A confident, ‘glass half-full’ view is critical if you’re working in a finance team within the public sector, right as massive budget cuts start to bear down on the discipline, says Newcastle City Council’s treasurer Paul Vernon Woods, who won Accountancy Age’s Public Sector FD of the Year award last November.
“You need to be seen as positive and having a can-do attitude whereby you get on and deliver,” Vernon Woods tells Financial Director. “That is the mood you need to put out through the organisation. No one wants to see a treasurer looking like they are about to burst into tears. It is important to give people the confidence that we can deal with these things.”
Described by awards judges as a finance leader with “significant profile and influence beyond his immediate areas of responsibility”, Vernon Woods thinks it is just as important for a public sector FD to be a natural leader and influencer as it is in the private sector – though he also admits this has not always been the case.
“That FDs need to play a strategic role has been recognised in the private sector, but not as much in the public sector,” he says.
“It helps from a strategy point of view to be able to shape and influence the direction of leadership of the organisation and to be taken seriously at the top table.”
If you were about to consolidate four trading companies into one legal entity and overhaul your company’s business model, doing it during the worst financial downturn in 20 years would probably not seem like the best time.
But that is exactly what Ian Little, FD of accounting software vendor Access and Accountancy Age’s FD of the Year for a Growing Business did, leading the acquisitions of Access Accounting Ireland, Asyst Solutions and Access Supply Chain and then melding them into one group.
“You need to do things when it is the right time for the business, not when it is the most convenient,” Little tells Financial Director. “We have a desire to keep growing and we never let up in that.”
A lot of the success of the company’s growth over 2010 – outperforming revenue and profit targets and increasing turnover – can be attributed to the influential role Little has played.
He says it is important for FDs to see the bigger picture and get involved beyond finance into areas of operational performance and business integration.
“To be successful as an FD you need to influence the business in all sorts of areas,” he says.
“You can’t do that if you stick to a typical finance role.”
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