Here at TwoScots Recruitment, we don’t just place people in a job, we place them in our company.
They become a part of our team. Their career, happiness and success, becomes linked to our own. Quite simply, we #giveascot about the candidates we place and the clients we work with.
This is the inaugural installation of our new blog series dubbed “TwoScots Takes Two”.
Every month, I’ll be sitting down and taking two minutes with Chief Financial Officers in the TwoScots community, delivering inspiration, professional stories and exclusive insights into some of Australia’s most influential individuals. We’ll be discussing their career trajectories and what really makes them tick.
I’m an Accountant who commenced my Recruitment career working for a large Global Recruitment business in London over 20 years ago. Since then, I’ve led teams and driven Recruitment businesses both in London and Melbourne and am now the co-founder and Director at TwoScots Recruitment, leading the Qualified Accounting and Executive Accounting Divisions.
To kick off the series, I sat down with Michael Howard, Chief Financial Officer at Officeworks. Michael has been in the CFO position at the cobalt-blue Stationery Mecca for 11 years now. With over a decade of kicking goals in a high-pressure role, I picked Michael’s brain on what success is truly made from.
“Surrounding yourself with capable and enthusiastic people is the absolute key. You can’t do it all yourself…you can only do that by having the right team in place,” he says.
Being successful is not a solo pursuit in the business world. With a constant deluge of changing trends hitting the shores of Michael’s industry sector, it’s paramount to stay savvy and constantly be on your A-Game by bouncing off the team around you.
“Customer expectations are evolving more quickly than ever: online trading continues to grow, the role of the store continues to change, delivery timeframes get shorter [and] price expectations get more challenging.”
With a fiercely competitive playing field to navigate, Michael’s ability to adapt Officeworks as a chameleon in the marketplace has proven vital. It’s not just what tangible reports and hoards of stats have to say though – the customer must come first.
“Customers no longer benchmark you on how you compare to what you were doing 12 months ago, they benchmark you on what is industry best practice. You need to be in touch with what’s happening in your industry, but you need to be true to your strategy.”
When quizzed on how he keeps a finely-honed set of skills in a space where trends are transient, Michael leans on the art of networking, conversation and collaboration.
“Talk to people and peers that have been there and done that. Learn from people – not just in your industry, not just for now, but ongoing. The networking part is key,” he says.
Embracing leadership is one thing, but despite helming Officeworks’ finance division, Michael champions the talents that can be nurtured from bottom-up. When asked what golden piece of advice he would give to a freshly-minted Accountant starting out in their career, Michael suggests taking initiative early and going above and beyond.
“Senior leaders are always looking for members of the team that can just get things done. If you’ve got those bases covered, I’m a big believer that opportunities will come your way as a result.”
That elusive work-life balance is something we wanted to raise with Michael, who considers himself “slightly controversial” on the topic. While separating oneself from a long day of work after knocking off is often considered paramount, Michael begs to differ.
“I’m not a big subscriber to this. I have seen instances where people work just 9 – 5 and they’re not very happy doing what they’re doing at all. The most enjoyment I’ve ever gotten out of my career has often been at the time when work-life balance is completely off-kilter.”
He reminded us that sometimes, “it’s more important to love what you do and have the flexibility to ensure work and life can sit comfortably alongside one another,” rather than constantly striving to polarise these notions into two distinct worlds.
Like any industry trailblazers, Michael has looked to others for a maelstrom of inspiration. “I think one of the things you appreciate more as you get older is that inspiration comes in many forms,” he says.
“When I was younger, I might have rattled off a list of sportsmen and women who inspired me but now it’s the quiet achievers – great surgeons, teachers, nurses and people with cancer or other diseases who battle through each day against tremendous odds. I think individuals who do great things out of the public spotlight are tremendously under-valued in society today.”
Well, that’s a wrap. I hope you’re feeling inspired by more than an extra-large latte today after hearing from Michael. If you’re insatiable for more advice on the road to becoming a CFO, watch this space for our second installation coming soon.
Until then, you can read up on more insightful and honest words from The Scots, here.