My journey Vickie Brown CDir of Distinction Group
Vickie Brown is a finance director who joined the IoD in 2014 and qualified as a chartered director in 2018.
Every director overcomes challenges in their career that enable them to offer guidance to the business leaders of tomorrow – read on to find out how becoming a chartered director has helped Vickie, and the advice she’d give to other directors.
I am a CIMA qualified management accountant with over 20 years experience in manufacturing and FMCG companies. I am currently finance director and shareholder in the Distinction Group Limited, a home improvements group with a turnover in excess of £40M based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire where we employ 147 people.
I am very proud to be a member of a diverse board where everyone’s input is valued regardless of gender, qualifications or background. We have all been recruited or promoted on our own merit and deserve a place at the boardroom table. I work closely with all our stakeholders and I am well respected in my role.
Why I undertook the Chartered Director Programme
I am a huge advocate of lifelong learning, and as this was my first real director level role I wanted to ensure that I was fulfilling my role and responsibilities to the best of my abilities. My CEO is also a chartered director and is keen that the majority of our board attain the qualification.
The IoD courses are specifically tailored to meet the needs of a director, and the short intensive courses work well in terms of time away from the business.
My key learnings
The Certificate in Company Direction: I was surprised how little the non-finance directors understood of the finance reports. Learning this has changed the way I produce my board information, which I know the rest of my board appreciate. If you don’t leave the Role of the Director and the Board feeling uncomfortable about your personal responsibilities I’m not sure you’ve understood the course!
The Diploma in Company Direction: The Diploma was a much more practical experience, working with fellow board members to get agreement. The course was challenging and really made me think about the different “hats” individual board members wear. It also really opened my eyes to the lack of diversity out there – I was a lone female on that section of the course based in Salford.
Chartered director portfolio and interview: I thoroughly enjoyed collating the portfolio and the interview process, as it allowed me to sit back and take stock of what I have personally achieved as a director, and what we have achieved collectively as a board.
How the Chartered Director Programme has helped me
The IoD and the Chartered Director Programme is fantastic for making connections with other directors. Meeting fellow directors and listening to their varied experiences has really helped me grow into my role. It also means that I have a fabulous network of friends who I can call on for professional advice when I need to.
Throughout the certificate and diploma modules my perceptions of my role shifted from a very technical finance based focus to a much more strategic overview of the business. Putting together the portfolio and partaking in the interview process really solidified my understanding of how a board should work together and happily allowed me to confirm that as a board we are fulfilling our duties.
My biggest challenge
My biggest challenge as a director has been to let go of the day to day financials – because that is my comfort zone – but I have an amazing team that I know I can trust to provide accurate and timely information.
The most important attributes of a modern director
Integrity and authenticity. If you do what you say you are going to do and behave in a consistent manner your stakeholders will trust you.
My advice for new directors
Build strong relationships within the board and with other stakeholders. It’s important that you gain the respect and trust of those around you, this goes back to acting with integrity and authenticity – be true to yourself and people will trust you, even if they sometimes disagree with you.
Don’t be afraid to ask difficult and challenging questions because that is the only way to ensure that your strategy is well thought through and robust. If challenging questions aren’t being asked then you need to understand why not – is one board member so strong that others don’t challenge or is your board so aligned that you’re in an echo chamber? Neither is good for business.
Stay open-minded, park your ego and try to see other viewpoints, really consider alternative approaches to problem solving. Everyone has their own solutions and everyone’s ideas are valuable. If you rigidly stick to your view you won’t continue to grow and develop. As a director it’s a good idea to let others give their thoughts and opinions first so that you don’t simply get everyone agreeing with you because of your position.
To find out more about Vickie’s experience on the Finance for Non-Finance Director course she mentions above, and the learnings she took away from the session despite a background in finance, click here.
To find out more about the IoD’s Finance for Non-Finance Directors course, click here.