#360: Why Having The Right Forecast Is Missing The Point with Gordon Stuart

Our Guest Mentor: 

Gordon Stuart is the Chief Financial Officer at Unit4. He is an experienced finance and business leader with a demonstrated history across 4 decades of working and leading change across the services, technology, and telecoms sectors. His responsibilities include Mergers & Acquisitions, Business Strategy, Finance and Restructuring/business transformation. 

Gordon spends his discretionary time with his family as well as watching and playing sports. He holds a BSc from Strathclyde University an ACA designation and is based out of Surrey, England 

Key Quotes from the Episode: 

[On the purpose of forecasting] “So from a forecasting perspective, it’s not about getting the right forecast, but it’s understanding what the boundaries might be of the possible outcomes that you face. And once you’ve got that and you understand those end points, you can feel you can make decisions to help out.” [07:59] 

[On having a consulting approach] “From the time I spent doing consulting, essentially, it’s about taking a problem, distilling it down into what the problem components are, and then trying to communicate back to people, how to tackle that. And I think that to me is very much the goal I think finance should play. It’s understanding the business model. What the lead was.”  [08:29] 

[On communication] “A long time ago, somebody told me that the objective when you’re communicating with people is not to make the people think that you’re clever. The objective is to make sure that they understand the message and the urgency for action. The fact that you might be super clever and can tell them all the great analysis you did to get to this answer is irrelevant. You need to be able to just communicate and get the message across. So this is what’s important and this is why, and how you get people engaged.” [11:41] 

Key Points from the Episode: 

  • the purpose of forecasting really is and how Gordon draws from his early consulting experiences with McKinsey has informed how he approaches his Finance work 
  • We examine artificial intelligence (AI) and why businesses are slow in adopting technologies like this but also where it can be readily deployed in Finance 
  • The real objective of communication and where finance professionals can improve the effectiveness of their communications with decision makers 
  • The importance of collecting experiences like badges 

Stamped Show Notes 

[02:44] Gordon gives a quick introduction to his journey in accounting and finance and the importance of understanding your heritage. 

[05:58] We discuss what’s exciting him most about his work on finance at the moment and why we can’t keep doing the same thing all the time and what the purpose of forecasting really is. 

[08:24] Gordon shares how his consulting experience informed how he approaches his role in finance, particularly where we should be putting our focus. 

[9:28] We examine artificial intelligence (AI) and why businesses are slow in adopting technologies like this. 

[11:12] Gordon answers how we might be able to encourage people to plan today and eliminate outdated thinking. 

[12:19] Gordon shares tips where finance professionals can improve the effectiveness of their communications with decision makers. 

[13:18] We discuss more about where AI could be deployed in finance and accounting 

[19:50] Gordon mentions the best advice he has ever received and the importance of collecting experiences like badges 

[23:12] Resources that Gordon recommends 

[28:12] How best to connect with Gordon 

[29:12] Gordon gives his parting thoughts for the audience 

Resources Mentioned: 

Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/  

Connect with today’s guest: 

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/gordon-stuart-1b24377/  

Full Transcript:  


[00:00:30] Andrew: Hi everyone. And welcome to this week’s strength in the numbers. Hope you’ve all been having a great week and really excited to share another conversation with you at this time. It’s with Gordon Stewart, he’s the chief financial officer at unit four, and as much as Gordon now lives in the south of India, he is a Scot. 

[00:00:47] So I found Celt. So we started our conversation, talking a bit about  

[00:00:51] Andrew (2): our  

[00:00:52] Andrew: heritage, but then we get into the purpose of forecasting, what it really is. And it might be not what you say. So we have a very good conversation around that. And also Gordon gives us some very good tips about how his early consulting experiences with McKinsey have informed how we approached his finance work today. 

[00:01:11] And we can all benefit from that experience. 

[00:01:13] We examine artificial intelligence. Why some businesses might be slow in adopting technologies like this, but also where it can be readily deployed and finance. And I’d also be interested to get your thoughts on what Gordon views the real objective of communication, and some tips that he’s found that works, where finance professionals can improve the effectiveness of our communications with decision-makers. I really love some of Gordon’s parting advice, particularly around the collecting experiences like badges, because it resonates so much with what we’re trying to do here with strengthen the numbers is hop. 

[00:01:49] You collect in those badges by sharing so many experiences with the likes of Gordon and other great mentors and finance out there. So the cope really enjoyed this episode as a, as much as I did catching up Oprah. If you did, we really appreciate it when you share it to show with your friends and colleagues, you can subscribe on all the major platforms, iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, YouTube, Spotify, and Amazon music. 

[00:02:10] Of course, if you want to find out more about Gordon detailed times, I’m show notes, the transcript of our conversation and how to connect with Gordon plus more, you can find out at sitnshow.com And thanks again for tuning in today, but for now I think that’s enough for me. So without further ado, over to Gordon on the show,  

[00:02:27] Gordon, welcome to the show. 

[00:02:33] Gordon: Thank you very much. Hope all is well with you.  

[00:02:36] Andrew: It is. Yeah. It’s our pleasure to have you. I know we’ve had a good chat previously, but some of our audience may not be as familiar with your background. So would you mind give us a quick intro to your journey in accounting and finance please. 

[00:02:46] Gordon: Sure. Yeah. It was more of a random walk with Johnny, I think. find myself these days as the CFO of Unit4. We are an enterprise software business focused on people-centric industries where people are the kind of key thing of what they use to deliver their services.  

[00:03:00] I’ve been doing CFO roles around technology and services for the last 20 years or so. Most of the nineties, I spent doing management consulting. Qualified as an accountant before I went into that and started my career many years ago making steel.  

[00:03:15] Andrew: Was that making steel?  

[00:03:16] Gordon: Yeah. Yeah. I was a steelmaker to begin with.  

[00:03:19] Andrew: How’d you go from being a steelmaker to the world of finance?  

[00:03:22] Gordon: I worked for a British Steel in the mid 1980s. Which was, I wouldn’t say the heyday of British industry, but it was a tough time for British industry. It was the middle of the kind of fracture, a lot of industrial strife and turmoil. And I decided life in accountancy and finance sounded a lot more attractive. So I jumped ship.  

[00:03:43] Andrew: Yeah, it’s actually quite funny. Yeah, I suppose that way you appreciate the finance and the accounting work much more. It’s definitely much safer.  

[00:03:49] Gordon: Yeah, it’s real that we have people dying on the job, so to speak, but  

[00:03:53] Andrew: Yeah, though, I have to say, I do have a soft spot for your part of the world up in Scotland. A lot of my early mentors in accounting or finance were actually Scott. I learned an awful lot from them, but I did feel there was a disproportionate amount of accountants came out with Scotland. 

[00:04:07] Is that anything to do 

[00:04:08] Gordon: I don’t know actually. Everywhere you go around the world you’ll bump into Scottish accountants. Maybe they were the ones that had the wisdom to escape.  

[00:04:16] But yeah. I do think that with the passing of time, I’ve become more Scottish. As the links you have start to lengthen your mind. My parents. There’s less of them than there were around then. You search to find ties to the places that mean something to you.  

[00:04:30] Andrew: Yeah, it was interesting. My wife got me one of those DNA tests, heritage.com or something like that. I probably butchered that. I don’t know if you’ve come across it. 

[00:04:37] Gordon: I’ve got two that I haven’t been able to use in my cupboard.  

[00:04:39] Andrew: Oh, geez. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:04:41] Gordon: basically. In case it comes out on English.  

[00:04:43] Andrew: Yeah I think some of our audience will appreciate that. I had a similar fear. And I have to say I’ve got a lot of English friends, I say that in jest, like yourself, Gordon, but you just don’t know what kind of worms is going to open. So thank goodness when I got the results back. Glad to say, Celt but also 21% Scandinavian. 

[00:05:00] And maybe that’s why we’ve got so many listeners out there. They’ve got some relatability there, but yeah, that was a bit of shock. So you don’t know what kind of worms you open up because my father, I said, dad, where does the Scandinavian come from? Absolutely no idea. 

[00:05:11] Gordon: Yeah. And people don’t have, unless they’re going to look for it, don’t have a hugely detailed understanding of where they came from.  

[00:05:17] You maybe know yourself two or three generations back because they were around when you were around. But once you get that follow back and unless you’ve gone to ask, you don’t find. Both your country and my country, so this is a people from the 16, 17, 18th century.  

[00:05:32] Andrew: But it’s all that movement around or whatever, but one thing that’s been fairly constant and I think there’s been a very good heritage is actually in accounting and finance. It’s one of the oldest professions out there. As long as businesses wanted to make decisions they’ve needed us to record data.  

[00:05:44] Then more lately with where you’ve been working, technology and services, is actually do something with that, help them understand the future. What sort of exciting you about most of your work on finance at the moment? 

[00:05:54] Gordon: Gosh. There’s so many things happening just now, in terms of the great return to work. Another thing you keep seeing there is the great resignation where everyone’s changing jobs, because they’ve got fed up for the last 18 months. So there’s a lot.  

[00:06:06] I think within that, in my job in Unit4, me trying to keep the ship steady and understand where things are going and the new tooling and particularly our race to find better ways of forecasting, better ways of doing scenario planning, being more adaptive. 

[00:06:23] We did a thing recently on IDI. I’m looking to see how does that change what you do. And like everything that comes out, it takes a while for people to work out what it does best and how best to address it. The challenges and the issues that they face. But it’s not always immediately apparent what the benefit of something is going to be. 

[00:06:41] There’s plenty of things I’ve heard about wanting 10 to 20.  

[00:06:43] Andrew: Hundred percent, but I suppose, look, in forecasting, businesses look to us a lot to do that better. Given probably a lot of people’s forecasts went out the window a couple of years ago, 18 months ago, has the usefulness been diminished or actually people need forecast now more than ever? 

[00:06:59] Gordon: The days where you could write a plan for five years and then four, I think it might materialize. I can count on behind us. And I think that’s probably been the case for quite a long period of time.  

[00:07:11] Andrew: You  

[00:07:12] Gordon: The businesses that I’ve worked in for the last 20, 25 years, the one constant on the thing that’s probably attracted me to them as well, has been that we couldn’t just keep doing the same thing. They had to reinvent themselves because of regulation, competition, technology, ownership, structures. 

[00:07:30] I think that the role that I feel I play is helping the business to understand the business more. I’ve always had a kind of natural curiosity about how things work. I’m not that kind of probably forced in to me by some science at universities and engineering. I wanted to know how things worked. How does the business make money, understanding one of the kind of key drivers, one of the risk areas and being able to plot a course through that. 

[00:07:55] So from a forecasting perspective, it’s not getting the right forecast, but it’s understanding what the boundaries might be of the possible outcomes that you face. And once you’ve got that and you understand those end points, you can feel you can make decisions to help out.  

[00:08:11] Andrew: It jumped into my head. There’s a saying, the art of the possible. So is it like, we’re now figuring out how to leverage technology and our questioning of the business model to figure out the art of the possible. Maybe finance, is it a sort of a science a bit behind that, or is it still a bit of an art? 

[00:08:25] Gordon: From the time I spent doing consulting, essentially it’s about taking a problem, distilling it down into what the problem components are, and then trying to communicate back to people, how to tackle that. And I think that to me is very much the goal I think finance should play. It’s understanding the business model. What the lead was. 

[00:08:41] And when you start thinking about where are you going to invest, what you’re going to focus on, you focus on the big believers, not the small believers. And I think often organizations can miss that because some of these got a pet idea or something around a particular issue, item, topic that they go full speed on, but it’s the wrong thing because it doesn’t move the dial. And in days where you’re resource constrained, time constrained, then you’ll focus on the big stuff. 

[00:09:08] Andrew: Obviously we’re very keen on resources, but you don’t get time back. So if you’re spending time going off to the wrong thing, that’s a big waste.  

[00:09:15] Yeah. Geez. And then I suppose actually you did mention the study. I did get a chance to look at some of the numbers. 

[00:09:21] Was there anything that stood out to you, Gordon, that made sense given where we are now? 

[00:09:24] Gordon: Yeah, if you can rationalize most things when you see for sale and tell the story around it. I don’t think the finance community is afraid of AI. I think everyone gets it and what you see across most walks of life now is people generally are adopting technology much faster in their personal life than they do in business life. Business is always a little bit of a lagger in following some of that.  

[00:09:47] Andrew: Yeah. I’ve always wondered about that. They’ll download the next biggest app, but when it comes to a business, it’s just the speed is not there. What’s going on? 

[00:09:55] Gordon: Yeah. There’s reasons for that. Businesses take a long time to tell tone. There’s a lot of people in organizations that can take a lot of time to reorient to how they do things, how they think about things. Or there can be just this tsunami of innovation transformation that sometimes you get a bit overwhelmed by.  

[00:10:11] I’ve been in both sides of this one, but, occasionally you can just find it, try to drink too much from the fire hose. You can’t quite see the interoperability of all the different component parts. And then you get the worst of all worlds where people develop and deploy technology in a silent way. 

[00:10:28] That kind of replicates it over here of what somebody is already done over here in a different way. And then, two years down the line, you’re doing the rationalization exercise that they tried to duplicate technology.  

[00:10:38] Andrew: Yeah, I was thinking, so planning is quite key there. But then I was thinking, that keeps the consultants employed to some degree, keeps the cycles going around. In finance that’s quite frustrating because a lot of times we do see, we can connect the dots quite well. And we can see those things happening in real time.  

[00:10:52] How do we, one, convince people it’s a good idea to plan even in this environment that we’re in, and then second, bring people to the table, if that hasn’t happened already to eliminate some of their silo thinking, which I think a lot of us think now is a bit outdated really? It’s not constructive. 

[00:11:08] Gordon: One of the things that I tried to do is to keep it simple. People go, yeah, the business is simple, every business has got complexity and in the same way that every business is interesting, you don’t have what’s across a lot of different industries. Things that appear uninteresting has a kind of dissonance yeah but once you’re in the heat of it, the issues are great. They’re engaging. They’re tough. But I think, trying to distill it down back to the leavers point. Trying to distill it down into what’s the essence that is going to make the business successful and then keep the focus on that.  

[00:11:37] A long time ago, somebody told me that the objective when you’re communicating with people is not to make the people think that you’re clever. The objective is to make sure that the understand the message and the urgency for action. The fact that you might be super clever and can tell them all the great analysis you did to get to this answer is irrelevant. 

[00:11:55] You need to be able to just communicate and get the message across. So this is what’s important and this is why, and then you get people engaged in trying to.  

[00:12:03] Andrew: I love that advice. Do you have any sort of tips yourself for making that happen? Because I know some people are very good at using analogies to make something that’s complex that they’ve done an analysis a bit more real. Do you have any tips or good analogies you’ve heard over the years? 

[00:12:15] Gordon: I think when it’s a good analogy, it works. I think sometimes people reach for analogies that are a bit strained and then they start building one analogy until, for another hour and then end up with a sub discussion.  

[00:12:28] I like numbers. I like pictures and images. And being able to show the cause and effect type size, or maybe it’s not so much an image, but just being able to get people to understand why something happens the way it does. If that’s as exciting as trying to explain to sales guys the consequences or contract structure, giving you this implication for revenue recognition, they’re not interested in the masses and readings of accounting standards that make that happen. 

[00:12:56] But if you can show them the picture of, if that goes, that goes and that goes, then there’s the answer. 

[00:13:00] Andrew: I loved that idea about the building the analogies and simplifying things down to pictures. With artificial intelligence, we were talking about a minute ago, that has the danger of complicating things even more, how do we just make sure we keep it simple as you were saying? 

[00:13:15] Gordon: Yeah. I think artificial intelligence, you need to think about whereabouts in your people. Is your technology stack or your application or your business processes that you deployand what you’re getting out from it. At the base level, it can drive anomaly detection, where something comes through the system and it looked wrong and they can get weeded out straight away, where you can pick up duplicates. We sometimes use that across some expense claims for things that just look hard and it just pulls up and highlights that. 

[00:13:45] It saves you looking for the needle in the haystack. At the other end of the stage, where I think we talked about this in the past, the thing that I like about it when you use it in forecasting, is it can help to remove this optimism bias that we’ve talked about before, where people generally want to assume the good things happen rather than bad things. And there’s this natural route of the worst case wouldn’t happen. And the worst case you get is never really the worst case. As I said, as a non-exec over the last few years and the number of boards , that’s one of the things that I find that I have to continually challenge executives on. Is this really the worst case?  

[00:14:22] Andrew: Yeah. Good question. 

[00:14:23] Gordon: You got the worst case in a board meeting, and then the next month they come back and they’ve got a much worst case. So it’s like how could that’ve been the worst case? What did you not test or what did you not believe? And I think, with AI, you can remove some of that and you can actually drive it from the fact base to give you the range of outcomes. You might not like them all, but at least you can see, from a modeling perspective, that outcome is possible, and then you can work to make sure it doesn’t happen. And you can mitigate it out.  

[00:14:50] That I think is the other end. I’m trying to look at AI as complementing judgment as opposed to replacing routine. I think it takes a while for businesses to feed into that one. 

[00:15:02] Andrew: I think you’re right. One thing I see a massive application we saw previously, is this idea of optionality as well. Is help maybe broaden the base for optionality. So yeah, people might be more optimistic, but they might hone in just on one solution when actually there might be some other ones that are more low hanging fruit. faster that type of thing. 

[00:15:23] Gordon: Yeah, you don’t want to walk all the doors before you.  

[00:15:27] Andrew: Yes. 

[00:15:28] Gordon: It just helps. It’s another kind of underpinning all of that kind of comfort blanket, that that has been tested. The modeling is done. You can see what the outcomes might be. 

[00:15:36] Andrew: I think a key area this now, and again, it’s for those that work with sales organizations, operational organizations, it’s just like you’re sandbagging. People like to stuff a little bit extra in their conversations, particularly sales forecasts, having just a bit of augmented help from AI takes the emotion out of the process. And they’ve definitely used it in the past to say, guys, look, appreciate that’s the forecast. This is what the machine is saying. Can you help me try and bridge the gap here? Is the machine really wrong because we know it come the end of the month, at the end of the quarter, who’s more right, but can you help me understand here? And more often than not actually it was picking up sandbagging, which was good. At least it wasn’t the other way around, but if you already had a funny instances of this augmented assistants. 

[00:16:15] Gordon: Yeah. We totally see that. Cause we have some AI embedded within one of our sales forecasting tools. And typically what happens is you’re heading toward the quarter end. The application is saying one thing and the sales guys are going up to a different number. And what happens is that as you get closer and closer to the end of the period, they get closer and closer to the AI forecast and then you go, oh, that was right, wasn’t it.  

[00:16:36] Andrew: Yeah this is just the thing. It’s scary, cause there’s this human nature sometimes like thermostats. Sales, they hit their number more towards the end of the quarter and they won’t do it steady, and they tend to adopt similar behaviors, which allows you to introduce probability distributions and use these tools. So I think it’s great. And again, it takes the focus off of us. We didn’t come up with this. It was this machine over here, but what do you think. Help me understand the gap. 

[00:16:57] Gordon: Yeah, interestingly, through the course of the last 18 months, if you figure that’s unreasonably unnatural, 

[00:17:04] Andrew: That’s a good point. 

[00:17:06] Gordon: The AI forecasting is still pretty good. Obviously it is replicating off the bank of datasets from previous years but when you’ve disrupted the data, it’s still coming out with something that ends up being pretty close to the answer we’ve actually ended up with. 

[00:17:19] Andrew: Yeah. You did start as an accountant. Historical records do count for something. If they’re captured properly, and they’re clean, they’re not misrepresented, they actually can be used to forecast better with. I definitely get that. 

[00:17:30] Gordon: Just one thing you mentioned in that I think is important is understanding how clean the historic data is, because if you’re going to try and build off of pattern recognition from there and that data is corrupted or whatever. We’ve spent a lot of time in trying to make sure our historic data is consistent with how we reflect and present data now. This is a big exercise. There’s millions of  

[00:17:54] Andrew: When people think accountants potentially are irrelevant. I actually would challenge that. I agree I think these are really great skills in accounting when it comes to data, particularly verification, validation, reconciliation, things like that. 

[00:18:05] If you want to earn the right to project forward and work in this space as a business advisor and a consultant or a coach of businesses you need to have good fundamentals. Good accounting is fundamental to that. You’re not going to make better decisions. I’m glad we stopped on that point, gordon. 

[00:18:19] Gordon: Just talking about fundamentals, when I get stuck and we’re doing something, I ask my guys to give me the double-entry. Walk me through the double-entry working here. I’ve worked with number of CEOs over the years and pretty much every CEO you work with gets the P&L. They get revenue, they get cost of sales, SG&A, they get that. They stop when you get to either dab, so I’ll lose interest in stuff before that, but they get the top. They’re okay. 

[00:18:40] I’m assigning the balance sheet and the cash flow and how the tie-out is something that you not find the need to do coaching at times to just make sure we get the holistic picture. And I think, understanding the fundamentals of how those statements fit together is pretty important.  

[00:18:56] Andrew: That’s right. It’s open entry actually comes in. I smiled at him because like how did you fill that bottle? It’s just basic for us, because we just understand the double entry, what goes where, so you’ve got a P&L but how does the balance sheet or how does the cash flow look? 

[00:19:08] But actually businesses really enjoy understanding that. Yeah.  

[00:19:11] Gordon: Yeah.  

[00:19:12] Andrew: So no, definitely don’t write off that training. I think it’s more important nowadays, particularly with cash has been very much in focus.  

[00:19:18] Gordon: Yeah. Yeah. And for the deal with the investment community and public companies. So a lot of the time you need to get those guys to understand. They’re great building models, but the models often on fully integrated to catch all the different bits. So coaching them as well, useful skill.  

[00:19:34] Andrew: Yeah, you just took me back to my private equity days. That’s a story for another time though I think, Gordon.  

[00:19:38] You’ve given us great advice so far, but I suppose what’s been the best bit of advice you’ve ever received? 

[00:19:43] Gordon: Based on the fact that, as it described how I’ve got to what I’m doing. I wouldsay that I wouldn’t overplan that career. I think in the days of linear careers are pretty much over. I’ve seen how many jobs people like to have over the course of their lifetime.  

[00:19:56] People coming into workforce now have got a tough start because they’ve lost that, 18 months, two years of apprenticeship learning period. I think learn from people right above you is possibly one of the most important things in this. It’s been difficult when your engagement with your managers or leaders in businesses is boxed into a 14 by 10 inch screen. And at the end of the meeting, you had leave and you don’t get that chat in the car or the taxi, or go on a coffee.  

[00:20:23] So I think trying to find a way to learn from people around about you. As you move through an organization, I’ve always tried to treat everyone as a peer, so clearly horizontally. Because if you start treating people like that’s how they treat you by, in my experience. And if you do that with a degree of confidence, they have more confidence in you as well. The people that always wanting approval for every bit of what they’ve done, you tend to treat them as like they need approval. So treat everyone’s a peer.  

[00:20:51] Collect experiences. It’s the badges you pick up along the way are important. And, again, I feel the guys that work with me just know we’ve been talking about this, that, if they want to be a CFO and the next how many years, what are the things that they need some exposure to and done. There’s a lot that comes back to the size of organization. If you are on some massive multi-national with hundreds of thousands of people and hundreds of business units, then it’s quite easy to, within that organization, have a semi of linear career. You go from this to this. But in organizations the size of our organization, we’ve got two and a half, 3000 people. We operate about across 20 countries. But we don’t have a standard business unit structure. You can’t give people roles here. Like you can be the CFO of that business unit, which is a fully functioning business. You have to deal with everything from tax to treasury to accounting, to FP&A. And we’re much more kind of functional. 

[00:21:44] So try and get the guys exposed to the things that you need to do. Don’t be afraid of the hard things. I think again, we spoke before, back in 2008, 2009, I learned more about banking documents than I thought I’d ever want to possibly ever planned. And, it was hard yards at the time. Cause we needed to understand inside out what we could and couldn’t do and what the restrictions were during the financial crisis. But no. I’m really comfortable dealing with all of the refinancing activity because I’ve been through these things. Upside down, back to front. Just do that and cause you know you learn more from difficult times than you do from easy times.  

[00:22:22] Andrew: I think the key word, Gordon, is resiliency. Those experience build resiliency. And I think whether that goes for a career perspective or non-career. Seeking out experiences. Definitely. I remember when I came up with this podcast was actually one thing we all have in common when it comes to experiences, I started to work. 

[00:22:38] If you want to engage so many conversations, you talk about food. We all have our favorite foods. We’ve all had experience of food. It seems a good one.It’s a b it better than the weather. 

[00:22:46] Gordon: It’s safer than football.  

[00:22:49] Andrew: Oh God. Yeah. It depends what part of the world’s. You don’t know what kind of worms you’re opening up there, but yeah, no. Yeah, that was a trip to Scotland once I’ll never forget. But no, great advice. I love that one, Gordon. And I suppose, resources that you found useful, or maybe any other books or websites you find useful we check out? 

[00:23:04] Gordon: You learn from everything. Sometimes the book’s fake, and there’s not an awful lot of things you learn from it. And other times it’s, just a short article that you’ve learned from. But my inbox is a deluge of stuff that comes into on a daily basis. And it’s interesting that you can see a trend over the last few years. What’s the big consultancies, whether it’s Bain and McKinsey, they’ve realized that this is happening because they not all have the kind of five minute reading exercises. It’s like there’s five minutes a day.  

[00:23:34] Those are quite good. If something gets you up, see a hundred pages long and say you need to read this. You’re like okay when do I want to do that? I’m not naturally good at picking out 300-page books and reading them. One of the jobs I was in a couple of years back, we used to get these abstracts on business books and essentially it was all like six pages, six sides of A4 and it gave you the key thing. 

[00:23:55] And that’s, just fantastic because you can bounce it through. It’s 10 minutes and if it’s something that kind of engaged your interest, you can then go and find out more. Show me what it looks like and we’ll see if I want to do more. And so I say that the big consultancies produce some stuff as good. I think during the different waves that we’ve gone through with the pandemic. That’s been pretty good. And interestingly, they’ve all taken slightly different positions, not contrary positions, but they’ve taken a different path in the kind of food chain. 

[00:24:20] Some of them have been very focused on the operational, the people aspects. All of themhave been focused on leadership. And I’ve always been focused on kind of structural things. So there’s been a kind of good mix and it doesn’t feel to me like they’ve all been competing to get advice on the same thing.  

[00:24:33] And Harvard Business Review has got quality stuff and was something that appreciate. Again, an eclectic set of reference. Business books tend to, I wouldn’t say go stale. Some of them in sales has been running for quite a long time and it’s a good story. 

[00:24:48] But when you go through all the different cycles, people were I was wrong and then the cycle changes that are going on. It was right. It was wrong. It was right. 

[00:24:55] I remember seeing an article on the newspapers about where the consultancies and they’d done a big transformation program for our business, back in the seventies. 

[00:25:03] And it moved from a geographical operation to a functional. And the paper was being critical that 20 years later, they were reversing that. Guess what the world was changed, different models. So I think, let’s say optionality of the keys in today’s world to be successful in the business. Try and stand still. You gotta be finding in what’s the next gig to make it work.  

[00:25:23] Andrew: I do think that’ll round some key disciplines and I think a lot of our audience, they’re exposed to the accounting and finance space. It’s good discipline to be in. Does give you a lot of optionality in different parts of the business. Actually, someone was giving me some statistic about the number of finance professionals that go and become CEOs. 

[00:25:38] I think second, only to sales. That’s one route to being the top role in an organization and you don’t even have to carry a crochet to get there. Although a lot of finance leaders are making the jump to sell to so I was around but. 

[00:25:50] Gordon: I think that in some organizations, many organizations, you need to make sure that people realize what you’re bringing to the table. And a lot of that I think, Andrew, gets driven by, who’s your predecessor? How did they do the job? Because if you’re following a bunch of CFOs that went before you that were very kind of accounting and kind of finance oriented, and you want to be a bit more kind of commercial. It can take a bit of an order. I saw a paradigm shift for the organization to realize that you’ve actually got a point of view and can add value. 

[00:26:23] Andrew: We needed something to rally around. 

[00:26:25] Gordon: Yeah, same with, CEOs that you work with now. I’ve always made a point that I would never go into the CFO of an organization where the previous CFO is now the CEO.  

[00:26:34] Andrew: Right. 

[00:26:35] Gordon: Cause I’m not sure that I would want the ” That’s not the way I did it” type mindset. Many CFOs that do move in their organizations don’t do that. 

[00:26:43] Andrew: But it is interesting. At least you’ve thought it through. And I think that’s what I would’ve encouraged our audience to do is if you ever have to make a step like that, it’s just half of you on that. Whether it’s from an experience or its actually you’ve thought it through. Have an experience. 

[00:26:55] Gordon: Yeah. The other week, I was asking about how’d you build the relationship with your CEO, which is an interesting question because, it’s a personality thing as much as anything else. There’s no secret answer to it. I’ve always found that.  

[00:27:08] Do the things well that they expect you to do well. Surprise them in the upside on some other things. And do the things for them that they don’t like doing. Make their life easier. I say that to the guys that worked for me. It’s if you want to do anything that’s my job. I’m more than happy for you to do it. It gives me time to focus on things I want to do. That’s worked for me. Fortunately, I’ve worked for a great CEO that have recognized I’m helping them out. And also that I do the fundamentals well.  

[00:27:37] Andrew: It’s a great point. And I think sometimes again, we’re often overlooked in our assets in finance. We’ve got this great ability to see broadly across the organizations. We can connect the dots, great training, access to data, access to decision makers, made for us to step into a lot of areas if we wanted to. 

[00:27:52] But again, it comes to knowing what we want, as well as what other people want, and then seeing where we can marry the two. So great advice, Gordon. 

[00:27:59] I suppose, look if our audience wish to continue the conversation, where’s the best place to connect with you at? 

[00:28:03] Gordon: We’re continually on LinkedIn. We got a pretty good presence on LinkedIn. We push a lot of stuff out through that. I connect with more or less anyone that wants to connect.  

[00:28:10] I’ll tell you about way back in the distant past. Like this would be 30 plus years ago. I went to some was that some seminar, or something. And the guy was saying, when you get the forms and it says, tick here if you wanted more information about this product or whatever. He says, I always tick it. And he says, cause what’s the worst thing that happens. They send me something not interesting and I can put it in the bin. But I’ll get some random stuff that really interests me. 

[00:28:34] And I do it. My mind for you about like collecting experiences, collecting contact points, the more you have, the more people out there that will potentially be able to help you or whatever. You never know.  

[00:28:45] Andrew: I love that. I’ll put links in the show notes there, Gordon. Thanks to those. And actually that story made me smile. I could imagine a lot of those. I always have a tough decision to make at those times. Do I really want to tick the box. But I think I’ll be a bit more open to it now. 

[00:28:59] And look, would you have any parting thoughts for our audience before we wrap up? 

[00:29:02] Gordon: As I get to the end of my career that I’m at and I think about what’s been the important things. We talked about some of them. I think there’s another thing I consider which is about, people can be very impatient and want to be promoted and move on. There’s balance between impatience and ambition. If you get it roll in either direction, it can be bad. So I would always encourage people to, be stretching themselves and what they do, but, be careful you’re not putting yourself in a position where you can’t do the job. And more importantly, that you don’t know what you can’t do. I know the things I’m good at.  

[00:29:35] Andrew: Yeah.  

[00:29:36] Gordon: And the things that I’m not good at, I get people that can do it to do it. If you don’t know what that spectrum looks like, you can get yourself in a bit of a bother. 

[00:29:46] Andrew: That comes back to experiences. Just giving it a go, right? Is what you’re saying. Then you find out but it comes back fundamentally understanding yourself better. I think that’s as much as you said maybe your career might’ve been random. I bet you those experiences have helped you better figure out who you are. What are your strengths are and experiences worth going after. 

[00:30:03] Gordon: Yeah,and I think another thing just in line to that is don’t be afraid to say you don’t know something.  

[00:30:07] Andrew: Completely agree.  

[00:30:08] Gordon: The number of times I sit in meetings and I hear stuff and I’m like, you don’t really know that, do you they go  

[00:30:16] Andrew: What gives it away? Is it the look? Is it their voice? What gives it away for you? 

[00:30:20] Gordon: It’s like casino Royale. You can tell. Whether go, they see and then immediately look dying or stop fiddling with a pen or look at a photo. Once you know people, you can tell. 

[00:30:30] Andrew: That’s right. 

[00:30:30] Gordon: It’s harder with people that you don’t know well, but, I’d never shy away from saying an issue about it.  

[00:30:37] Andrew: Having kids or whatever, you get very used to not assuming that when they say they know, you get them to walk it back through. I suppose I’ve got much more comfortable myself actually saying, yeah, I just don’t know. I just find it much faster and then someone can coach is what you need to do.  

[00:30:49] Gord, I really enjoyed our conversation. It was really good fun. I can’t believe the time’s flowing. I want to be respectful of time. So just want to say, thanks so much for being such a great guest Strength in the Numbers. 

[00:30:57] Gordon: Great. I really enjoyed it. Take care.  


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