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Q&A: David Deacon, CFO at OMG plc

01. Rise early or work late?

If a deadline is looming then my sub-conscious kicks in and I rise early automatically. First thing in the morning is often when I do my best thinking, probably because there are fewer distractions. OMG has US subsidiaries so when visiting them working early and late (thanks to jet-lag) is often common as well!

02. Training preferences: on the job or formal?

The short answer is both. Some things simply have to be learned in the classroom, especially in our profession, so in terms of getting the foundations in place the training needs to be formal. However, following this up with relevant on-the-job training cements this learning and makes it much more relevant. This was certainly my experience. I was fortunate enough to effectively apprentice for a business that had large departments each dealing with individual accounting processes, such as credit control, A/P, A/R, costing and so on. I was regularly moved around and this experience helped me make sense of debit and credits in the early days.

03. What’s your management style?

My role is to explain the vision and set out clearly what my personal expectations are in terms of standards and deadlines. I do this from the outset and reinforce these expectations from time to time through one-on-one to contact or face-to-face with wider finance team events. I do not have exclusivity on good ideas so I encourage my people to explore alternatives, develop solutions and use their initiative. This is rewarding for the individual and in return I get to work with committed and self-motivated people.

04. Does delegation come easy?

Yes. I still remember the thrill of developing a solution to a problem using my own initiative and the feeling of self-worth when you succeed. As a result, delegation of tasks especially those with some challenge is easy since I know the individual will have the same experience and be better for it.

05. Who do you rely on most?

My team. Unless the whole team is working effectively then a task will not get done well or on time and the business in turn will suffer. Everyone has a role to play so I do not single any one person out or rely on one individual too heavily – it’s a team effort.

06. Boardroom or restaurant?

There is a time and a place for both. In general the boardroom is the place to express opinions, debate and reach decisions, but dinner with colleagues is a good way to get a real sense of the business and the individual.

07. What technology would you never be without?

Doing my job without a laptop and Microsoft Excel would be virtually impossible. The productivity afforded by this technology has been exponential. Mobile phones are quite handy too!

08. Are you an FD for life?

Probably yes. I have set myself goals throughout my career and have gained a lot of satisfaction from navigating businesses financially but also contributing to the wider strategic direction. Business is dynamic and change is a constant. Challenges present themselves on a regular basis and resolving these and moving the business forward is both exciting and rewarding. Never say never though.

09. What keeps you awake at night?

Not a lot. From time to time during my career, cash has been tight. It is an old saying, “you only run out of cash once” and as a CFO/FD having the cash to meet the payroll and keep the lights on is the singular most important function, the essence of financial management. I take this responsibility very seriously and on those occasions where cash has been tight this has kept me awake. Pleased to say the lights have never gone out!

10. Critical advice to aspiring FDs?

For me it is all about communication. Finance and accounting is a fairly complex subject so avoid describing this in too much detail since most people will glaze over if you do. It is all about communicating your financial input in a relevant way, mindful of how this will affect the business and the outcome. The real value add is not producing historic data and commenting on it, it is about evaluating corporate strategy and outcomes to help steer the business in the right direction and avoiding making costly mistakes. You must allow the business to flourish and pursue its goals and only stick your heels in if you are convinced a decision is likely to have a negative outcome.

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