We have had a good relationship with Helen for a number of years – going back to when Helen started her career at DB Schenker.
Helen was always destined to be a fantastic CFO and leader; extremely talented, driven, and passionate about what she does, the traits for success were always there. Those same traits are still evident every time you meet with Helen, which is why she is one of the most sought after CFO’s in the Yorkshire region.
After beginning her career with DB Schenker, Helen quickly rose through the ranks at retailer Wilko, before landing her first CFO appointment at Xercise4Less, where after two years of hard work, including securing funding rounds and significantly improving performance within finance and the wider team, concluded a successful exit.
I started my career in a commercial support role, moving into new business development, business partnering and further commercial roles. I came to a crossroads where I needed to decide whether to continue in finance or move to an operational role. I decided on finance given the investment to get the ACCA qualification so moved to a more technical role which much to my amazement I thoroughly enjoyed as it stretched me, as technical does not come easily to me! This then allowed me to progress my career through to CFO as I had the depth and breadth required.
I’ve always been interested in how businesses run, what makes them tick, what makes them effective (or not!) After graduating with a Business Finance degree and 6 months travelling, I knew I had to settle down and start a career. I decided to move into Accounting to gain a further qualification that is always with you and is as valuable in recessions as it is in better times. I chose the ACCA route as it allowed me to get straight into business whilst keeping my options open for the future.
I’m passionate about understanding the business and its proposition. That is at the forefront of everything I do – how the business interacts with its customers and why the business exists; what purpose it fulfils. The decisions the business takes will drive the financial results, not the other way round. By understanding what drives the results, you can concentrate on how to improve them. Managing the numbers, not the key value drivers, is the wrong way of looking at it. I love getting to know people, building relationships and seeing the impact you can have. People make the difference in any good business so understanding what makes them tick and how you can help develop them is exciting.
I’ve been really fortunate to have had so many experiences in my career. Some of the successes include the turnaround of Xercise4Less and ultimate sale to JD Gyms, the transformation of the finance team there and watching the team grow on the journey. I’ve had a fair few challenges too; probably the one I learnt most from was taking on too much, allowing factors beyond my control to really affect my health and confidence. I lost sight of what matters to me and what values I hold true, but looking back, this really taught me to keep these at the heart of what I do and not stand for situations that conflict with them.
Remember the mistakes you make will teach you far more than the successes you have. Embrace them and learn from them but do not let them knock your confidence.
Oh and ask a lot of questions… always seek to learn new stuff – the more you learn the more you realise how little you know, which is what makes it exciting.
A travel photographer or a racehorse trainer.
I have had many an embarrassing moment and I could probably have spent most of my time just answering this question… the one I will share with you is on taking Berocca when feeling slightly under the weather - I didn’t realise they were meant to be dissolved in water. I popped them in my mouth, straight from the tube and then went straight into a Board meeting. The PAs found it very amusing when I emailed them 5 minutes in to tell them I was foaming at the mouth and nose with orange Berocca…!
In our third and final article, Paul Davies provides advice to any business considering a public listing in 2022
Sarah is one of our region’s leading female CFOs. She is passionate about what she does and is an exceptional finance professional. We were delighted when she agreed to share her journey to such a successful career.
Gareth Hague has led two listings over the past four years. Today, he shares with you his informed views on IPOs from a CFO’s perspective in Yorkshire.
London Main Market and AIM listings rose significantly in 2021 across the UK. Yorkshire was a strong part of this trend and we continue to speak to SMEs who are considering or actively planning for IPOs as their preferred exit route.
The landscape, experiences from those involved and some expert advice and considerations