How to Boldly Advance Your Finance Career and Organization

In a volatile and uncertain world, “the only constant is change”. To be successful, a finance manager must facilitate agility and adaptability within the organization. I recently spoke with Bolanle Williams-Olley, CFO and co-owner of design and architecture firm Mancini Duffy, about both change management and personal development. Bolanle’s story – she comes from an unconventional career for a CFO – was the basis of a career development book she wrote, and she was kind enough to share her unique worldview. about improving the game for both your business and yourself as a leader. .

Jeff Thompson: Mancini Duffy has a long heritage as a design and architecture firm that dates back more than a century. As CFO and co-owner, what are you doing to ensure your business stays current and relevant in this competitive industry? What role does technology play in achieving this goal? How are you deploying technology within the finance function to achieve greater efficiency?

Bolanle Williams-Olley: We have transformed and revitalized our century-old design company by leading with a start-up mentality. Historically, Mancini has focused on corporate interior projects. Over the past decade, we have intentionally diversified into new market sectors like hospitality, aviation, healthcare and multi-family residential to expand our footprint. We have overhauled Mancini’s corporate culture by putting our people first. We decided to create a mixed leadership team beyond owners and directors to hear from people at all levels of the company. Putting our people first and involving them in firm decisions and policies has allowed us to understand what is important to our team – what our team prioritizes. Because we have renewed our culture, we have made Mancini a place [where] people want to work. Although we have a century of roots, my associates and I knew we had to propel the company forward by infusing technology into our design process.

Technology is infused into every aspect of our design process at Mancini. We started by developing our Design Lab, an innovative hub for our company’s research and development programs. Our technology-driven approach to solving and delivering design solutions led to the invention of our patent-pending software called The Toolbelt. The Tool Belt allows our customers to experience their projects first hand by experiencing their designs using our virtual reality technology.

He plays an important role in our finance department. We can produce real-time information using our accounting ERP software, which helps us run our business more successfully and efficiently. In our design world, knowing the ebbs and flows of how things change on projects, we need to be proactive in analyzing the changes that occur. We can run our invoicing process through this same ERP system, sending invoices to our customers more efficiently. It helps us have data at our fingertips to make better business decisions.

Thomson: You’re the author of a book called “Build Boldly: Chart Your Unique Career Path and Lead With Courage.” How has your career as a finance professional influenced this book and its key messages? What are the core ideas for aspiring CFOs currently advancing in finance or those aspiring to enter the finance field?

Williams Olley: My career path to CFO is as atypical as it gets. My background was not in accounting or finance; However, finding myself in the financial sector of my industry at the start of my career, I quickly realized that I had to open myself up to opportunities that would help me improve my skills and expertise. Beyond that, I also focused on how I could stay curious, develop strong relationships, and make brave, bold decisions that basically allowed me to be in a position of leadership today. Defining moments for my career occurred when I intentionally presented myself as myself both as an employee and now as a corporate executive. In reflecting on my unique journey and examining the themes that have arisen over my 15+ year journey, it was important to write Build boldly to inspire any individual or leader to intentionally chart their own unique path and create their own BOLD career playbooks for success.

In my book Build boldly, I provide some essential information for those aspiring to become a CFO. I intentionally held a higher position in one of the roles I held. Start thinking like a CFO and leader even before stepping into that role. For example, act as a true partner to the management team before joining the C-suite. Also consider your added value as a professional and leader.

When you see yourself as a true partner – beyond just being the person overseeing the numbers – the key is to focus on building internal relationships with your team and internal and external relationships with suppliers. and customers. Truly push yourself to lead boldly and be a leader who uplifts and develops other leaders.

Additionally, understanding and immersing yourself in any industry you operate in makes you a better member of the finance team. Connect to networks of people who may be in other industries to access mentorship and meet your peers. Peers within your industry will also understand and identify with the problems you are trying to solve.

Thompson: The importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) has long been underestimated in the finance function, but today’s leaders are increasingly concerned with ensuring a pipeline of diverse talents. As a woman, mother, and person of color, what obstacles have you encountered in your career that you have overcome? How would you advise leaders and organizations to overcome these obstacles in the future? What is Mancini Duffy specifically doing to achieve DE&I goals?

Williams Olley: The two barriers I faced were flexibility and isolation. As a new mom at the start of my career, I didn’t have much flexibility when I re-entered the workforce. It was also sometimes lonely being one of the only black mothers or women on the team. Sometimes people may not understand how you feel or the issues you may be facing, even though they may be subtle. Obstacles like these made me be very intentional about my next career move. During my interview at Mancini, I took care to ensure that there was an alignment of values ​​with the company.

The first step is to recognize that obstacles can and will exist. Next, examine and understand your organization’s shortcomings by gathering open and honest feedback from your team to understand the roadblocks and chart a new path forward. Second, manage a more flexible workplace to help your employees feel supported to perform their work within the confines of their lifestyle. Finally, assess your company’s internal policies to make sure you have procedures in place that help support women, mothers, and people of color in your business.

We constantly review our internal data because we know that what you don’t measure, you can’t change. For example, we are proud to say that Mancini is currently 60% female, more than double the architectural industry average. However, even with this high percentage, we constantly challenge our recruiting team to further diversify the talent pool. We also run internal trainings to ensure our team understands the importance of an inclusive workforce. We know that a diverse business allows us to have a wide range of thoughts and ideas, which leads to more successful projects for our clients.

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