10 Questions with: Billy McCarter, Head of Finance at Business Stream

Billy is an experienced Senior Commercial Finance Leader who has built financial success and growth of businesses, across all sizes; small, medium and multinational within Recycling Solutions, Drinks and most recently Water Utilities sectors.

1. What does a typical day look like for you?

Interestingly, most of my time with Business Stream has been during Covid-19, so my role has been largely focused around our response to the impact of the pandemic. The first part of each day is a Teams call with my wider Finance Team; an opportunity for us to check in with each other every day to ensure we remain connected and understand and agree priorities After that, and apologies for the cliché, but no two days are usually ever the same! It can cover strategic priorities, cash/debt collection and performance analysis and reporting, to provide just a few examples.

2. What does Business Stream do and what attracted you to join the organisation?

Business Stream is one the largest water suppliers in the UK, a trusted retailer to over 340,000 businesses. Operating in the competitive retail water market for over twelve years, we provide a range of services to business customers to help them save money, time and water.

And through our vision to ‘Make a Positive Difference’ we are committed to ensuring we are doing the right thing by our customers, our people, local communities and the environment.

In terms of my attraction to the role, first and foremost it was around culture and values. I have seen first-hand the power this has on people within a company, and the difference it can make to business performance. I could see Business Stream placed great emphasis on this, for example through its ‘Making a Positive Difference’ vision and its strong employee engagement approach, which manifested itself in something as simple as feeling energy and positivity when I attended the office for my first interview.

Allied to this was the impressive growth it has gone through over the last few years, identifying itself as a company that doesn’t ‘rest on its laurels’ and that understands and knows how to manage the risks and opportunities within the market.

3. What defining career moments have there been for you so far and what career advice would you give yourself when you were younger if you could?

One of my earliest career defining moments was making the decision, which seemed like a tough choice at the time, to turn my back on a Big 4 audit position and pursue a career within ‘industry’ in a Management Account type role. Like most, the Big 4 and audit are strongly considered paths when nearing qualification, but my choice was really driven by the fact I enjoyed being within and impacting the ‘action’, rather than auditing.

I think that honesty and decisiveness has helped me achieve what I have to date. I would advise anyone to consider what they really see as a long term ‘purpose’ to their career; there is nothing more empowering than succeeding in an area you feel strong and confident in. Always be open to seek advice from others, but try to identify your purpose and ambition, and make your decision based on that.

In more recent times, moving into senior roles within Diageo allowed me to see first-hand the power and opportunity behind great leadership. It isn’t about knowing how to do everything, it’s about utilising and leading those who are subject matter experts in their areas to achieve great outcomes – I would advise everyone to make investing in your leadership one of your top priorities.

4. What does it take to be a successful leader?

The key attributes for a successful leader, for me, are honesty, trust, an ability to listen and direction. All of these attributes will enable you to pull together a team that will drive business performance and personal development.

I have seen a mix of leaders, the best displaying the attributes above. Where others haven’t been as strong, the most common denominator I find is a lack of clarity or direction. Often projects fail as ownership isn’t clear, which leads to ambiguity within a team, leading to underperformance. Ownership and clarity will act as drivers to help people perform strongly.

5. Having started your career within Finance as a Finance Analyst studying towards your ACCA, how do you feel this benefited your earlier career?

As mentioned briefly before, I was instantly ‘within’ the numbers rather than auditing them. The power of this for me was understanding early on the opportunities and risks within companies and, more importantly, how imperative it is that Finance engage with all areas of a business to support and drive business growth (or mitigate risk).

I have built some great relationships with good managers and leaders, which have significantly helped my personal development.

6. For those who might be interested in joining Business Stream’s Finance team – what kind of person do you look for?

I would look for someone who understands the power of business partnering. This exists in different ways, but all roles involve elements of partnering that allow for growth and best delivery of the role – no one person has all the answers. I’d want someone who will utilise the knowledge of others and share concerns – a team player.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times already, ownership is also key. I want people in my team who will deliver on what they say they will, and take pride in doing so. We all need support and guidance from peers or managers, and members of my team will always have that, but it is important that people take ownership for the part they play within the team.

And I also put a lot of importance in having a team that promotes engagement and openness and that has a sense of fun and togetherness. I want everyone to feel appreciated and empowered to build a team ‘brand’, be that through engagement activities or personal development. Long term success of a team and its individuals, I believe, are built on a strong team ethos and open and honest dialogue.

7. How would your colleagues describe you?

I think my colleagues would describe me as a pragmatic leader that focuses on delivery, ensuring the team purpose and delivery of it is always front of mind.

I believe very much in the ‘80/20 rule’, don’t let the 20% make you miss out on the 80% opportunity!

8. If you could invite two people to a dinner party (living or deceased) who you choose and why?

Peter Kay & Andy Murray.

Since around the age of 17 I have connected with Peter Kay’s comedy, he is incredibly funny and very relatable.

Andy Murray is a great Scottish sporting icon, with a personality that often divides, but one I think would be great fun.

I think both are excellent role models.

9. What is an interesting fact that people may not know about you? / favourite car / superpower / unusual talent / favourite band or musician

I’m currently the Treasurer for a local Community Project in East Lothian, First Step Community Project. I became involved when my daughter first attended nursery there and am approaching my three year anniversary.

I get a great sense of reward for utilising my experience and knowledge for a wider purpose, voluntarily, and also gain a lot from a personal development perspective.

10. If you weren’t in Finance, what would you be doing (for a career)?

This is always a tough one… based on a younger me, it would always be a footballer (my ability would probably say otherwise), but I’m sticking with that!