How to survive when you’re the only person in finance
When I joined iMultiply it was very much all hands-on deck. Back then there was only three of us, working in a cupboard in deepest darkest Leith. However, since then the company has become a roaring success, with three offices, two businesses and nearly 20 employees and with ambitious plans for further growth.
I’ve learned a lot along our growth journey; as my role at iMultiply has evolved from operations management of a start-up business with 3 people to a Finance Manager of a circa 2m turnover SME with nearly 20 employees across three offices. In a lot of ways, my experience mirrors some of the growing pains felt by a lot of the candidates we work with. Working in an SME can be a rollercoaster, particularly in a solo finance role.
Budgets can be tight, workload can be high therefore stress is inevitable but there are ways you can make it more manageable. So here are my life saving tips I use to try and survive as the only person in finance.
- Use technology to your advantage – If you are able to, move as many of your systems to the cloud as possible. I can’t recommend the following enough and these will save you a serious amount of time in your role:
- Xero – arguably the best online accountancy software (in my opinion). Real time information that’s highly customisable to your internal set up with tracking codes for reporting and a wealth of integratable apps to make your life easier (expenses, timesheets, payroll). Xero has a good expenses function with its own app, you can submit your VAT returns easily and it also has payroll and projects options too.
- Float – an excellent cashflow tool which satisfies the needs of both detail and visually orientated stakeholders. Extremely user friendly and allows for super quick scenario planning when the Board discuss their next ambitious growth plans.
- Google - I’m the first to admit that I love Excel, however I’ve recently moved all my spreadsheets and documents to Google Docs and Sheets and after a bit of getting used to, it’s definitely made me more productive. It’s a much simpler and collaborative way of working.
- Pleo – this is a life saver when it comes to expense processing. These are pre-paid Mastercards which link to an expenses app and sync with your accountancy software. No more lost receipts or processing pages of paper expense forms.
- Get support – Find others who working in a similar role as you. It’s always good to get a different perspective and offer support when others are experiencing similar challenges.
- Stay out of the dark playground. If you haven’t heard of this, I recommend you watch the following Ted Talk by Tim Urban. We’re all guilty of this from time to time!
- Personal development – Take the time to focus on your personal development. This sounds a bit like one of those “motivational” quotes but I personally believe that you are not able to develop properly in your career unless you develop as a person. We all have strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to be honest with yourself about what needs work and what you can develop further. Find a mentor or a coach, listen to podcasts or audiobooks (I can recommend The Chimp Paradox)
- Listen – find out exactly what the team and the stakeholders need from you and revisit often. Working in an SME, the needs of the business will change frequently and there is very little you can do about that. Unfortunetly, it is just the nature of the beast. You’ll make your life a lot easier if you’re aware, prepared and ask the right questions to get the right information.
- Nobody is perfect – I don’t always follow my own advice but nobody is perfect, even the most detail oriented of us can make a mistake on a Board report. We’re all human after all. Don’t beat yourself up, just make sure you can learn from any mistakes to help future you.
If you are in a similar role and have any of your own tips and tricks, please feel free to share with Fiona Riding, Operations Manager on firstname.lastname@example.org