Interview with an FD; Paul Smith

March 27th 2015 | Posted by phil scott

Paul Smith FD, Gold Medal TravelPaul Smith
FD, Gold Medal Travel

How did you get to where you are today?

Right from school I always intended to work in finance as I really enjoyed maths and business studies. I then studied an accounting degree at university and joined Alliance & Leicester’s graduate training scheme.

After working at Airtours in various commercial and finance roles and then providing financial consultancy to Prontaprint, I took up a role in the travel division of the Co-operative Group. This included the Competition Commission case to get the merger with Thomas Cook cleared. Thomas Cook also owned Gold Medal, which I moved across to and is where I am today, though we were sold to dnata in 2014.

What does your job entail?

I’m passionate about travel, although it’s not travel per se that drew me to this role. It’s more that it’s a very fast moving environment where no two days are ever the same and you can’t predict what challenges are around the corner. It’s always an exciting environment to work in.

My role involves lots of planning ahead, but at the same time you always have to be reactive. Both are very important and that’s something I enjoy.

My most recent project was compiling the half-year results and then we’re going to a look into a new general ledger and other information and reporting systems to see how we can improve. Longer term, our new owners are helping us with a growth plan, both in terms of sales and EBITDA.

What makes a great FD?

Stepping up to the finance director role means going from being part of the leadership team to being part of the executive team. It’s important, when you do this, not to change your personality, whilst at the same time acknowledging that you have taken a step up in seniority.

For me, a successful FD must have the core technical skills, be strategically aware and have a strong level of commerciality. Also important are excellent communication skills and your ability to lead a high-calibre team. You have to be able to build relationships at different levels in the organisation and adapt your style appropriately to each of these.

I have also found in my career that you can only be a great FD if you have a really strong team around you. It’s nice to inherit a great team, but you have to be able to shape your own by identifying the strong players and getting the best from them by giving them development plans, and by bringing in strong individuals with fresh ideas.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I’m a Burnley FC season ticket holder and I like to keep fit with mountain biking. I also enjoy spending time with my two young daughters.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by a fast-paced environment and I find it rewarding to make a difference with my work, both in terms of sales and EBITDA, but also in helping individuals to grow. Having a positive impact in those areas inspires me each day.