Welcome back to another Ask Me Anything, which is a new series where we talk to our friends, our viewers, and our community. about what they would like to know.

Let’s take a look at the mailbag. This week’s question is a three-parter so I’m only going to answer the one:

We recently had our CFO present on a company call defining EBITDA and all sorts of finance-y terms and concepts. While I understand that I should know and be able to connect what we do to all these fancy numbers and stats, I really struggle to find the motivation to truly learn more about it. So I’d love some insight on a few things:
  1. What kind of finance/business background do you have?
  2. If you feel pretty confident in your business understanding, when and how did you develop your business acumen? Courses? Degrees? Self-study?
  3. What is the important business “stuff” to know and be able to speak to in our roles?

But First! A Question For You!

Before I get to the mailbag, I have a question for you.

I have an idea, but it’s going to require more than a handful of people.

Do you have a Peloton bike or tread and or do you use the Peloton app?

I have an idea I’d love to hear from you, but right now, I think I’m only at 10 people and I need more than that.

If you have one, let me know. I’d love to hear from you and if we can get enough people, I’m going to pursue this harebrained idea of mine.

AMA: How to Connect Accounting to Communications Results

Now on to the question of the week, which is my favorite topic because I know that the work that we do can be translated to actual cold, hard cash.

It’s really difficult to measure it, and because most of us don’t have business degrees, we don’t understand how to make that connection.

We certainly have data scientists and we have access to data, even if it’s as simple as Google Analytics. We do have the ability to measure our efforts.

But most of us are very scared because we don’t truly understand it.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • For the most part, communicators don’t have P&L responsibility; and
  • We don’t understand how the business truly makes money because we’re not in it every day.

As I learned how to do this for myself—and then for our clients, let’s just say it was a very long, very expensive learning curve.

I probably should have gone to business school and gotten my MBA because it probably would have cost less time and money. Alas. Trial and error.

We were in business for five years before I understood it enough to both be profitable and to translate the work that we were doing to a client’s revenue. And, believe me, it took a lot of testing and risks and getting screwed by a couple of clients before it started to click.

The other thing I did was join the board of an accounting firm, which was both terrifying and exciting.

And let me tell you, the first year of those board meetings, I would sit in those meetings and wonder what the heck they were talking about.

It was all accountants on the board…and me. I was there to add the marketing angle and give them some right-brain and social skill intelligence. But, because it was all a bunch of CPAs, I spent that first year taking furious notes.

Then I would come back to the office and I would Google what they had thrown around—jargon, acronyms, and the like. I began to teach myself and I read everything I could get my hands on.

By the second year, I was able to participate in the meetings a little bit more.

By the time they sold the business a decade later, I felt like I was at least proficient enough to be able to sit in those board meetings and have meaningful conversations, but it took a long time to get there.

How You Can Learn

Not everybody will have that kind of experience and not everybody will be an entrepreneur. So here’s what I advise.

Number one, if you have a CFO or somebody on the accounting team who is willing to mentor you, take advantage.

If you have the opportunity to run even just a small portion of the P&L, take advantage.

Go to your leadership team and say, “Listen, I need to understand how this business makes money so that I can show you how the work that we’re doing is translating to results.”

No executive on earth is going to tell you no. So take advantage of that.

See if you can get some professional development, such as an executive MBA, which you can get online these days.

I would love to say that there was one easy way to do it such as, just go get your MBA and you’ll be set. I don’t think that that’s necessarily true.

Start inside your organization, find a mentor, and get yourself educated.

It’s well worth the investment of time and resources because you’ll be able to demonstrate how the work you’re doing is helping the organization grow.

EVERYONE wants to be in that position, but you have to understand what the CFO is talking about and how you can make them happy with your work.

Have a Question For Us?

If you have a question for a future AMA, you can drop them below or join us in the (free) Spin Sucks Community.

Ask it there, drop ideas for multitasking I can do while answering your questions, engage with your fellow marketers, and have some fun.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich