Tell us about your career path:
I started my career in sales and then marketing. I had no particular desire or interest to enter the world of finance. However, a combination of good timing a little bit of luck provided me with an opportunity to join Diageo in London, a company which I had admired for some time. I commenced as a business analyst on a temporary contract. Since then my career has followed a path encompassing a variety of roles across finance, strategy, corporate development and then out of the function into general management roles. I returned to finance about three years ago as the CFO of Blackmores.
What keeps you awake at night?
My young daughter! Apart from that, thinking about how our strategy will transform our company over the next five years and the things we need to be putting in place over the next 18 months, to ensure we are in the best position to execute on our long term strategic plans.
The CFO role has changed dramatically over the last decade, what further changes do you anticipate?
Continued broadening of responsibilities beyond delivering on the core financial disciplines. This is already largely occurring but the lines between a CFO and a COO will become increasingly blurred. Further automation of finance processes beyond transaction processing will create capacity for the CFO role to become more involved in the operational management of the business.
How far out can a CFO plan, given the pace of change at present?
I think the answer is dependent on the industry sector, the structural dynamics at play and the pace of change impacting established business models. In some industries, planning five years and beyond with a high degree of confidence in future income streams, costs and returns can be relatively accurately determined. However, in industries facing digital disruption, changing consumer purchasing behaviours and relatively low barriers to entry, shorter term horizons of no more than three years accompanied by a more flexible and nimble approach to adjusting these plans, is more appropriate.
And what are the implications of that planning horizon?
Industries that are facing increased competition from non-traditional competitors, business models, technology advancements and rapid changes in consumer behaviours; are all factors that will impact planning horizons. In addition, the financial health of an organisation, also can play a role as shorter planning horizons may be required to ensure financial commitments are met.
Why do you mentor?
I find it stimulating and interesting to hear people’s stories, the journeys and challenges they face. By listening and reflecting on the opportunities and challenges mentees are facing, I find I end up learning from them also. Also, helping others overcome their barriers to succeed can be a very fulfilling experience.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned because of mentoring?
Mentoring is for me is about listening. The more I spend time mentoring the better I become as a listener.
What was the best advice you ever received?
Never stop learning and listening.
When you’re hiring – what do you look for in team members?
Cultural fit, a passion for the business/industry and strong will and desire to grow and develop.
How do you switch off?
I enjoy trying to stay physically active as I find this also refreshes me mentally. Music and reading is something that I also find relaxing and stimulating. Importantly some quality time with family and friends is something that I always make time for.
What would you say is the best business book ever read, and why?
Grit, the power of passion and perseverance by Angela Duckworth. As the title suggests, through hard work and persistence, you can become the best version of yourself. The book also suggests it is unlikely that you know your own limits and that the act of striving against them each day can deliver results beyond what you thought possible.