Next Generation CFO with Heather Metcalfe
Mark Lewis shares his thoughts following our Next Generation CFO event with Chief Financial Officer for the DC Thomson Trading Board, Heather Metcalfe
It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Heather Metcalfe, Chief Financial Officer for the DC Thomson Trading Board, to speak at the latest of our Next Generation CFO series. Heather worked for one of Scotland’s most prominent family own businesses, Baxters Ltd, where she honed her strategic financial experience over a 13 year period, before making the move to DC Thomson earlier this year.
When she joined in 2003, Baxters was a very different company to that we see today. The business had only recently transferred to fourth generation ownership under Audrey Baxter and was in the early stages of a period of intensive growth and expansion that would see the company more than triple in size during her tenure. Indeed, Heather was at the heart of the business as it grew from a £75m turnover UK only company to one with revenues of £300m and nine manufacturing sites in five countries.
A move into International Sales while at Baxters transformed Heather’s career and put her on track to become CFO – a role she took on in 2014. As Heather had progressed through the ranks, she was fortunate to be part of a company that was acquiring on average a business a year, along with opening state of the art manufacturing facility in Poland.
Many of these acquisitions were internationally based, bringing their own funding and cultural challenges, but quickly built Baxters’ ambitious reputation and scale to take on their biggest deal in the purchase of Wornick Foods in 2015 – a deal that transformed the Baxters’ business.
The experience gained over her 13 years with Baxters hugely important in shaping Heather’s career, with the Wornick deal providing the perfect book-end to this period. After some valuable personal time out of the workplace, Heather’s thoughts turned to her next challenge. Initially she pursued similar opportunities to her previous role, but soon realised that the draw of the right people, rather than the right business, had become her main priority. It was that primary driver that took Heather to DC Thomson in early 2017.
DC Thomson is a business that is familiar to most in Scotland through their impressive portfolio of newspapers, magazines and books. However, what is less well known is the scope of their investment interests which have diversified into new media, digital technology, retail and television.
Heather’s reflections on her first nine months in her new role were certainly insightful and she finds herself in the very early stages of a journey of change. The key difference is the diverse and sizable shareholder base which creates a different pace of decision making to the owner-managed Baxters model. In addition, DC Thomson has developed a portfolio of businesses, many of which are unrelated and are naturally pursuing their own agendas. From a finance perspective, the challenge in the first year is to create a vision that sets out how there will be ‘one view’ of the company in future.
Heather’s top tips for a successful career are:
• Have a vision: research it carefully and sell it regularly
• Create a clear plan: update it regularly and communicate it well to your team
• Keep it simple – business is simple!
• Employ amazing people, truly empower them, and treat them well
• Engage amazing advisors and build long term relationships
• Work with people you respect and trust and who respect and trust you
• Never ignore the basics – governance, structure, and processes are a must
• Do what you are good at
And her top leadership tips were:
• Be kind, respectful and observant
• Be relentlessly positive and smile when out in public – it’s infectious
• Take regular time out to think and never stop trying to improve yourself
• Help others be the best versions of themselves
• Give honest and encouraging feedback, always say thank you, and never lie about bad performance
• There is a solution to every problem – mostly the most junior people know the answers but are never asked nor listened to
• True innovation comes by providing a platform for amazing minds to excel – create a safe forum, step back and watch magic happen
To find out more about our Next Generation CFO programme, or to discuss your career and or recruitment needs, please contact Mark Lewis on [email protected]