We've trained a lot of people over the last few years, so I want to start celebrating those who are making a significant commercial difference to their businesses through their deeper understanding of finance.
We're starting with Michelle Taylor of Hardwick Motors, and I've been talking to her this week about her journey to becoming Finance Director. The change we've seen in Michelle and the business has been truly remarkable, so she was an obvious first choice for me.
Hardwick Motors is 35 years old, and runs a successful Fix Auto body shop. It's a multi-million pound business with three trading divisions, so has its share of accounting complexities.
How would you describe your finance skills when we started training?
Pretty minimal to be fair, I knew the day to day basics, but the accountant did everything else once a quarter. I didn't really use spreadsheets. I was just entering invoices and numbers without looking at them or absorbing what it meant. I didn't understand the impact of the numbers I was processing and I didn't understand double entry or how to reconcile the balance sheet. I was really lacking in confidence too.
And what's changed for you? What are you now doing?
I'm really happy that I have complete control of our finances now:
- I've got a proper cash flow spreadsheet and we've never ever had cash flow problems since we've had that.
- I understand double entry and how to do journals, and reconcile control accounts.
- I do all the monthly accruals and prepayments, so our accounts are accurate every month and we know our true profit.
- I look after the fixed asset register and now have a firm grasp on the equipment we've got, what things cost. I do the monthly depreciation so our accounts are correct all year.
- I prepare the multi-divisional management accounts, including the KPIs and graphs. When I review the accounts I now understand what I'm looking for, how to problem solve and understand the underlying business issues.
- I'm becoming a bit of a spreadsheet demon as well, which I never thought I'd do.
- I lead the management meeting and present the finances to the management team and our business coach.
Has it changed how you manage people?
Definitely – I used to shy away from difficult conversations but I now manage with more confidence and I'm able to explain things better so they understand the financial impact.
What's been the biggest difference?
I'm miles and miles ahead of where I was. As a person I'm far more confident and I understand far more about the business. Understanding the finances properly means I have more knowledge of the whole business and I can see everything more clearly.
I think I've gained more respect from the management team – because I know what I 'm talking about now! Before it was down to the accountant to spot problems – now that's down to me, and I've become a bit of a Rottweiler when it comes to spending money and protecting the business. I know what effect it will have on my numbers.
I've got my finger on the pulse, and I'd be lost without it. Deep down I know I've come a really long way
I used to call myself Company Secretary, now I'm proud to call myself the Finance Director.
And what does the boss think?
Steve Cook, the founder and managing director told me that he's seen a tremendous transformation, not just in Michelle but across the business and in his cash flow and bottom line profit.
- It's given us huge clarity and shown us a new path.
- We can make decisions quickly; we don't have to wait 3 months to get the accounts.
- We've got daily management information so I know instantly if the business is on track.
- We don't get surprises any more, ever.
- Everything we do as a business now is proactive, rather than living in state of reactiveness.
- Things feel calmer and more organised.
- Michelle's confidence is being passed to the rest of the management team and everyone is questioning and looking at ways to keep improving the business.
You're never too old; it's never too late!
Steve told me "I set the business up in 1982, and really I'm a "pensioner" who was basically winding down from the business. Getting these new skills into the business has given me a whole new path. It's been a big learning curve and I'm really enjoying it – opening up new ideas and re-sparked my passion for my business; I'm ready to go again! It's give me another perspective and I now want to drive the business even harder. I've got a purpose again and I've never been more confident about my business. I just think if you got these skills into business when you're younger you'd get a huge benefit"