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5 Top Tips to become a successful FD in Marketing Services

Marketing Services Finance Director Camino Media

5 Top Tips to Become a Successful Finance Director in Marketing Services

Readying yourself for that next promotion can be one of the hardest things to do. Do you have a critical boss? Are you performing well in one area but potentially neglecting another? Or do you just need that extra bit of knowledge to make the jump? You may be wondering what you could do to prove to yourself or to your senior, that you are right for the next step. That is precisely the reason I curated these 5 top tips from these industry leading finance professionals.

1. Manage and execute your expectations.

"An FD is an integral part of the senior management team and it is crucial to be clear on expectations in how you see your role within the business. The FD is ultimately responsible for the financial health of the business and needs to be part of the leadership team responsible for strategic planning. Moving from financially controlling a business to becoming a senior stakeholder is a huge step and I can only advise any applicant to be very clear on their expectations about their ideas on financial direction and how their role will impact the business going forward. I was promoted to FD, initially, based on my performance as FC and it took me a while to work out how to make an impact as FD and the moment I wrote it up for myself and then the business, things changed. Both how my role was perceived and how it fits into the business, around the current MD being clear on expectations was a huge part of it”. - Claudia Hohmann, FD at Builtvisible.

Expectations vs. reality can sometimes be a very daunting thought, but as Claudia mentions, it is about knowing what you can achieve and then being able to execute that plan as efficiently as possible.

2. Engage with a mentor.

“Mentoring had to be the most important aspect of making that step up, you have to find a good mentor and then study them massively. Learn how they deal with all aspects of running a company and a team simultaneously. You will eventually be the person giving the advice and making all the decision, so having the know-how and the confidence to do so is absolutely key.” - Julian Freeston, CFO at Science UK.

A good mentor cannot be underestimated when it comes to success. Learning from someone you admire, either personally or professionally, can have a dramatic influence over the way you handle certain situations and reach certain decisions which in turn will help accelerate and shape your career.

3. Operate with multiple perspectives.

“Moving into FD / CFO role is about relationships, I found listening and being able to see the bigger picture always helps, taking a step back sometimes and looking back as well as forwards. Seeing things in a different way, as not all discussions are financial (whilst it helps) how does a CEO / COO operate versus a CMO / CCO. (Partnering with the CEO is the key relationship here, being able to be open and honest together has always worked with me be it one to one).” - Neil Carter, CFO & industry heavyweight.

Once you have mastered the technical aspect of your role, focus on understanding the nuances of how each department operates in order to best leverage those relationships to contribute towards the wider success of the business.

4. Develop and maintain your relationships.

“The FD’s role in an SME is to be a rock for the CEO/Owner. Someone they can trust above all others in the company - someone who does not have a personal agenda. Keeping his other fellow directors all focused on a common goal that's best for the company and ultimately, for themselves is often one of the top challenges for the SME CEO/Owner. This trust comes through time and it works best when a Financial Controller or non-board member FD gains that trust to the extent he is then promoted to the Board.” - Mark Golledge, FD at Formative Content.

Developing and maintaining relationships is no easy game and trust is central to this. Once you have somebodies trust, value and cherish it. A critical business relationship will be between yourself and your board. Developing a level of trust to work with, will only add and ensure good things for the company.

5. Remain vigilant and attentive to duties.

"You are only as good as your team.

Spend as much time as you can training your team. A well trained and motivated team will alert you beforehand, will clear time-consuming obstacles for you and will allow you to concentrate on the business fundamentals.

The devil is in the details.

A good FD must have the ability to understand the micro level of your operations and assess the impact of that into your accounts in a matter of seconds. Going from the micro to macro level is something that a successful FD should develop over time.

Don't be afraid to say no to your CEO

FD's are subjected to a lot of pressure and it is very easy to end up promising numbers or results that will be difficult, if not impossible to achieve.

Learn to update and involve your CEO on the bad news as well as on the good news. Your success will depend more on your performance managing and solving bad news then good news.”  - Paulo Albano, CFO at Havas Media.


A great 3-pronged approach to end on. Each offering a substantial amount of knowledge, allowing you to best prepare for success.

Sharing advice has been a key point mentioned above so it would be great to continue the theme. If you have some advice which helped you gain your promotion, it would be great to hear.

I will be producing a series of articles, on a variety of topics in finance within the marketing services industry. If a topic is close to your heart and you have some wisdom you’d like to share, please do get in touch.

Mathew Lord

To have a look at our latest Finance roles in the Media sector, click here!