Are You Fluent in the Language of Business?

By: Dan Topf

Business and Financial Fluency is a Difference-Maker 

Have you seen a Cricket scorecard? It’s a jumble of marks, tallies, codes, and more.  If it was a five-day test match, it’s borderline incomprehensible. Here’s one. 

Many of our students in Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Professionals program at the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED) feel the same way about financial information. It’s incomprehensible at times. Beyond that, it’s critically important to understand and use every day, all the time. Frustrating. 

It’s the language of business. 

Far too many current and aspiring leaders tell us the financial “stuff” makes them queasy, uncomfortable, or worse. 

To help them make sense of this “stuff” and feel more confident, we take a unique approach. We do more than simply teach the scorecards of business. We let leaders play the game to learn how strategy, decision making, and game plans affect the scorecard. Since our leaders live in the real world, we learn through direct application of learning to real world situations, in simulation, with all its messiness and fun. 

Have you experienced a simulation? It’s likely you have. They are everywhere nowadays. How’d you learn to drive? Simulation. How do EMT’s learn their jobs? Simulation. Your nurse took a blood sample.  How’d he learn to do that? You guessed it. Simulation. 

Our program uses Celemi Apples & Oranges as an integrated experience, along with relevant case examples, discussions, independent work, quiz games, research projects, and team problem solving.  As an instructor, I use the simulation as an important practice field and a teaching tool, seamlessly moving from simulation to case study to presentation to group dialogue and back again. 

In short, to be good at these important roles, or any important role, we must not only get smart about it and talk about it, we must also do it. And, doing it requires enough practice to for it to stick. With the “doing” comes confidence and competence.  

Our participants tell us they learned important facts, principles, and other financial essentials AND they feel significantly more confident and competent in using that know-how in real world work. 

But what is the business payoff? Why invest in learning this material? Well, our participants tell us they get many benefits and they fall into a few categories: 

  • Seeing their business’ bigger picture. Strategies and goals make more sense and they feel better about things outside of their control. 
  • Participating in business decisions in a new way. Many of our participants come from operations, shared services, technical groups, or functional departments – not necessarily financial roles. Yet, they say they can confidently and competently answer financial questions in decisions, interpret financial information, look for relevant gaps, and improve everyone’s understanding of the bigger picture. 
  • Raising their profile to other leaders in the company. Because they are the ones in the meeting who “get it,” they are recognized as adding more business value at every turn. Our participants tell us they have accelerated their career because they are seen as business professionals, not only functional or operational experts. 

That’s the power of achieving fluency in the language of business. Our participants find that they are much more comfortable when the subject turns to financial topics, and they lean into their roles as business professionals as a result. This immersive program is offered online and in-person at the world-class Fluno Center in Madison, WI. Learn more about Finance and Accounting for Non-Financial Professionals here


Dan Topf is a successful performance improvement consultant who is passionate about helping people and businesses achieve dramatic performance improvement through learning. Dan’s client list includes Accenture, Drake University, Sears, ING Group, ING Direct, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wells Fargo, the Principal Financial Group, the Hartford Financial Services Group, GEA Group, Chubb, MetLife, Continental Western Group (a W.R. Berkley Corp.), CIGNA, the University of Iowa, and many more. Dan is a past president of the Golden Circle Chapter of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). Dan is an adjunct faculty member in the College of Education at Drake University, and he has served as assistant director of the Executive M.B.A. Program in the Henry B. Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa.