Your Consortium is a non-profit organisation. I joined the team when we set-up 12 years ago, working my way up to become CEO.
As a non-profit, our processes are rigorously managed – we need to prove every penny. This can be complicated, as we work on delivery through partnerships including other small non-profits, colleges and local authorities. On a monthly basis, we need to submit all financial reports and expenses.
There’s a team of people checking everything we do. However, over the last few years, it became apparent that we needed someone more experienced to oversee robust processes and help us manage them. For Your Consortium, that person is Julie.
Initially, I recruited a head of finance, which was a broad role. When that person left, I questioned what work I could take on myself (before I became CEO, I oversaw the organisation’s finances). Yet I felt I needed someone with a specific strategic accountancy background. I was self-taught, and had a good deal of financial knowledge, but the company required more than I could offer.
I chose to look for an outsourced financial director who could deliver the high-level of technical knowledge we hadn’t had in the business before. Most of the applicants offered remote working only, with huge costs attached to meeting them in person irrespective of distance. We’re a close-knit team of 14, so this didn’t feel like the right cultural fit.
What Julie offered was different. It was clear she was the person we needed: someone accessible to us who could add great value to the business, as well as being the best fit for our culture. Julie now works in-house with us one day a week, as well as offering virtual support when we need it.
As a non-profit, we have a double bottom line. Of course, all our decisions must be financially sustainable, but that’s not what drives us as an organisation. Instead, we focus on what we’re trying to achieve. Julie understands and shares that ethos.
One key way Julie’s added value is by leading the annual accounts process. The first year was a huge challenge, as Julie came in in November faced with January to December accounts. We’d had a gap between our head of finance leaving and Julie joining us, and our former head of finance had made changes by recently moving the business onto Xero (we’d previously worked on a cash basis and on Excel!). However, Julie’s experience of Xero and impressive knowledge of how to make the most of the software meant she was able to hit the ground running.
Our 2020 accounts will be done in May, which will be the first year Julie’s been with us for the full accounting period. This is an incredible help for me, as I don’t have to liaise with our auditing accountants. I feel confident knowing Julie will be leading the process.
I’ve been CEO for almost four years and the head of finance was a source of enormous support, so I must admit I panicked when he left! However, Julie has certainly filled that gap, and more, giving me a senior person to bounce ideas off and who is used to working at strategic level. Her value extends to the wider team too. Many of the people in the company have been here throughout their careers, but Julie gives an important external perspective.
I love the fact that when Julie’s in the office it feels like she’s part of the family. She’s chosen to come in to work in person on a day when it’s busy and filled with staff. I think the team are aware she’s not an employee, but I’ve no doubt they consider her a fully-fledged team member. She even joins us for team activities and social events.
It could have been a tough ask for Julie to work with someone who already has financial experience. Yet her approach has been to combine the in-depth historical knowledge I have of the company finances with helping me further develop my financial know-how. I feel our values are aligned and our partnership approach has given tremendous value to the company.