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A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

I haven't contributed to the forum for a while. And a lot of you guys have asked me to write more about this topic. I have hence given it a lot of thought and formulated a 3 part sheet. I have a lot going on so it took time. So, I hope this truly helps you all. I will continue writing the other parts and post them in separate threads. This is a forum exclusive and I posted here because I believe in the additional depth the membership will add to the discussion. Don't be shy! [Image: lol.gif]


A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment


Part I - An Introduction to Mobility in the Corporate Business World

You go to work every day. You get into your car, waiting for the inevitable. But as you inch closer, you still try to delay it even further by playing the same waiting game in the parking lot of the company inching as close as possible to start time. If you take the train or bus in you look outside in the hope that the bus goes slower or traffic lights last longer. All this to delay the inevitable: the Corporate job. This is the reality for a lot of people.

The job may seem thankless on most days and thankful only on a very select few days. These few days happen to include the days associated with the following: Hiring, promotion, and even sometimes, even though the later can seem extremely thankless on the surface.

The process will also differ based on what type of Corporate job you do. I’m restricting my set of articles/data sheets to “white collar” jobs in the field of Finance also extending to Accounting in some cases. Caveat is that this excludes Financial Services, such as hedge funds and investment banking, having not been in the sub-fields myself. So this article will essentially cover such jobs at companies that earn revenue by selling services (e.g. Advertising, Moving) as well as products (e.g. Toothpaste, tractors, books, condoms).

By the same token, a lot of the information may be applicable to other professions outside of Finance as well (eg. Law, Marketing, Pimping). I just don’t have the experience to assert as such. So out of the niche part of the Corporate world I already mentioned above, there are two types of jobs: one is as a “professional” performing a robust set of tasks in a professional capacity in a Professional Services firm (Accounting, Finance or process improvement); the second is performing somewhat a more defined (as opposed to robust or changing) set of tasks in a Corporate firm. Throughout the series you will hopefully catch on to why I separated these in this manner.

I have done a professional services job for about 7 years (Big 4 Public Accounting firm), a Corporate job for about 3 years (large Corporations) and just started a sales job about 6 months ago (selling professional services). These are my general qualifications. Every single experience added a little bit of skill and a layer of Corporate game to my tool box. At the same time, I’m not pretending to cover everything as I already mentioned. This is specific to a large portion of the job market but exclusive to that portion.

I will make this a three part series; so I can keep this organized and also provide enough attention to each portion.

•An Introduction to Mobility in the Corporate Business World
•Your Navigation within the Corporate Business World
•Recruiters and Mobility within the Corporate Business World

You will notice that there is going to be a recurring theme to all of this: “Game.” These articles will provide you guidelines as to how you can game your way in and out of high level Corporate challenges especially as it relates to adjustments in your career path. Before we get into the practical, however, I must show you what type of atmosphere you’re dealing with.

The existing Hiring “Process” – The beginning before the beginning

How does a Corporation hire you? Is it dependent on having top grades? Going to a top school? Being socially active? All three? Two of the above? Or is it the result of being a great bullshit artist? I’ll tell you that there is a component of every one of these aspects that can help you in the hiring process. This first piece as I already noted will focus on the atmosphere you that these decisions are made within and some truths that will exist before you even step foot into the hiring process. This is important to know before we start discussing how YOU can navigate this atmosphere.

Professional service firms may start the hiring process in clusters. The Big 4 Accounting firms do this during latter part of the summer and likely also in the winter. There may even be some additional hiring clusters in the year but much smaller insofar as volume of people hired. Corporations on the other hand depend on budgets, promotions and tenures to hire people. There is also a hidden “political capital” assessment by the decision makers at Corporations that will affect hiring and promotions. So the hiring, firing and promotions at a Corporation can be at any given time during the year. The company may also be going through an acquisition, divestiture or system implementation amongst other projects that it may undertake. These “special events” open up opportunities. Check your local job postings. These concepts do not change from one firm to the next within each of the categories. Professional firms need fresh bodies to pump out the work for clients but also need to adjust for turnover whereas Corporations need bodies to keep it running but on a lower scale and adjust less for turnover. So what are the types of events that affect hiring:

•Acquisitions and investments in the market place (health of the economy)
•Reorganizations within the Company
•Change in leadership (C suite individuals)
•Expansion of the current infrastructure to support growth (new systems and processes)
•Normal turnover (people leaving the job in the normal course)

Change in leadership is actually interesting and may catch some people by surprise when it happens. Many times, a new CFO may come in and get rid of the existing people in order to bring in his own trusted colleagues.

Political Capital and Technical abilities: Where does it start?

Where does hiring really start? Think about it. Is it the CEO? Not really. It starts with the owners in a company. Let’s use a public company as an example. A voting of the owners (shareholders in this case) causes a “Board of Directors” (BOD or the board) to be elected. The board will appoint key executives, especially the CEO. The CEO reports to the board. The board reports to the owners; that’s their job, also known as a “fiduciary” responsibility. In smaller companies, the owners are the board. So imagine “Jabba the Hut” sole owner of the fucking planet. Other times a CEO can also be on the board. Ever heard of “CEO and Chairman of the board?”

Why am I harping on this? I want you to see the Corporate climate in hiring starting from the top in order for you to see the stark “mentalities” behind hiring that exist at different levels. So at the board level, do you think individuals are hired because of how smart they are? Or how well they know the industry? They are hired for their political capital and abilities to use that capital effectively in getting the key line managers moving in the right direction. It’s game pure and simple that you need to get on a board. When you get lower in the chain to the Vice Presidents all the way down to the analysts, you will notice that actual technical skills will start making a bigger difference. There are certain industries where if you’re past the director level, you are navigating solely through political capital. For example, a person with a higher technical skill level may be available to take your job but won’t be able to get your job because you’re leveraging political capital (you have good game). On the other hand, if a “Senior Financial Analyst” can’t tell a story behind the numbers effectively, he will be replaced shortly for someone that can. Even lower might be a staff accountant that can’t reconcile one number to another. It doesn’t matter how charming he or she is. No game can compensate for a shitty visual. It’s just like a dude with 2+ balls hitting on girls but didn’t shower for days before he did so. Off with your position!

The other reason I mention the above is for the sake of your own upward mobility. Even though your job may be technical at the lower levels, if you do not accumulate the political capital early, you will hit the ceiling. It’s just like a woman who hits the wall if she doesn’t do enough to compensate in her early years for her inevitable downward spiral in the later years. Same shit The Chairman of the Board is there because that’s what he did during his entire career, not just sitting at his desk churning out reports for the first five and then he got lucky. That’s almost never true unless you’re royalty.

So where do Corporations find their future leaders at the lowest ranks and how do they sort them out? Do they come from those that have the highest grade point averages in top colleges? Yes that’s a part of it. However, just a high grade point average is not going to refine you enough to get in there and get on the “fast track.”

Yes, the “Fast Track”

What is the “fast track” you ask? This can mean an extremely formal program such as the General Electric (GE) Internal Audit rotation program or as informal as starting with a large Professional services firm and moving in to a higher level role in one of their large clients. The Internal Audit rotation program is very hard to get into at GE. However, getting into Professional Services a Big 4 Public Accounting firm is relatively easier but still difficult overall compared to other Corporate Finance jobs. Once within these “programs,” you will spend a grueling amount of hours travelling to remote locations to do consultations and audits to understand the business better. There are plans and processes within these programs to systematically understand the “key” functions of a business and find gaps within it. This whole system of plans and processes ensures that those executing the plans maximize their knowledge in a smaller pocket of time than it takes the others that are performing specific functions and “working their way up from the bottom.”

In order to find candidates that fit into the “fast track,” Professional Services firms and large Corporations spend a lot of time on college campuses. A lot. They have dedicated “Campus Recruiting” directors that are responsible just for this. As a decent looking male, I’m not sure that there can be a better position to be in sometimes. The question becomes, how do the college recruiters effectively get to the “cream of the crop.” They can all come to job fairs on campus right? Screw that! They want the most bang for their buck; so they actually get engaged with the top business fraternities on campus. As a student, there is a higher standard of grade point averages to even get into these fraternities; so companies are accessing the cream of the crop directly. If you are serving as one of the student executives in these fraternities or groups, you can almost be guaranteed a job in one of the Professional Services firms. I’m not just talking about Accounting, but Finance and Economics majors as well. Bottom line: first get your grade point average up; then join the top business fraternity or Accounting fraternity on campus. Is that it? Of course not. Keep going and try to run for president of the group or fraternity as soon as you get in. I used this technique in Beta Alpha Psi and to leverage my way into a Big 4 firm.

Let’s move into Corporate leadership now, away from college campuses that provide entry levels to the actual working world that provide the middle and senior levels. Where do you think Corporations find top talent for these higher level positions? I’m talking management. GE is not going to put out a job posting into the world and interview just anyone for the hiring of a Vice President of Finance, even if they’re qualified. They will, you guessed it, look at their Internal Audit Rotation program that I mentioned above and peel off candidates from there. They are grooming their own “shortlist” through this program if you haven’t caught on. You will notice that these types of programs exist at most large Corporations that are taking in billions of dollars.

The next stop of course is still not going to be applicants from the general population of qualified professionals. You guessed it; large Professional Services firms. We are talking about PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Accenture, large Management Consulting outfits, etc. Professionals that succeed up the ranks of these firms or have even just a few years there can have their resumes moved to the top 5% almost automatically. Or, let’s face it, a lot of times, there are no resumes. The guys that have a reputation and build it do not need a damn resume to prove it.

As an individual swimming in these waters, you may want to understand where you fall. Starting at a Corporation on the bottom in a Staff Analyst role, or even Staff Accountant role is not the best way to make it to a Finance Director or CFO role. You may eventually make it to a Manager or even Director level but you will do it very slowly or will likely be strong armed by others from the pools that I noted above that are higher up the food chain by the very nature of the “fast track.”

Thought summary and next steps!

The purpose of this initial article was to provide an overview of the “white collar” Corporate Business world and some of the key components within it. Basically, you need to not only have good grades but also be a social animal to reach the top. Smoking weed and drinking your ass off exclusively will maybe get you laid then and there but not for long if you want to make it up the food chain. You can still have game, get laid and still have time to prepare yourself to get into a “fast track” program.

In the next article, I will explore a bit more in depth what you should do once within the Corporate circle of fire. It will come with examples. Then, after that, I will step back and write separately about how the market works when the fast track pools or internal pool of candidates is exhausted. That’s when recruiting firms step in. I’ll tell you this: The guy waiting in the parking lot until the last minute is usually also the guy that leaves as soon as the clock hits 5 pm. He will not be the guy that gets hired first. A lot of these types of people are traded like commodities (e.g. Book Keepers, Billing Clerks) in the recruiting world because that’s most of the people and that’s what they are. In contrast, the others are carefully traded exclusively akin to an auction. I have specific insight into the latter because that’s the area that I focus in.

Some last thoughts. Now, a lot of the manosphere may hate on the College thing. Shit, I do too. However, the truth is getting into learning Business in college is not a bad thing. Just don’t believe the bullshit that your ability to be technical and smart about the subjects will get you laid, I mean hired. As a matter of fact, it’s just like game, you have to start with the approaches, get out of your comfort zone, escalate and bang. That would be the same whether you go to college or DON’T and start your own business. If you think one is easier than the other, then I would question your aspirations in making it to the top. Just going to a great degree program may boost your ego but will not help you succeed within the environment which I outlined above.

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Can't rep you again unfortunately, but appreciate your taking the time to share your knowledge. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3. Particularly interested in political capital: what it actually is (relationships, favors owed, etc) and how to accumulate it.

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Wish I'd understood these things when I was young. There's a saying: He who has ears to hear, let him hear. For young guys out there, this information simply wasn't available to most people coming up in life until now, and even now, you have to be in the right place, like RVF. Understand what Cobra is saying about gaming workplace politics vs. focusing on work performance. You should do both, but maybe put workplace politics slightly ahead of doing objectively high quality work (but still do good work). Put your creativity, intuition, and extra thought into mastering the political game, and keep refining, year after year, looking for greater and greater depths of sophistication and power in your gamesmanship.

I'm the tower of power, too sweet to be sour. I'm funky like a monkey. Sky's the limit and space is the place!
-Randy Savage

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

This is so good and very insightful and it provides a fresh dose of reality.
Cobra, when are you planning to publish part 2?

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

If you decide to work in a white collar job, take every opportunity to make it to the gym before your work day starts.

Not only is it a good habit, you'll probably run into your bosses boss if the gym is in the same place as your office.

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Great stuff, +1 from me. Can anyone give some insight as to how this would work in the UK / Europe?

Тот, кто не рискует, тот не пьет шампанского

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Been quite busy with work, family etc. I would like to get Part 2 out over the next month but August at the latest. So hold me accountable please. Next part will be focused on YOUR development, how to succeed, how to build political capital etc. I will provide a lot of insight into how to react beyond your own desk and how to be assertive. It's something I still struggle with to this day.

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Hey Cobra, bout time for part two my brother.

Growth Over Everything Else.

A Newbie’s guide to Navigating the Corporate Finance Environment - Part I

Happy new year!

Here is to start the new year off. I worked on Part II for a good many hours so hope you enjoy it and find value in it.


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