Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Q&A: Mark Williams, FD, Moneypenny

01. Rise early or work late?

A bit of both. Some days I go to the gym before work but I often find I get lots of work done after 5.30 when the office goes quiet and the phone stops ringing. I live five minutes from Moneypenny so am quite happy to stay knowing I don’t have a long commute to face afterwards. There was a time when I was 40 minutes from work so back then I was far more inclined to scoop up my laptop and work at home in the evenings. The only real time now that I need to work from home is when I have to speak directly to our New Zealand office or advisors (e.g. for work permit applications) as they are just starting their working day over there at 9pm our time.

02. Training preferences: on the job or formal?

I am definitely more for the hands-on approach and, apart from working towards my professional qualifications, I have only ever attended one formal training course – on credit control. As we develop our software systems in-house we rely on user feedback then generate and roll out working solutions. Our team of five in the finance department all work in the same large office so it’s easy for us to communicate any changes and developments.

03. What’s your management style?

Relaxed , inclusive and flexible I would like to think. I am surrounded by ladies and they make sure I make the tea as well as big decisions! My view is that people work at their best when they are valued as part of a team, everyone knows their view is important and communication is clear and friendly. We work hard but make sure we laugh together too and enjoy social evenings and team lunches.

04. Does delegation come easy?

Yes. I have to and it encourages people to develop and learn. I started out at Moneypenny as Financial Controller so was completely hands-on with payroll, purchasing, bank reconciliation etc. but we are such a fast growing company my role now has to be more about taking the strategic overview. As FD I put the processes and systems in place and work with the team on the best ways to implement them.

05. Who do you rely on most?

Every member of the team is vital but our Accounts Manager is my right hand who knows the business pretty much as well as I do. This is why delegation and transparency is so important where everyone understands everyone else’s job. We have to work flexibly. Some of our team are part-time with children so emergencies crop up and we have to be able to step in.
The other critical contact in the business for me is our IT Manager. With virtually all our systems and reporting generated in-house we have to work very closely together. We understand what needs to be achieved and if I outline a requirement, he will go away and build it in!

06. Boardroom or restaurant?

We probably differ from other companies in that we don’t have a boardroom and are not formal in that respect. We do have meeting rooms for when we need a more formal or confidential space and we hold our directors’ meetings in our MD’s office. We would rather talk when we need to than meet for the sake of it as meetings can get in the way of getting things done. We have very much an open door policy all the time and communicate well between ourselves. If a supplier or client comes in to see us we have a lovely restaurant area which makes for a comfortable meeting place.

07. What technology would you never be without?

Excel without a doubt. It does what we need where other bought-in packages don’t offer the reporting capabilities we are looking for. With our accounts system, for example, the reporting is geared for financial people whereas I need to present more visual ‘user-friendly’ information to other people in the business in a way that is clear to everyone.

08. Are you an FD for life?

I’d like to think there is another challenge out there for me in the future although I can’t imagine ever leaving this job as I love it and there are so many new opportunities. We never stand still. For example I now have to file accounts and tax returns in New Zealand and we have just launched a brand new product for small businesses so there is always something new to keep things interesting! I have been fortunate in working in different settings over the years; helping to turn a failing business around, working for a Blue Chip company and now being part of an exciting fast growth Sunday Times ‘Top 100 Company To Work For’. In some ways long into the future I may like to do something completely different. I am a Director of Wrexham Football Club and football is a passion so who knows what’s around the corner!

09. What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing thankfully! I find it very easy to switch off because if there is something that urgently needs doing I will have stayed in the office to make sure it’s done.

10. Critical advice to aspiring FDs?

Make sure you understand the whole business, not just your role in it. Spend time with key people in every department. In my case for example it was important for me to get to know how our Receptionists answer calls for our clients so I could only do this by sitting beside them and listening. Be part of the overall conversation – by keeping an ear to the ground you aren’t as likely to receive any nasty surprises such as unexpected bills! Control costs and make sure you have all the checks and balances in place to prevent a problem before it happens.

Mark Williams is FD of Moneypenny