Moving from finance into a commercial role often requires as much of a leap of faith from the business as it does for the finance director.
With the CFO role becoming increasingly strategic and operational, it is a move that is becoming more common. And Marc Hartog, who recently moved from FD for the UK and Asia at Incisive Media (which publishes this magazine) to become group publishing director for its personal technology group, is only too aware.
In a series of blogs for Financial Director, Hartog describes how he was able to make the change and has charted his progress.
“You need ambition, desire, a plan and a little bit of luck. I have reinvented myself and written my own job description more than once. That is a vital skill to facilitate a leap into a more commercial role,” he writes.
Hartog adds that without taking the financial career path, making that change would have been harder.
“[Finance] was always a fantastic grounding which would provide the opportunity to go in any direction,” he adds. “As FDs we must question everything and bringing that to the table in an operational role is very powerful. We identified a host of opportunities and I have made good use of knowing my way round the numbers to understand the history and trends.”
FDs get used to seeing the big picture through internal business cases, strategy and budget presentations and information memorandums. However, Hartog warns that while you may find yourself saying, “why don’t they just…?” it is very different having to do it.
“It is also very different having personal responsibility for delivering a multimillion-pound budget. I have a lot more white hairs on my head as a result,” he writes.
Hartog adds that the most terrifying thing about taking this job is sitting in front of a client and having to pitch his company’s wares.
“I won’t pretend to have suddenly become the world’s greatest salesperson, but I have realised that, as FD, two things happen often,” he writes.
“First, you are selling all the time: granted, it is numbers, facts, figures and business cases rather than iPad apps, event sponsorship or magazine campaigns, but putting the same preparation and thought in to a sales presentation and media pack as you do to bank presentations, shareholders of the board is not so different.
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“Second, you are sold to all the time by suppliers, banks, landlords, recruitment consultants, staff and so on – the point being that you are already accomplished at negotiating from the other side of the table. Swapping sides is not as frightening a prospect as you may think.”
Read Marc’s blogs here