Interview with an FD: Craig Spillard

October 26th 2016 | Posted by phil scott

Interview with an FD: Craig SpillardCraig Spillard, FD, Spillard Safety Systems

How did you get where you are today?

From an early age I always wanted to work in finance, as maths was one of the only subjects that appealed to me and kept me interested, especially when the attraction of football and girls grew.

Although I worked at a bank as part of work experience, I didn’t actually think I’d be able to progress down this route as I left school with only 2 ‘Cs’ at GCSE level.

This is where fate took a strange turn. I managed to work at a bank’s head office through an agency position at 18 and really got stuck into the role, impressing bosses so much that I was team leader by the time I was 21. It just goes to show that academia isn’t right for everyone and sometimes you just need to show the right common sense and application and you can still achieve things.

At 25 I started up my own business, which was working as a business analyst to various banks and building societies around the UK.

In 2005, I decided to join the family business – Spillard Safety Systems – to help my father, Vic, and brother,Pete, put some structure to the finances of the company. This would give us the platform to make the most of new products and innovations we were developing with the help of technology partners across the world.

Spillard is one of the UK’s largest vehicle safety solution providers to the construction, quarrying mining, waste and commercial industries. We have a customer base ranging from global conglomerates to original equipment manufacturers.

What does your role entail?

On a daily basis, I complete a cashflow model, which tells me where the company’s cash position is from today until the end of the month. I also take care of weekly and monthly wage runs.

Over the years, I’ve built a stock model, which tells me what needs to be ordered based on what is in stock, what’s on order and future demand.

This is absolutely crucial for a SME. To be able to manage stock successfully you need to have a solid understanding of your cash position, or else you can order stock you can’t afford or not lift your stock holding when cash allows.

I also input all purchase invoices, which allows me to understand where our product prices sit.  Again, knowledge is king.

Spillard is growing and we have to continue to invest in the best people, the best technology and the best equipment to allow us to continually bring world class mobile safety equipment solutions to market.

With this in mind, we’ve just come to the end of our latest investment drive, a £250,000 12-month plan that has seen us extend our R&D department, take on two new apprentices and overhaul our fleet of service and maintenance vehicles.

We have also upgraded the website and created an entire suite of marketing material, not to mention a PR campaign that has already seen us make the headlines in local, regional, trade and national media. Not every day you get to listen to yourself on BBC 5 Live or read about your family business in the Daily Express.

What makes a great FD?

Someone that understands both the business side of decision making, as well as the financial side.

Too often, you will see FDs making decisions which are purely driven by finances, but ultimately has a detrimental effect on how the business operates and its long-term financial position.

I’ve spent time working in all areas of our business so understand how each area operates, the challenges our people face and what makes them tick. This visibility and understanding goes into every financial decision we make as a company.

That’s not to say I’m a soft-touch, but I just believe that you have to sometimes give a little to get a lot back in return.

Other traits that are important are organisation, a clear mind and the ability to interact with staff. Too many times FDs are seen as boring and unapproachable. It shouldn’t be like that.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

In the past I have held the position of treasurer at various sports and social clubs so I suppose my day job does play a role there.

Outside of work I think you do need an escapism and I find mine watching football and owning shares in a stable that is producing some very good horses.

I’ve also just completed a major charity challenge that saw me bike from John O’Groats to Land’s End for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Breast Cancer Now. I think between us we raised in excess of £15,000

Who or what inspires you?

I can’t really put my finger anything specific, I take little things from everywhere to try and help me become a better FD.

If you had to really tie me down to one answer, I would probably go my father, Vic, who set up Spillard Safety Systems in 1992. It took a lot of courage to step out of the comfort zone and start something new and he has remained true to his convictions to this day.

He’s now left the day-to-day business to Pete and I to look after, but we know if we need a sounding board or someone to sanity check our expansion plans he’s only a phone call or an impromptu meeting away.

I must also say he was a godsend during the aforementioned charity ride. I’m not sure I’d have managed to do all those miles without him shouting abuse at me from the support truck!