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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.

“Working with many different businesses, allows me to keep the thrill of making a difference to business successes but also be around for the family moments that I wouldn’t want to miss.”

“Working with many different businesses, allows me to keep the thrill of making a difference to business successes but also be around for the family moments that I wouldn’t want to miss.”

Amanda Brown, FD at The FD Centre in Kent (part of the CFO Centre Group)

Back in 2017, with over 25 years of FD board experience, Amanda started thinking about the benefits of a more diverse way of working. She was hoping for more flexibility – which would allow her to be around for her children. What is it they call it these days – being present?

It wasn’t that she was unhappy in her current role or that there was any big decision to be made. It was simply that she wanted to feel like she was making a difference whilst working around family life.

She noticed an online advert for the FD Centre, decided to get in touch and the rest is history, as they say.

And now, with three children ranging from 8-28, there’s never a dull moment for Amanda but there’s definitely more time to catch up as a family than there were before:

“Working with many different businesses, allows me to keep the thrill of making a difference to business successes but also be around for the family moments that I wouldn’t want to miss. When I was working as a full-time FD, making a difference was always the aim but now with the diverse portfolio of clients I can share my experience and essentially impact more companies and people’s lives positively.”

Amanda’s the first to admit that life can still be hectic – in fact, a client has recently asked her to run a key project for them for a 5-month period.  The buzz of the job and the opportunity to support a growing business makes it all worthwhile. And no-one wants too much time on their hands, right?

If, like Amanda, you’d value the opportunity to work with a diverse set of clients and the flexibility to manage your own priorities, please do get in touch – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“As a Regional Director, I’m able to structure my days however suit me. With a team of highly skilled FDs and the support of the wider team I feel like I’ve finally achieved the right balance.”

“As a Regional Director, I’m able to structure my days however suit me. With a team of highly skilled FDs and the support of the wider team I feel like I’ve finally achieved the right balance.”

Michael Burton, RD at the FD Centre in the North and West Yorkshire (part of The CFO Centre Group)

Back in 2018, Michael exited a small medical device business that he had set up with his business partner.  There were no hard feelings and the decision was theirs – they had set up the UK operation for an Indian manufacturer and had agreed on an exit plan for when they’d built it to a certain size.

With a wealth of experience in pharmaceutical and medical sales, Michael has led national and international sales operations for different businesses, all building long term relationships within the NHS. After exiting the business, he was finding it tricky to decide on his next move as he knew he didn’t want to commit to 3-4 nights away from home as he had done in previous positions within the corporate world.

Looking through LinkedIn, he stumbled across the RD role with the FD Centre. The name rang a bell and Michael realised that he’d worked with a principal from the FD Centre when he helped to set up a contract sales division for a recruitment company over ten years ago. He called up his old contact and the rest is history.

Michael now enjoys the autonomy to run his own region and as his contacts are all local, there’s a lot less travel than he was used to in his old role. He’s also in control of his own diary:

“As a Regional Director, I’m able to structure my days however suits me. With a team of highly skilled FDs and the support of the wider team, I feel like I’ve finally achieved the right balance.”

When reflecting on the interview process, Michael describes how the job is everything he expected it to be:

“Everything I was told before I joined is absolutely true – I’m surrounded by good people and there’s a supportive structure. Without all the corporate clutter, my mind is free to focus on the positive things.”

“Portfolio working allows me to keep close to the business I founded, whilst supporting other entrepreneurs and doing the things I love.”

“Portfolio working allows me to keep close to the business I founded, whilst supporting other entrepreneurs and doing the things I love.”

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

“Portfolio working allows me to keep close to the business I founded, whilst supporting other entrepreneurs and doing the things I love.”

Chris Willford joined the FD Centre back in 2016 after over 30 years working in FTSE 100 companies and the creation of a successful software business.

Having worked his way up to FTSE board level in two different industry sectors, Chris felt it was time to do his own thing, so in 2011 he joined forces with a friend and neighbour, said goodbye to corporate life and started a software business. Together, they established business relatively quickly, and after setting a good solid foundation, Chris concluded the business didn’t need his financial experience full time.

He wanted to stay close to the business, but it didn’t make sense for him to spend time on non-strategic or non-financial tasks that other people could carry out. Chris, therefore, decided to reduce his hours with the company – staying involved in the strategic direction and freeing up time for him to support other entrepreneurs.

After a chance meeting with a regional director at the FD Centre in 2015, Chris joined the FD Centre team the following year. He now looks after a number of businesses, working mainly in the tech, media and publishing sectors.

“I enjoy being in control of my own diary, and the variety of the work means there’s always something interesting to work on. I oversee some really strong and diverse businesses and there’s no shortage of opportunities to make a difference in each one.”

Oh, and when he’s not checking in with one of his clients, you may find Chris cycling with his local road cycling group…if you can catch him of course. You see, he has made sure he sets time aside for the work-life balance we all crave.

Are you ready for an initial chat? Call us – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“I was considering non-exec roles when I came across the FD Centre, which fitted perfectly with my FD experience.”

“I was considering non-exec roles when I came across the FD Centre, which fitted perfectly with my FD experience.”

Chris Sparkes, Portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the West Country
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

“I was considering non-exec roles when I came across the FD Centre, which fitted perfectly with my FD experience.”

At the beginning of 2018, after a career in corporate and seven years working away from home, Chris started to search for a role that would allow him to redress the work/life balance we all strive for.

He liked the idea of acting as a trusted advisor to small businesses, and therefore considered non-exec roles. After a few months, it seemed like finding the odd one or two roles was possible, but making a substantial career out of it seemed trickier.

“It would have been too much of a shock to me if I went from working full time to just working one or two days a month.”

Chris discussed his dilemma with colleagues and friends and was introduced to the FD Centre, who could support him in his search for SMEs in need of strategic advice.

“Being a part of a bigger organisation provides credibility and reassurance to entrepreneurs who are looking for someone to provide them with sound advice and direction. With the FD Centre, they are buying into something bigger than just me – there’s a whole team of experts to help and support us if we need additional resources or expertise.”

Are you ready for a change? Does Chris’s story inspire you? Call us –https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“I really enjoy helping business owners understand the value of the numbers, and life as a portfolio FD allows me to do just that.”

“I really enjoy helping business owners understand the value of the numbers, and life as a portfolio FD allows me to do just that.”

James Christian, Portfolio FD at the FD Centre in Yorkshire & Humberside
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

“I really enjoy helping business owners understand the value of the numbers, and life as a portfolio FD allows me to do just that.”

After 15 years working in the same company in a variety of roles including FD and Chief Operating Officer James craved an alternative lifestyle with more flexibility and the opportunity to work on more varied projects. He left his full-time role, and an online search and a chat with a trusted friend directed him to the FD Centre.

On joining, new clients came from his network and from the well-established central marketing machine that the FD Centre invests in. His skills and experiences were fully transferable to different industries, and colleagues within the business were available to help with any industry-specific advice he initially needed.

“There’s a lot to be said for taking stock and considering where next, and I really enjoy the variety this lifestyle allows.”

James would humbly say that he’s not a born accountant. He prides himself on his ability to explain the figures to non-accountants and to help them understand what they can learn from the finance team, and of course, how they can act upon the findings.

“I’m helping entrepreneurs grow their business and broaden their horizons. It goes without saying that I’m broadening my own along the way too.”

Are you ready for a change in direction? Call us – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/

“Joining such a knowledgeable team of professionals made the transition from corporate life so much easier for me.”

“Joining such a knowledgeable team of professionals made the transition from corporate life so much easier for me.”

Jim Laslett joined the FD Centre in 2015 and has enjoyed the diversity that his new role brings.
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

After a chance meeting at a Christmas lunch in 2014, Jim decided to explore the opportunity of working with the FD Centre and later joined. Jim’s previous experience in retail and manufacturing has enabled him to look after a number clients from very varying industries – from an electrical wholesaler to a supplier of specialist products to fruit farmers, to a provider of care equipment to homes and hospitals.

He certainly enjoys the variety of portfolio working. And there’s peace of mind knowing that if there’s something he needs additional guidance on, he can always count on his team of colleagues, nationally and internationally, to provide specific industry knowledge. The team is so powerful.

“I get such job satisfaction from helping entrepreneurs reach their business goals. I’m so passionate about working with my clients that I could easily spend double the hours I’m contracted to work with them. The skill comes in prioritising, managing expectations and enabling the team, and I’m always available to discuss their progress if they need me.”

And with a rapidly increasing number of colleagues across 16 countries, it’s great to know that many others are also choosing the same lifestyle.

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

“I can now impact change so much faster than when I was working in a corporate environment.”

“I can now impact change so much faster than when I was working in a corporate environment.”

Steve Johnson, portfolio FD at The FD Centre in the Northern Home Counties
(part of The CFO Centre Group)

Steve Johnson was an FD in the automotive and recruitment industries but always had the urge to be more entrepreneurial. He’d had enough of working for a corporate as he felt it was all he was thinking about 24/7.

“I was brought up around people who ran their own businesses so I thrive in that space. I’ve always had the drive and passion to do something for myself.”

But waving goodbye to the full-time FD role felt like a massive step. He was in a well-paid role with a team of over 300 people and all the additional benefits of being a board member.

When Steve made the move in 2012 he was delighted with the lifestyle changes it enabled him to make.

“Working as I do, I am mentoring, coaching, listening and learning on a daily basis. My clients are smart and savvy so I learn too, and together we influence real change and support genuine business growth.”

And the moral of the story? If you don’t plan towards the big goals in life, they’ll pass you by. And Steve certainly has the variety, balance, and entrepreneurship he craved.

If you’d like to think about how portfolio working could work for you, we’d love to hear from you – https://www.thefdcentre.co.uk/join-the-team/