Morph into a new career - Graeme Menzies CA, FD of MorphCostumes
Graeme Menzies CA talks to Andrew Harbison about working in a start-up environment and how the role of the CA is changing, ahead of his appearance at the ICAS Conference on 29 September 2016.
After qualifying as a CA in 2007, Graeme Menzies began his career like many other CAs, working in practice for a Big Four firm.
“PwC is a really good [career] accelerant, or any of the Big Four, or any practice,” he said, highlighting how the position provided him with “experience in various sectors, numerous transactions and different economies all of which actually make you a much more rounded individual when you leave".
And Graeme did leave, taking a position, and a risk, in a small start-up in Edinburgh.
“Not many people would have looked at [the company] at that time,” he admits. “They didn’t have any employees, they didn’t have payroll, they didn’t have benefits or any of that stuff and they were at risk of overtrading.”
The start-up Graeme moved to was MorphCostumes (the company that devised the Morphsuit), where he was hired as the Finance Director.
Taking the path less travelled, when it comes to career progression, is something that Graeme thinks not enough CAs do.
“CAs are generally pretty risk averse” he said.
In his view, "CAs should take the principles of analysis that they’ve learnt throughout their CA training and apply them to decisions about their career future.”
“It’s about looking at the career as a commercial decision in and of itself. If I had evaluated my move with just a short term view I would have never left PwC to move into Morphsuits. But by looking at the kind of exposure I was going to get, the chance to make change, the ability to learn, all of that stuff, it was the right thing to do.”
The evolving role of the CA
Graeme says that the role that accountants play within businesses, both big and small, is starting to change. Accountants are no longer seen as someone who “is good at numbers and that is it”, as business leaders are realising that “it is important to have that independent and measured view”.
He went on to say: “My role is partly finance, partly operational, because in a small business you need to be good at the operations to understand the impact of them, and it's strategic.
“I’m definitely more involved in the strategic side of it than I would have been in traditional accounting. It’s a much more forward looking view I get.”
The start-up environment
“Everyone is happy to have an argument,” laughed Graeme when asked about working in a small, close-knit team.
“If we get something wrong, the refreshing part is that no-one is trying to pad their careers here. Everyone is trying to grow the business and do the best for the business. There is complete honesty in the team.”
One of the benefits of working in a start-up environment, said Graeme, is the opportunity to meet people whose views, background and training are very different to your own.
“What is refreshing is the variety of people that you get in a small business, or within an industry, that you don’t get in practice. [In practice], maybe 80% of the base are an accountant, they’ve trained there, and therefore they can all look at the problems in the same way.
“Although we are a small team and we deal with each other every day we have different brains and we look at problems differently. Having that mix is really helpful.”
Graeme is set to speak at the 2016 ICAS Conference on 29 September 2016.
ICAS is delighted to welcome Investec Wealth & Investment as our first ever principal partner for The ICAS Conference. The ICAS Conference takes place at the EICC on Thursday 29 September 2016.