or two out of school and I’m like, I’ve made the cardinal sin-like mistake. I didn’t check my formula. And so that was when I always remembered. So it’s funny, even though I’ve got a calculator on my phone, I always have a calculator next to me and I find myself doing this now where I’m like, let me just check. So that is one that really stands out, that highlighted to me, especially in finance, it’s the importance of accuracy and kind of getting the numbers right now. It’s not the end of the world but it certainly impacts credibility and trustworthiness. And so that is one big one. The second one that comes to mind is not thinking of my audience when preparing or doing some sort of analysis. I would just kind of jump right in and say, oh, this sounds fun. I want to go this way. I want to do this versus kind of planning it out and say, well, what the end user, how would they benefit from this analysis? I think that’s another one that I really learned early on.

Megan - 00:09:42: Yeah. I guess as finance professionals, a big part of what we do is we’re storytellers. And I think you’re right. It’s important to know your audience before you jump right in.

Stephen - 00:09:53: Yeah, that’s right. If you’re writing a children’s book, you’re going to write that very differently than some other adult novel or something.

Megan - 00:10:01: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So talk to us a bit about how these mistakes actually turn them around to advance your career.

Stephen - 00:10:10: Yeah, I think for me, I made sure not to make the same mistakes, not to repeat them.

Megan - 00:10:18: It’s so important.

Stephen - 00:10:19: It really is. Yeah, it really is important. And I think part of that is just making sure you’re being intentional with your growth, not just waiting for that feedback from leadership. For example, when I missed that formula. I don’t know if I actually did this, but one thing that I would tell somebody in my shoe early in their career now is I would say if you write that down and make sure you’ve got a system in place now so that you don’t miss that formula, there’s, like a check in place. So I think it’s just being intentional with your own growth. And when those mistakes happen, like, write them down and figure out, how can I fix this? How can I not make this mistake again? That to me, is critical.

Megan - 00:11:06: Yeah, I guess as humans, we’re all bound to make mistakes. It’s just the people that actually go on to learn something. And there is a lot to be learned from every mistake that is doing the right thing.

Stephen - 00:11:18: Well, and I bet people I’ve been in my career for coming up on 12, 13 years now, I would venture to guess people who are 30, 40 years in, they would say the same thing. Like, you’re always learning. There’s always going to be a mistake or something along the way. And so there’s never a time where that learning stops, I think.

Megan - 00:11:37: Yeah, I can forgive any mistake, but the one thing that I always have a hard time with is forgiving a mistake that’s made twice.

Stephen - 00:11:50: Exactly. Yes, I agree.

Megan - 00:11:53: So what skills do you believe are essential in helping you stand out and to advance more quickly within the finance organization?

Stephen - 00:12:03: Yeah, I was thinking about this a little bit too, what was helpful for me, but then also now, as someone who had the chance to lead some people in finance, what do I think of as these are critical, these really stand out. And I think the three that came really to mind are, and I would probably say in this order, reliability. So if you say you’re going to do something, do it and make sure it’s done. If it’s not on time, communicate. Like, hey, it’s not going to be on time, but here’s why. The more reliable somebody is, it just takes this mental burden off of your leadership. I think number two is being thorough and not just kind of giving up a little early and saying, well, let me just ask my leader, let me just ask them, my manager, what they think. But trying to go the extra mile and say, I don’t know, but I’m going to dig a little deeper than I’m comfortable, and I’m going to try to figure this thing out. And if I don’t know, I’ll go to my manager and mention it. I think that’s number two. And then three is clear and timely communication. So back to my first point. If I committed to a deadline and I’m just not able to hit that, I think nine times out of ten, that’s generally going to be okay. If you just proactively communicate and say, hey, I thought I would get this done, I wasn’t able to. Here’s my plan of action to get this done as soon as possible. So I think those are really the three in my mind that stand out far and above most other things.

Megan - 00:13:43: Yeah, especially the third one. I think people hate when they don’t know if you’re working on something or what you’re doing.

Stephen - 00:13:56: And you know, what I would do early in my career is I’d want to look good. Like, I had it all buttoned up, so I would wait to respond to emails until I had the analysis perfectly done. It’s been three or four days, and they’re like, does he even acknowledge? That backfired a little.

Megan - 00:14:15: Good lesson.

Stephen - 00:14:17: That’s right.

Megan - 00:14:18: So let’s talk about soft skills and how important those are and how people can go about developing these skills early in their careers.

Stephen - 00:14:29: Yeah, and I think time management is a big one, especially in corporate finance, where it feels like there’s always a deadline kind of around the corner or there’s a fire drill I need just an hour ago kind of thing. So time management and I would even add to that, like, prioritization is huge. I remember when I first started my career, I didn’t take notes, and I didn’t really use the calendar. I was like, I just remember it all. It’s not that big of a deal. And it’s so funny how just even a few years out of the end of my 20s is like, oh, no, I can’t remember all this stuff. I’ve got too many responsibilities and bills to pay outside of work, and I can’t remember all this stuff now. And so that was a big one. I think the second one that I would say is creative thinking and maybe even kind of, I think goes along the same lines. It’s like just developing a curiosity that especially in finance, I think asking why and asking good questions in finance can take you so far because a lot of the times you’re there to try to point out things or like call out things in the business or highlight things that maybe somebody else hasn’t highlighted. So learning how to ask those questions and just being curious I think goes a really long way in finance.

Megan - 00:15:59: I’ve had a lot of people tell me that that’s a very important characteristic to them is curiosity.

Stephen - 00:16:06: Yeah. And I would even add maybe one more piece to that. I would say curiosity about the business that you’re helping, but also even curiosity about people because I think I posted something the other not too long ago on LinkedIn about finances, all about relationships. And one book that really helped me get more curious about people and developing relationships was How to Win Friends & Influence People. So that’s been a really great kind of impactful book for me in developing my own curiosity.

Megan - 00:16:45: Yeah, I think sometimes early on in our career, we don’t really want to stand out and we’re afraid to ask questions and look stupid. But yeah, so important to be able to do that.

Stephen - 00:17:01: That’s a great point about being kind of fearful to ask questions. That’s a really good point.

Megan - 00:17:10: And you just mentioned this, but building relationships. So can you talk a little bit about the strategies or tactics that you’ve used to build relationships and win over the trust of leadership?

Stephen - 00:17:24: Yeah, and I think this goes kind of in a similar vein to one thing we talked about earlier. But I think to build trust, building trust is the number one foundational thing to building a good relationship. And I think if you commit to something or if you say you’re going to do something and you actually follow through, that is the quickest way to build trust. So I think that is key. The other thing, and then this is very kind of role dependent, but I know when I was at a bigger company, I was like a finance person and then I reported into a department, but I was still in the finance department and so I was kind of like an outsider. And so there’s always this skepticism like can we trust the finance person or are they just trying to find something? Like they’re from corporate, they’re just trying to dig in and find something. I think if you’re at a bigger company, it’s communicating to that business unit you’re supporting that, hey, I want to know your goals and I want to know how I can support your goals. That’s just as important to me as my kind of and what I have to do on the finance side. So I think that’s just another way to kind of break down that defensiveness and really build relationships.

Megan - 00:18:48: Yeah, that’s great advice. I know a lot of times in finance you’re kind of looked at like the police out there to just say no and that’s it.

Stephen - 00:18:55: Yes. I was going to add one more thing on that if I can.

Megan - 00:19:01: Sure.

Stephen - 00:19:04: So one other way to build relationships with leadership is just to ask this question, what is my leader worrying about at night? Like, what is keeping them up at night? And then you could even ask them that. I think it’s okay to ask them that. I think that would go a long way in finding ways to alleviate that concern. I can’t think of many other things that will help build trust with your leadership than if you took that proactive approach.

Megan - 00:19:36: Yeah, absolutely. That’s great advice. So you might have touched on this a bit with time management, but how can people succeed in fast-paced, high-pressure environments, particularly you said you enjoy working at startups. How do people succeed in that kind of environment?

Stephen - 00:19:56: Yeah, for me, it’s been a journey. I wouldn’t say I’ve always gotten it right. And there are even still some days I’m trying to figure that out. But I think staying organized is really when you’ve got some downtime, it’s taking advantage of that and really staying organized. I think the second piece is being intentional about learning where your gaps are. So if you’re in a meeting and something comes up and you just kind of find yourself fumbling a little bit, or you’re like, I don’t really know the answer to that. Jot that down real quick in your notes, and then maybe later that night or later that week, take 15 minutes, or 30 minutes, and try to learn more on that topic. It’s kind of that whole practice makes a perfect thing, right? Like, in a high-pressure environment, the more prepared you feel and the more prepared you are, it’s going to reduce the amount of pressure that you really feel in that environment. I think that’s been a good tip for me. The other thing and I have not done well with this, so this is a little, I guess, hypocritical in saying this, but I would say it’s okay to just step away for five minutes. Like, if you’re kind of getting flustered, if you feel that kind of blood pressure rising a little bit, just step away for five minutes. I’ve gotten better at this over the last, I would say, year. It’s amazing how five minutes away from the desk, you can come back and you’re like, oh, that was the answer I was looking for. I don’t know if you’ve experienced that same thing, but I know that’s been helpful for me when I’ve actually implemented it.

Megan - 00:21:40: Yeah, I’m not great at it either, but you’re right. Sometimes you step away from a problem and come back, and the answer is right in front of your face. You just couldn’t see it because you were too flustered at the moment.

Stephen - 00:21:52: Yeah, that’s right.

Megan - 00:21:54: So how do you suggest someone that’s new to corporate finance, how can they stay informed about industry trends and developments? And I think this is true, I guess no matter what stage of your career you’re in. I think it’s always important to stay on top of these things.

Stephen - 00:22:12: Yeah, I agree. For me, the one thing this past year, I went and got about a year ago, maybe a year and a half, I got the CMA designation, certified management accountant. Thank you. We had a newborn. We had a newborn at the time. And so I looked back and, okay, that was probably not the wisest timing, but we made it through. And that people talk about the continuing education and sometimes it’s like, oh, I don’t always want to do this, but it kind of forces you to stay on top of trends and oftentimes a lot of the certifications and a lot of these continuing education programs, they’re really great about putting out new content and new updates. And so to me, that’s one really great way to not only level up your skills and your confidence by getting a certification, but it kind of builds in this to keep the certification, I’ve got to maintain a level of continuing ed. I think that’s one. But if you don’t want to go that route, I think there’s so much education, free education out there today. I think it’s just taking like, what medium works well for you? Podcast articles, YouTube. I’ve learned so much about finance and kind of brushed up on corporate finance from YouTube. It’s amazing what all is out there.

Megan - 00:23:42: Yeah, that’s really great advice. So how will someone new to corporate finance best prepare themselves to be considered for promotions and raises? Particularly when you’re new to your career, it’s not something you want to ask for, but maybe you should be.

Stephen - 00:24:02: Yeah, I think at first I’ve talked a little bit about soft skills. I think the first thing from a foundational standpoint is to have really sound technical skills. But then I think what oftentimes happens is we focus just on the technical skills side because it’s a little bit more tangible. Right. And we’re finance and accounting people. I think it’s easier to see us growing on the technical side, whereas it’s maybe a little like, I don’t know, maybe a little fluffier on the soft skill side. And so I think it’s like getting that foundation on the technical skills side, but then really shifting and not to shift away and never work on technical skills, but then I think it’s like, okay, I’ve got a good foundation on the technical side. How can I work on the soft skills side? Because the reality is getting into management, if that’s a goal, the technical skills are great, but the soft skills are really what’s going to carry you in that management position. And I think a lot of times the people who are really good at the technical skills who get promoted into the management roles and they’re kind of hit with this, how do I manage a team now? How do I do this? And so I think focusing on soft skills early, it will show that you’re poised for leadership, I think.

Megan - 00:25:29: Yeah, I love that advice. I do agree that the more you move up into the levels of management, the more important those soft skills become.

Stephen - 00:25:42: Yeah. And I think the other piece of that is to be the most prepared person walking into any meeting, even if you’re there just to take notes early in your career. I think that can serve most people really well if they really take the time to prepare for a meeting.

Megan - 00:26:02: And when you’re in the advisory role, working with startups, what are some of the most common mistakes that you see startups making?

Stephen - 00:26:13: Yeah, I would say I didn’t get this really right in some of the finance roles I’ve been in, but I would say managing working capital, not having tight operations around accounts receivable. So maybe your accounts receivable are kind of you got some in the 45, the 60s, maybe some of the 90 days overdue, and maybe paying accounts payable a little too aggressively. Just like when the bill comes in, I’ll just pay it. But as we know, especially with the startup, and it depends for a lot of startups, if you’re well funded, that’s okay. But I think getting into that habit early is always good because there usually comes a time in a lot of startup worlds when the cash isn’t so flush. I think just focusing on good solid operations on working capital is a big one.

Megan - 00:27:20: And I’m really interested to get into this, but you spent six years developing plans to help people pay off debt and budget their resources. So how did that time that you spent focusing on the personal side of finance help you in your understanding of corporate finance?

Stephen - 00:27:44: I would meet oftentimes face to face with people and I mean, money is so personal, like personal finance. And so they would like to lay it all out.

Megan - 00:27:53: That would be really painful too, I’m sure.

Stephen - 00:27:56: Incredibly. Yeah. Here’s my credit card balance, here’s how many student loans I have, here’s how much money I make. I mean, like all out there. And so I quickly realized the emotion and the psychology behind money because I saw it in front of me. I’d have people of all ages cry in my office. And really for the first time, I went into that role thinking money is just numbers. It’s just numbers. And I quickly realized, oh wow, no, this is very emotional. And it’s emotional in corporate finance too. Maybe it’s not as obvious, but that really helped me understand the foundations of how just as people we interact with money.

Megan - 00:28:47: Yeah, I’m sure especially in the startup world where people have everything tied up in their dreams of getting these organizations off the ground.

Stephen - 00:28:59: Yes. One thing I’ve seen with startups is, and this is true of personal finances, it’s true startups' short-term thinking happens when we have little and access happens when we have a lot. And so guarding against those is really important. So when you go out and raise around a Series A or seed, it’s easy to just be like, we need this subscription, we need this, we need that, we need it. And then all of a sudden you look up and you’re like, where’d the money go? And sometimes that’s true. It’s funny when I’m a natural saver, but I know it’s easy to when you get maybe a refund from the IRS or if you get a raise, you’re like you spent it before you even see it on your first paycheck or you see the check hit. And so I think that’s just another lesson in that. And then short-term thinking too. When you see that bank account, dwindle and dwindle and dwindle, it really impacts your decision-making. And that can be it can result in a really bad outcome for a startup. Right? And so, yeah, those are a couple of things that I’ve really kind of discovered, I think, through that process.

Megan - 00:30:13: What’s one piece of advice you have for aspiring CFOs or finance leads?

Stephen - 00:30:18: I am saying this advice to myself. So I would say take care of yourself first. It’s so easy to put your career first. But I would say I think your family and your health, that is most important. That is most critical because it will help you be able to have a sustainable career, not burn out. This is actually an area in full transparency, I have got probably the most wrong of anything I’ve talked about today. And so it’s an area like I’m trying to really focus more on, especially this year. And so, yeah, that would be my number one advice, piece of advice.

Megan - 00:31:04: I’m going to put you on the spot. What are you doing? What are you doing to put yourself first?

Stephen - 00:31:09: Yeah, one of the big things is I work primarily from home. I’m in Atlanta. My company is based out of Rhode Island. One of the things that I’ve realized is I will go days and not even leave the house just because I get up from work, family comes home, then it’s family time and then it’s like, okay, rinse and repeat, the next day. And so being more proactive with like, there’s a local men’s group that I’m joining here to get more involved. For on Friday mornings actually get out of the house to go to the gym instead of exercising at home. So those are a couple of the key things that I’m working on.

Megan - 00:31:49: Yeah, I make sure I get out of the house almost every day to go to the gym during lunch. But that’s so helpful. Otherwise, you’re right. It’s so easy just to stay in your pajamas for days on end.

Stephen - 00:32:01: Yeah.

Megan - 00:32:02: Work your life away.

Stephen - 00:32:06: There’s always more work to do. But I think it’s setting up those healthy boundaries is always a good thing and it’s self-driven. This. Isn’t like, company driven. This is like me and my natural bend to work more. But I think a lot of CFOs and finance people are geared, like, naturally that way.

Megan - 00:32:27: I would agree. But I do agree with you also, that taking the time for yourself makes you a better leader, a better employee, all of it. So great advice. So lastly, what is keeping you up at night?

Stephen - 00:32:44: Yeah, I think just the number of emerging tools out there in the finance world, it seems like it’s I don’t know if it’s because I paid more attention in the last year, it just seems like it’s almost exploded. There’s a new tool for this, there’s a new tool for that. And so it’s finding one, the time and resources to evaluate them. But then also, hey, is this the right one? Is there a better one out there that we could be using to better serve customers? So it’s staying on that front edge of the technology side.

Megan - 00:33:18: Stephen, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Stephen - 00:33:21: Yeah, absolutely. This is fun. I appreciate it. Any chance to get to share some of my mistakes and insight, I love it.

Megan - 00:33:29: Yeah, that’s great. It’s so nice of you to share your mistakes so that other people don’t necessarily have to make the same ones.

Stephen - 00:33:37: That’s my goal. If I can help avoid something, then I’m happy to share.

Megan - 00:33:42: Well, I’ve really enjoyed speaking with you and hearing about your experiences and all of the resulting insights, and I wish you the best as we start off 2023. And to all of our listeners, please tune in next week. And until then, take care.

If you’re ready to boost efficiency and streamline your accounting processes at significant cost savings, it’s time to talk with Personiv. Their people-powered solutions have transformed the delivery of back-office tasks and general accounting functions for decades, partnering with clients to provide everything from accounts payable to payroll services. See what Personiv can do for you by visiting

You’ve been listening to CFO weekly presented by Personiv. Please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to hear all of our episodes. Want to learn more? Check out Thanks for listening.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How does GrowthLab help businesses optimize their finances for growth?

  • The importance of learning from mistakes

  • What skills are essential in helping finance professionals stand out and advance more quickly within their organizations?

  • How can finance professionals develop soft skills early on?

  • How can you build relationships and win over the trust of leadership?

  • Creating a plan for personal growth

Key Takeaways

Mistakes and Lessons That Keep You From Standing Out in Finance

Quote mistakes and lessons for standing out in finance

Stephen recalls some of his most significant mistakes during his financial career, like forgetting to check his formula during a financial review at Delta or not considering the audience when preparing or doing an analysis. Mistakes are part of human nature, but it's crucial to ensure that you're being intentional with doing your best not to repeat them. When those mistakes happen, write them down and figure out ways to fix them.

“You're always learning. There's always going to be a mistake or something along the way. And so there's never a time where that learning stops,” Newland said. - 07:50 - 11:50

Three Skills for Standing Out in Finance

Quote skills to stand out in finance

If you want to stand out in your finance organization, you have to master three essential skills: reliability (if you say you're going to do something, do it), thoroughness, (and clear and timely communication).

“As someone who had the chance to lead some people in finance, these skills are critical to standing out,” Newland said. - 11:53 - 14:19

Developing Soft Skills

Quote developing soft skills to stand out in finance

Developing soft skills early on is a winning move for your finance career. Ensure you focus on skills like time management, prioritization, creative thinking, learning how to ask good questions, and curiosity.

“Focusing early on soft skills will show that you're poised for leadership,” Newland said. - 14:19 - 17:01

Stand Out in Finance by Building Trust and Relationships

Quote Stephen Newland, Director of FP&A at GrowthLab Finance as a Service

Trust is the foundation of building a good relationship. If you commit to something or say you're going to do something and you follow through is the quickest way to build trust. If you work at a bigger company, it comes down to communicating with your business unit and finding ways to support its goals.

“One way to build relationships with leadership is by asking this question, what is my leader worrying about at night?” Newland said. - 17:09 - 19:36

For more interviews from the CFO Weekly podcast, check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and our RSS or your favorite podcast player!

Instructions on how to follow, rate, and review CFO-Weekly are here.

Our F&A solution helps you stand out. Reach out to the Personiv team to learn how we can support your financial team.

Previous Article
Financial Decision-Making Frameworks for High-Growth Businesses
Financial Decision-Making Frameworks for High-Growth Businesses

Finance leaders often face a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing risk and making informed fi...

Next Article
Transforming the Four FP&A Key Pillars for Business Success
Transforming the Four FP&A Key Pillars for Business Success

In this episode of CFO Weekly, Carl Seidman, Interim CFO & Finance Director at Seidman Financial, joins Meg...