Six Tips for Communicating with Non-Accountants

How to communicate your value.

By Sean Stein Smith

Communication is, of course, the key to any successful business or organization. Without effectively communicating the value proposition that the business is offering, the business will not be in business for very long.

Customers, business partners, regulators and providers of capital all need to be kept informed and to understand the value that the business model, as well as associated products and services, is offering the marketplace. This concept, the idea of value communication, is taught in every Business 101 course at every college/university in the country. It is so commonplace as to be treated as common sense.

Why then are financial professionals sometimes behind the proverbial 8-ball when it comes to such matters?

Financial professionals are hired, usually, for their quantitative skills and ability to “make sense” of what to others might look like a random assortment of numbers and ratios. This analytic and quantitative ability has been honed through academic training, professional certifications and on-the-job training. These skill sets are what has been traditionally expected of financial professionals, and therefore, the marketplace has rewarded individuals who have been able to deliver.

Business as usual is simply not going to be effective going forward. The marketplace is demanding more information from firms, and most of this information is quantitative in nature. Investors, regulators, other stakeholders and the marketplace in general are all appreciative of quantitative figures and metrics that are sometimes easier to interpret than narrative descriptions.

It seems that financial professionals are a shoo-in to take a more prominent role in the creation, refinement and delivery of such information to the marketplace. A major hurdle, however, that could stand in way of both individuals and organizations making the most of the internal talent they possess is a lack of communication. If financial professionals are unable to effectively communicate the value and flexibility that they can offer the organization, how are management and/or clients supposed to be aware of it? A lack of effective communication and business skills is a byproduct of the very education and technical training that make financial professionals such subject matter experts regarding financial information.

For every problem, however, there is a solution. A short, non-exhaustive checklist of suggested tips to assist financial professionals in effectively communicating is as follows:

  1. Grab the reader’s attention with a good subject line
  2. Skip the technical jargon
  3. Keep it short and to the point
  4. Identify win-wins for all parties
  5. Quantify the benefits, i.e., automating process “X” saves departments A and B 20 hours a month
  6. Give the reader action points to go away with

Again, while not exhaustive, these tips form the foundation for better communicating the value that financial professionals can provide to organizations beyond traditional financial reporting.

5 Responses to “Six Tips for Communicating with Non-Accountants”

  1. William Adams

    You have share informative tips . Accounting Information of employees which play an important role has to be managed in a proper way so that at the year end reports can be generated easily without any hassles. It is very important to set up proper business financial strategies which can be followed so that the business can ultimately meet the agenda.

  2. Jodie Kamins

    Great points by you both (hi Geni). I would add that communicating in person gives you the luxury of reading the visual cues provided by your audience to see if your message is being received. Communicating well in writing is often a case of less is more. Financial professionals in particular have such a broad understanding of the issues and ramifications down the line, slimming it down to clearly communicate focused information is often the hardest task of all. By “verson 4” we’re usually down to the nitty gritty.

    • Sean Stein Smith

      Hi Jodie,

      You bring up an excellent point — both written and verbal communication skills are essential if you want to be considered a well-rounded professional.

  3. Geni Whitehouse

    Great points Sean. I would also add that it requires training and practice just like all other skills. You don’t have to be born with a unique gift there are tools, processes, and yes even checklists for us accountants to apply.

    I have spent my life trying to get my brilliant peers to get the recognition they deserve by becoming better communicators. Thank you for the reinforcement.

    • Sean Stein Smith


      That is my point exactly!

      Practice makes perfect, with any skill set (whether it is filling out 1099-DIV’s or PowerPoint).