Interview: Paul Grant CA, Cofficient
When did you qualify as a CA and who did you train with?
1993, with Wylie & Bissett.
Brief career history
My first role after qualifying was as a financial analyst at distillers William Grant. This was my first brush with technology and where I honed my spreadsheet skills.
My next role was more seminal. Having joined a start-up subsidiary of Scottish Power's telecoms business, Thus Plc, I spent four years playing my part in growing that business unit. This included system implementation, growing the team, buying and selling business units and a brief stint as part of the flotation process.
Experiencing the more commercial aspects of being an accountant informed all my other career choices. I've held a number of FD positions in start-up and high-growth companies from dotcom to retail and construction. Financial control, systems and change management have been a consistent and common thread throughout.
Undertaking a system review for Scottish publisher Carnyx and seeing a demo of a new cloud software solution called NetSuite inspired me to get involved in the software industry.
What does your job involve?
Variety! Cofficient is a small but growing IT business. We're a business software partner for SAP and NetSuite, the world's leading cloud and ERP software companies. Inevitably this means undertaking a number of roles; business development features strongly as do the operational aspects of running the business; developing the team and, naturally, managing the finances of the business. Currently, however, more than 50 per cent of my time is client facing, being involved in new systems implementations.
Who do you report to?
Undoubtedly, our clients: they are at the centre of what we do.
What appealed about this career path?
Running your own business is highly motivating and, although it's not for all, it can have tremendous rewards. The software industry's also incredibly dynamic; opportunity abounds.
What's the best thing about your job?
The satisfaction of assisting our clients to achieve great outcomes from adopting new cloud-based business technologies.
...And the worst?
Probably the travelling. It's terribly inefficient.
What's your next challenge?
Growing the business. Formed in 2008, Cofficient has matured beyond being a start- up. We were recently included in Scottish Enterprise's "High Growth Pipeline" and we have a clear vision to grow both the breadth and depth of our capability.
How's your work/life balance?
I am a workaholic, but simply because I achieve a great sense of satisfaction from what we do. Notwithstanding, weekends have always been sacrosanct, and I'm enjoying mucking about with my three young daughters before they become too embarrassed to be seen with me.
What do you do to relax?
Sport with friends; I completed my tenth Glasgow half marathon in 2014 and my Five Ferries Cycle Challenge is now in its ninth year.
How has your training as a CA helped prepare you for this role - if it has?
The ICAS qualification is undoubtedly a solid foundation. It is inconceivable that any software provider could assist clients to adopt business software without understanding fundamental business processes and resultant financial impacts. However, you also need to be commercial too. I supplemented my skills early on in my career by undertaking an MBA from Strathclyde Graduate Business School. I would say there's nothing more important than experience and encourage people to reach out to get as much of it as they can.
What single piece of advice would you give for a CA looking to pursue this career route?
As a CA you are incredibly well placed to pursue a career in the IT industry. However, a large part of it is about people and commercial processes beyond the financials. Seek out the opportunities to participate in systems deployments and indeed don't be afraid to be an agent of change in your organisation.