Carol Handa, chartered accountant and finance director at St Modwen Properties shares her viewpoints on what it takes to succeed
#1: Don’t judge a sector too quickly
Property has always appealed to me as a sector, having spent a 12-month client secondment with a real estate investment company while at KPMG. When I found my current role, I was excited that I would initially be out of my comfort zone and intellectually stretched while continuing my learning curve, albeit secure in the knowledge that my previous experience would stand me in good stead.
While property development might not appear as dynamic as fast-moving consumer goods, my job is fascinating and very fast-paced, which I love. It also has very tangible results that can deliver lasting and positive change to benefit both the physical and social environment in which we develop (or indeed regenerate).
#2: You need broad skills
Time pressure is generally the most challenging part of my role. Much of this can be overcome by forward planning, but there are always things that can’t be foreseen and so there is often pressure to produce high quality work very quickly.
I have found that business partnering and relationship building skills are critical to success in finance. Being able to work alongside and communicate well with a variety of people will always be important.
Commercial acumen is just as important, if not more important, than the technical accounting side. It’s not enough to understand the business’ performance. People often seek out an accountant for counsel, input and recommendations on where to take the business and even non-financial matters such as HR and IT strategy. Being open to challenges from all team members, trying new concepts, not being afraid to voice an opinion and a little hard graft all drive success within the business.
#3: You should always ask questions
Junior staff should have a curious streak. Asking questions and gaining knowledge from those around you will enable you to understand the business and sector so you can hit the ground running. Energy and enthusiasm are also important. No one is going to expect you to know everything, but a positive attitude is noticed and goes a long way to helping you integrate into a new team or with a new client.
I wouldn’t change anything about my career. I had what I call a career blip early on, making a choice about a business that wasn’t the right fit for me. But I learned exactly what I did want in any future roles. It was a good lesson to learn and ultimately helped shape my future.
<This article is an adapted version of The Boss: Carol Handa, originally published in Vital, June 2019>