View from the headhunters: disaster management

View from the headhunters: disaster management

We all enjoy success. It makes life so much easier. You smile more. In career terms, though, it’s not always a good thing

The alternative – dealing with disasters – may take time, cause worry and be
bad for your home life, but it can also be extremely useful for your
professional development.

It’s normally a good idea to enjoy success in the early stages of your
career. If you graduate into a role at a large, blue-chip corporation, it
becomes a mark of distinction on your CV. But as your career develops, so do the
demands placed upon you and your skill set. Experiencing a business problem is
part of that skill set. Apart from anything else, it helps you read the signals
next time round.

A CEO deliberating over which finance director to hire has to plan for every
eventuality, and that includes the possibility of major trauma. Thus, it is
often very useful and reassuring to consider appointing an FD who has worked
through something akin to a disaster, and knows firstly what it looks like, and
secondly how to manage a successful way out of it.

We have all heard people say: ‘I learnt more in those 12 months than I did in
the previous five years’. They’re normally talking about bad times, not good.
This is when the finance department can really make its mark. When you see
firsthand what part of a business is likely to creak under pressure, that
teaches you where to look first in any new business. This is also when you learn
the harsh lesson that you must cut once, and cut deep – but, often you have to
live through a death by a thousand cuts before you realise it.

One business I know had been successful for so long that the FD started
creating fake problems, simply to give the finance team the chance to experience
life in a crisis.

Of course, you can’t create a disaster out of thin air – heaven forbid – and
you won’t deliberately move to a business that is about to go bankrupt, just so
you can get the experience. However, you can make sure you don’t try to leave an
internal division just because it is facing a challenging year, or that you
don’t avoid joining one for the same reason.

Yes, it will give you a tough 12 months, and I’m not suggesting for one
second that you will enjoy it until it’s finished, but in ten years’ time, when
the last question you are asked in an interview is, ‘Tell me about your biggest
challenge,’ you’ll be glad you went through it.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray & Berndtson

Related Articles

It’s not just the potential of women at stake, it’s the potential of accountancy

Accounting Firms It’s not just the potential of women at stake, it’s the potential of accountancy

3d Jean Stephens, RSM International
PwC to net £50m from Carillion insolvency

Accounting Firms PwC to net £50m from Carillion insolvency

2w Alia Shoaib, Reporter
Mercer & Hole makes two new appointments

Accounting Firms Mercer & Hole makes two new appointments

3w Emma Smith, Managing Editor
Sexual harassment – is accountancy next for #MeToo?

Accounting Firms Sexual harassment – is accountancy next for #MeToo?

4w Karen Baxter, Lewis Silkin
Johnston Carmichael CEO appointed as ICAS president

Accounting Firms Johnston Carmichael CEO appointed as ICAS president

2m Emma Smith, Managing Editor
British Accountancy Awards 2018 – entries open!

Accounting Firms British Accountancy Awards 2018 – entries open!

2m Emma Smith, Managing Editor
Is the accountancy sector facing an international talent crisis?

Accounting Firms Is the accountancy sector facing an international talent crisis?

2m Lewis Silkin
RSM appoints new Chief Operating Officer

Accounting Firms RSM appoints new Chief Operating Officer

2m Alia Shoaib, Reporter