Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What Does A Financial Secretary Do?

Jan Meyers in the West Indies Mission shares with us what her husband Larry does as finance secretary:
Elder Coleman working on the finances with him. Don't they look awfully serious? Larry will be handling all the finances for the mission, so it is pretty serious business. Part of his job is to fund the debit cards all the missionaries use to receive
the funds to cover their living expenses each transfer, so it's pretty important that our Elders always have money to live on. He also pays bills, handles petty cash, and reconciles all the payments. I'm glad it's him and not me.
Kim Clark, former Harvard Business Dean and now President of BYU--Idaho reported to Jeff Benedict of the Hall of Fame Network the affect of serving as a mission finance secretary:

Kim Clark's mission president was the CEO of a bank. "I got to work with him closely," said Clark, who was assigned to work in the mission president's office after he had been in Germany for about a year. "He had a profound influence on me and my sense of what was possible in positions of responsibility and leadership if people learned to execute them very well."

At age nineteen, Clark was asked to be the financial secretary to the mission president, who had oversight of all the Mormon Church's assets and finances throughout southern Germany. At the time, Clark had completed only one year of college at Harvard before leaving school to serve his mission. He had no experience with finances. Suddenly he found himself serving as a finance secretary to a bank CEO. "By being his financial secretary, I learned a lot having to do with organization, finance, budgeting, and accounting," said Clark.

The experience taught Clark about management. "I saw in my mission what happens when a leader establishes a pattern of consistency and coherence across all aspects of an organization's work," Clark said. "My mission president didn't just care about the quality of the teaching by the missionaries. He cared about the way our finances were handled. He cared about the way we were organized. He cared about training clerks properly and about whether our records-financial and otherwise-were in order, and whether we had control over what was going on."

Clark applied these lessons in his management style at the Harvard Business School. "I try to run HBS as a living model of the very best ideas we have about how organizations should work," Clark said. "I've tried to instill in people this commitment to the fundamental mission and help everybody understand that no matter what their role (alumni relations, teaching executive education, running the MBA program, or providing support or doing research), everybody has an important contribution to make to the mission of the school. If the school is to reach its potential, everybody has to perform at a high level. There's nothing we do that's not important, because we are educating people who are going to be leaders in the world. My mission for the Mormon Church was a very important influence in how I think about organizations."

Also the mission finance secretary may be subject to audit, President Mike Murray of the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission explains the process:

Our Church has a strong sense of financial accountability and stewardship. Members tithe (donate) 10% of their income to the Church. At a local level we have no paid ministers. The tithing funds are used to construct new LDS chapels at a rate of about one new building per day throughout the world; support our worldwide missionary program; support our colleges and universities; construct and maintain our temples and support the administrative staff at church headquarters.Here in the mission field we have many controls regarding the usage of church funds. We adhere to carefully constructed checks and balances.Once a year a team of church auditors perform a thorough audit of our financials. We have a fleet of 45 cars and trucks and leases on 60 apartments. We provide monthly food allowances for 130 missionaries. We have car repair bills, gas bills, utility bills, cell phone bills, office supplies, training supplies, etc.

All of this is managed by one of our full-time missionaries. This is the equivalent of an office manager / bookkeeper job in a company with 130 employees! Elder Lamb is our current Financial Secretary. He does a wonderful job of keeping all the bills paid and all the records in order.

This past Sunday we had our annual internal audit. We passed with flying colors! Performing the audit were two volunteers from the Church: David Johnson who is Chief Operating Officer at WaWa (an east coast chain of convenience stores) and Ryan Dixon, a senior accounting manager at Comcast.
I wonder if former finance secretaries have anything they would like to share as tips for others who might serve in this position.

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