Next Generation CFO with Stuart Paterson, Forth Ports Ltd.

Rutherford Cross’ Billy McCarthy shares his thoughts on our most recent Next Generation CFO event with Forth Ports Ltd’s Stuart Paterson, and reflects on the importance of sharing success to motivate others.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a massive Andy Murray supporter. Not only do I admire his determination, dedication, and ability but also how he manages his external profile often in very trying circumstances.  I read with interest recently about how he supports other British tennis players who are perhaps not blessed with his natural ability. Through time spent with him training in Miami, on Davis Cup duty, or socially, they are receiving some insight into his level of commitment and how he pushes the boundaries of his own capabilities. In a sense he is passing on his wisdom to Britain’s next generation of tennis stars.

I was reminded of the importance of sharing expertise in order to motivate and improve at the most recent Rutherford Cross Next Generation CFO business breakfast.  We were delighted to welcome Stuart Paterson, CFO of Forth Ports to speak at the event.

Stuart has had a fantastic career, learning his trade with companies such as Hewlett Packard and Motorola that were at the forefront of their respective industries and has now amassed 18 successful years in total as CFO of a range of high profile British companies including Aggreko Plc, Johnston Press Plc, and Forth Ports.

What was evident from Stuart’s talk is that he works hard every day at improving his craft, and has approached his career with impressive levels of professionalism and pragmatism, maintained throughout each of his roles regardless of level or seniority.

Leadership and communication

Stuart is a firm believer that people are at heart of every business, and that you should always hire the best you can get – even if they seem more capable than you. While recognising that technology is an enabler, Stuart is not a fan of email and telephone calls if they can be avoided, always looking to maximise face-to-face time with high calibre, engaged, and motivated people in order to grow a successful business.

His leadership style is one that values responsibility, advising that you should; never miss deadlines, present no surprises, and never blame your team. Leaders take ownership for all areas of responsibility, and should aim to earn respect and the right to lead from colleagues.

Getting to where you want to be

Stuart advised that making your ambition clear to colleagues and associates is critical to achieving success.  Although not advocating ‘moving for the sake of moving’, he believes in always going for an opportunity when it arises, although it is hugely important when exiting a business to conduct yourself in the correct manner and fulfil your professional obligations.

By taking the time to fully understand every business you work for, and making yourself useful across the business, not just in finance, you will quickly gain respect from your colleagues. Help other managers, and be useful outside of the world of finance.  It is also important to consider the culture and values of the business you work for.  You are a representative of your business and should ensure you are always living the business values in your professional life.  Every person you meet in business could be a potential client or colleague, so making a good impression is paramount.

Understanding the impact of behaviour

Stuart also touched on the importance of understanding your behaviour, advocating that you should “always get involved”. If you cannot contribute to a meeting do not attend, unless you are specifically there to learn. Be confident and assured in all of your dealings and if you don’t know the answer, don’t blag, commit to revert later and always follow up. Apply what you do know to what you don’t know and never be afraid to ask people you respect.  Others’ perception of you is important, and essential when it comes to your own personal development.

Stuart’s final piece of advice was simple but effective.  Always enjoy what you do.  If you hate it, you won’t be successful.  Surround yourself with people you enjoy working with and celebrate the successes.

The message I took away from Stuart’s talk and which has remained with me, is that we work in a world where we have incredible amounts of information at our finger tips. This has enabled us to operate in a way which was inconceivable as little as 10 years ago. We can conduct business without ever speaking with or seeing our customers face to face. While this is fantastic and has spawned whole new sectors and will continue to do so in the future, it is crucial that our activities are underpinned by a set of values and behaviours that ensure that we always do the right thing.

Rutherford Cross’ Next Generation CFO events take place regularly throughout the year.  If you are interested in building your network and attending our events in the future, please contact [email protected].