Thursday, 31 December 2009

Are we witnessing the end of New Labour?

The contents of Alistair Darling’s pre-budget report would suggest that Gordon Brown and Co. are far more interested in party politics and winning the favour of the electorate ahead of the impending general election, than in actually fixing the major problems of UK plc.

They have attempted to appeal to their core voters with a gimmicky “Bash the Bankers” tax, a one off tax on all bankers’ bonuses above £25,000 (which applies to all banks operating in the UK).

But while Gordon continues with his strategy of “Class Wars” and “Policies dreamt up on the playing fields of Eton” to try and create clear blue water between themselves and the Conservatives, it would appear that Labour now believe the “Toffs” to be anyone earning more than £20,000 a year (surely an own goal).

Personal income tax allowances, basic rate limits and NIC thresholds have all been frozen at 2009/10 levels rather than giving the customary increase, making everyone feel a little worse off. Additionally, the higher rate band (currently £37,400) will be frozen in 2012/13 (moving more taxpayers into the higher rate band over the next few years – another stealth move).

In addition, the previously announced ½% hike in National Insurance (additional income tax by any other name) was doubled to 1% and will take effect from April 2011 (thus increasing employee contributions from 11% to 12% and employer contributions from 12.8% to 13.8%). And VAT returns to 17.5% from 1st January 2010. So all in all, a bloody nose for almost everyone.

Of course, as we already knew, a new tax band of 50% comes in from April 2010 for what Labour believe is the super-rich i.e. everyone earning above £150,000 per annum – sounds like another attempt at a vote winner from the core labour supporters as £150,000 pa does not make you super-rich (and is not likely to increase the tax take by the treasury significantly either).

And what of the economy overall? Well, we are still technically in recession, inflation is on the increase, we have a borrowing requirement now up to £178bn this year and £176bn next year, with no solid plans from the government about how this huge level of borrowing will be repaid (well, not before the general election, anyway), Gordon Brown wanting to carry on spending within the Public Sector and the amount of strikes and industrial unrest on the rise.

Could this be another “Winter of Discontent” similar to that in the late seventies which sounded the death knell of a previous Labour government bereft of ideas and bankrupt on policy? In the early stages of 2010 ahead of the next General Election, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dash to the labour heartlands of the left, and Old Labour tendencies, in order to try and shore up their crumbling vote.

It’s about time that the people who want to lead this country stop playing party politics and start setting out an agenda for getting this once great country out of its difficult current situation and back on track towards sustainable recovery and prosperity.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Merry Christmas from Intervallum Limited

I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas to all of our clients, suppliers, colleagues, contacts and friends.

Have a great festive period and a Happy New Year, and here's hoping that we all have a prosperous 2010.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Intervallum Limited nominated for “Best New Business in the Midlands 2009”

I am pleased to report that at the recent Midlands Business Awards Ceremony & Dinner held at the Aston Villa Football Stadium, Intervallum Limited was short listed in the “Best New Business in the Midlands 2009” category.

On what proved to be a packed event, I had the honour of walking down the red carpet to join the other businesses short listed for an award on the evening. Although Intervallum didn’t eventually win the New Business award, it was a tremendous achievement to have been recognised as one of a handful of the most highly regarded business start-ups of the year.

A fabulous evening was had by all.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Digby Jones On Form at BBBC

The recent meeting of the Birmingham Business Breakfast Club, held at the Botanical Gardens, was packed to hear what Lord Jones had to say on how the recession had effected his beloved West Midlands (in fact so popular was this event, the BBBC had stopped taking bookings well ahead of the date). And if you know Digby then you will know that he always has plenty to say; sometimes controversial, often colourful, but always entertaining.

The last time I heard him speak was last year at the 100 year anniversary celebration of the Territorial Army, just after he had left government. He certainly let rip into the governing party (which they richly deserved) and once again gave us an insight, via a story or two, as to what it is like for a business person to have to work alongside the civil service (which didn’t sound like a pleasant experience).

In November 2009, Digby’s main concerns were predominantly based around the skills shortage in the West Midlands – once the home of UK manufacturing. He was concerned that if these skills continue to be lost to the area then there is every chance that soon they will be lost forever and the West Midlands may never fully recover.

To emphasise the skills issue he quoted the statistics that one in four of the adult population in some parts of Birmingham were unable to read and write to the level expected by an 11 year old within the National curriculum. He pointed to the fact that if, as an adult, you can’t read and write, then it is highly unlikely that you will have books in your home. The result of this will be very little hope for your children’s literacy, and so the cycle will continue and repeat itself again and again. We have to break this cycle now, or pay the price in the future.

Lord Jones was very critical of the government’s normal routine of handing out more and more benefits to immigrants who come and live in the West Midlands, citing the old Chinese proverb that if you give a man a fish he will be fed for the day, but if you give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish then he will be fed for life (again, the focus being on skills development, innovation, motivation etc).

He also had a very interesting ambition for the political landscape in the UK – more independent (and accountable) MPs, the electorate voting for who they want to lead the country rather than a political party (i.e. more in a US Presidential style), and the new leader appointing a cabinet of experts in each discipline. After all, you wouldn’t want someone without the correct qualifications and experience operating on your brain just because they had been voted in to be the brain surgeon, so why would you want a Chancellor of the Exchequer who had no finance background, or a Minister for Business who had only ever worked in the Civil Service? And he has a very good point.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Higher Rate Tax in this Green and Pleasant Land

Is it fair that because you earn more money than other people that you should be expected to pay a higher rate of tax? Or is this just the age old way that governments squeeze the pips out of middle England to pay for the mistakes that they have made while in office?

Whilst I believe that Britain should have a solid social infrastructure of Police/Fire/Ambulance services, a free at point of use NHS and a good state school system etc. it always seems inequitable in who has to actually pay for it the most. The analogy that springs to mind is of two families having identical meals in a restaurant, but one family is asked to pay more for their meals because their annual income is higher than the other family’s. Surely the fact is that if you earn more than someone else, you are already paying more tax into the system even at the same rate of tax.

Although governments are always ready and waiting to tax you to the hilt once you become financially successful, where are they when you are struggling on a low salary whilst studying for professional qualifications or attempting to start-up your own business? Where is the support then, when you really need it?

The taxation system as it stands, is completely unfair to the creation and maintenance of innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation, because you’re unfairly penalised for success when, in reality, you are already contributing so much to the economy. And this more flexible and entrepreneurial sector of the business community is vital to economic growth - after all, recent research showed that 51% of UK GDP came from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The recent credit crunch was the first recession that made a large number of professional people, managers and white collar workers redundant. After the shock of being in full employment for so many years, and then being unexpectedly made redundant, an even greater shock was waiting for them on their first visit to the Job Centre Plus. Aside from the lack of jobs and any meaningful help, they had to cope with the realisation that the only short term assistance that they would get would be the Job Seekers Allowance of a little over £60 per week, the same amount that other people who had lost their jobs and who had paid much less tax (and probably tax in a lower band) into the system were receiving. This does not seem fair or equitable.

And how did our government deal with this crisis? By announcing a new, even higher, tax banding (50%) for all those earning more than £150,000 per annum (from April 2010). This band is far too low - these aren’t the super rich. A Premiership footballer, film star or television personality could earn this sum in a little over a week. It will, however, hit many business people who are working hard to help Britain escape out of recession and attempt to build a sustainable recovery for our economy. It is no coincidence that we must have a General Election in 2010 – hitting the perceived high earners is always going to be a vote winner for the masses, particularly the long term benefits claimants who perhaps don’t want to work…….after all, continued taxation (particularly at a higher rate) of those who contribute most to the economy is how they derive their income!!!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Digby Jones and Other Great Midlands Networking Events Before Christmas 2009

There are some great networking events taking place in the Midlands that are well worth getting to prior to Christmas 2009, with my pick of them being: -

Thursday 29th October – “Networking Made Clear”, Edge Creative are holding the latest of their excellent networking events at The Jam House in Birmingham, commencing at 6pm, this time in association with Clear Solutions. Email for more details.

Wednesday 11th November – Lord Digby Jones is the guest presenter at the Birmingham Business Breakfast Club’s November meeting at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham from 7am to 9am. This will be a very popular event – for more details check out

Friday 20th November – The Midlands Business Awards Dinner & Ceremony, the Holte Suite, Aston Villa FC. From 7pm until late, this Black Tie evening promises to be one of the events of the year, co-sponsored by the South Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry and raising money for the Midlands Air Ambulance. The website can be found at or call Jo Bailey on 07725 575282 for details.

Monday 30th November – Institute of Directors West Midlands AGM and Networking Event. 5.30pm to 8pm at the Royal Bank of Scotland, International Banking Centre, Fourth Floor, 2 St Phillips Place, Birmingham, B3 2RB

Wednesday 2nd December – “Yogi Bear’s Guide to Inspirational Leadership” by Steve Richardson, tour of Stoke City FC’s Britannia Stadium and AGM of CIMA North West Midlands commencing at 6pm. For more details contact

Tuesday 8th December – Cooper Parry Corporate Finance Networking Breakfast, Dave Mackay Suite, Pride Park Stadium, Derby 8am to 9.30am For more details visit

Wednesday 16th December – Lunch with the IoD Director General, Miles Templeman, 12.30pm, Derby County Football Club, Pride Park Stadium, Derby DE24 8XL More information and booking details at

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Who are the Institute of Leadership and Management?

I am delighted to have recently achieved a Fellowship with the Institute of Leadership and Management and am proud to now also add the designatory letters FInstLM after my name.

After telling a few business colleagues about this great news and gauging their responses, I began to wonder how many people out there in the business world are actually aware of the ILM and what they are all about? The ILM first came to my notice one Sunday morning when they were commenting on a business leadership issue on the BBC News; so even if I was not previously aware of them, the BBC most certainly was (along with their almost 120,000 members).

In their own words, “The Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) supports, develops and informs leaders and managers at every stage of their careers. Through our broad range of industry-leading qualifications, membership services and learning resources, ILM provides flexible development solutions that can be blended to meet the specific needs of employers and management professionals”.

The levels of ILM membership is: -

Affiliate (AInstLM)
This grade is for you if you have a management related qualification at level 2 or at least 10 days’ CPD in the last 3 years or if you’re a newly appointed manager with less than 3 years’ experience or if you’re hoping to become a manager and you have a development plan.

Associate Member (AMInstLM)
If you have at least 5 years’ management experience OR a management-related qualification at level 3 or above or at least 20 days’ CPD within the last 5 years, this is the grade for you.

Member (MInstLM)
ILM’s most popular membership grade is for you if you have at least 5 years’ management experience AND a management-related qualification at level 3 or above or at least 20 days’ CPD within the last 5 years.

Fellow (FInstLM)
This most prestigious membership grade is reserved for those who have at least 7 years’ management experience including 5 years as a senior manager AND a qualification at degree level (level 5) or above or at least 35 days’ CPD within the last 7 years.

If you don't yet know who the Institute of Leadership and Management are, then perhaps you should find out. You can check out their website at or email or call them on 01543 266886.

And once you have found out who they are, remember where you heard it first!!!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Midlands Dealmakers Awards 2009

Despite this difficult economy, it was very encouraging to be part of the 700+ business people who attended the excellent Insider Magazine "Midlands Dealmaker Awards and Dinner" last night (with special thanks to Greenwell Gleeson Limited who very kindly extended an invitation to me).

Almost everyone who is anyone in the corporate finance world of the Midlands was there, with very strong showings in the award categories from LDC, KPMG and Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets.

The event showed that there is still much activity in the Midlands, and this will hopefully continue on an upward plane into 2010.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Meet, Know, Like, Trust – The Power of Networking

As the summer fades away to a distant memory and most of us return to our desks, so begins the invitations to events, briefings, lunches etc. many with the promise of networking opportunities and the possibility of business referrals. The blurb almost seems to suggest that if you are prepared to give up a couple of hours of your time, new business can be yours. This is a gross over-simplification of the networking process.

First of all, no matter what you manufacture or which service you provide, business is done by people with other people. Therefore the old networking maxim, “Meet, Know, Like, Trust” (which was recently reminded to the attendees of a breakfast meeting of the South Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry) really comes into play.

Attending networking events allows you access to, and the opportunity to meet, many people in business. Hopefully you will cast off any nerves and talk to a number of these people. By regular attendance at these events you will come across some of these individuals again, speak to them some more, and get to know them.

As in all walks of life, some people you meet you will find that you have much in common with; others less so – but in whom you may still hold a healthy respect for. These are the people you now know in business and whom you realise you actually like.

And being human, we all prefer to deal with people we like and furthermore people we trust.

Another important rule to get the best out of networking is to “give”. It’s not all about securing referrals out of every networking contact but more about building long and lasting relationships. Think about how you can assist a networking contact with a problem or issue that he/she is currently experiencing. Perhaps you know someone who can help them. Remember, in the same way that you will recommend the services of a trusted network colleague to your other contacts, these network colleagues will also be recommending you, when appropriate, if they like and trust you. So goes the power of networking.

Hence, “Meet, Know, Like, Trust”.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Intervallum Conference Diary - Part Two

Whilst between sessions at the Intervallum conference, one of our number spotted the latest book by “The Tipping Point” author, Malcolm Gladwell. Entitled “Outliers”, it describes itself as the “Story of Success”, but with a twist (Outlier – something that is situated away from or classed differently from a main related body).

Interestingly, numerous successful geniuses (i.e. Bill Gates) didn’t make it on intellect alone but were benefactors of opportunities by being at the right place at the right time i.e. he went to a private school where his Mother worked on a committee that raised money to buy a computer terminal for programming on a local mainframe in the days where almost all programming had to be done via punch cards (and this advantage led to programming opportunities with companies while he was still a student). Another example cited is with regard to ice hockey players who were born at the start of the year (and the start of the season) and were normally bigger and more powerful than younger boys, performing better and therefore getting the chances to have additional training (thus getting even better) and going on to be picked for the teams and becoming the major league players (while the younger players didn’t get the opportunities and eventually missed the grade).

The theory continues that IQ only matters to a certain level and that additional intelligence won’t make you any more successful. Physical intelligence then takes over, with the powers of persuasion (knowing how to get the best response from other people) becoming as significant as IQ.

Also, where you come from is important, according to Gladwell – not only due to the opportunities afforded you but in the attitude and confidence you will possess coming from a middle class family as opposed to the “constraints” felt by people with a poorer background.

Another factor of success (unsurprisingly) is hard work of a structured and meaningful nature – Gladwell suggests at least 10,000 hours are required to get to the top of your field, be it computer programming, becoming a chess master or playing the piano.

There’s also anecdotal evidence of people with IQs as high as 200 who never amounted to anything due to where they came from (family background), missed opportunities and an inability to communicate persuasively with people they perceive to be of a higher standing.

It’s certainly a thought provoking piece of work, gave the team plenty of interesting discussions, and goes some way to showing that intelligence alone simply isn’t enough to be a success.

As for the remainder of the conference itself, I would like to thank Mike Harvey for his excellent seminar presentations on Memory skills, the workings of the brain, and body language – a very entertaining and passionate presenter. And a special thanks to Perry McCarthy (racing driver and the original “Stig” from Top Gear) who’s hilarious talk ended the proceedings.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Intervallum Conference Diary - Part One

This year, the team has left the UK, turned the mobile phones off, and left all distractions behind.

The theme for this conference is to work"on" the business, not just "in" the business. And this is a point I think that far too many Company leaders fail to focus on. It's very admirable to work long hours at the "coal face", but if your efforts are misplaced then the business isn't going to be any further on. We have focused this week on a "Time to Think" philosophy - what are we wanting to achieve, are our efforts effectively aligned to these goals, are we contacting the right prospects and/or markets for future opportunities, or are there things we could do better (the answer is yes - we must all work on the basis of continuous improvement)?

By taking that step back from the front line and rising up to take a "helicopter" view, it is incredible how much you can see, and how many tweeks and minor changes you can effect to get you back on the course of the Company vision.

It's like a ship sailing the oceans just one or two degrees out of line - it starts off quite close to the original course, but after a period of time it will be a long way from the original target destination. Regular checking on the direction, as well as the day to day operation of the vessel, will give the Captain the information to make the minor tweeks he needs to reach his scheduled port.

This week the team has worked well to these ends in the conference sessions and produced some valuable thoughts that we intend to progress further as a Company.

Note: One highlight of the conference so far has been a seminar presentation by Dragons Den entrepreneur, David Pybus ("Scents of Time"), who lifted the lid on the behind the scenes aspect of the show, and what it has been like working with Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis (who together invested £80k into his business).

Sunday, 26 July 2009

“How the Mighty Fall...” – the new book from Jim Collins

Like me, you may have followed Jim Collins work through the excellent “Good to Great”, to “Built to Last” and “Beyond Entrepreneurship” (possibly having previously read the seminal “In Search of Excellence” by Peters and Waterman). And now Collins is back with a new work entitled, “How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In”, which appears quite timely in the current economic landscape.

The headline premise of this work is that: -

Decline can be avoided
Decline can be detected
Decline can be reversed

In the book, Collins identifies the 5 main stages of decline which he describes as: -

Stage 1: Hubris born of success
Stage 2: Undisciplined pursuit of more
Stage 3: Denial of risk and peril
Stage 4: Grasping for salvation
Stage 5: Capitulation to irrelevance or death

In essence, he is looking for the main reasons why companies fall, and the stage that they go through from being successful to completely failing; he asks if such decline can be spotted early (much like a screening for a medical condition) and, if treated early, repaired.

The book is full of anecdotal examples of the good, the bad and the ugly in business and is short, punchy and very readable at 123 pages long (211 pages when taking into account the appendices and associated notes).

In my opinion this is a great reference resource for all senior executives to read and reflect on. By looking in to the corporate mirror with complete honesty, does your company fall into any of the 5 stages of decline? According to Collins, even if they do, it may not be terminal as long as you take the right action now.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

10 Essential Elements of an Effective Leader

In any economic climate, and particularly in the one we are currently experiencing, an organisation needs clear and effective leadership. But what traits help to make up the character of a good leader?

Here I suggest 10 such elements that are an integral part of leadership: -

1) Vision – a leader must have a vision that everyone in the organisation can believe in, and gives a common sense of purpose throughout.

2) Focus – keep your eye on the ball and be ready to seize the opportunity as it arises. Be decisive in the pursuit of your objectives.

3) Respect/Trust – lead by example, work hard and be consistent in all that you do, and your team will build up their respect and trust in you.

4) Courage – a leader must be prepared to make tough decisions that can often be unpopular with other team members. The leader is there to be effective, not to win a popularity contest.

5) Communicate effectively – clear direction must be communicated to all team members in order that the entire team understands the objectives of the business model, but as a leader you must also have the ability to listen effectively. A casual conversation at the coffee machine can often unearth facts that haven’t been imparted within a meeting; an effective leader is always good at recognising and extracting these facts.

6) Prioritise – always prioritise your top five tasks and ensure that you work them through to completion.

7) Be Commercial – run the business to suit the customer wherever possible. Remember, they are the gatekeepers of your future revenue streams.

8) Accept Mistakes – be prepared to make mistakes and remove the blame culture from your Company. If employees are too scared to make mistakes then creativity and innovative decision making will be stifled and the organisation will suffer as a result. Remember the old maxim, “We learn from our mistakes” – the trick is not to repeat them.

9) Continual Learning – the effective leader must have the ability to continually learn, adapt and change in this fast moving world. To stand still is to go backwards in real terms.

10) Teambuilding – as a successful leader, surround yourself with the best team possible to cover all areas that you are not an expert in. Never fall into the trap of feeling threatened and, consequently, building a team where you are still the best within each discipline. The best team will produce superior results for your organisation.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

So what was the credit crunch and is it now over?

The “Credit Crunch” was a term originally coined by journalists following the sudden reduction in available credit and the sudden increase in the cost of credit brought on by the world’s economic turmoil.

The global problems were rooted in the US Sub-Prime market where mortgages were given to people who didn’t have the means to pay them back. The sub-prime mortgages were then lumped together and sold off in parcels called Collateralised Debt Obligations (CDOs) to various banks and financial institutions around the world. These CDOs were often then sold on again several times.

The original idea to this methodology was that if small parcels of debt went to many banks then the overall risk would be reduced to a negligible level – in reality it left many ticking time bombs all over the financial and banking sector without the means for anyone to identify exactly who had what toxic asset on their balance sheet. This was so pronounced that by August 2007, banks had practically stopped lending even to each other in case they didn’t get their money back. This quickly resulted in the Northern Rock collapse and nationalisation by Alistair Darling in September 2007.

Banks started declaring some sub-prime losses and began writing them off their books. But with a need to keep the required level of capital ratios to lending in place, assets had to be sold to balance the books. Accounting rules stated that the assets must be held at “Fair Value” (market value). For banks desperately trying to sell assets to cover their position, and the lack of confidence they now engendered, an environment of fire sales was created with the result that asset prices (market value) plummeted and thereby decimated the banks balance sheets.

In the meantime, there were several multi billion pound initiatives by governments around the world to kick start the lending again (both between banks and from banks to businesses), with very patchy results. And still the economy worsened, the job losses mounted and the UK (amongst others) officially entered recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth).

What options remained to the banks? Initially they went to the market to raise new capital. Subsequently, when this clearly wasn’t enough to maintain requirements, the only realistic course of action was a mechanism to allow them to be bailed out and part nationalised by the government to stop the whole banking system from collapsing.

The banking system now appears to have stabilised somewhat, although it is debateable as to whether the credit tap is fully open to business again (with future business spending therefore needing to be financed out of income, rather than borrowing, benefiting cash generative companies). And in the mortgage market, even though interest rates are at an all time low, fixed rate products are more expensive than they were before the crisis when interest rates were at 5% - 6%. The banks, however, seem to be doing alright and are already looking to repay the government as quickly as possible to get back control (and allow the bonus culture to return).

So are we now seeing the green shoots of recovery or another false dawn? In recent days we have we have been informed of a number of positive signs that suggest the economy is finally emerging from the painful recession. Job losses in the UK and US are slowing (although they are still going up) and the service industry grew last month for the first time in more than a year, with manufacturing output rising by 0.2% in April. We are told that house price falls have slowed and demand for housing is firming up, while the survey of purchasing managers (covering construction, manufacturing and services) showed a sixth consecutive month of increased score (the current climb over the 50-points mark suggests that contraction has turned to expansion). Indeed a leading economic think tank, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, suggests the recession is over and that GDP actually grew in April and May.

However, there is no room for complacency as inflation in May remained higher then many had expected, which leaves little room for further easing of monetary policy to further boost the recovery of the economy. CPI, at 2.2%, is still above the Bank of England’s 2% target which could leave the MPC having to raise interest rates sooner rather than later. We have also seen oil creep up ominously to a 7 month high, and pass the $70 per barrel mark.

Some commentators have warned that the green shoots of recovery we are currently seeing may not last, and rather than a “V” shaped recession/recovery that many expect, we could be heading for a “W” shaped profile where there is another downward period before a sustained recovery takes place.

So is the recession over? It’s a hard one to call. But the evidence would seem to suggest “not quite yet”. However, despite the potential for a bumpy ride ahead of us, we do appear to be on the road to recovery at last.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Determination, Ambition and Chartered Director

I have worked in Finance across many different sectors of industry and commerce for over 25 years now, the last 13 years as a Finance Director (and, on occasion, MD), and first began Interim FD work in early 2004 (and am now MD of my own company, Intervallum Limited, that provides Interim FD services both directly to companies and also via Private Equity houses and banks).

I have always been ambitious and had a desire to do everything I am involved in to the best of my abilities to see how far I could push myself. For example, a band I founded in the sixth form of my Grammar school back in 1982 was signed by a record label and had a number of releases in the mid-eighties, touring the UK & Europe, finally leading me to make a record which included the likes of Ronnie Wood from The Rolling Stones, Chris “Handbags and Glad Rags” Farlowe, PP Arnold, Reg Presley of The Troggs and Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene (and Paul Weller’s band) when I was MD and owner of a record label and music publishing business.

And so this ambition and desire has always been prevalent in my professional life. I have always been thoroughly fascinated by business and started my career with my first junior role in a company back in 1983. After performing all the various roles in an accounts department to cement my understanding, I undertook the exams of the Association of Accounting Technicians which, although an excellent qualification in its own right, was my pathway to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. My interest was always within the decision making process of taking a business forward so the audit route was never an option for me.

To broaden the academic side of my business education after seven years of accountancy exams, in line with my continued experience in the work place, I then undertook an MBA at Edinburgh Business School via the Heriot Watt University. This was mainly done off campus as by this time, 1997, I was already Group Finance Director of a National Facilities Management Group (having previously been Group Chief Accountant and Acting Finance Director of a PLC that I moved from the USM to AIM in 1996).

It was shortly after graduating with an MBA that I became aware that the IoD had started the Director development courses that led to the worlds first (and currently only) professional qualification for Directors – the Chartered Director. It seemed obvious that ensuring Company Directors were correctly examined in their legal responsibilities and good corporate governance etc. could only be a positive thing from the point of view of investors and stakeholders. Thus, enrolling on this path myself, I became the Institute’s 25th Chartered Director early in the new millennium.

So there the journey ends……..or does it? Well – not quite. With my desire to remain current, competent and at the leading edge of business, I have continued with my professional development. I work on the basis that I have the ability to undertake any project or assignment – if I don’t have the first hand knowledge or experience myself, then I am not afraid to go back to a classroom environment or pick-up the phone to someone in my network to close this gap and get the job done – after all, no one within business knows all there is to know on the subject.

Furthermore. reading the financial press on a daily basis, along with monthly accountancy and business journals, and attending relevant seminars and training courses is key, as far as I am concerned, to remaining relevant. In the same way that a sports person spends hours a week practising the skills to remain at the top of their game, so a Director needs to continuously ensure that they are up to date with current legislation, trends and developments within business.

I believe networking to be of huge importance too – not for the instant referrals that the lower end networking groups aim for, but in building lasting relationships with good quality business people and professionals who you come to trust and on whose opinion you can rely on.

So the ambition continues. I wake up every morning with the same question in my head, “What can I do today to make my mark on the world?”

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Welcome to my blog

Hello and welcome to my blog space. My name is Paul Hooper-Keeley and my company is Intervallum Limited - we provide Interim Finance Director Services to industry and commerce across the UK and Europe; you can find us on the web at

By way of my background, I have worked within various finance departments since the early eighties and have been a Finance Director since 1996. I am a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (and was President of the North West Midlands branch from 2003 to 2005), the Institute of Directors' 25th Chartered Director, a Fellow of the Association of Accounting Technicians, and holder of an MBA gained at the Edinburgh Business School via the Heriot Watt University.

I first began providing Interim Finance Director Services in early 2004 and have since been involved in the sale of a support services business, a BIMBO of a telecoms company, the implementation of a new stock control system within the sportswear sector, a circa £150m secondary buy out of a construction business, and other turnaround, restructuring and relocation work with the building services sector.

My work has been a mixture of services provided directly to companies at the request of their Boards, and also via banks and private equity companies (i.e. to focus on their portfolio businesses).

The intention of this blog is not just to give a commentary on what I am currently involved in, but also to express my views on various trends and news items within the economy. This will be augmented by the quarterly article that I have been asked to contribute to the IoD West Midlands magazine, commencing in June 2009.

Please feel free to contact me directly at or on 07958 155705.