Unleashing the Power of Financial Professionals: An Interview with Christie Zou Zhiying
Eli R. Khazzam | March 23, 2015
I recently had the opportunity to interview Christie Zou Zhiying, author of Fun Overall Budget Cube (available only in Chinese) and founder of Be Winner Management Consulting Company (www.bjzyss.com). During her career, Ms. Zou has been a Global Board Member of the Institute of Management Accountants, a Senior Strategic Financial Advisor, and Vice President of the International Economic Club of China. She is also a distinguished professor at the Beijing National Accounting Institute. In our interview, she shares her thoughts on her new book, a product of over 20 years of experience in the workplace.
1) What made you want to write a new book? What need did you see it filling?
There were three reasons why I wrote this book.
First, in the early years of my professional career, our finance people were always challenged by business leaders. They complained that we always “counted the numbers” instead of understanding and supporting their business growth. This created an expectations gap and considerable pressure. Since then, I have been thinking about who creates value for the company and how it is created from our financial perspective. This book presents what I believe is the value proposition. Finance professionals should be able to tell the company where to go, how to avoid pitfalls, and where to enhance enterprise value.
Second, based on data in China, most companies failed to implement the concept of total budget management due to various reasons, such as leadership problems, know-how problems, cultural problems, and execution problems. This book clarifies some major points, namely how:
- the finance department leads the total budget project;
- to develop a systematic annual departmental plan;
- to allocate human resources effectively, and the rationale for doing so;
- the DuPont model, which serves as a case study in the book, can be applied to the practice of enterprises;
- to identify and solve problems and make action plans through the use of a management dashboard;
- to set up linkage mechanisms between bonuses and budget targets; and
- a radar model is applied to budgeting.
Third, I have what I believe is a very special working experience. In 2009, I joined a local start-up company when the global economic recession hit the China market. The company almost failed due to an excessive shortage of funds. But we were able to turn around a very bad situation through implementing the total budget management concept. Instead of failing, the company grew its business from 40 million to 1.5 billion in RMB (in USD, $6.5 million to $250 million).
2) How do you feel this book can help CFOs, CEOs, and other financial managers or leaders?
For CEOs, adequate budgeting and planning continue to be critical to business success, customer value, and sustainable growth. The activities of budgeting, planning, and resource allocation continue to be difficult to implement effectively and efficiently. This new book can solve this challenge. It proposes a comprehensive, integrated approach to strategic planning, annual budgeting, resource allocation, and performance management. This book will hopefully make CEOs love financial professionals.
For CFOs, how and what you say for total budget management determines whether your opinions will be heard or not. This book shows how CFOs can use talent to produce something tangible for the CEO’s thoughts, in order to further achieve strategic objectives and fast business growth.
For finance managers, this book provides the specific steps, operational methods, tools, and templates to execute.
3) How does this book fit into the context of the global economy and today’s economic environment?
I advise that financial managers should always work like advisers to companies. They should tell the company where to go, how to avoid pitfalls, what management processes to excel at, how the organization can learn and improve, what it needs to do to improve its top and bottom line, and where it should invest to increase revenue and production.