Camino Partners recently held a ‘Future FDs’ conference in conjunction with Gateley Plc and RSM, aimed at Financial Controllers within the recruitment sector who are looking to become Finance Directors. With a selection of exceptional finance leaders from the recruitment sector, the event centred around providing practical advice which the speakers have gained on their own journeys.
In case you weren’t available on the day, here are our top takeaways from the event.
Don’t dive straight into the numbers, make sure you have a complete understanding of the business, how it is structured, what it is selling, what the processes are etc. Once you understand this, the numbers will make sense.
Think strategically, what can you achieve for the founders? How do they best get value out of you? Get your ducks in row with the shareholders, understand their vision for the business and build a roadmap which is aligned with the long-term vision.
Utitlise the sales data available and see how it can be used from both a financial and operational perspective and be a business partner to the sales team.
It is absolutely critical you build relationships across the business as once you have built a level of rapport and trust, they will come to you if there are any issues. Building these strong relationships will also allow you to predict potential issues. Is one of the sales managers too bullish in their predictions? Can you trust your internal forecasts? Who holds the key relationships with the main clients? Find out what challenges they face, what the most challenging markets are, how they develop their staff and find out how you can make them better at their jobs. Some of the answers will surprise you.
Investing time in building strong relationships across a business will afford you a number of insights which may not be so forthcoming if you hadn’t have integrated with the wider business.
It is likely the key relationship for a Finance Director will be with the CEO/Owner and a great way to foster a strong relationship is to ask questions. ‘What keeps you awake at night? (professionally)’, ‘would you rather have daily or monthly catch ups?’, ‘what do you want from the business?’. Another factor which will help to develop this critical relationship is to learn what you can take away from them in order to free up their time to be engaging the sales staff.
Surround yourself with great people. No one person will know everything but part of becoming the Finance Director is that you will be expected to have all of the answer and the best way to have all of the answers is to develop a strong network whom you can call on at any time.
Building a strong network will also allow you to know what is happening in the wider market, what technologies are others using? What effect has that had? What problems have others occurred? What has been successful for others?
A final key part of your network is to surround yourself with the right advisors, such as Non-Executive Directors, Legal Aids, Auditors and Business Coaches. Do not underestimate the value of appointing advisors early.
For example, if you’re working towards selling a business in three years’ time, having advisors who can help with your skill-gaps now, will prevent issues down the line. An advisor can provide a fresh set of eyes and may spot some discrepancies which you didn’t.
Life, death and knowing where the Finance Director stands. When engaging with colleagues, communicate in a consistent and in a measured way. Senior finance decision makers are often in a position of giving bad news so being respected and measured in your approach at all times will afford you the respect of colleagues. Be consistent in your decisions, articulate your reasons in a rational way and, if possible, offer alternative solutions, then people will respect your decisions, however difficult they are. The result of being consistent and able to articulate your reasoning is that those within the business may be able to predict your response beforehand and make the right decisions for themselves.
Whilst getting involved in the business and doing the more strategic stuff may be a lot more exciting than making sure the balance sheet is solid, it is incredibly important as a Finance Director that you’re never in a position where any of your numbers are being questioned. If you don’t know your numbers, anything you say doesn’t hold the same weight, so make sure you’re absolutely on top of your numbers.
There is so much amazing content available, whether it is online, at events (like this one!) or from tapping into your network, never stand still and never stop learning. Make the most of them and constantly be developing and improving yourself.
Embracing technology and staying ahead of the curve will allow you to be more efficient and therefore effective as a Finance Director. Whether that is cloud accounting, AI or blockchain, make sure you are reviewing your systems on a day to day basis. Ensuring that your finance function is as automated as possible will not only provide you with a slick finance function but theoretically will allow you additional time to do more high-level, value-adding work.
The nature of recruitment means there are a number of SME businesses and there are opportunities to progress quickly, across the board. Whilst this presents exceptional and exciting opportunities, it may also mean you find yourself in that number one position without enough support and guidance from a finance perspective. How do you overcome this? Along with the above mentioned (developing a network and utilising technology), put in longer hours. Be completely engaged with the business during business hours and then after hours catch up on the higher level, more strategic elements. Once the business sees you’re having an impact and you show what you can do with the extra time, it will make a stronger case to help grow a team, so you can focus your time on the things which can add more value.
And last but certainly not least, never forget that cash is king and that will never change. Your number one priority is to bring in cash so make sure you get to know the capital cycle of your business and have a complete understanding of where the cash reserves are sitting.
If the opportunity to become a Finance Director arises, grab it!
To have a look at our latest Finance Director role, click here!