Group FD, John Cotton Group
How did you get where you are today?
I started as a graduate trainee with Outokumpu Stainless Ltd (formerly British Steel Stainless) and spent 13 years in the specialist steel industry in ten different roles across three different countries.
Being ‘Sheffield born and bred’ I am proud to have contributed to the continuation of the steel industry in the city. Outokumpu were very good to me and put me through my CIMA qualification as well as an MBA at Warwick University.
After 13 years it was time for a change and I spent five years as finance director of Cooper Lighting and Safety, a manufacturer of commercial lighting in Doncaster that is now part of the US based Eaton Corporation.
Today I am group finance director at John Cotton Group, a family owned £170m+ turnover business based near Huddersfield. I suspect most people will not have heard of John Cotton Group but the majority of households in the UK will have one of our duvet, pillow or mattress protector products or be sleeping on a mattress made with our polyester mattress fillings. As a business we sell to all the major retailers and trade under our Snuggledown and Slumberdown brands as well as producing retailer private label products.
What does your role entail?
As an FD the move into a privately owned family business has been a fantastic experience. My role is primarily focused on adding value and managing risk whilst acting as a business partner for my non financial colleagues.
As well as the traditional FD activities, my focus today is on managing our fast growing European operation based in Poland, enacting group strategic initiatives and developing our IT solutions and infrastructure.
What makes a great FD?
I believe a great FD is characterised by their communication, analysis and interpretation skills.
Firstly, great FDs are great communicators. The devil is always in the detail so an FD must be an active listener and questioner.
Secondly, a great FD can analyse and interpret data and situations accurately, thoroughly and quickly. Great FDs apply their underlying financial analysis skills and interpretative skills to far wider business situations.
Finally, a great FD needs to be a good communicator again and be able to concisely present data and finding in a way that is appropriate to the business audience they are addressing.
What do you enjoy outside of work?
I have a wonderful wife and equally wonderful young daughter. Out of work my wife and I spend much of our time arranging trips to support our daughters learning. It is great as an adult to rediscover history and science through the wealth of museums and other resources now available.
We are also active members of the school community supporting netball, hockey, swimming and rounders matches in all weathers!
I have also recently taken up road cycling which I am very much enjoying.
Who or what inspires you?
Our chairman, Mr John Cotton MBE. John Cotton Group is celebrating its centenary year in 2016 and much of the growth and success of this 100 year old family company is the result of John’s ambition and drive over the last 50 years.
I have the great pleasure of working with John on a daily basis and his knowledge, commitment and enthusiasm are an example to all of us in the business.
Date Posted: August 4th 2016
Posted By: Yvette Owen