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.

Career Overview

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.

What made you decide to chose a career in accounting?

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

If you weren’t an accountant what would your dream job be?

A travel photographer or a racehorse trainer.

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

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…!

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Alex Mostyn-Jones
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Claire Screeton
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Marie Carroll
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