Coffee is one of the most sought after commodities in the world but even that fact doesn’t make coffee traders immune to economic turbulence.
Such was the case for family-run green bean coffee merchant D.R. Wakefield. During one particularly volatile period, the UK-based business was subject to some tough grilling by its bank but just didn’t have the wherewithal to supply the answers.
“We simply didn’t have enough background information, data and statistics collated in a manner required by the bank,” recalls CEO Simon Wakefield.
It was then that he and his management team realised they needed someone with sophisticated financial expertise to help them.
Hiring A Part-Time FD
Hiring a part-time adviser was the last thing Simon wanted, having had unfavourable experiences with part-time employees in the past.
“In my previous experience of part-time employees, I found they would come, they would freelance, and they would go and it didn’t work with us.
“I like to have people in-house that work with us and understand our business.”
D.R. Wakefield, set up in 1970 by Simon’s father Derrick, supplies both specialist and regular grade coffees to the UK trade, small private roasters and large multinational companies alike.
“It sounds simple but when you start drilling into the way we work with multiple currencies, multiple countries, it becomes quite detailed.”
Then Simon discovered the UK’s FD Centre and how it provides part-time FDs.
He changed his mind about part-time employees and made the decision to hire a part-time FD, Nick Thompson, from the FD Centre.
Nick had more than 15 years’ experience as an FD in entrepreneurial businesses and had worked at FD level in retail, restaurant, property and auctioneering sectors both in the UK and overseas with such companies as Conran Restaurants, The Conran Shop, Early Learning Centre and Bonham’s Auctioneers.
Why the FD Centre?
“The FD Centre offered us something: if our first FD didn’t work out they would quickly replace him with another one,” explains Simon. “If the FD we took on wasn’t able to support us in the way we expected they could replace him with another FD.”
He was delighted to realise that his new part-time FD would do far more than look after the company’s finances.
“I initially thought an FD would just look after your finances. Naively I didn’t realise how many extra subjects and areas he would cover.”
Nick provided Simon with daily financial reports when the coffee market was exceptionally volatile. He recommended the company change auditors and helped the accounting team to update its accounting software packages and credit control procedures.
That all helped the company’s cash flow position to improve, says Simon.
Nick also helped Simon bolster his relationship with his bank by bringing in a permanent in-house management accountant to take care of the finances.
Five years on and Simon credits those monthly and sometimes weekly financial reports as playing a crucial role in the company’s growth.
“I have the figures at my fingertips. It’s not a gut feeling like I had before: it’s presented in data to me on a monthly basis or as often as I want it. This means I can make plans and can justify them. For example, if we want to install some new hardware.
“It gives you confidence when you know what your figures are and it doesn’t come as a surprise.”
Nick also helps Simon with strategic planning and even his personal finances as well.
“The improvements and suggestions he’s given to us have helped our business develop. These include some of the ideas he came up with when he first spoke to us. Once he started settling and grasping what we were about we could begin to implement these ideas. He was quiet, unassuming, and unflustered.”
The company flourished at a time when so many other companies floundered.
“In the five years Nick’s been here we’ve grown about 30%,” reports Simon.
There have been other important benefits from using the services of a part-time FD, admits Simon.
“As an owner, manager, someone working in the business I needed to be able to trust him. Nick built my trust very quickly with his experience and suggestions.
“I can sleep better. I’m not quite so cranky when I go home because I’m not only confident, but comfortable in what we are doing here.
“He’s added revenue because he’s made new suggestions. For example, he’s suggested that we look at taking on a marketer which has taken that role away from me. He’s also suggested I join another business group, which has meant I’ve been able to benefit from other skills and other experiences. It’s given me a lot more confidence in how I can move forward and develop the business.”
The management team have also benefitted from having an FD on-board, says Simon.
“The rest of the team have confidence that they know we’ve got an FD overseeing us. He’s brought in targets for them and it’s made the whole team come together.”
The only regret Simon has is that he didn’t hire a part-time FD earlier.
“I wish I’d done it sooner as it’s really helped. Nick’s brought in a lot of value to us as a company, he’s brought a lot of value to me as an individual. I think they’re the key things you can expect or hope from anyone.”
To discover how a part-time CFO will help your company to scale up, please call us on +64 (0)9 376 4940 or contact us here.