Wharton@Work

September 2018 | 

What Every Manager Needs to Know about Finance and Accounting


What Every Manager Needs to Know about Finance and Accounting

For participants in the Finance and Accounting for the Non-Financial Manager program, the learning doesn’t stop when they leave the classroom each day. That’s a good thing, says Wharton accounting professor Peggy Bishop Lane. “We cover a lot of material in a short period of time,” she explains. “On the first day, they learn things that I teach on the second-to-last day in an MBA course.”

It’s for that reason that Lane holds nightly review sessions on the first three days of the program. In addition to reviewing what was taught during the day, she expands on topics of interest and answers plenty of questions. “Participants in this program want to relate what they’ve learned to their own organizations and their jobs right away. Their questions are much more industry-focused. I help them make the content more immediately applicable,” Lane says.

Lane, who also serves as vice dean of Wharton’s MBA Program for Executives, says although the amount of information covered in the program is extensive, it is tailored to executives who want to gain an understanding of finance from a decision-making perspective. “They’re not going to become accountants and they currently are not CFOs. The goal is to equip participants to read financial reports and know what the numbers are telling them. It helps them engage in discussions and decisions in a more meaningful way.”

David L. Dimmett, senior VP and chief engagement officer of Project Lead The Way, agrees. “Immediately after finishing Wharton’s Finance and Accounting for the Non-Financial Manager program, I participated at a much higher level in discussions with our CFO, CEO, and other leaders. We are growing rapidly, going from 49 staff [members] to 150 in three years, and while that’s exciting, we have to make really smart decisions about how to allocate resources.”

He continues, “I have budgetary responsibilities, but I didn’t understand cost of goods sold, how to book assets, or how research and development fits into the financing and accounting side of an organization. Wharton improved my understanding of valuation and cash flow, how to capitalize assets, and how to depreciate elements when we are making big decisions about growth and resources. This learning is very relevant to the work I do every day as a senior leader for my organization.”

Lane says learning how to perform key calculations is an important distinction that sets the program apart. “You don’t just leave with an understanding of the numbers provided by others. You learn how to calculate net present value, value income and payments, and evaluate projects based on cost and revenue implications.”

Because of the nightly review sessions, every participant, no matter his or her familiarity or comfort level with numbers, gains a solid grasp of the material. “The extra sessions are designed to help those who feel less comfortable with the material,” says Lane. “They give you more time to think about and really understand the concepts. Sometimes to absorb the information you need to hear it more than once, or in a slightly different way; that’s when a light bulb can go on.”