Interview with an FD: Helen Gammons

July 2nd 2014 | Posted by phil scott

Helen GammonsHelen Gammons

Finance Director of Rotolight

Programme director at Henley Business School and author

How did you get where you are today?
I’m a self-starter. I started my first business at 17 and launched my first London business in 1987 without equity, by finding bank manager who believed we could make a success of the business. It quickly became a notable recording and production facility at the leading edge of a new technology trend. We worked with so many great recording artists at that time.

I was then headhunted in 1992 by a company we were licensing a product too, a Japanese company called Avex. I became creative director and worked as part of the management team and over five years we took the company from start-up to flotation.

That was a very demanding role as I had two small children and had to spend one week every couple of months in Japan, training staff and developing the business.

I took an MBA in 1998 and have straddled business and education ever since. Between 2002 and 2009 I was a senior lecturer (part time, I just loved sharing my knowledge) and then I became head of the business school in Guildford, doubling the size of the school in two years.

I then joined Henley Business School in the hope of giving the music industry a strategic rudder and building an alliance with the creative industries. With this remit, I set up a meeting at the House of Commons chaired by Ed Vaizey. All the key recording labels, rights organisations and industry influences sat around the table to discuss the strategic need to develop middle and senior execs within the sector.

To date we’ve had more than 400 execs come to Henley from across the music and creative sectors on our ‘one-day Creative Dynamics programmes’ and we are showing strong growth on the MBA programme in the UK and South Africa.

What does your job entail?
I’m the FD of Rotolight, an advanced LED lighting company working in the broadcast film, TV and photographic markets.

I am heavily involved in strategic planning, supporting the R&D function and marketing strategies, assisting with effective communications with our investor and, of course, all the financial discussions. We have an accountant and bookkeeper for data inputting and payroll.

We have picked up a lot of five-star reviews and ‘best of’ awards for our products, including Best Lighting Product 2013 at Popular Photography Magazine, Technical Award Winner at the Cine Gear Expo 2013 and Best Value LED Lighting Product with the British Journal Of Photography Magazine.

My key work at Henley Business School is to build integration with the music and creative industries, to build SME engagement (as this is my background) and to develop innovative ideas.

We are also writing and delivering bespoke company programmes. We’ve just launched a scholarship programme worth £24,000 with Ticketmaster for the MBA programme.

I am also an author. My first book, The Art of Music Publishing: An Entrepreneur’s Guide, sold very well around the world and is now required reading in many universities. My second book, The Art of Music Publishing: The Strategic Dilemma, is due out next spring.

What makes a great FD?
I think you need to be very closely in touch with the vision the company is setting.

It’s really important to support the creativity of the business by ensuring the finances are planned well into the future – which is easier said than done in the current market. Banks are woefully letting down the SME sector at present, as made very clear in the Bank of England’s 2014 report

What do you enjoy outside of work?
Anything to do with water: boating, sailing, white water rafting.

That said, gardening is also a wonderful pastime. I love the Sky at Night, I’m a big Star Trek fan and I love reading science magazines.

I also really like buying shoes, holding parties and a reading great romance novels when on holiday.

Who or what inspires you?
I am inspired by young people who overcome an obstacle in their lives and find within themselves a passion to succeed, do better, and change something. I also take inspiration from people who raise themselves up despite a significant heartache and people who are selfless.