Q. What would you say to people who are nervous about coming to FSE because they don't think they have enough knowledge in finance?
I'd say, "This is the exact course for you." Finance for Senior Executives doesn't assume any finance knowledge—and yet you can learn the basic skills in only a week. We also provide a powerful framework and toolbox that you can bring back to your company for future reference.
Q. Why is Finance for Senior Executives considered your department's flagship program?
In today's world, everything is so connected and so complicated that you need a basic framework to help you make decisions—and that's just what Finance for Senior Executives does. It provides an overarching framework of skills and concepts that is particularly useful for nonfinancial people who want to scale the ladder in an organization, or who are involved in investments in new strategies or ventures for their organization.
Q. What is the main goal of the program?
FSE helps nonfinancial senior executives become big-picture thinkers. They gain a deeper understanding of finance, what generates value and cash flow, and how to measure that. What decisions create value? How do corporations create value? That's really a finance question, but everyone in the organization is trying to create value, whether it's the marketing team, the strategy department, or the IT people.
Q. FSE attracts participants from diverse industries. How do you make the curriculum relevant to each person's business?
We present global cases on leading companies of various sizes that compete in more than a dozen industries. While each case focuses on a particular problem, they all reflect the fundamental challenges facing key decision-makers today. Our dynamic discussions enable participants to exchange diverse perspectives, counter and defend points, build on one another’s ideas, and examine how their choices might vary in other contexts. Over the course of the program, they will improve their ability to measure and drive performance, assess the need for cash and manage sources of capital, determine if an investment creates value, and evaluate merger-and-acquisition opportunities.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges facing executives today?
There's so much information overload that you get wrapped up in the hundreds of emails that require a response by 8:00 a.m. How do you go about doing your own business? How do you step back at the end of the day, measure all that, and make sound decisions? I think executives lose sight of the big picture, and FSE helps them see the broad strokes.
Q. How does FSE help nonfinancial executives improve their relationship with the CFO?
Even if you're not valuing a company, figuring out a merger, or deciding when to go public, you need to be able to interface with the people who are doing that. So a lot of what we teach in FSE is how to ask the CFO who is contemplating these decisions the right questions. How do you justify this transaction you're talking about, this business line you're doing, or this loan you want to take out? What's the rationale behind that?
Q. What would you say are the top two takeaways of this program?
First, participants leave with a better understanding of how their decisions lead to cash flows and how to maximize those cash flows to generate value. That's a very important skill, and we give them the toolbox to do it. Second, we teach them how to model and measure every decision they make to see the implications for the bottom line. They leave class with a tangible spreadsheet or framework that they can always refer to back at work.