Finance Director Interview – Marie Cooper, ‎Finance Director, President Engineering Group Ltd

February 5th 2014 | Posted by phil scott

Marie Cooper
‎Finance Director at President Engineering Group Ltd

How did you get to where you are today?
I wanted to be a nurse when I was younger because I wanted to help people. But my dad was self-employed when I was growing up, and I would help him with his figures. It was through this that I realised that there are many different ways of helping people and this was going to be my way.

I’d planned to take my A Levels and then get my accountancy degree, but after a car accident I went straight into work. I joined DC Cook in the admin department and loved the job. However, it was a bit too comfortable, I hadn’t picked up any formal qualifications and I hadn’t really challenged myself, so it was a bit of a wake-up call when the company went into receivership.

I joined David Brown Pumps and earned my AAT and ACCA and really enjoyed my six years at the company, but felt that I had outgrown them and joined the Flow Group, which had a £16m turnover. In 2010, three years after I’d joined, we undertook a management buyout and I went from the finance manager to the finance director, which is my role today.

In 2013 I was named ICAEW young finance director of the year.

What does your job entail?
A very broad mix of things. My role is very ad hoc, touching on HR and staff management, progressing the IT system we use, working on the overall strategy of the business and, of course, making sure that we make money.

It’s an exciting time for our company as we are expanding. We made an acquisition last year and are on the lookout for another. We are also looking into new markets, currently serving Russia and China whilst exploring the possibilities in South America.

We currently employ 98 in Sheffield and 130 overall, and part of my role is to keep the team informed and working towards a common goal. It’s a varied role and I love it.

What makes a great FD?
You’ve got to be good with numbers, but you can’t spend all your time sat in your office crunching them. It’s very important to have good interpersonal skills.

I have built a great team around me. To begin with, moving from finance manager to finance director, it was difficult to get hands-off and let some of the day-to-day tasks go, but you can’t do this job by yourself. The first person I recruited to assist me didn’t really work out, we didn’t share the same goals, but I’ve learned from that and now I’m surrounded people I like working with.

It’s also important to really understand your business. I have spent a lot of time on the shop floor talking to people and absorbing what they do.

Not taking no for an answer is also a great approach for an FD.

What do you enjoy outside of work?
I like to get some fresh air, which I get from walking and cycling.

I have also recently taken up skiing with my husband. Skiing takes a lot of concentration to get right, so when you’re on the slopes there’s no chance that you’re dwelling on something back at the office. Plus it’s really great exercise.

Who or what inspires you?
I’m motivated by challenges. I always want to be working towards something and, once I’ve hit my goal, I set the next challenge. And there’s always something, which is why I love this job.