Next Generation CFO with Stuart MacGregor

Mark Lewis shares his thoughts following our Next Generation CFO event with Group Finance Director of Stewart Milne Group, Stuart MacGregor.

It was with great pleasure that we welcomed Stuart MacGregor, Group Finance Director at Stewart Milne Group to speak at the latest of our Next Generation CFO series.

Stuart’s career highlights the huge benefits of remaining flexible when approaching your career journey.  Having originally studied languages at University and spending time abroad, Stuart made the decision to return to the UK to work with the National Audit Office in London, where he completed his CA qualification.

Stuart’s time with the NAO allowed him to continue to travel – carrying out audits in over 20 countries world-wide, and resulting in a secondment to the World Health Organisation in Washington DC.

On his return to Edinburgh, Stuart again brought his language skills to the fore, originally joining KPMG but quickly moving to the Internal Audit team at Scottish & Newcastle – a company that was undergoing huge overseas expansion at this stage.  After four years in the audit team, Stuart stepped into a finance role within the Sales & Marketing department which helped him develop the commercial skills that provided a platform for the international moves that followed.

For the next ten years, Stuart took on challenges across Belgium, Portugal, Finland, and, following the acquisition of S&N plc by Heineken in 2008, ultimately in the Head Office in Amsterdam where he became Global Business Control Director with responsibility for the finances of Heineken’s global functions.

In 2014, after having worked in four different countries in 10 years, Stuart made the decision to return to Scotland. When entering the Scottish market for the first time in 15 years, Stuart established that robust values and culture were high up his wish list, along with finding a business where he could identify with both the industry sector and product on offer.

For these reasons, it was an easy decision to join Stewart Milne when he was introduced in late 2014. As a 5-star house builder and timber solutions manufacturer with a 40-year history, the business was already very well established and generated revenues of c£300m across multiple UK locations. However, it was the commitment to quality, family values, and positive attitude which pervaded the business that secured Stuart’s interest to join the Board. As he approaches his 3rd year anniversary in role, it’s fair to say that Stuart remains hugely passionate about the business and committed to its ongoing growth.

Stuart shared some of his tips for success gleaned from his own career journey:

  • Find a business or industry you can really connect with – it’s a lot easier to learn about a new company if you have a genuine interest in the industry
  • Identify your core values and try to work with as many people as possible who share them
  • Breadth of experience is as important as depth – ensure you secure this in your early career while employers are more prepared to take a risk on you
  • Being commercial is key to success – most CEOs look for their CFO to be the co-pilot as well as the conscience of the business
  • Become comfortable living and operating with risk – your task is to minimise rather than remove risk and avoid being the only person in the room that says “NO”.
  • Look forwards more than backwards and don’t be afraid to make judgements about the future
  • Despite Scotland being more open to the world than ever, changing location can widen the number of potential roles on offer, particularly if you need to make a career breakthrough
  • Keep your network alive at all times – the business community is close knit and nowhere more so than in Scotland
  • Find trusted advisors as there will be many points of your career when you need an outsider’s perspective but remember that many people have their own agenda and are not always 100% objective
  • Keep a sense of perspective – being a CFO can become all-consuming, so figure out when and how to switch off

To find out more about Rutherford Cross’ events or how we can help you progress your own career, contact [email protected]