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Q&A: Francis Fitzpatrick, FD, Arena Group

Rise early or work late?

I suppose the nature of the job occasionally requires both! I do like an early commute into work, it gives you the chance to clear your head and plan for the day. The energy it creates allows me to hit the ground running.

Training preferences: on the job or formal?

I much prefer on the job training. Although there is a formal (and necessary) requirement within the profession, my most significant and relevant learning experiences have been within the working environment. Although it didn’t feel it at the time, the best of those was in managing very critical and tough situations, which don’t always have happy endings.

What’s your management style?

Always open and honest. The culture and values of a business are vital and as a leader you have to live and breathe them. At Arena, our people are crucial – our most valuable asset – and we always encourage them to add value beyond their normal role. I wouldn’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do, or haven’t done myself.

Does delegation come easy?

You must empower your team. I don’t know it all, so it is important to encourage them to explore alternatives, use their own initiative and develop other solutions. Our influence as a team is business wide and our impact enormous, so committed and self-motivated people are fundamental.

Who do you rely on most?

Professionally – my team. We succeed and celebrate success as a team. Nobody can do it all on their own. Personally – my wife, of course!

Boardroom or restaurant?

Key policies and strategies honed in the boardroom probably started in an informal manner around a dinner table.

What technology would you never be without?

My iPhone – thank goodness for Steve Jobs.

Are you an FD for life?

Once an FD always an FD. No matter what path your career may take, the skills and insights will always stay with you.

What keeps you awake at night?

Not much, hopefully. Problems always seem a bit clearer in the morning when you can actually do something about them.

Critical advice to aspiring FDs?

You know all the technical, theoretical stuff, so step out of your comfort zone and get greater commercial and strategic experience. Challenge everyone and everything but don’t forget the detail. Don’t be afraid of asking simple basic questions or making mistakes.

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