View from the board: opportunity knocks

It sounds great, obviously. Get a job. Work for a series of great businesses.
Constantly get promoted. Retire and sail off into the sunset. And for a period
of time, people started to believe that was a possibility.

Companies were doing so well that astute managers were almost inventing
problems to keep the finance function on its toes. And people like me were
writing articles warning that you needed to work through a disaster to give your
CV depth.

I admit, that was a glib thing to say. While I know that markets are
cyclical, I didn’t necessarily anticipate that we’d currently be working our way
through the worst downturn in the economy for a generation. So, how you can
manage your career through this as best you can.

First ­ take advantage of it. The role of finance is flying high right now.
More FDs are becoming CEOs and chairmen than before. Businesses need to manage
their cost base more aggressively than ever and there is no-one who can do that
better than you. You have carte blanche to go anywhere, ask anything and do
something with the answers. This is when your CV will fill up with achievements.

Secondly, people will leave and not be replaced. In a world of cost
management, it’s hard for the finance function to demand 10% savings and not
take a hit themselves. However, this too creates opportunity.

The people in the finance function will need to take on additional
responsibility for no money. Now, I know this doesn’t seem like a brilliant
thing ­ but it is.

Most people won’t want to take on extra work in return for, well, basically
working harder. But if you do, you will create a stronger CV, get broader
experience and receive the eternal gratitude of your FD. And, until you become
FD yourself, those three things are very worthwhile.

Finally, this period of time is going to be a defining one in all our lives.
If we see a worse market than this in future, we’re going to be disappointed.

So, at some point after this current downturn is over, a CEO is going to be
asking you what you did to manage through it and how you spotted it, because he
or she will want the confidence that you would identify it if it was heading our
way again.

So get out there. Work hard, make a difference, add a page to your CV and
make the accountancy profession proud.

Mark Freebairn is a partner at Odgers Ray &

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