Inside the job of a Finance Manager

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Maybe you’re considering progressing your career and looking for a Finance Manager job? Or perhaps you want to know how the role of a Finance Manager for a property business differs? Then stick around and read on.

We have interviewed Bradley Warren, Finance Lead at property developer Make Shift, about the ins and outs, challenges and highlights of his job. Bradley is an Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) and runs the numbers for Make Shift, overseeing operations and planning for four companies including Make Shift, Pop Brixton, Peckham Levels and Clarnico Quays. He trained at PwC for 4 years, specialising in real estate and investment management, before taking the leap and starting Make Shift’s finance function.

Before joining Make Shift you worked for PwC. What was the motivation behind the change to a property developer like Make Shift?

“PwC was a great starting point for me. It is where I trained as a chartered accountant (ACA), gained experience working with FTSE 100 businesses and built a great network of finance professionals. Although I was performing well at PwC, I always knew I was replaceable and a small cog in a big machine. I wanted to join a small business like Make Shift, not only to get myself in a position where I could make big decisions and take on more responsibility, but also to make a difference in the world. Make Shift is a social enterprise first and foremost, and I’m a big believer that entrepreneurship can open up endless opportunities to the local community through affordable space provision.”

What was the biggest learning curve, having made the move to Make Shift?

“Make Shift was not an easy jump from a big corp. Start-ups/small businesses lack structure and processes, and that can be frustrating when you first join. In my first week I was doing everything from scanning in invoices to developing group financial strategy. The first couple of years were tough, working late, managing multiple projects myself financially whilst watching a naturally tricky cash position for a property start up. Nevertheless, the experience was priceless.”

What does your day to day job entail?

“I lead the finance function for the Group (35 employees, 4 companies, 3 properties) and also sit in the senior management team as Head of Project Operations, which ultimately means I am responsible for our projects’ financial and operational performance. I work closely with our Project Directors to ensure that targets for each property are met and issues are addressed. I get most satisfaction out of leading a team of highly motivated employees and watching them grow in experience and expertise. We are a very flat organisation and regularly meet to discuss all aspects of company strategy – to see the 18-year-old intern I hired a year later give some really useful insights and recommendations into company strategy is what makes my job worthwhile. I love to see my team and its members succeed and grow.”

How do you think the role of a finance professional differs in property?

“Cash management is the key difference. A property business usually requires significant investment before revenue generation and ongoing capital investment to keep it performing. If cash is not managed correctly from the start, it can put the property in significant financial trouble that is hard to escape unless alternative investment/revenue streams are created.”

You oversee multiple projects and budgets; how do you balance your time and what advice can you give for running large teams?

“Plan, prioritise and delegate is my advice. Being one of the key decision makers in the organisation and one that has all the financial information at their fingertips is empowering, but it can lead to high stress when everyone tries to pass every decision through you. Work has to be carefully planned in advance so that surprises are minimal and expectations are set early. It is also very important to provide the correct support and tools for your junior team, so that they can achieve their targets independently.”

What would you say is the biggest challenge working alongside teams from a non-financial background?

“Getting people to understand the importance of financial performance in a business. Team members can be very short-sighted and blind in their decision making if they do not understand the wider impact on the business financially. It is my teams’ job to make sure everyone understands the short, medium and long- term financial plan of each property, so that decisions are aligned.”

What would you say is the best part of your job at Make Shift?

“This is definitely a cliché, but it has to be the people. I’m a firm believer that a small group of highly motivated and inspired people can change the world. That’s what we are trying to do at Make Shift. Finance is just one part of my job, growing the business for the benefit of the communities around us is the other, and I do that with a highly motivated senior management team.”

What would your advice be for anyone considering joining a growing property developer like Make Shift?

“We’re on the hunt for A team players and will do anything to keep them once they’re with us. We’re here to make big changes to how local communities develop and want to challenge the standard development model. If you’re willing to leave your ego at the door, roll your sleeves up and take on a big challenge, then we will welcome you with open arms.”

 

Deverell Smith Limited, 2nd Floor, Cannon Green, 1 Suffolk Lane, London, EC4R 0AX Tel: 020 7291 0900