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“Uunder abundantly clear expectations on what I want, what I can give and what I can get from this platform, my journey as the accidental part-time CFO continues, making my fantasy of a work-life balance into a reality”

“Uunder abundantly clear expectations on what I want, what I can give and what I can get from this platform, my journey as the accidental part-time CFO continues, making my fantasy of a work-life balance into a reality”

Sue Fan, Principal at The CFO Centre in Greater China

From work hard and play hard professional life to the demanding corporate CFO life, “long hours” and “work comes first” became a norm and for a working mum in Hong Kong, the idea of a work-life balance was a fantasy. Only when I parted ways with my last full-time CFO job, it dawned on me the extent of neglect I have placed on my family; in particular my three children. A long career break fell naturally in place. In 2014, a year into my career break, in the midst of me struggling to decide whether to remain a full-time mum or return to the corporate world full time, I crossed path with CFO Centre Hong Kong by chance which brought me into a role I never contemplated of doing before. Making CFO service affordable to the SMEs is a good concept but is a brand-new concept at the time for the Hong Kong business community, I had my scepticism on the market response. However, the model’s flexibility and portfolio offerings were a perfect match for my then circumstances; my desire to intertwine some form of work within my full-time mum role. The platform provided me with possible client diversity and freedom to strike a balance between work and family life at my discretion. This luxury came at a price tag; reduced financial reward compared to a full-time role, but it was something I am willing to forgo.

Undeniably the earlier years were difficult. Seeing the limited number of clients onboarding and the frequent turnover of not only clients but fellow-principals too was not encouraging.  However, fully aware of the down-side of the financial reward aspect of the model, my known intended heavy tilt of the work-life balance towards my children and faced with an unforeseen critical health issue, I strived through the initial few years with only one client in my portfolio.  Internal changes continued to happen in recent years resulting in a higher number of client onboarding. For me, clients came and went, but my portfolio did grow, securing a couple more long-term clients.

Over the years, I found that with many small and medium businesses, the owners’ primary focus was no doubt on business neglecting the finance function. Having direct contact with key decision-makers and participating in management and board meetings, I can, as their part-time CFO, make a difference by giving the owners a different perspective on their finance function and their business. It is very satisfying knowing I had a role in aiding the business growth and learn how owners and directors appreciate me and what I’ve delivered for them over the years.

Portfolio work style provides diversity but can be challenging. My long-term clients’ backgrounds cannot be more diverse with each of their needs varying immensely and changing constantly. It’s crucial to listen and understand, voice out concerns and provide solutions workable within applicable constraints. The part-time CFO needs to be very versatile as it is no longer just about numbers. Owners of small businesses do expect the part-time CFO to be the missing link in the organization and be able to handle any matters that may arise regardless of whether they are financial, operational or business-related. An inherent key but challenging aspect of working with small businesses is the importance of fitting in with the company’s culture. Each small business has its own unique cultures instilled by the owner’s entrepreneurial mindset. Fitting in may be difficult when manoeuvring between clients, but it is crucial in forming the foundation of a long-term working relationship. I found that it is more of a struggle if I am unable to adjust myself and fit into the mindset of the rest of the senior management team. When mindset misalignment happens, it is crucial to resolve quickly. Mindset alignment is something that requires constant work. For me, approaching my clients with these traits helped me to foster trust very much needed in building and sustaining a long-term working relationship with my clients.

This model is not for everyone as it demands entrepreneurial thinking and the luxury of the work-life balance comes at a price of reduced financial reward (as compared to full time), but it worked for me. Six years plus on, under abundantly clear expectations on what I want, what I can give and what I can get from this platform, my journey as the accidental part-time CFO continues, making my fantasy of a work-life balance into a reality.

Living The Lives We Choose – Gary Chan

Living The Lives We Choose – Gary Chan

Christmas is just around the corner and back home, we have finally put up and decorated our Christmas tree.  Like many people, Christmas has long become a special season for me, not only because of my religious belief or the history and meaning behind Christmas but also because it symbolises the ending of a year and it is a good time for reflection.

This year’s Christmas is going to be a special one as we are capping off an extraordinary year that many of us have ever experienced.  I started the year with high hope, especially when this year being 2020 and I often read it as 20/20, a term hinting to this supposedly to be a year that offers good vision and clarity.  But instead, for many people around the world including myself, this year has been filled with confusions, anxieties, and sadness, from loss of normalcy in our daily routines, loss of jobs and businesses and, in many unfortunate situations, the loss of loved ones.

Nonetheless, 2020 is drawing to a close and a new year is about to begin.  This offers the chance for all of us to start afresh with renewed hopes.  As challenging as it might have been, to some degrees, this past year has indeed offered many of us the clarity we need to start 2021 with confidence.  With the whole world having been forced to slow down, it has allowed us time to rethink how we live, our ways of doing business and the purposes behind them.  It has allowed us to recognise what really matters to us and realign our lives and refocus our energy.

For the past six years, through our work at the CFO Centre, we have come across many businesses, worked with many entrepreneurs and helped many businesses grow.  However, while our work naturally brings us to focus on numbers, we have also learnt that businesses, especially among SMEs, are so much more than just about growing revenue and making profits.  In most situations, businesses are founded and built on passions – the passions in founders wanting to revolutionalise an industry or to make lives better by introducing creative designs.  Also along the founders’ journeys in reaching their dreams through entrepreneurship, there are all sorts of human emotions that come along – joys and sadness, excitements and disappointments.  Businesses are not only about numbers on spreadsheets.  Businesses are about people living their lives and chasing their dreams.  At the CFO Centre, 2020 has allowed us to gain the clarity that our true purpose is about connecting with entrepreneurs and helping them live their lives they choose.

In about two weeks, we will be welcoming 2021.  I hope you have also had a chance to discover your purpose in the past year.  With clearer purposes, it is time that we put our thoughts into actions and start 2021 with our newfound passion and energy.  I look forward to building something together with you all and helping each other live the lives that we choose.

“I value the security that being a part-time FD with half a dozen clients brings”

“I value the security that being a part-time FD with half a dozen clients brings”

Michael Citroen, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the Thames Valley
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

Michael Citroen is 59 years old and a 14-year veteran of the part-time portfolio job world. The former Group Finance Director of a large privately-owned company relishes the challenge and excitement of working with SMEs in his role as a part-time FD.

“The FD Centre is very focused on helping its part-time FDs to win new clients”, Michael says. “I could never have done as well as I have if I’d had to do it on my own as I had no idea about marketing when I first began.”

Like many people starting out on the part-time path, Michael had initially been worried about giving up a salary with all the perks. “To begin with, I felt a little insecure giving up a regular job, but the role was becoming increasingly political and I wanted to take back control.”

He quickly discovered that the financial return you get from this way of working is dependent on the amount of energy you’re willing to expend and the number of clients you take on.

He realised early on that the new lifestyle would enable him to spend more time with family whilst maintaining a good level of income.

Surely, if Michael’s still buzzing about this way of working after 14 years, it’s worth finding out a bit more about it. Isn’t it?

If you’d like an exploratory chat about portfolio working, we’d love to hear from you – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“Being a part-time FD for the past eight years has meant I’ve been able to play a large role in my son’s life.”

“Being a part-time FD for the past eight years has meant I’ve been able to play a large role in my son’s life.”

Neil Methold, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the Thames Valley
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

Neil, 54 has found the move into the part-time portfolio world beneficial in so many ways. Not only has he been able to enjoy more family and leisure time, but he’s also had the pleasure of coaching and mentoring people working within his clients’ companies. Neil now also mentors new Principals joining the FD Centre to help them at the start of their journey to a portfolio career.

“My greatest satisfaction comes from coaching and mentoring people within these companies so they become self-sufficient and can do more and more of the work themselves.

“I see it as my responsibility to ensure the work is done – not necessarily to do it all myself. I think that has a significant impact on client retention.”

Neil has found the move from the corporate world extremely refreshing.

“You can’t go in and be all corporate. SMEs don’t want that. They want someone they can trust and rely on and build a good relationship with. A friendly face. Not just a very clever big shot. You need to be down to earth and people-focused.”

The relationships you have with clients are what help to make this such a rewarding way of life. Neil talks openly about the genuine respect that he has with his clients, which gives him a great deal of job satisfaction.

Imagine taking your whole self to work. Imagine having the freedom to control your own diary. Are you ready for a conversation? Call us – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“I have far more flexibility with my time and a better work-life balance.”

“I have far more flexibility with my time and a better work-life balance.”

Kate Wright, portfolio FD at the FD Centre
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

Kate Wright, previously worked as Head of Finance and Operations for a NASDAQ-listed company, but moved to a more flexible role as a portfolio FD, later-on joining the FD Centre, the largest provider of part-time FDs in the UK.

She was wanted to leave the corporate world, to work with Entrepreneurs and was willing to take a pay cut to do so.  However, she’s been pleasantly surprised with the remuneration.

“Although part-time FDs aren’t eligible for bonuses or equity, they are well-paid for the work they do.”

The benefits far outweigh the negatives as Kate carefully structures her time.

“You do have to be very organised and very focused. I quite often spend half a day with one company and half a day with another. It’s very important to make every client feel as if they are the most important.”

Being a part-time FD enables Kate to earn well whilst maintaining control over her diary.

“It’s a long way towards the holy grail of work life balance. I feel it’s the future.”

We think so too.

If you’d like to find out more, we’d love to hear from you – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“I get enormous job satisfaction from working so closely with the decision makers in companies rather than being a small part of a large business.”

“I get enormous job satisfaction from working so closely with the decision makers in companies rather than being a small part of a large business.”

Caroline Dodds, portfolio FD at the FD Centre
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

Caroline Dodds, used to work with FTSE-listed companies but threw in the towel to work with Scale-Up businesses for the FD Centre, the largest provider of part-time FDs in the UK.

Being in control of her time is one of the best things about being a part-time FD for Caroline.  It gives her the flexibility to strive for the illusive work-life balance we all crave.

Rather than work as a sole trader, there’s the added benefit of a network of experts to bounce ideas off. Being able to communicate with FDs from around the world is something Caroline finds very useful especially as she has clients in China and Hong Kong. “I love networking and working within a team. The FD Centre and the wider Liberti Group offer a massive network.”

“I wanted to have colleagues that I could bounce ideas off. You can’t be a master of everything by yourself. If there’s something I’m not sure about, I know there will be someone who will have come across that issue.”

So, Caroline is living proof that work-life is possible. Is it really possible? OK, without another few hours in the day, we all know it’s tricky but one step closer has got to be good, right?

Are you ready for an exploratory conversation? We’d love to hear from you – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/