Oct 18, 2022
Oct 25, 2022
CFO Interviews

Ben Westerby

Joe Ingham has known Ben for a number of years and they have a great relationship. Ben is known as a very commercially strong Finance Director within the Yorkshire region.

Ben is a down to earth leader, being very friendly, warm and engaging. Ben is also a very driven and ambitious FD / CFO with an incredible passion for what he does. Testament to this is the launching of his own  

Ben is a CIMA trained accountant, and a significant part of his career has been within the FMCG & Food sector, before getting experience across other industries. Ben has always played to his commercial strengths and as his roles have developed into senior leadership roles he has always maintained a hands-on approach to being a finance director.

Can you give us an overview of your career so far?

I started out working in a family group of businesses where I got hands on experience of every aspect of their finance department which was a great grounding for me. I then worked for several large blue chip companies before moving back to work predominantly with owner-managed SME’s; gaining sector experience in food, FMCG, e-commerce, SaaS, retail, housing, construction, recruitment and logistics. I have been working part-time Finance Director roles with a number of businesses since 2019 and earlier this year I decided that I wanted to be a portfolio Finance Director and work with SMEs to help them get fit for purpose finance support for their businesses.

What did you want to be growing up, and what made you get into finance?

The first job I recall I wanted to do was to work for British Gas, just like my Dad did. Though I then wanted a career in football, but when I got to 12/13 years old and realised this was unlikely, I knew I wanted to be an accountant. Yes, at 12 years old! I think originally this was because I liked numbers and always excelled at maths, though when you get into work you realise that understanding business and what impacts performance is much more important.

What makes you different from other Finance Directors and makes you stand out?

Firstly, I want to say that there are some fantastic Finance Directors out there and all of us have different strengths. Cultural fit is so important within any business, along with the rapport you have with the people you are working with. People buy people and ultimately you need to be working with someone you believe you can work best with.

I believe one of my biggest strengths is explaining finance to non-finance people, cutting out the jargon and using relatable examples. I like to understand what is going on in a business outside finance, so if I am working in a manufacturing business, I want to get out on the production floor, not be sat behind a desk in an office all day.

I am straight talking and I will call a spade a spade, which is why I think I am able to build strong relationships with founders who like to know where they stand. Understanding what is important to a client early in the relationship is vital as this can determine how you are going to work with them.

What have been the biggest challenges and successes in your career so far?

Early in my career one of the biggest challenges I came up against was that I didn’t have a degree or an ACA qualification. This did close doors initially but looking back now this has helped shape the person I have become, and I wouldn’t change any of it.  also ended up being made redundant a couple of times early in my career, the first time just after I had bought my first property. That was a challenging time, but I saw it as an opportunity to use what I had learnt to that point in my career and apply it in a different environment. I did some temporary work to keep the money coming in until I could find the right permanent role and it all worked out in the end. I think this challenge early in my career is one of my biggest successes as it drove me to keep going and see what was possible. This created a basis on how I wanted to never be in that situation again and made me more determined to succeed in my career.

One of my biggest successes was being joint 5th in the world on my CIMA final level financial strategy paper. It was a big surprise for me and something that will stay with me forever.

What advice would you give to young accountants starting out their career?

  • Understand what is your why? What is your motivating factor in doing this? If accountancy isn’t for you do something else.
  • Network – this is so important and can help so much throughout your career.
  • Listen to and observe the successful people you work with.
  • Work hard – there are no shortcuts.
  • Be yourself.

I have enjoyed my career and part of that journey has been making mistakes and learning from them. I am still learning and will continue to learn as things constantly change. Enjoy the journey!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

As an accountant my first boss always used to tell me cash is king. I suppose this piece of advice is as relevant now as it ever has been, and I would urge all business owners to ensure they have a grasp of their cash flow.

Outside work my parents always taught me to try my best and every day I measure myself against that metric.

What is the funniest thing to ever happen to you in the workplace? – don’t hold back!

I was working with a business on a part-time basis and one day on my way into the office I get a call from the owner telling me that he would be a bit late in, but there were some things in the boardroom so to go have a look before he got in. I walked into the boardroom to find table football, a basketball arcade game along with Mario and Sonic fluffy toys! The first thing I did was take a picture and send it to my kids, who were jealous.

As I sat in the boardroom working that day it made me realise why I enjoy working with entrepreneurs, even thinking about it now brings a smile to my face.

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