As I sat down to write this profile I realised how difficult it must be to write an autobiography. What is there for a “numbers person” to say I thought? Anyone who knows me would most likely say I am proud of my qualifications and my PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) training, but I would say proud and appreciative for what this allows me to achieve as a business leader. It is this combination that has created the perfect platform for what I do today.
So how did it all start? Strangely enough I started my career as an Laboratory Chemist with Croda Universal. Yes, I have a 1st class honors degree in Chemistry, but when PwC offered me an opportunity to continue working whilst studying for the leading business and finance qualification (ACA), with the bonus of first class training and development, this was simply too good to turn down.
The first two years was a whirlwind of studying whilst auditing companies of all shapes and sizes across the UK. I was responsible for on-site audit work, and although I was still on a considerable personal learning curve, I managed an audit team and provided coaching and advice to all customers throughout each audit. My client portfolio extended across the chemical, construction and food/ retail industries including Croda Chemicals, Karlshamns, Sewell Group, Geo Houlton, Jacksons Group, Goldenfry and Britannia Foods. This gave me a fantastic overview of how different companies worked, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted an in depth understanding of a company. Thus, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and volunteer for a secondment as Head of Internal Audit for the KCOM Group (Hull). This allowed me to look beyond financial statements and consider the wider concerns of business risk and control, thereby preparing me for senior leadership in the future.
This was the start I needed and led me into my first post qualification role as Internal Audit Manager for the manufacturing arm of Shepherd Building Group i.e. Portakabin. This meant diversifying away from just the financial aspects of a company to the detailed processes and procedures behind the operations.
More than a numbers person: In 2003 I joined the Shepherd Building Group as the Internal Audit Manager (operations) for Portakabin. This highly respected position covered several site locations across Europe and afforded me excellent exposure to all areas of a complex business. Internal audit is very different to external audit and jumping straight in as manager was a challenge, this role was about much more than the numbers. My limited knowledge forced me to talk to everyone from shop floor to directors, enabling me to pull information together from all angles. “Bridging the gap between the shop floor and the Board” is absolutely the best way to determine the true “state” of an organisation. Everyone has their own perception but these views can often be combined into something that makes good business sense. I have taken this method into every role since.
Mentoring: I cannot exaggerate the impact being exposed to both finance and operations through external and internal auditing has had on my career and how this prepared me for the roles that followed. Through this, I gathered more experience and assumed greater responsibility, expanding my coaching capability across multiple functions.
Becoming a Change Leader: I am not sure I fully appreciated the level of change I would influence when I started my career in finance. Learning the numbers was clearly important but understanding how this data should be used to influence tactical and strategic decisions that improve results and indeed the perception and market value of an entire organisation was staggering. My international roles with Shepherd Building Group, Comet Group Plc and Public Safety Equipment Intl underlined the importance of “numbers” in this regard.
In each role I have redefined processes, procedures and employee responsibilities. With this comes cross-functional emotional roller-coasters that demand strong leadership and ability to coach teams through adversity to success. As teams we installed robust control with sustainability built in, but the “buzz” came from creating the teams that delivered it.
Audits to HR to Company Secretary: Having entered a career in finance backed with PwC training and accreditation, I had many opportunities to test my skills in global forums. But my most recent role of Finance and HR Director had me wear several hats including Finance, HR, Procurement, I.T and Company Secretary.
As a subsidiary of an international group, the UK site was the size of a SME and the usual constraints on headcount demanded we all wore several hats and influenced cross functionally. This challenge had me combine my financial and operational knowledge plus my powers of persuasion to lead change in an organisation that was steeped in history and tradition.
kadops: Having started out attracted by numbers and teaching it is logical that I should want to use my knowledge, experience and qualifications to guide others to success. kadops provides the ideal platform for me to work with other companies to expand their capability through the lessons I have learned over time, providing instant access to knowledge gained over several years.