We all agree that savvy manufacturers develop effective leaders by providing opportunities for them to grow. I had a recent experience that shows the value of providing those opportunities to the person staring back at me in the mirror.
As vice president of our marketing and organizational development, I thought I could better contribute to the entire organization by improving my understanding of an aspect of Enterprise Minnesota I’m less familiar with. I decided to focus on finance and learning to better speak its language.
This fall I enrolled in an eight-week non-profit finance course through Hamline University’s MBA program. The course was taught by adjunct professor, Peter Farstad, who is the interim CEO of LifeSource, an $85 million organ procurement organization that supports the organ and tissue donation process. Over a four-hour Zoom class every Tuesday night – you heard it right, four hours – Farstad delivered inspirational instruction of finance.
The class of 16 students consisted of a cross section of individuals, including some full-time students working toward their MBA degrees. We also had a woman serving in the government of Nigeria, new accountants, senior accountants, a lawyer, a guy working in manufacturing, a woman serving the YWCA, and more. All were eager to learn more about finance to further their careers.
Professor Farstad taught us that the “bottom line” of a nonprofit organization represents far more than money. He described the responsibilities of financial management, the profession’s terminology, and how to create and analyze financial statements for multiple audiences. I smiled when he said, “We see an illustration of a conversation between a balance sheet and an income statement. It’s a holistic connect, like they are married to each other. It’s a beautiful thing, musical, symmetrical, lyrical.”
For my final project I used Enterprise Minnesota’s IRS 990 tax filings to produce a prospectus based on the last three years. We have a complicated financial arrangement because of the federal grants we receive. It involves matching funds based on our earnings and costs, and sometimes the model can change from year to year. I have a much better grasp of it now.
With this fundamental understanding, I became better positioned to work with our whole team in the future. Just as important, it’s energizing to appreciate an aspect of our operation that wasn’t a part of my focus before taking Financial Management for Nonprofits.
Taking this class reinforced the value of engaged employees. For years, Enterprise Minnesota consultants have advised companies confronting a persistent worker shortage to help employees develop skills beyond their current job needs. This type of talent development improves employee productivity, creates paths for upward movement through the company, and boosts loyalty.
Most of this training is aimed at future supervisors and managers, but my recent experience tells me that business leaders have just as much to gain if they challenge themselves intellectually and seek to build their understanding of all aspects of their company. I’m proof! I’ll never be an accountant, but I now understand and appreciate the thinking behind it.
View upcoming events and workshops here
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