Interview with a CFO – Munaf Yusuf, CFO at Bright Blue Foods
Munaf Yusuf won ‘Finance Director of the Year 2018 – Turn Around’ for growing BBF from a £60 million business in 2015 to its current £155 million status.
He is currently the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) at Bright Blue Foods Limited (BBF).
Munaf shared with us his views on some of the secrets of becoming a successful CFO, his attitude to life and some advice for the finance directors (FDs) and CFOs of the future.
1. How did you get where you are today?
“I never even contemplated becoming a finance director when I was younger – I actually wanted to do something more action-orientation such as join the RAF.
“However, I’ve always been really good with numbers so I naturally gravitated towards finance and now I’m really glad I did because I find it quite rewarding in terms of personal development.
“The first company I worked for, Pilkington’s, was invaluable to me in terms of what I learnt – it was a fantastic ‘training ground’ for me. I was promoted several times while working there and I travelled around the world quite frequently.
“The whole experience taught me the importance of ‘transcending boundaries’, in particular, I became more self-aware and aware of other people’s needs and learnt the power of persuasion – a vital skill for an FD or CFO. In addition, I learnt the importance of private equity and how to thoroughly analyse a vast amount of data.
“Another career highlight was when I worked for a high turnover company in the Middle East. By helping with its strategy, putting new systems in place, sorting out its accounts and prioritising different parts of the business, I was able to help grow the business exponentially and it was eventually sold for a billion dollars.
“Throughout my career, I always thought it was exciting to be one of the key figures driving growth for large businesses. And I also love learning new things to improve myself along the way – and that’s what has driven me to become a successful CFO.”
2. What does your current role entail?
“I’m in charge of the finance, procurement, and IT departments as well as being responsible for ensuring excellent governance across the board. I also ensure the right controls and processes are in place.
“Some attributes of my personality that really help me in my day-to-day job is that I’m approachable and I enjoy talking and listening to people to understand their problems. This is really important at director level, in my opinion.
“What I love about being a CFO is that you are responsible for helping businesses perform better monetarily and you can articulate potential opportunities. There’s a tremendous amount of satisfaction involved with that.
“My job has even helped me out quite a lot in my personal life. I recently built my own house in less than 5 months. With the project management, interpersonal and financial skills I use every day, I undoubtedly found this much easier than if I hadn’t become a CFO.”
3. What makes a great FD?
“The most important thing, quite honestly, is having a great team around you. That means you need the ability to choose the best people for each role.
“But the single great piece of advice I can give to aspiring FDs is to get your numbers right. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do this, even in my line my of work. If you have the numbers to back up what you are saying, you’ll earn credibility and if you can get do that, people trust you – that’s powerful.
“On this topic, there’s a potential problem for the next generation of FDs. Technology has automated everything to such an extent that some are losing the granular understanding you need to interpret data at a high level. You really need to understand how it all works behind the scenes to successfully drive growth.
“As I alluded to earlier I’d also advise the FDs of the future to improve their communication skills, because some accountants, and even some top executives, don’t develop these skills thoroughly enough and therefore don’t progress as far as their potential would otherwise take them.
“Also, never be afraid to have a number two – don’t view them as a threat, view them as a valuable asset.”
4. What do you enjoy outside of work?
“I really enjoy spending time at the gym and I love spending time with my family. I have a love of fast cars, too.
“People, generally, also fascinate me so I love to talk to those with specialist knowledge and expertise in different areas. It gives me great ideas of what is possible in life. I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge over the years because of my interest in people.”
5. Who or what inspires you?
“Those who think outside the box are a huge inspiration to me. One thing I love about this job is that I have the ability to meet lots of different people with specialist knowledge and who will challenge accepted thinking. I believe thinking like this all the time is critical in any leadership role.
“You need good people around you to develop as an individual. I’ve recently started to get in touch with those who I feel were beneficial in my life to thank them for the contribution they made to my personal and professional development.”
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Date Posted: February 13th 2019
Posted By: Phil Scott