Here are 4 tips for Finance to be more strategic:
Ask your business partner what they read/listen to and follow their peers on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Stay in tune with your where your business partner consumes information. It will help create a shared consciousness for brainstorming and planning. You’ll be able to apply a financial lens to new concepts and potentially even get ahead of ideas to start making recommendations.
Follow your business partner’s peers at your top 3-5 competitors. Get a pulse on what they’re sharing, liking, and consuming. You may be able to pick up something they’re leaning into and socialize internally for consideration.
Read public competitors' annual reports, investor day materials, and earning calls.
Annual reports and earnings calls are a treasure trove of information. The numbers are important, but it’s more about getting visibility into things like their roadmap, M&A strategy, new product or segment performance, etc. I’ve picked up little nuggets of gold like how competitors decided on new city expansion, how long it takes to ramp a new sales pod, retention rates by product line, and much more. This type of intel is powerful in helping business leaders craft their strategies.
I prefer to read earnings call transcripts because it’s easier to copy and paste for notes or skip irrelevant questions. Analyst Q&A will always give a glimpse into what they believe are the lynchpins of strategy and value creation.
Read industry reports and publications. Stay on top of software reviews.
A deep google search should turn up a few free industry reports or publications. For example, in the HR market, a couple of consultancies publish well-researched market deep dives. If not, ask your investors, bankers, or vendors to see if they can help. These reports will help you understand buying trends and the consumer. Thought-leaders will often share ideas on where they think the market is heading and how the landscape may play out.
Track your competitor's job boards.
Open reqs are the best external signal of where a business is investing. Digging through job openings can give you visibility into things like product expansion for a PM role, geo expansion for GM or Sales roles, the tech stack for a systems admin role, a first-time BD hire, etc. Job descriptions pitch the opportunity, so dive in and read the details.
Bonus: Synthesize and socialize.
When starting a new company, do the research above. Refresh annually or as needed. Organize your resources and note the most critical insights in a couple-page doc. Share with your team and business partners. I did this in previous roles, and these docs spread like wildfire. Even after I left, people reached out to me asking if I could reshare the resource.
You may not find a silver bullet in your research, but you’ll start to form mental models for how to think about your space. You’ll also find tidbits of insights that will prove valuable in your discussions. All helping you create opinions about where the business should go and how it should get there. Forming these types of ideas backed by a deep understanding of your business will help you earn a seat at the table (first with your business partners, then in the exec room, and eventually with the BOD).