I went through school terrified of math. I liked business subjects a lot, just not the numbers part, and somehow I avoided having to take any college math or finance classes. I remember breathing a sigh of relief when I got my first job. “Whew! I dodged that bullet.” So imagine my surprise when, in a middle management job, I got handed an income statement. Uh- oh. Sins of omission always seem to come back to haunt you. I asked to be sent to a finance course, and my company agreed.

If you’re in business, you can’t hide from numbers forever. Especially if you want to play a senior role one day. Finance is the most basic business language there is, and it’s used pretty frequently once you arrive into a role managing others. Whether doing budgets or reading balance sheets, it really pays to at least know the basics, because financial statements are your company’s scorecard.

The thing is—you can mostly learn this on the job. Yes, I took a finance seminar, but it was really basic and after that I just asked a lot of questions of our CFO or others in accounting. You sure don’t need to know the intricacies of accounting rules for reporting or any such detailed information. Just the finance basics.

Most every CEO is a composite of many skills, like sales, marketing, product development and operations. The only CEOs I’ve met who needed just one skill are those who grew up in finance. And most of them enhance their skill base beyond just finance to get operational experience too.

If you want an executive job someday, get some learning in the basics of finance. Either attend a course at your local college, ask to be sent to a seminar, and by all means become friendly with colleagues in Accounting and Finance. It’s worth treating them to coffee or lunch, and the time together will pay great rewards.
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