Mark is currently CFO/COO of Mondottica in Nottingham, and has been with the business for 6 months now. Prior to this, Mark has enjoyed a progressive and successful career across several East Midlands businesses predominantly in the retail sector including Specsavers, Rutland Cycling, and more recently Motorpoint.

Mondottica is a global eyewear licensing business, established for over 20 years, that work with leading brands including Allsaints, Ted Baker, and Pepe Jeans.

Developing individuals and building high-performance teams has been a feature of each of your past roles. What is the secret to your success?

First and foremost, I treat people how I expect to be treated, and with respect and kindness. I started my career as a school leaver studying AAT before moving on to CIMA, so I know what it's like to operate at all levels so I can relate to what people want and feel. I try to put myself in their shoes and think about what they need and want. Further to this, I try to make people feel safe to make mistakes, grow and learn, and be the best version of themselves. The values I try to encourage are honesty, taking accountability and ownership, and just enjoying what you do. These values align perfectly with the values at Mondottica. Since becoming a finance leader one of my main priorities is people, as without them we are nothing.

How have innovations in technology helped you and affected the role of the Finance Director today?

Technology and data have always been a massive part of my journey and something I have always looked to utilise and embrace. In the last 5-7 years technology has really improved to help us in finance and the wider business. Here at Mondottica we are about to deliver the first stage of our data strategy - implementing a data warehouse and range of reporting tools like Power BI. I've seen it before and am confident that this will revolutionise how we operate as a business and enable us to make better, more informed decisions.

In some roles, I agree technology can replace people. In finance I believe it helps us get more out of our people, in replacing the mundane processing with thought-led value. I've seen a lot of businesses that spend all their time producing reports and data, and not enough time being able to read and action off the back of them. If we can minimise the time running reports and move all this time to thinking, analysing and actions then everyone wins. At Mondottica I look after Finance and IT so I can bring this project together to influence the whole business.

AI is such a buzzword at the moment, but I think we need to be careful of the journey we go on. I see businesses talking about AI and they don’t even have a robust data strategy or even operating systems in place. At Mondottica we will be able to start utilising AI once we have the data project live as this will come naturally using that data. If we can use machine learning or AI to tell us useful trends and information from our data then that will be powerful. We have recently employed a Data Scientist who is introducing some AI methods which will only grow as we grow our data capabilities.

Business Partnering is now an established demand for a finance function in any reasonably sized SME upwards. How has this evolved over the past ten years and how much further can it evolve?

I totally agree, business partnering is something I am passionate about. I believe our finance community is very well equipped to add a lot of value to all areas of a business and is a great investment. I have seen this more so in the larger well-established businesses, but have found it’s more of a struggle, and at its early stages in smaller SMEs and less developed businesses, who haven’t quite understood the value and just see it as additional cost. My approach to this where zero business partnering has existed in finance is to find efficiencies within the team, either through technology or processes, and then demonstrate an introduction to business partnering from our existing resources. Often you need to prove the point and get the buy-in. For things you are passionate about, just find a way to do it, even if it means rolling your sleeves up and doing it yourself.

We love to see CFOs taking on responsibility for commercial, operations, people, and technology. Please tell us a little bit about how your role is a combination of CFO and COO.

It’s why I love my role at Mondottica, and what attracted me. I see my skillset as more than finance - having had very commercial and operational experiences across my career it’s a chance to pull it all together. I look after all the operations and back office including warehousing, supply chain, customer service, IT, and of course Finance. Our CEO and CCO deliver the commercial opportunities and growth and it's my responsibility to make sure we support and enable the delivery to the end customer. Our People and Culture Director, Kate, then overlays all of this to ensure we have the right people doing the right things. We have a great leadership team in place and this is another factor for me enjoying my role at Mondottica.

What is your advice to young people considering a career in finance?

Make sure it's something you will enjoy doing. It's not just about numbers, although that helps enormously. It's an opportunity to play a pivotal role in any business and in any industry, and can lead you anywhere. Many CFOs become CEO’s. One of the main things I like about a career in finance is we can work in any market, industry or role, so you can have a wide variety of experiences. I myself have worked in manufacturing, retail, supply chain, e-commerce, and now find myself in fashion licensing and B2B. It is one of the most varied careers out there in that respect.

For me, the AAT route worked brilliantly, and I always refer back to the benefits that has given me. I left school knowing what I wanted to do so found studying AAT whilst working (and earning money) a great way to start climbing the ladder and getting experience. This led really well to becoming chartered CIMA and enabled me to continue to climb into senior management positions and now in leadership as CFO and COO. I am really proud of my story.

Finance is a great career!

What keeps you busy when you are not at work?

I have young children so most of my spare time is family time, making memories, and having fun. As they get older, we can share different experiences which do seem to be getting better. At the moment it is mountain biking, theme parks, and gaming.

Over the years I have learned that family time and your own time are really important. Personally, I think this gets the best out of you when you are at work and will contribute more to being the best version of yourself.

I've been in burnout cultures and those businesses were failing, so it has been a strong lesson and reflection for me. Businesses that understand the importance of people, outputs (over hours), and strong values tend to be more successful in my experience.

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