WISE Toronto
The leading voice and resource for professional women in the business of sports.

Stretching those Finance Muscles

Breakfast panel discussion tackles spreadsheets, budgets and how to make metrics your best friend

By Lori Landry, WISE Toronto Board member, CMO Sun Life Global Investments

For the 90 women who woke up early on Oct 17, it wasn’t the typical gym morning they were tackling, but another kind of fitness they were honing – their financial fitness! WISE Toronto held a very successful Financial Fitness session that covered the ins and outs of spreadsheets, budgets and those elusive financial acronyms that have us sometimes stumped.

The powerful panel of industry experts included Cynthia Devine, CFO of MLSE; Esther Benzie, VP Marketing and Client Communications with CIBC; and Andrea Shaw, Founder and Managing Partner of TTG Canada. These three very talented and insightful women shared their experience, tips and lessons along the way as the discussion was moderated by Robin Taub, accomplished financial writer, speaker, consultant and the best-selling author of  the book A Parent’s Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids.

Tips from Cynthia Devine:

  • Learn key metrics – they are your friend!
  • When you are well prepared, you WANT to be asked questions by the Board so never under prepare.
  • Budget for the unknown.
  • Balance your communications to senior management – the positive and negative – this builds credibility.
  • Instead of asking for more money, ask for more responsibility. This leads to more money.
  • You may be a rock star at what you do but the job band you are in only pays so much. So add more to your portfolio to rise to the next level.
  • Healthy tension is good between Finance and Marketing – better decisions are ultimately made when the discussion is richer and varied.
  • About mistakes….you sometimes have to tell the Emperor she has no clothes on! Don’t fall in love with a deal (or a pitch) and bury those things that are gnawing away at you just because you want a deal to happen.

Tips from Esther Benzie:

  • As a marketer, two key metrics for me are sales data and ROI. So don’t shy away from the numbers!
  • Always listen to the analysts call. Very helpful to marketing, and also provides amazing competitive insights.
  • Seek to understand how your organization makes money.
  • Be deliberate about building a strong relationship with finance and HR.
  • Negotiating compensation – whether your own or for others – try to get over that pit-in-your-stomach feeling and be bold about articulating your self-worth.
  • To work with your CFO, look for common ground on goals – and before going in to ask for more money for an initiative, come in with something you are willing to give up to help self-fund it – you will be far more successful and likely to get more budget if you show you are fiscally savvy.
  • About mistakes…..patience can be critical as can views from outside your immediate area. At P&G we were launching a brand new product, spent a ton on advertising, but short term it didn’t get sales. Almost decided to exit the business then talked to one of our global business leaders who said stay the course and be patient….and now we have Dawn dish soap in Canada as a result!

Tips from Andrea Shaw:

  • Cash flow, cash flow, cash flow….you need it! This was my biggest lesson as an entrepreneur.
  • Half of businesses fail in first 5 years due to cash flow issues.
  • I shied away from finance, but I tell my team to spend money like it’s their own. Strive for that owner’s mindset and you’ll learn lifelong lessons in business.
  • We are 100% transparent with our employees on our finances. This helps them understands the direction of the business, and the decisions we make.
  • With respect to compensation, make sure you know if your company’s compensation is competitive. This will drive confidence in terms of negotiating.
  • About mistakes…we got fat and happy! Hired too many people. And took on really nice offices. Didn’t hold people accountable. We spent on previous year’s earnings and this hurt us. So lesson here is be disciplined about your good sales years and don’t spend it all at once!

Thank you to everyone who joined us and a special note of gratitude to our WISE Toronto Partners, CIBC and TSN for making this morning possible.

BONUS: Scroll right to the bottom for a copy of our Financial Fitness Cheat Sheet!