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Interview with an FD; Tim Coleman

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FD_Tim_Coleman.jpgTim Coleman
CFO, Redcentric
www.redcentricplc.com

How did you get where you are today?
After training with PriceWaterhouse for five years, I had an opportunity with Dairy Crest and an interview with Buckingham Palace, but I chose to join BT.

I got involved with a new joint venture with MCI Communications in the US, called Concert Communications. I was sent out there to help develop and grow it, moving out there for three years. I found the corporate culture a real eye-opener. They acted as an aggressive upstart, ripping market share away from AT&T, behaving very differently from how I was used to BT operating.

When I moved back to the UK, telecoms was deregulating and everything was exploding. I joined MFS Communications which involved putting fibre in all the major cities and financial hubs around the world, which was a massively exciting time.

I was then involved with a business which streamed video on to mobiles, which was too far ahead of its time to succeed, and then I joined Northgate Information Solutions during a really busy time of expansion, acquisitions and reverse takeovers, and I was heavily involved with taking it on to the FTSE 250.

Having worked so closely with the CFO, I decided that I was ready to give that role a go and joined Trafficmaster. That was in 2008 just as the whole financial world was collapsing around us and nobody could predict more than a few hours ahead. But I really, really enjoyed the step up to a board position and it was a success.

I don’t mind taking risks. Some things I’ve been involved with have worked out and others haven’t. But as long as I am being challenged personally and have support, I’m happy.

What does your job entail?
I joined Redcentric plc in January this year, a network services company that had just joined forces with InTechnology. The immediate challenge was to get the integration of those two businesses right.

We also have a March year-end, which was approaching pretty quickly and on a personal note I wanted to get all the numbers out properly. That went very well, with figures in line with or slightly ahead of what investors were expecting and the process was smoother than I was expecting.

Now I’m focusing on finishing the integration, which is on the home straight now, and then we will look to further organic growth.

What makes a great FD?
There are three key skills that I think makes a great FD.

The first is to be very, very close to the business. You can’t just be a bean counter - you’re far more than that. You also need to understand how the business works, and to talk to the customers to understand what they want want, but also to check how they are acting with regards to how long they are taking to pay and so on, because this can be very different from what they tell you and you need to know this.

It’s also important to be able to communicate effectively. Not just being a great listener, but also the ability to explain and present in a way that means people can take the right action. It can be difficult for your team to know what to do next if you just swamp them with data. A great FD will make it mean something.

And the third is to be able to recruit well so that you build a strong team. I’ve been in situations where we were overcompensating for weaknesses, and that stopped us doing the added-value job that we were supposed to be doing.

What do you enjoy outside of work?
I have three sons so I try to align my interests with them wherever I can. That includes coaching an under 16s football team every weekend, and we support Norwich City as a family and watch them home and away fairly regularly.

I also like mountaineering and twice a year I get together with a couple of mates for a long weekend. We have been doing it for nearly 15 years and been to the Alps, Pyrenees and Dolomites. They are guys I met when we were training at PwC. We went onto different jobs but then got back in touch. It’s great to get away from things, but also to be in company where you know you can talk open and freely about matters and to hear an honest, fresh perspective.

Who or what inspires you?
I see inspiring people all over, and it can be surprising where you do find inspirational people.

I respect anybody who volunteers to run something purely because they believe in it. And I like individuals who take ownership and responsibility. I like people who step up and do what they need to do without making too much fuss. Even if that’s in a small way, it impresses me.

Date Posted: July 23rd 2014

Posted By: Sam Jordan