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Q&A: David Thomas, FD, Norbert Dentressangle Logistics UK

1. Rise early or work late?

I am an early riser and tend to be one of the first into the office. I call the first hour the ‘golden hour’, where you can get lots done and plan the day ahead before too many interruptions. I will normally leave around 6.30 to 7pm. I find I am not very productive later than that.

2. Training preferences: on the job or formal?

I think on the job edges it for me. Of course you can attend courses to understand the theory but you cannot beat practical experience of how things really work.

3. What’s your management style?

I try to engage with the team on most matters. I recognise that I don’t have all the answers and I have colleagues wanting to contribute and add their input. We try to maintain flat structures and an informal style throughout in an effort to maintain easy communication and an engaged workforce.

4. Does delegation come easy?

Yes. I have access to lots of top professional people in the areas that I have executive responsibility for, i.e., Finance, IT, Property, Purchasing and Fleet Engineering. The team do not need to be micro-managed. The main job is to agree objectives and timescales and then provide any support required.

5. Who do you rely on most?

We have six business unit financial controllers and one divisional financial controller and they are all absolutely vital to the running of the business. However, in terms of day-to-day interaction, the divisional financial controller is my right hand and provides a great sounding board.

6. Boardroom or restaurant?

Of course the boardroom has its place in terms of corporate governance and agreeing policy, but I spend a lot of time with colleagues in informal settings getting to know them and talking about the business.

7. What technology would you ever be without?

I am not big on gizmos but the thing that I would miss the most is my Samsung Galaxy; it keeps me in touch when I am on the move whether by voice, text or e-mail.

8. Are you an FD for life?

I intend to be an FD for a few more years yet but would like to write one more chapter in the book before I retire – exactly what I am not too sure.

9. What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing at all. I always sleep soundly. You have to learn to switch off.

10. Critical advice to aspiring FDs?

I am lucky that I have had several financial controllers work with me in the past that have gone on to be FDs. They all have similar traits – very hard working, enquiring minds, highly intelligent, self-confident, well-organised and good at building personal relationships. In all cases it was no surprise to see them reaching the top of the tree. I think if you can excel in these areas opportunity will follow.

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