At a glance
- Joined MNG in April 2020.
- Originally from Queensland, but has held senior finance roles in Perth over the past 25 years, across professional services, FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), automotive and oil and gas sectors.
- CFO’s team: eight people. In the corporate services role, is also responsible for HR, people and culture and HSEQ (health, safety, environment and quality).
My role: enabling success
MNG is a private surveying company founded just over 30 years ago. Although it is privately held, it functions very much like a publicly listed company. This means reporting to the board and bi-monthly shareholder meetings, managing shareholder relations and share transactions and being responsible for compliance, in addition to the regular financial reporting.
Within my role as general manager of corporate services, I am also responsible for health and safety, people and culture, and I really enjoy this part of my role, since I find it complements the finance function. I firmly believe that if you have good people working safely within a good culture, then the results will come, because you have given yourself the best chance to create success.
We have over 100 people here in Western Australia and a growing operation in Victoria. I’ve been especially recruited to support our business on the eastern seaboard as a key part of the five-year strategy for the business.
Essentially, I see my role as making the company function as well as it can, so our executives can focus on relationships with our clients and exceed their expectations.
Game changers: sliding doors
When I was 17 and living in my home town in Queensland, I remember I had two job offers: to be a cadet journalist or a cadet accountant.
I took the advice from my father and became an accountant, and it’s taken me on a great journey, which I am still enjoying today.
I’ve had some other “sliding doors” moments like that, such as moving from Brisbane to Perth in the early 1990s, to a financial controller role in a flour milling/bakery business that was owned by the company I was working at in Brisbane.
That opportunity, to be 21 and in a senior finance role at a significant FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) business, while also studying my degree course externally from Queensland, allowed the theory of the texts to come to life, being applied on a daily basis.
It was a very good experience in terms of anchoring my technical skills, as well as helping me master my craft before applying it to other industries.
I read the biography of rock star Bruce Springsteen, who talks about honing his craft by playing thousands of hours live, night after night. When the skills come by feel, without consciously thinking about them, that is when a level of mastery is obtained. Bruce has certainly demonstrated that.
Translating that story to accounting, I was so ambitious ahead of my skill set, but I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity and strong mentoring to do the basics first, and focus on getting my 10,000 hours on the board as I sought to master my craft.
For a short time, I also worked in retail sales, which was a major development for my communication skills. While I had a good technical skills base, I realise now I was really lacking in my ability to interpret and present financial information to non-financial people. Dealing with the public on a daily basis was fantastic for my confidence and building those soft skills I still use today.
My challenges: riding the business cycle
We are at the forefront of the property and construction industry (on site before the turn of the first sod on projects), so developers rely on our services right at the beginning of their work.
The COVID-19 disruptions initially looked as if they would have a negative impact on us, but that changed rapidly with incentive and stimulus packages, first from the Federal Government and then the Western Australian Government.
The disruptions and the changes have given us a huge opportunity to challenge our business model, with the goals of being more agile in our approach and continuously improving our service delivery to our clients.
Our industry is also being impacted by technology. Traditionally, we were a surveying company hammering white pegs into the ground, but over the past 10 or so years, the company has also positioned itself as a leading geospatial services company, and that is very exciting.
While we still perform a lot of our work in two dimensions, we are supporting that with three-dimensional modelling and simulation, and that is creating a path for growth and change.
Lessons learned and best advice
Listen to people at the ground level, the ones talking to clients and suppliers (or producing in the workshop). Understand how the business operates, independent of any financial data, and then apply the financial lens to understand the relationship between the two. Many accountants fail to understand the mechanics of the business they’re working on.
Continually build your knowledge. There has been amazing growth and new functionality within Excel, and an explosion of business intelligence tools in recent years, which has had a big impact on how I work. Quite a few accountants are unaware of these changes. I try to remain open and curious, and receptive to new knowledge, especially online.
Work on the soft skills, not just the technical skills. To succeed in the future, we need to be able to interpret and present financial information to non-financial people better than we ever have in the past. Simplify wherever possible.
Networks are critical. Many of the roles I’ve had have come from the network I have created.
Ultimately, we all work in sales – either selling our company or our CV.