I’m thrilled to be joining CTI Digital as Finance Director as of June 2019. This marks the exciting next step in my career since I founded my own consultancy company, Jigsaw Strategic Solutions, two years ago. The aim of my organisation was to help growing businesses to achieve their potential, by helping to bridge the gap between ambition and knowledge of strategic growth.
I am extremely proud of the work that I achieved with my own organisation. Now, I’m excited for my next career step, to work at CTI Digital. As an organisation with similar values to my own, I believe we will achieve CTI’s financial ambitions in a structured way that benefits everyone.
Being a Finance Director can often conjure the image of someone with their head buried in a spreadsheet. I want to contrast that stereotype and provide a thorough introduction of my professional and personal background, for those interested in what finance is really like.
My Financial Industry Background
Where I Started
My career started at an international accountancy practice, BDO Stoy Hayward. At BDO, I spent 3 years working on business assurance and eventually qualified as a Chartered Accountant. This credential, alongside my experience in a business environment, set me up for a fast-paced career in finance.
My first role as a fully qualified Chartered Accountant was at multinational firm Cabot Corporation, as a Senior Financial Analyst. It was a challenging role in which I took responsibility for managing the financial control of one of their Manchester-based manufacturing sites. In addition, I regularly travelled around Europe implementing new internal control processes.
After 5 years in finance roles within the manufacturing industry, I moved onto the first of three senior finance roles within large law firms.
All of my previous roles have been initially focused on finance, but each one quickly evolved into more project-based work. This shift in focus saw me drive accelerated growth in extremely dynamic environments, helping businesses almost triple in size over short periods. To date, I have held senior positions in Finance, IT, HR and Operational projects. This range has broadened my experience and got me involved in areas of industry outside of finance.
Keoghs and the intricacies of organisational funding
Perhaps the most pivotal role in my career was at Keoghs, a national defendant litigation law firm.
At Keoghs I spent 5 ½ years building the finance team, from 16 to 39 members of staff. During this time, the firm’s turnover almost tripled, from £22 million to £65 million. As part of a senior management and consultation team, we raised a significant amount of private equity funding. This financial growth transformed the business into the market-leading defendant litigation firm it is known as today.
Transacting a multi-million pound equity deal is a difficult and long drawn out process. There are a range of key learnings that came from my time at Keoghs and outside experience securing business investment.
Here are three key pieces of advice I'd give anyone looking to secure funding for their business, be that a start-up or enterprise.
- Consider how comfortable you are with giving away control. If you go down the equity debt financing route, you have to be comfortable taking input from an outside source. If you aren’t comfortable with outside input, I recommend going to a private funding house or traditional bank.
- Don’t give away too much. Similar to giving away control, you must define how much control and funding you are willing to part with. Know your limits; be clear on why your limits are set at that point and stay within 15-20% of your decision. Avoid agreeing to restrictive covenants, as bending too far can break your business both financially and operationally.
- Make sure everyone in your senior team is on board. Ensure everyone understands and agrees with the route to funding and the end goal. This will avoid internal tension and clashes between teams, which can be costly and put unnecessary pressure on individuals. Numbers are as political as they are polarising. They represent ambition. To be a leader, you have to see how those numbers and ambition fit together, and what may stand in their way.
A bit about my Personal Background
I’ve always looked to partake in charity work and I believe everyone should. Society in its current state doesn’t have sufficient resources to support those in need at the level which is required. I believe those in a position where they are able to help have a responsibility to do so. It has always been crucially important to me to get involved with improving our society. The benefits can be huge for the organisations you help. What’s more, volunteer work teaches you invaluable life lessons, helping you to see the world from other people’s points of view.
Back on Track's Youtube Welcome
For the last 18 months I have been a Board member, Treasurer and trustee of Back on Track. Back on Track is a charity that supports disadvantaged people, helping to end social alienation, homelessness, or prison and drug abuse cycles. They do this by providing personal skills, qualifications, self esteem support, employability skills and, at the end of the programme, job opportunities.
At Back on Track I review the financial stability of the charity and provide governance for the strategic future of the organisation. Ultimately, I ensure the charity is future-ready and continually growing. Most recently we’ve been working with a local logistics outlet in Trafford Park to create an onsite canteen. Once set up it will employ service users coming through the Back On Track learning centre.
My Husband, Gary, and I also participate in a range of fundraising events and, to date, have raised £12,000 for the charity.
Working with the charity has helped me to ensure that I don’t take things for granted. It has opened my eyes to the way a single action can snowball and have catastrophic, life-changing impacts.
I’m a passionate cook, most recently taken in by a love for contemporary Indian and French cuisines. I’m mainly self-taught but I’ve been fortunate to receive some tutorship from professional chefs, who have given me the ability to experiment successfully in the kitchen.
I’m also a keen traveller and have spent many years visiting Africa, Australaisa, South East and Central Asia, South, Central and North America, and Europe. Last year I went to Delhi, in North India, where I experienced tasting some amazing dishes and spent time in a professional kitchen. I also spent time in the disputed territory of Cashmere. The shifting nature of Cashmere is largely unspoilt by tourism. Being able to experience those destinations gives me a fresh perspective on life and a unique understanding of the way people interact.
In my home life, I live with my husband, Gary, and our dog, Twix, a spoilt Jack Russell. When I’m not cooking, I’m learning new hobbies that promote mindfulness and help to exercise the neuroplasticity of my brain. I’m a bit of a secret geek: I love Lego and have taught myself how to knit. I particularly enjoy the technical challenge of making socks. My hobbies are critical to my mental wellbeing and ability to function in all areas of life.
The Now and The Future
I’ve had lots of fun over the years, even though the exposure I've had to major business-changing projects has demanded a lot of time, energy and enthusiasm. Despite the hard work, these projects have always been extremely satisfying and that’s why I do what I do.
As my career has progressed, I’ve increasingly found myself in Board meetings amongst people with an interest in employing my skills for their own personal goals. This is an understandable position but not somewhere I wanted to be.
With an acute awareness of the intrinsic link between politics and numbers, I set up my own financial consultancy business called Jigsaw Strategic Solutions. Through Jigsaw, I aimed to help small businesses achieve their potential by bringing together finance and business management, overseeing projects such as:
- Departmental and Business restructures
- New Finance, HR, Legal Case Management and core IT system design and implementation
- On-boarding of external equity finance
- Creation of private equity reporting and liaison
- Business realignment and transformation
- Business planning and bank finance restructuring
- Financial and HR reporting design and management
- Significant working capital improvement projects
- Business-wide and departmental KPI/target design and implementation
- Executive board reporting design
- Long term budgeting/re-forecasting projects
- Contract negotiation and mediation with external bodies
- Company secretarial duties
- Creation of new businesses, from registration with Companies House to operation and management.
After a successful two years, I met Nick Rhind, CEO at CTI Digital, at the Manchester Business Breakfast Club (MBBC). At MBBC we are encouraged to engage in one-to-one conversations, discussing our businesses and any future opportunities. I came in for a coffee at CTI Digital a number of times, where Nick and I recognised early on that we had a good working relationship. Following CTI’s 2018 MBO, Nick and I caught up and I began working one day a week at CTI. This quickly scaled into a full-time role.
My 20 years of experience will bring increased financial stability to CTI, through developing strong and robust internal controls. These controls will set a strategy for achieving CTI’s ambitions. CTI has an amazing internal culture and a secure financial plan and I hope my role will only increase these features. I aim to get the best out of people and identify the key opportunities to achieve the agency’s ambition by utilising existing assets.
I’m excited about my next chapter at CTI Digital. Together we will achieve CTI’s financial ambitions in a structured way that benefits clients, staff and the agency’s position in the market.
If you’re interested in working with CTI in any capacity, please get in touch on the contact page.