Nicolas Boucher: Why your problem isn't your tools
Episode #009 - Where we learn, from Nicolas Boucher, an FP&A veteran, why your problem isn't the tools you use, why there is such thing as too much technology, as well as tips and tricks for how you can better prepare for audits, and boost your presentation skills.
Nicolas has over 14 years of experience working in finance and has taken his expertise and distilled it into easy-to-follow online courses used by hundreds of finance professionals.
Audio Podcast Links
Where to find Nicolas:
Nicolas on LinkedIn
Nicolas full course here.
1/ How to analyze variances
2/ How to perform quick analysis
3/ How to make your reporting faster
4/ How to be a better business partner
5/ How to make Excel and PowerPoint work for you
Some of Nicolas' LinkedIn Posts
[00:01:31] Growing up in Brittany
[00:04:18] Why Germany?
[00:06:57] The change from audit to FP&A
[00:10:45] What advice would you give to small businesses preparing for audits?
[00:14:08] The business case for business intelligence
[00:19:22] Technology is not a silver bullet
[00:24:16] There is such a thing as too many tools, especially if you don't know how to use them!
[00:29:03] What made you decide to go into online training
[00:34:40] Which of the training modules are performing the best?
[00:40:59] Tips for preparing for financial presentations
[00:46:07] What's one piece of software or gadget you couldn't live without?
[00:51:12] Where to find Nicolas
[00:00:18] Adam: Hello and welcome to Tech for Finance, where we help finance professionals leverage technology to level up their lives. I'm your host, Adam Shilton, and in this episode we are going to be chatting with Nicolas Boucher, who is head of finance for ground transportation systems at Thales, but now also provides online training courses for finance professionals looking to take Nicolas's 14 years of and skyrocket their finance careers.
Nicolas studied in France where he was awarded his M B A in finance and management before going on to work all over the world, starting in Paris before moving to work for PWC in Luxembourg and Singapore before then moving to Germany to work with Thales. Nicolas speaks three languages. French, German and English and has two young daughters and enjoys traveling and tasting new types of food.
Before we start, if you like what you hear today, please remember to subscribe to Tech For Finance on your favorite podcast platform and on YouTube. And for more content, head over to Techforfinance.com. Nicolas, it's a pleasure to have you on the show today.
[00:01:22] Nicolas: Thank you. Thank you, Adam, and was a really good intro.
You, you did your homework.
Growing up in Brittany
[00:01:27] Adam: Thank you. And did I also see that you grew up in Brittany?
[00:01:31] Nicolas: Yes. So really Brittany the, the French part, so the, the northwest of France, at the sea. My dad comes from there. My mom comes from, Belgium at the Flemish part. And so I have roots next to the sea and. Even though I don't live now next to sea, each time I can go there and, and also eat seafood.
That's for me a a great source to, to get new energy.
[00:01:58] Adam: Absolutely. And, we, we used to to live sometime over in Brittany. So, oh, where, so the closest village was a little town called, Bulat Pestivian, near a town called Callac. I think the, the, the closest kind of bigger town was Guingamp yes. Closest beach I think was Tregastel.
And then, whenever they had the festival, you know, Carhaix Festival, we used to be able to hear it from the house. So that's, that's where, where we were. But it was, it was a, it was a stone cottage in the middle of nowhere and, and it was lovely. And, and like you mentioning your food, We used to go up to, to Callac or Guingamp, and we used to to order kilos of muscles, you know, moule mariniere.
With, you know, massive pots and fries or french fries and . There, there's some really good memories. So it, it, it brought a smile to my face when I saw that, as a, as a, as a bit of common ground there, I guess.
[00:02:59] Nicolas: And I mean, It's, it's a place you only go if you want to go there. You don't, you don't go through.
It's not like, Paris is not like, any big cities. So you go there because you know it or you want to discover it. And what is good is now that with the, with the climate being warmer, there is actually nicer because it's never that warm. And, it's, a lot of nature. And I would say it's still also really affordable.
So you can have a really, genuine place, original place there. Leave the experience of people who go there and have nice holidays and you can, if you like, a seaport like, doing, sailing or windsurfing is also a great place for that.
[00:03:46] Adam: Very good. So a recommendation for, a recommendation for anybody thinking of going to to Brittany.
Is no, it's very, very peaceful. I love going there because, at, at night the, the sky was totally black. You could see all of the stars. There was, there was not loads of artificial light, you know, obscuring your view. So , we, we, we used to go there to get some peace and quiet and it was, it, it was amazing.
So, no, very good. So, I mean, from the intro there, Nicolas, you, you've been all over the world. So how did you end up settling in Germany?
[00:04:18] Nicolas: My wife! My wife is German. And , when we wanted to, to build a family, we looked at a place, with a good work-life balance. Also where we can get help from the family.
And she found a job here. So I moved also with her here. And I have to say for me was good because it helped me continue learn German and be now fluent in German and having kids speaking. Every day to their mom in German. If I will not know any word in German, I will have, feel really, isolated in this family.
But, with me, they, we speak French and, for, to raise kids, Germany is quite well. Quite a good place. And also was a good opportunity to change, to go from the accounting world, and the, the financial audit, firms cuz I work for pwc and now to change, to go to, industrial company engineering company.
A big group change also from being an auditor to be now, I would say like a controller or financial analyst. Because depending if you are in Europe or in in the US or uk, what I do is fp and a or controlling. So, I would say like I cover these two topics and also within Thales, I covered different topics.
I worked on finance transformation, where, we implemented, the, the start of the business intelligence tools. Then I took over the lead of, one of our unit. Where we, I was, head of finance there. So there we produce microwave satellites. So the, the tubes that you put in satellites Okay.
The microwave tubes, and recently I moved to the transportation business, which is our main business. Working for Deutche Bahn in the signaling and that is also a totally different business. We have project, over 50 million, Euro over five to 10 years. So those are different problematics and I still continue to learn.
The change from audit to FP&A
[00:06:32] Adam: Very good. Thanks for that. So from your travels around the world, I mean, How has that audit evolved to the point where you said, right, well, I don't think audit and processes for me anymore. I want to get more into the f p and a and the controlling. What was that change like?
[00:06:57] Nicolas: So generally I'm somebody who likes to work in cycles. I have a two, three year cycle and at PWC I had three cycles. I had the first one as a junior where I learned the job. I learned also the industry. I worked in financial services. Then, I needed another cycle and I moved to Singapore where there I learned another culture. I learned how to implement what I learned and teach that to people also in another country.
Cause Singapore is still a young office. They now, they're quite mature and they were recruiting people from, from Europe, from Australia, to bring the knowledge and help the team there develop, because it's a fast growing area and so they did need more people, more help. So it was really good to bring the best practices, to Singapore and also myself to learn there because they had other type of challenges.
If you compare to Singapore, and Luxembourg. Luxembourg is 500,000 people and Singapore at the time was six or 7 million. So if you do insurance for cars, it is not talking about the same level of insurance. And I will say when I came back to Luxembourg to do my third cycle, which is the manager cycle, At the end of this cycle, I was done with what I wanted to learn from audit.
And I thought that, I saw what the directors and partners were doing and I didn't feel such a gap between what I was already doing as a manager working on big clients and the way to go to partner. And also what they were doing is not something that for me was such a big change that I wanted to continue to invest so much time.
And I wanted to see something else and also, It started with the work-life balance to be heavy, because manager, you're already in the middle between the partners who wants something from you and the team who needs you. And the, there was also, and there is still a shift in the audit where you still need to work hard, but now the younger generation, they know that they don't have to.
And at our time it was like, okay, it was still there that, you have to, so we were working hard and, and now. I would say like the manager now, they have to make compromise between all of the pressure from clients, from partners, from the teams, to make sure that people stay and that they are not too over overloaded.
And, I also thought that the job was a bit of managers doing that five or seven years, because director is really the same than a manager or senior manager, that they will have been really heavy without that. Continuing to learn that much. And, with my wife, we decided to move and to find something with a better work-life balance.
And that's why we ended it, I ended here in Germany and working for Thales very good because for Thaless I did also, 15 years ago or something like that, or 16 years ago, training, internship. And so when. When was sure that we will move in together, I looked at the French companies and all of the international companies and I just talked to the right persons to get an interview and now I'm here since seven years.
What advice would you give to small businesses preparing for audits?
[00:10:45] Adam: Very good. There's a Thales office in Doncaster down the road from me. I don't know what division or what they do, but they've got a big footprint. Right. So, sounds like a good choice either way. But anyway, that aside, so my first question that is maybe a bit of usable advice for the listeners that we've got ahead today.
So a lot of the work I do isn't with really large clients. It's in the sort of SME, what we refer to as small to medium sized business and. There are challenges, especially with small growing companies, when they do have to start doing their first audits or say they're a charity or a nonprofit where they're getting audited all the time.
It takes them a lot of time and a lot of effort to prepare, have an audit. Sometimes audits can take weeks in worst case scenarios, you know, months obviously depends on the size of the business, right? So for a smaller team that are just starting to be audited, Or for a small business that is audited, sort of semi-frequently, what advice would you give to make it as painless and maybe as short as possible?
[00:11:57] Nicolas: If you can get somebody on board who already experienced audit in another company, I think there's a quick win and a fast track to make sure that you will have the process and the documentation set up, because you have somebody in your team who knows how it works and knows what to expect from the audit.
So that will be my first recommendation. If you cannot get. Then you need ready to, check with your auditor. What are their expectation? How do they work? And don't wait the end of the year and the closing to prepare, what we used to do with new clients, we used to do, pre-audit, interim audit, and dry runs.
A dry run is basically, one month before the closing, you make all of the processes once and. If you are comfortable on that, then you just audit the last month. So that could be a good way for both the auditor because he is auditing a new company, and for the company to make sure that you don't have the pressure of the closing, plus the pressure of the audit in one time.
We just need to make sure when you do that, that you don't have double work. Because if you do two closing a dry run and a final one, sometimes you double the effort. So the goal is to spread the effort and not to double it. And the latter recommendation is to talk with people in your network who are used to have audit, who have been auditors. So people that are not biased because they're not in your audit process, and they will tell you how they work, what to expect from the auditor, how to handle the questions, what topics are important, and which topics you could try to temper the request and reduce the amount of work you have to do for the auditor.
The business case for business intelligence
[00:14:08] Adam: No, that's really useful. Thank you, Nicolas. So, try and not take on too much at the same time. Try and prepare in advance. Maybe get an extra pair of hands, and then speak to people that have done it before. I think that's really usable advice. Thanks. Thanks for that. Excellent. So, you mentioned earlier that part of your work at Thales was a transformation project that specifically looked at business intelligence.
And you don't have to name the tool, but I'm curious to know, for a larger organization like Thales what was the business case for implementing something like business intelligence? What were you hoping to surface and find out using the tool that you weren't before?
And the second part of that question is, now that it's in place, what has that enabled you to see that you wouldn't have seen before? Can you talk about that a little bit?
[00:15:11] Nicolas: Sure. So, first it was the business intelligence plus the world organization to restructure for finance. So I was involved in the two topics. Before in Germany, it was different locations and each location was quite independent. With their own SAP, with their own processes, with their own accounting team, controlling team.
And the goal was to centralize some of the functions and to leverage on the knowledge of the people. So we started first to consolidate, to have only one ERP and then we plugged the business intelligence tool on this ERP. And then we had, we implemented, after, it was also a common planning tool to plan the headcounts and the cost centers because at the top level, the management of Germany wanted to have a view on the function, cost, function by function, the headcounts and only way to do that was to use both a BI tool and a planning tool to have the data in one place, in one data warehouse with one standard, and that the process is the same for everybody.
And that for reporting we have a single source of truth and there is no fighting more about which version is the right one. Is it this one or this one? There is only one, and that was, I will say the big win is to stop the discussion about versioning and start the discussion on the content of the function cost. Then there were other wins.
As we consolidated the teams, we didn't replace a lot of people going to retirement, so, we reduced the size of the finance team, naturally, without that, somebody had to leave. But each time there was an opportunity, we took it to have, I will say like a central team for accounting, a central team for reporting a central team. Also for all of the function, cost, topics.
And then we let people in each of the locations, to be closer to the business controlling or commercial controlling or industrial controlling. And now, like I would say after this experience, at the beginning I was really for decentralization, having been also now locally, I think there is a value that we underestimate of having people near to the business and really focus on one part of the business. And that's something, having the balance between the central functions and the local teams is something that, I would say it's a key for business, and not only in finance, but for every topic, make sure you operate with the right team and the right size of team. I think a lot of companies are questioning themselves and looking at that. Now if you use the right tools, it's not just a program of where the people are, it's how they work. So there are a lot of questions I think. And there are trends. COVID change, other trends with remote?
I guess what we'll see in new trends is people working more and more for themselves and companies using freelancers. So we are going to see a change in the workplace and the business environment.
Technology is not a silver bullet
[00:19:22] Adam: Thanks for that. And I think what you were indicating there as well is the relationship between either a finance center of excellence or a departmental center of excellence. Being able to work as part of the whole, so as you say, there is scope for individuals or teams to become specialists in a certain subject whilst ensuring that work is still communicated to the wider business.
And I think that is front and center at the moment, because as you mentioned, people going into retirement, people moving on, we can't really have those silos anymore, where people are being overly protective. "This is my data, this is my process. I don't want to share it." But what you're saying there is not a case of, well, we're introducing technology to replace, We are not introducing technology to play Big Brother or keep tabs on people. We're introducing it so that everybody can work better together. If that's a fair summary, right?
[00:20:28] Nicolas: And also, what I found is that if you bring a tool, let's say you named the tool Blue and, like six months after, people will complain and will just mention the name Blue everywhere. And if you replace Blue by the name of the process, it's actually the reality. And a lot of people will just use this name because it's easier for the brain also to complain about things, about their work and their processes, where actually the problem is not the tool, the problem is the process feeding the tool, the communication between the people that when they put something inside or where they use it, they don't use it the same way or they're not aligned with what they should do. And if you implement something, you need first to work on your foundation, on your process, your communication. If not, Every program will be reflected and will be named Blue, even if the programmes are in definition.
[00:21:32] Adam: No, and you're absolutely right. And we see that all the time, you know, and sometimes people think that the technology is the silver bullet that's gonna solve everybody's problems. And, and now a lot of technology is still quite expensive, you know, and people think, "if we throw enough money at something, if we invest in all of these tools, then everything's gonna be better."
Right. But as you say there, it's not always the case. You know, you mentioned the foundations, you know, technology to surface data quickly will only surface data of a bad process quicker. So all you are doing is speeding up a bad process, you know, so, so what you wanna be doing is tackling the foundations, as you say, and then only using technology at the point it then has a use as opposed to just, you know, and I'm gonna try and get them on the podcast at some point, and I can't remember the name of the business, but it's a new service that will. Basically search for all of your technology spend, you know, because without knowing it, you can have, you know, one software as a service application where you're spending X amount per month, and then in no time at all, you've got 5, 6, 7, 8 pieces of software that you all think are, are helping.
You know, somebody uses this bit of software here, somebody uses this bit of software here, but actually just spending and not getting much results from it. So that, and again, I'll put it in the show notes, but there we go.
[00:22:53] Nicolas: And I can confirm that. Having 2000 people in the company I am working for now, you have also three locations. You have engineering, ratio, manufacturing, supply chain, all of the function, plus you have a group above you. I'm validating, invoicing, and seeing names of softwares and thinking each time I ask, why your team and the other team are not using the same software and so there is always a good reason, but I'm always checking if we are not using twice the different software for the same purpose.
And it's a big problem because, IT was before, I would say the master of the temple and the safe keeper, make sure that there is only one roadmap, but now companies are going directly to the functions, so the vendors and say, you don't need it with this tool, you can do it alone. And then it becomes really hard for the company to keep up and have one roadmap, where tools make sense. And again, like before with central Local, it's a big dilemma on how do you deal with that.
There is such thing as too many tools, especially if you don't know how to use them!
[00:24:16] Adam: Absolutely. And sorry, my children are screaming in the background. I don't know whether you can hear. Good, the microphone is doing its job of cutting out the background noise, which is great. But as you say, now you can sign up for a trial of software and just to get this new feature, all you've got to do is you've got to pay, five or a month or 10 pounds a month or something like that.
And anybody can do that. If they've got a bit of budget, that's fine. You know, take the number of planning tools that are out there. Take the number of budgeting tools that are out there, as you say, Sometimes a single team, forgetting about, whether it's a group or different departments or different locations, you could end up with two or three planning tools, two or three budgeting tools, and everybody's using a slightly different one.
So what you're doing there is you're creating silos with software. Previously, you're creating silos with information in the process. Right now, you're creating silos in software because everybody's using a different tool. So I think that's a very fair point. If you've not got it governance that's saying before anything is procured, it needs to go through this sort of sanity check to say, are we already using something like this?
It is becoming a bit of a mine field and I'll be interested to see how that goes. Because with less reliance on it, with the likes of cloud software where all of the infrastructure, all of the hardware is already bundled into the software, it's becoming easier and easier now just to sign up for stuff. I don't envy your job. If, as you say, going through the supplier invoices and thinking, hang on, I don't recognize this name. What's going on there? So, challenges.
[00:25:54] Nicolas: And one big point is obviously if you work in finance. It might not be your own decision which tool you're going to use, but it's going to be the reality that you have to work with different tools.
I always compared our working environment with that. You can download the app quickly, and you don't need to go through one week training to use it. It's easy to use straight away. And when now, I would say like the younger generation, I think they are easier with this.
But for all of the finance people, you really need to bear in mind that we are now in this generation where tools come and go. And when they come, they have to be used quickly. So you, yourself, as a user, don't expect like for five or 10 years ago where you'll get one month of training and then a lot of the competition.
No, forget about that. You'll get access, you'll get maybe, if you're lucky, an intro in a presentation plus slides, and then you need to figure out. and it's the reality and it is like apps here. What is good is that now the vendors also provide a lot of documentation. So you can go on their website, you can go on YouTube, so go yourself search for their information, but don't wait that their information is coming to you.
And try a ways to identify who are the key users using the. And that's, I would say the recipe to work well with tools because that's part of your toolbox. And if you want to be efficient, you need to know how to use the toolbox and the tools inside.
[00:27:41] Adam: Absolutely. And for people that are listening on audio, not on video, Nicolas picked up his, his iPhone there and was comparing this to, the concept of downloading an app on a phone.
Right. You know, and it's a fair summary, you know, with everything being plug and play now, you know. Whether it's an enterprise application or whether it's, you know, e r p, you know what, whatever the software is, we are becoming more and more a generation of, it's an app for that, you know, just download it and plug it in.
But you make a very, very valid point there. You know, it's one thing to download an app, it's another thing to know how to use it. And it's another thing to continue using that app to realize the benefit. So, that touches on the point of training there.
You know, you download an app, you know, go, go to the, to the supplier, you know, YouTube channel, you know, immerse yourself in those, those learning materials there to make sure that you are making best use of it.
What made you decide to go into online training?
But coming on to what you do, then Nicolas. So you are now taking your 14 years of experience and passing that onto, to finance professionals, to skyrocket their finance careers, which is great. So what, what was the, the tipping point there? What, what made you decide, right, I've got this experience now I want to translate that into, to online training courses. Can you take us through that thought process?
[00:29:03] Nicolas: Sure. So as I moved from PWC to Thales, I had my own learning experience where I had to learn a new language, new company, new industry, new job. I moved from audit to controlling, also new tools. We talked about business intelligence. So I was looking into a lot of information that I had to learn. And at PWC, you have a whole environment of trainings and also training set up during the year to learn that. But in other companies, it's not as formal or well established.
And so I had to look online to learn. And so I first moved to LinkedIn because I wanted to be surrounded by people who knew about these topics. I wanted to learn from them. And after a while, once these topics were mastered, I learned my new job and I was comfortable.
It's my turn to give back and to teach what I learned in audit. Cause in audit I was always doing that with the teams as, first I think you start the second year that you already coach people, then you are a senior and you manage a small team. Then manager, you manage separate teams, together.
So I always coach. I was also teaching Excel there. I was also teaching audit. I was also teaching auditing insurance companies. So I think I, I teach and coach, for 100 people or over 100 people at PWC. And in, I also teach Luxembourg to, in Luxembourg to different nationalities, French, Germans, Belgians, but also we had people from Romania.
And then when I went to Singapore, I also had Singaporean, I had Malaysian, I had Vietnamese, I had Australians, so I had different nationalities and I always felt comfortable also explaining to different cultures. And I wanted to do that, to continue to do that. First I started sharing on LinkedIn and also, you know, when you teach is a good way to learn because you are not going to explain something that you don't master. So there is a saying that if you want to learn something, teach it to somebody else. And, for me it really works as well. So that's the first point. And this year, there was a point where really a lot of people asked me to help them.
I cannot, like, I don't have the bandwidth to, to help people and to take along people on their journey. So I decided to use the power of technology to create an online course. And I made, eight hours of videos covering, everything about budgeting and forecasting, because that's something I had to learn because you don't learn that in audit.
And having now done, seven budget seasons for different type of companies and Terras is quite a heavy topic. So I'm always inside that. So I know how to do that. Then the whole financial analysis. It's a part where a lot of content want to move to fp and a and they want to learn about that.
So how do you analyze margin? How do you analyze the variants for a manufacturing company? How do you analyze the project? How do you, how can you also in a meeting, answer to a question about figures, even if you don't have the response. So how can you calculate really quickly in your mind, using some tips that I give in my course to give, like an, an estimate and to make sure that you move forward in the meeting and not wait the analysis. And then the big part as well. We do a lot of work in finance, but our work is only valuable if you can explain it to non-finance people.
How do you make a presentation? How do you explain finance figures to other people? How do you talk to your CEO, CFOs, to other companies, to other management, other stakeholders? I also give all of my experience with doing financial presentations in this course. It's also a kind of toolbox because people have different needs. People in their career, sometimes they need something about budgeting, sometimes they need to do a presentation. With my course, you don't need to go from A to Z. You can just choose a topic about financial presentations. Then, one week after, you can look at a video about how to improve your reporting. Then, you can have a focus on sales forecasting. The course is made as a tool that you can keep because it's lifetime access and helps you have a mentor that you don't have access to with this course.
Which of the training modules are performing the best?
[00:34:40] Adam: Perfect. From your five modules, how to analyze variances, how to perform quick analysis, how to make your reporting faster, how to become a better business partner, and how to make Excel and PowerPoint work for you. Do you have any way of understanding which one of those modules is most popular? Is there a gap that people are trying to fill?
[00:35:38] Nicolas: That's interesting because I did a questionnaire and the three biggest ones are on analysis, budgeting, and business partnering/storytelling. Those are the three areas that people really loved in the course and where it provided them value. Some of them already knew about budgeting, so this area didn't help them much. But they loved the how-to make financial presentations and how to learn new analysis.
They also get templates in my course. So they use the templates for their own job. Other people come maybe from audit, so they have a clue about function analysis, but they never did budgeting. So then they use the budgeting module first. And then people were more focusing on soft skills. They loved the part about business partnering and storytelling. And, I would say for PowerPoint and Excel, it was more about the tips that I share and also the process when I show something about PowerPoint or Excel. I show that also a bit in the course because I think it's something that can help people be more efficient.
[00:37:13] Adam: And I was having a chat to, here in the UK, I think they're still mostly in the UK at the moment, even though I think their community is all over the world. It's an organization or group called Grow CFO. You can get membership and it's an online community. I was chatting to a guy called Kevin, who runs their podcast. By the time this is released, it will already be 2023. So I think my conversation with him will probably also be released around the same time.
But your point there about business partnering. They've indicated as a trend for 2023. We've been talking about it for a while. You know, Christian France, Hansen and Anders, they do the Business Partnering Institute, don't they? So, they've been focusing on it for a while, but I think now people's careers are more focused towards not just the finance operational piece. You know, people are wanting to scratch that itch to say, look, how do I become a better business partner? Because with technology soaking up a lot of the boring stuff to do. You know, I need to be investing my time in other areas where I can create more value.
So I think we're gonna see a lot more of that in 2023. So maybe for you, maybe extend the course a little bit, you know, have some more modules. You know, focus a little bit, maybe break it out a little. You know, more on storytelling, more on business partnering and that sort of stuff, but you'll only see from the data, right? So more questionnaires, you know, that sentiment, you know, what do I need to be doing more of? And I think the business partnering will continue to be a trend, not just for 2023, but you know, that's fine.
[00:38:54] Nicolas: The course, what I did is, Let's say if you take, the P VM analysis, P VM is price volume mix. So how do you analyze the changes of price and volume, to know how move your margin or your sales, and I just don't teach the method. What I have at the end is how do you use it in real life? And there is where, if it's, even if it's not part of the module business partnering, but it's where I teach a lot of tips on how do you implement that in your company?
How do you talk with your stakeholders, how do you get the information? And then how do you make a follow up plan? And those are topics. If you don't talk about the, the method and the content, it's really hard because it's too theoretical. If you just talk about, okay, help your stakeholders, okay, but how, which technique should I use first? How do I prepare that? And by going first, In the analysis method and show how do you, use it in your business partnering model, and role. Then you, I will say like you have the full spectrum of what finance needs to do. Always have a good basis on finance because we are not only people. We are not only business partners, we are finance business partners.
But then how do you, everything that you created for yourself and for finance, how do you make it available for the company? Relevant. Cause sometimes we are really good at putting our head inside our Excel stays. Three days inside and doing something nobody needs. So, Ask what people need, and then you can put your head inside, then leave your, like lift your head up, two or three times and don't say three days, but go and check. Is it something good that what I'm doing? Oh, you need something different? Okay, I'm going to, to adjust and there you're going to provide a lot of value. Because you are going to use your time for, I would say the, the most efficient way and the most valuable way for the company.
Tips for preparing for financial presentations
[00:40:59] Adam: I totally agree and, and I think you've hit the nail on the head there and doing the right things with, you know, how do you put this in, into action? Being part of the part, part of the outcome there. Because it's one thing to know something, it's another thing to actually put it into practice and, and I think that's why your content and your following does so well on LinkedIn is because it's not just training, you know, it's not just insight, it's not just a point of view. It is actually actionable. And that's, that's what people want now. It's not just a case of learning something, it's how do I actually put this into action? So I think it's, it's really good to, to focus on that. So thank you for that.
So appreciate coming up to time. Have you got a couple? And what I'll do is, I'll, I'll take some of your LinkedIn posts if, if I may, and I'll copy the links and I'll put them into the show notes just to give some people examples of the sort of content that you, you're putting out. And of course I'll encourage people to, to follow you. But from there, or whether it's, you know, a couple of bits from your course so that my listeners have got something actionable to, to take away. Have you got maybe a tip or two that people can focus on? That people that can start doing now as a hint at what they get in your course that, that people can take away from this.
[00:42:14] Nicolas: So I think one thing I learned when you do financial presentations is how do you prepare for a financial presentation before doing the presentation And there are two things that work very well to make them more successful. First, if you have bad news, don't wait for the presentation to talk about it. For example, if you've just analyzed your sales and demand and missed your target by 20%, don't wait a week to go to the board and present it. Instead, let the people that are your main point of contact know, like the CFO or your manager, before the meeting. This way, the news is already digested and in the meeting, you can talk about how to solve it, not why it happened. Because the why should be solved before the meeting. People don't need to go to the meeting to understand the question. They can read emails or make phone calls. They need to sit together to make decisions.
The second point is to understand the inner agenda of the people you're going to talk to. Identify one or two stakeholders that you can talk easily to and call them before the meeting, one or two days ahead and ask if there's something specific they want to see or a question they have that you should answer. If you're bringing something new, ask if they think it will be valuable. If you've shown something three or four times, ask if you can take it away because it doesn't bring value. Having this conversation before the presentation will make the meeting much more successful. And you'll have someone in front of you who can defend your decisions if someone else questions them. This will also avoid extra work for after the presentation.
[00:45:37] Adam: Very good. Thanks for that. So, two main tips there. One, have hard conversations as early as possible. Don't leave them for the presentation because it'll be derailed. The other topic is how to build the courage to have those difficult conversations before the presentation. Nobody wants to give bad news, do they?
[00:45:58] Nicolas: Nobody wants late bad news. Nobody wants bad news, but late bad news is even worse.
What's one piece of software or gadget you couldn't live without?
[00:46:07] Adam: Absolutely. And then two is get early buy-in from the people that are integral to the meeting. What do you want to see? What do we need to focus on? And then, as you quite rightly say, if you pre agree that agenda, then you've got more support when it comes to presenting those topics.
So, no, that's really useful. Thanks for that, Nicolas. So last question then. So the podcast is called tech for finance. Whether it's your personal or professional life, what is one piece of software, one gadget, one piece of tech that you couldn't live without?
[00:46:43] Nicolas: I make my phone first because being somebody who is, I'm a foreigner or, I feel a citizen of the planet and not of a town. So I need a ways to be connected with my family abroad, my friend abroad. I'm a lot into also, LinkedIn, Twitter to get the news, also to follow sport. I was in Qatar, for the workup. I, I watched two games, so it was really great to see that by myself. And I will say, Right now what I really like is, listening to, business podcast, but not pure business, I would say like fun business podcast. And there is one, I don't know if you know the, my First Million. It's a podcast where two guys, had already a business before. So each of them separately, in the e-commerce or internet business. And they sold it. So now they have more time and they talk about every business they could do or what is their opinion about it. And they invite people. And you discover a lot of niche that you are you don't know about, and a lot of, e-commerce or internet, technique and, It's a great way to, to be motivated and the guys are also really funny and, it's really, it's a good entertainment, I will say, like infotainment for me, to, to spend time in my free time.
[00:48:18] Adam: Perfect. And what, what do you use for your podcasts? Use Spotify or do you use Apple or do…
[00:48:23] Nicolas: It’s Spotify? Well, when my kids listen to their own, kids' music, I have to use Apple cast, cause. I didn't get a family plan yet, but soon I guess I'll have to get one. But no, usually I use Spotify. I was a DJ before, and when I have to think that how many, cases of CDs I had, in a car and like set up on a table and now like I did one or two parties where I just had my phone and I just had like one playlist prepared in advance. And, with a good, like, you can set up, the, the, the fading, in and fading out, and that's a, a great party.
[00:49:10] Adam: The wonders of technology, no. We used to do the set, so I used to play guitar at weddings and we used to do that, so live band for the first couple of hours. But then as soon as it came to the disco portion, it was literally just a phone on Spotify hooked up to the PA with a preset playlist and we could go and have a beer, like, just leave it, do this thing. It was so easy. Really good.
[00:49:35] Nicolas: Well, it's still important to I would say, you can decide on the next two songs. But you need to feel to be there and have to be able to switch quickly because. It might be that the mood of the party is not like what you think is going to be in 20 minutes. And so it's good to have your playlist and then you readjust based on, okay, now I guess this song will make more impact than the othersong. And you don't have to surgery too much. You have to go inside your playlist and, but that's what I did before as well as a dj. I had my CDs and I knew. If now it's not working, I have plan A, B, C, D. And, I will use them and if the mood was there, then I was going on a new, new series of new styles and, and, then it was, working well.
[00:50:25] Adam: It's a fair shout on having a different account for the kids. And I'll let you go after this, but, so I listen to podcasts in my car. So it takes me just short two hours to get to the office. And the podcast I've been listening to recently, quite a popular one is, Diary of a CEO. That's quite a good one. And then I listen to, you know, all sorts in between. I've got very, very eclectic, tasting podcasts. But let's say that the family get up and it's eight o'clock in the morning and they decide to ask Alexa to play Baby Shark. I'm kicked out, so my car my car.
[00:51:08] Nicolas: Or, you get a call from your wife. Are you using now?
Where to find Nicolas
[00:51:12] Adam: You're on Spotify? That's it. So, no we did, we did have the family plan, but for whatever reason it reset. So I need to, need to get that set up again. So, but we digress. So anyway, Nicolas, where can people find out more about you?
[00:51:37] Nicolas: First on LinkedIn, you'll see my face and, I guess, If you see colors about blue and orange, that's my personal branding. So it's me. I've also website, nicolasboucher.online, where now I posted a lot of information in my blog. And, if you are already somebody motivated and wants to take your career a bit further, And you don't have help in your environment, you don't have a good manager or in the university, you didn't feel that you learn enough, then, just try my course or you get a call with me and, I can help you.
So all of the links are on my, LinkedIn profile. And, if also you need any help for I. I just launched last weekend, guide with the 50 most asked questions in, in finance interviews. And also how to answer them.
[00:52:27] Adam: Cause you did a LinkedIn post, didn't you? I think I saw that.
So I’ll put links to all of that in show notes as well. So it's Nicolas, which is N I C O L A S. Yes sir. And then Boucher, which is B O U C H E R. Exact. Yep. LinkedIn and online. Perfect. Thanks ever much for your time, Nicolas. It's been perfect. Really appreciate you coming on the show.
[00:52:52] Nicolas: And I wish you a lot of success for the new guests and thank you for doing that. For all of the people who need inspiration in finance or just need like to, to have opinion or views from somebody else that. Maybe in their own network environment they don't have access to. So now with, with technology and internet podcast, LinkedIn, YouTubes, we all can have access to that.
So thank you for doing that.
[00:53:18] Adam: No, absolute pleasure. And thanks again, Nicolas. It's perfect