Five CAs who became CEOs

CEO heading meeting
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

13 June 2016

Are you aspiring to that executive office and wondering how to get there? Eleanor O'Neill speaks to five CAs who have risen to the top to find out the secrets of their success.

Mark McQuater CA, Chief Executive, Revolution Bars GroupMark McQuater

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Creating an exciting but realistic vision with the team of what we are building and then defining the stepping stones to get there.

What advice would you give your past self?

Listen carefully, respect your gut feelings, look after your team, act decisively.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

Undoubtedly early credibility for demanding roles as well as financial knowledge and confidence that creates a great foundation for wider responsibilities over time.

Who has been your inspiration?

My grandfather Bobby Jones who built a chain of ballrooms in the 40s and 50s in the West of Scotland, which were in the same part of the market to the type of business I now run.

Which three things make a successful CEO?

  • Leadership that properly connects with people.
  • High energy.
  • Strong sense of mission and ability to make and communicate clear decisions.

Sum up your career in five words.

Bold, exhilarating, resilient, challenging, fun.


Helen Haddow CA, Chief Executive, Houlden Jewellers Helen Haddow

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Making a difference to stakeholders in the business – delivering a service that is truly appreciated, and generating a valued team environment.

What advice would you give your past self?

Identify an area of specialisation within the profession sooner and set goals to achieve it, rather than allow yourself to drift into an area.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

  • Depth of knowledge and experienced gained in auditing years invaluable.
  • Credibility when introduced into new environments.
  • Opened doors.
  • Gave me the opportunity to be self-employed for a time when my family was young.

Who has been your inspiration?

My father gave me the belief and drive to achieve my full potential.

Which three things make a successful CEO?

  • Vision of where going and how to get there.
  • Quality of the people in your team.
  • Leadership qualities.

Sum up your career in five words.

Committed, motivated, enthusiastic, driven, positive.


Robert Duncan CA, Former CEO, Seafox

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

 Robert Duncan

Working in a business in which I am both an executive and a founding shareholder. It gives me great incentive to continue to deliver success and reward to all stakeholders and a loyal group of employees.

What advice would you give your past self?

To be more patient, and also to think twice, and then think again before making any significant decision, whether that is on a personal or professional basis.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

I have been involved in three business refinancing events over the past five years and also a sale and a business acquisition in the past three years. The qualification helped me immeasurably in being able to understand some of the more finance specific aspects of all of the above transactions.

Who has been your inspiration?

My family.

Which three things make a successful CEO?

  • A loyal and excellent support network (team) behind you.
  • Integrity.
  • Trust your instincts and your gut feeling. More often than not, they will be right.

Sum up your career in five words.

Worked hard and didn’t fail.


Lorna Jack CA, Chief Executive, The Law Society of ScotlandLorna Jack

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Engaging with people - our members, my colleagues, our volunteers, our stakeholders, our suppliers.

What advice would you give your past self?

Follow Kent M. Keith’s advice in the 'Paradoxical Commandments' and you will be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It has of course given me the financial and business training that has been required in all of the roles I have ever held, in particular those that have involved higher levels of organisational governance. It has ensured that I stay up-to-date on a range of business topics.  It has also provided me with an internationally recognised qualification - a brand - that says a lot about my personal and professional values, which has mattered to those I have worked for.

Who has been your inspiration?

My Dad, who passed away too early. He left school at 15 without a formal education and after a spell in the navy during WWII and with only his demob cheque, started and built a business that traded in Europe and gave nearly 100 people in Fraserburgh (and several more in Boulogne-Sur-Mer) a livelihood.

During a fishing trip off the Mull of Kintyre when I was 10 years old he taught me a life lesson about hard work and fairness - which was the making of me. I carry the letter he wrote to his mother from his first job in the merchant navy in 1935 in my purse and use it occasionally when I need to stay grounded by reminding myself who I am.

Which three things make a successful CEO?

  • Personal commitment and drive behind clear, shared organisational goals that are refreshed every few years as the context evolves.
  • Authentic and consistent values - integrity has to be one of them!
  • A desire and ability to engage with people.

Sum up your career in five words.

Varied, international, rewarding, polytonal, unfinished!


Robert Roger CA, Chief Executive, Spire HealthcareRobert Roger

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Building a culture in a business where our people feel they have autonomy and can build on success, but also learn from failure. Many companies say they do but very few actually do.

What advice would you give your past self?

Be more patient, listen more and be more empathetic.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It has been a strong passport to many of the roles I have had. Whilst my core discipline is finance and accounting, using the numbers to enhance your commercial decision making is essential, both in terms of getting buy-ins from all stakeholders but also in letting you drive value.

Who/what has been your inspiration?

In reading terms, you cannot beat Stephen Covey’s 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' and I have been blessed to have worked with several great Chief Executives like Peter Long at First Choice, Peter Phillipson at The Tussauds Group and Garry Watts, my current Chairman at Spire Healthcare. I have learnt many of my skills from them

Which three things make a successful CEO?

  • A good rapport with your shareholders, having them aligned with you.
  • Great people around you. Always recruit for the best.
  • A culture where people have freedom to be successful within a framework.

Sum up your career in five words.

Fun, hardworking, engaging, leadership, value.


Why do you think CAs make great CEOs? Tell us in the comments below.

Topics

  • CA life
  • Business

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