What advice would you give to someone starting their career in finance today?
Work out where your level of tolerance is for the unethical. Are you going to be dead straight; a little bit clever; slightly dodgy; or up for dirty tricks? It is best to face this question before temptation is put in your way. You can only have a good reputation once, so if you throw it away it is not retrievable.
Tell us a little about your career path
I started my career in the internal audit function of Unilever Ltd. It gave me a great appreciation of the various roles, departments and functions that make up a large company. It gave me a real love of marketing because at that time Unilever’s products were featured on TV and radio advertisements every day of the week. It was a company that believed strongly in staff development, so that they operated at their peak and aimed to be the best in their field. This formative period stayed with me throughout my career where I spent several periods in marketing and IT in addition to finance, and I have always put a lot emphasis on staff and leadership development.
And your education?
After high school I undertook a Bachelor of Economics at the University of New England in Armidale, later a Master of Commerce at UNSW with a marketing major. The most beneficial study I have ever undertaken was an executive MBA called the Programme for Management Development at Harvard Business School. It was an intensive 13 week residential programme in Boston. I not only learned a lot but I developed a global view and a brilliant network of friends and colleagues around the world.
What are you doing now?
I don’t believe in “retirement”, so I am now working for myself and am in the process of building a portfolio. I have my first client for my advisory/mentoring business. He is a contract viticulturist in the Barossa Valley who wants to treble his business over the next 5+ years and wants to develop himself as principal and leader of the business. The second part of my portfolio is working with some offshore funds which are looking to invest in Australia and/or raise funds from the Australian market. The third part of my portfolio is working with private equity to invest in underperforming businesses and bringing them back to peak operational and financial performance.
How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change at present?
A very wise MD I worked for many years ago said “the long term is made up of a lot of short terms”. CFOs therefore need to have a well understood long term plan but need to be willing to make adjustments as the short term unfolds. I like a five-year, and one-year plan and then make explicit changes as the environment demands.
What was the best advice you ever received?
The older we get, the better we were.
What are you reading now?
The owners’ manual for my “new” 1963 Bentley Continental!
What is the best business book you ever read, and why?
7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I learned to look “from the outside in”.
Can you share a personal productivity tip?
Work hard at developing your EA to think and act on your behalf. They are the key to greater productivity, being in control and lower stress.
And a networking tip?
Make time to call and meet with your network members periodically. I hate nothing more than being contacted by someone after a long period of silence because they need my help.