I have spent the last five years recruiting Accountants into Commerce and Industry and the word commercial is mentioned on a regular basis. Candidates will frequently have a ‘commercial’ role at the top of their requirements list when looking for a new role.
There does however seem to be many different versions of what ‘commercial’ means and for candidates moving into the ‘commercial’ space for the first time it can sometimes be misunderstood.
I have therefore asked several of my clients to give me their definition of what commercial means in the world of finance.
Head of Finance – Global FMCG Business - “Be a partner vs a policeman. Sales and Marketing are the core functions of most organisations, commercial need to run into the fire with them, albeit taking a specialised skill set and different perspective in to help navigate the way. Becomes a no-brainer once you are aligned on joint objectives.”
GM Finance – Media Business - “Commercial is about working closely with the business and providing information to assist decision making. It's not just about business cases and analysis - it's more about assisting the business to understand what the numbers are saying about business performance. Nearly all finance roles have a commercial aspect to them.”
Commercial Manager – Listed Media Business - “To me 'commercial' is about going beyond the day to day accounting, reconciling, recording the here and now to achieve two outcomes. The first (and easier) is extrapolating the past to forecast the future. The second (and more valuable) is to be able to communicate complex patterns and trends identified from the past in a simple and understandable manner and provide clarity around the key levers which drive the outcomes identified in part one. By doing this you become a bridge, lens or filter between the data and the decision makers in order to enable more grounded decision making.”
Finance Analyst – Fashion Retail Business - “I would define commercial as a role which focuses on profitability of a business unit and the levers within the P&L which can be pulled in order to achieve an EBITDA/profit goal. I.e. managing revenue and expenses. There is a higher proportion of stakeholder management and engagement in order to achieve this goal. There would be more emphasis on sales and cost of goods sold and expenses. There is less emphasis on support services (e.g. IT and HR costs) and debits and credits which would typically be managed by another team within Finance. This is different to a financial accounting role there is a focus on statutory reporting and financial control.”
Business Analyst – Listed FMCG Business - “When I think of commercial, I think commercial involves supporting the achievement of business objectives and goals and particularly in finance roles concerns any role that works in partnership with other stakeholders in setting, monitoring and reporting on these goals and objectives.”
Commercial Finance Manager, FMCG Business - “For me true commercial roles ultimately impact the way a business operates and therefore the P&L.
They can be intangible (process improvement - e.g. shortening month end a day etc) but in all honesty this is the basic stuff and being more efficient should be inherent in everyone’s role. True commercial roles should impact (often significantly) the way a business operates and the cost & profit profile of a business. It generally requires in-depth understanding of Sales, Marketing and Supply Chain worlds and involves detailed analysis, insight and recommendations, leading to implementing tangible outcomes (e.g. business cases for new customers, product innovation, price and promotional recommendations etc).
It is generally one of the most difficult roles in the business because it is practically impossible to predict if the project/decision will deliver the desired outcomes and you have got to be very comfortable dealing with uncertainty and putting your neck on the line.
For me it is also the most interesting and rewarding part of business.”
If you are looking for your next position (whether commercial or not) and would be interested in discussing things further, then please get in touch. I would be specifically interested in speaking to anyone with experience working in the Retail, FMCG or Media sectors.