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Under Armour Tackles Finance, Forecasting, & Strategy

It’s a goal that many a stoic finance leader has made at the start of a new year, yet one that has frequently lost its verve even before Groundhog Day.

If only the finance team borrowed a page from Stuart Smalley’s daily proclamation (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me”), perhaps finance could finally find the resolve to align strategy with forecasting.

While Stuart’s self-help guidance might seem a tad out of place inside the FP&A realm, recent guests on our CFO Thought Leader podcasts have revealed that “being liked” today ranks among the top priorities of leading finance teams. Of course, these are the same teams that rank their capacity to collaborate as the single most important attribute when it comes to achieving a strategy/forecasting alignment.

One of our recent guests Brad Dickerson, CFO of Under Armour, told us that his team’s ability to collaborate not only has helped to align the sports clothing manufacturer’s strategy and forecasting processes, but also has become a means to validate the expansion of finance across the organization:

“The allocation of resources is one of the biggest challenges a CFO will face. … To me, it was really important to be successful at embedding finance talent across the organization because to some degree it became a self-funding mechanism. Instead of trying to fight the business by saying ‘I need to hire more financial people for us to run the business,’ it was really the other way around, where the business started coming to me and saying, ‘We would love to pay for more resources … we see the value in it’”

Brad Dickerson

It’s worth mentioning here that between 2008 and 2014, Under Armour grew from a $600 million firm to a $3 billion firm — and during this period of 30% annual growth, Brad oversaw the creation of a strategic finance function that involved 35 team members embedded across the manufacturer.

Clearly, getting finance people embedded at all the touch points throughout the business didn’t happen overnight according to Brad:

“By the time we entered 2013, it kind of all came together. First, we had a very clean business structure in terms of how we operated and talked about our business. Second, we had developed a core strategic planning team — albeit a small team — that really looked beyond the numbers and beyond the current year to where we were heading long-term, and what the vision was, and what some of the things that we needed to work on.”

Brad Dickerson

In the end — Doggone it! — Under Armour’s finance team was not only good enough and smart enough, but also widely liked throughout the organization.

Editor’s Note: You can listen to the full podcast with Brad Dickerson here.