Mark Probert, Managing Partner of Cact.us, Agencynomics and iMultiply CFO, shares his journey in accounting from practice to industry, to becoming a non-executive director.
As our CFO and a non-executive director working across multiple boards, can you tell us about your career journey?
I have always enjoyed helping people and problem solving. I am most energised when I work with people who share my entrepreneurial spirit. I did not follow the university route and left school to plunge straight into the business world, joining a local accountancy practice in the South of England. I worked my way up from office junior to Audit Senior, having attained accountancy accreditation through AAT along the way, and also being part of a practice merger into Menzies.
In 2002, I moved to Edinburgh to join Springfords, focusing on a portfolio of small owner managed businesses. This is where I completed my ACCA qualification.
Having spent a further 5 years in practice, I decided to make the move to industry and joined Iron Mountain to run their European and UK reporting team. Despite the attraction of the international work, the role was not the right fit for me and I soon moved back into practice, joining the owner managed and charities team at Scott Moncrieff. Four years later I joined Grant Thornton where I supported owner managed firms with global audits. Whilst at Grant Thornton, I also chaired and grew Aspire, an entrepreneurial community for the next generation.
Three years ago, I decided to join leading UK growth consultancy Cact.us. The consultancy focuses on supporting agency owners, particularly in the digital marketing space, with scaling their businesses and improving their internal processes.
What made you move from an accountancy firm into industry and back again?
I felt that after 7 years in practice it was time for a change. However, in my case I was too eager to make the move and jumped from practice to industry for the wrong opportunity and the wrong reasons. As a result, I moved quickly back into practice...albeit for a different firm. Looking back, I should have bided my time until the right opportunity came along; more suited to my drive to help others.
What advice would you give to accountancy professionals who are thinking of moving to a new role?
If you are considering a new role, you should always be honest with yourself about what would really fit your skillset and provide you with job satisfaction. It is worth putting the role to the test, by asking yourself, “Am I the right person for the job? If I make the move, will I be sitting in the right seat?” It is very much about your personal attributes, goals and the scope of the role.
What is it like working as a non-executive director?
I get a buzz from working with multiple clients. I enjoy fixing a variety of problems for a range of organisations; no day is the same. I do have to be incredibly organised and disciplined with my time though; juggling competing client demands and timescales can be a challenge. As a finance consultant, I never rush into a decision; a mistake, for example with tax implications, could be costly. Also, I tend to plan ahead...for example, my diary is usually booked up in advance for the year ahead with clients.
Can you tell us about your typical day?
My days vary; from attending client board meetings to brainstorming the strategic growth areas of a business, to meeting new clients and providing all round business advice.
What are the qualities and skills which you rely on as a non-executive director?
Aside from excellent organisational skills, you need to be a good listener. It is the only way that you really get to grips with a business, build a full picture of the status quo and what advice would have the most positive impact.
A keen interest in keeping up to speed with current developments is also a must. The local and global finance landscape is always changing.
Looking back, what advice would you have given yourself at an early stage in your career?
Take more risks. I remember running a car wash business at school with my now Cact.us partner and thoroughly enjoying the entrepreneurial experience. With hindsight, I should have perhaps followed my instincts and moved into creating and growing a business at an earlier stage in my career. However, working in practice and within international organisations equipped me with the valuable skills which I now utilise every day in helping my clients.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
I don’t have set long term goals, contrary to the advice I give to my clients when we sit down to create a roadmap. Currently, my focus is on continuing to help my clients achieve their ambitions whilst also ensuring our new venture, Agencynomics, is a success.
If you are considering your next finance career move, please contact John Gilbertson, iMultiply Director on 0131 603 7747; firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion.