“It feels easy...but scary because now I hold in my hands the mortgages of 10 employees - not just my own. I don’t hold that responsibility lightly. It’s huge. That’s the difference. If I cock it up, the impact is huge. But, the opportunity is also huge.”
“Being conscientious, working hard and being good at something sometimes doesn’t really get you where you want to be. I sort of just lost faith in corporate life.”
A twenty-year career in senior finance positions including Group Finance Director and Non-Executive Director Positions within both public and private businesses.
What triggered your career change/career re-design?
“Lots of things. I should have done it years ago. But, I went through the public school system and ended up towing the line and doing as was expected in my career progressing from trainee, management accountant, Financial Controller to Finance Director.
Until the point where I looked up and realised that the people above me were not there because they were worked harder than me or were better than me.
Being conscientious, working hard and being good at something sometimes doesn’t really get you where you want to be.
I sort of just lost faith in corporate life.
After 20 years of working my socks off for the benefit of others, I reflected and realised that I was being neither valued nor appreciated.
As well as managing the challenges of reporting and trying to make a difference to organisations’ current operations, I’d been trying to convince people for years about the benefits of long term planning. But businesses didn’t want or value the long-term focus. Frustration crept in.
I think I’ve always wanted my own business and always kept my ear to the ground looking for opportunities. I often evaluated possible business opportunities that I could both afford and that I believed had long-term mileage as both a product and a business.”
I’d looked at other businesses where the owners were in their 60s and wanting to retire in the near future, but only took a couple as far as the real due diligence process.
When I found the right one, I knew it very quickly. It was the easiest purchase ever due to a perfect match between the owners’ ethics, values and desires for the business and my own.
My long-term goals for the business linked exactly with the sellers’ values. It was a perfect fit.”
What did you learn during that process?
“I am truly motivated by taking care of a company and the people within it for the long-term. The last ten years of my career didn’t fit with this deeply-held motivation.
I want and need to be in control of my own destiny and that was also not the case over the last ten years of my finance career.
Stress can be positive and drive people forward but stress caused by poor leadership is negative stress with no upside. Poor leadership really impacts the people within a business, not just the business.”
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
“I would have been able to leave finance work within corporates 10 years ago - I’d learned enough by then. I’d learned what good and bad leaders look like. I had experienced so much...enough.
That said, I would have needed a little more financial security to have taken this kind of risk at that time.
Perhaps the time was right because the time was right? The opportunity to invest in my future and this business was perfect. Perhaps I needed to gain more consultancy experience to have a real grasp of how I want to proceed? Perhaps...!”
On the days that you know you’ve made the right decision, how do you feel?
“Where would I rather be? Here. Without a doubt. Why? The frustrations of going through the same “I need to change but need more influence to make it happen” cycle within corporates wore me down.
I’m now in charge of making change but I can’t do it alone. I listen to the opinions and insights from staff who are the experts. I understand the big picture landscape and it’s a long-term landscape. I understand what the right direction is.
It feels easy...but scary because now I hold in my hands the mortgages of 10 employees - not just my own. I don’t hold that responsibility lightly. It’s huge. That’s the difference. If I cock it up, the impact is huge. But, the opportunity is also huge.
I arrive to work knowing what we are going to do that day. Then we constantly tweak. It’ll pay off. We will see the benefits.”
“None at all!”
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone re-designing their mid-life career?
“It might not always work out and that might not be due to your efforts, so don’t risk what you can’t afford to lose.”
Duncan now owns International Tiles & Bathrooms - Please have a look at their new web page:-
It is the aim for International Tiles is to become within 5 years the No.1 best for service, produce, quality and customer care and customer satisfaction tile brand throughout the South West of England (Somerset, Dorset, Devon & Cornwall) Tile Industry.
We aim to be the best employee we can. Our staff are valued and it is up to us to make their time here as fulfilling and as rewarding as possible.
While we recognise that being in business is not easy and we will have some difficult times we also want to have some fun.
I am very lucky to have taken over a company with such strong foundations, with a strong and loyal customer base, with experienced and loyal staff and loyal and quality suppliers.