Laura explains that finance isn’t all about spreadsheets…
This past few weeks has been quite an experience. Not only have I moved to a new country that I’ve never been to before, I’m undertaking a placement that is potentially the most challenging I will do. And I’m loving every minute.
Before I got here, I thought finance was all about spreadsheets. Now, this is not to say my perception of this has changed that much – I do work with a lot of spreadsheets – but there’s also so much more to finance that I hadn’t really understood before.
Take, for example, the work I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks. By extracting data from the Quark reservation system (and putting it into spreadsheets), I was able to map exactly how the seasons of Antarctic 11/12, Arctic 11 and Arctic 12 sold from launch to season end, extracting further detail such as when the customers tended to book more expensive trips, how long their lead time was and how sales compared between ships and products. I then took all of this information and put it into the form of graphs and a report which give real clarity to each season and customer trends.
Now that’s all well and good – and plenty of spreadsheets – but it means something too. From this information, useful marketing data can be taken from which the marketing and sales teams can make better informed decisions on their activity but, perhaps more importantly, this data can be used to map out how we expect sales to progress next season and how we can push that further, but realistically, to create even better results. The season map I create will then be the basis of the whole sales season for Antarctic 12/13, Arctic 13 and Antarctic 13/14, including notation at various points which indicates what should happen in the event of sales falling above or ahead of target, and all coming together to form the budget for the year – all pretty exciting stuff, all from “boring” spreadsheets!
I’m learning that finance is atool – it guides the business and ensures everything stays on track. As my line manager Edwin tells me, we can tell them what they need to do but not how to do it – which is a fantastic way of understanding not only how finance works but how it fits in to the business as a whole. Understanding spreadsheets is one thing (and no doubt my new-found Excel skills will be incredibly useful in the future) but it is the communication and impact of the messages therein that really make a difference.
And if I’ve learned this much already, I can’t wait to see how much I learn by the end of the placement. Watch this space!