By David Lund

This is a question I have been asked many times. Exactly what is financial leadership and why hospitality? Finding the three words together “HFL” in a sentence three years ago was not possible. I know because I tried to google them and came up with a bunch of leadership consultants and courses. Even the words “financial leadership” revealed surprisingly little. Some tidbits about CEO’s and their role but nothing any broader.

Financial leadership is in my opinion the cornerstone of any manager, executive or leader’s business acumen. It enables the individual to see the importance of being plugged into the strategy of the business regardless of their vocation or the industry that they are in. They could be a human resources manager, a facilities manager or the head of information technology but they are financially tuned to the business at hand. They know the role they play in delivering the results inside the strategy and they also use their financial leadership skills to communicate and lead their team. They make the numbers in their world just as important as the other disciplines like people, service and processes.

Financial leadership skills enable these managers to create a level of understanding and sophistication around the business strategy. They can relate this understanding to their mission and vision of the team they are leading as well as the individual development and contribution of the team members. They see the numbers as a form of currency that provides fuel to ignite and mold the talent and contribution of their team’s collective efforts. The executive with financial leadership skills knows that the key ingredient that each of his or her squad needs to propel their individual careers is a sound grasp of the company and industry business strategy. They are in essence an enabler of the financial leadership knowledge within their group and, as a result, they produce leaders who help propel the company’s growth. Without these skills being brought out of the individuals by the functional leader, the contribution of the person and the collective team are restricted. Great leaders are developed, and they need the exposure to the financials to grow; without it they are limited.

Hospitality Financial Leadership is the missing link for many hotel leaders and executives. It is hard to think or believe that some of our senior members are playing the game with a short hand. If you have been in hospitality for your career you know exactly what I’m talking about. We promote people from operations, sales and other senior roles to be the General Manager. It’s been this way since the dawn of time and again, if you’re in the business you know what I mean. It’s also quite frightening to think we have the most senior person sitting in the seat without the proper flying skills. In many instances they are winging it and if the owner knew just how green they were they would slip a disk.

But don’t worry too much about the captain not knowing how to sail. He or she will be fine as long as they open up to financial leadership. This is where the rubber meets the road. Knowing you have the ability to manage your people, the owner and the brand is key, but knowing how to make the numbers work, that’s the nitro you must have if you’re going to get off the ground and stay there. So just exactly what is this fuel?

The fuel is the commitment to make the numbers just another equal part to what you do. Holding the direct reports accountable for their departmental results on all levels. Not giving anyone a pass when it comes to their budget just because they are a valuable team member with amazing soft skills in their area who to date has not taken the necessary time or made the required commitment to get their financial shtick together. They are the leader who does not blame the finance department when the operating department numbers are upside down. They are the quarterback who calls the plays and ensures the finance department also lives up to its commitment providing the necessary resources and living up to its own schedules. They make sure the forecasts and budgets all come from the department managers, not from the accounting department. This man or woman of steel ensures each department head writes and owns their own monthly commentary. Our hero makes darn sure the daily communication around the numbers is consistent, positive and clear. Making sure your team is provided with the resources and training to get it going, to get everyone to step up and they take no prisoners. Blame and victims are not allowed on this ship.

That my friends is what Hospitality Financial Leadership is all about.