Hiring Accountants with Ambition
“We want to hire an Accountant who is fiercely ambitious, driven and proactive who will come and deliver rapid value…. but there is no naturally clear ‘next step’ in our business for them to progress into….”
In my experience this is a fairly common dilemma for the MDs, FDs and FCs I recruit for – particularly those within SME businesses with lean finance functions. It was also a conversation I had in detail yesterday.
Usually it boils down to the simple conclusion that ‘you want someone really good… maybe even better than really good – insert your own superlative here…’.
For me, you have 5 key options:
1) Fib. Create a role that they can progress into, sell it to the consultant / the new person to get them over the line knowing it will never happen. Great example suggesting you will make someone FD downstream when you have no intention of doing so. Likely result – person will not only leave but will be hugely indignant and potentially negative about you / the business. I say this slightly tongue in cheek because it makes no sense to take this approach… but I am surprised at how many people do (knowingly or unwittingly).
2) Map a career route for the new person that you will commit to – that marries with timeframes, milestones for achievement and specific rewards. If you don’t ultimately want an FD this could be a path into a role as commercial director for example… then you could look for a commercial accountant who wants to go in that career direction.
3) Be honest but make a 3 year development plan for this person that will give them so much involvement and exposure that they can fast track their career and leapfrog over their peers in 3 years when they leave. Be clear and open with your expectations – we will provide you the experience to allow you to apply for FD roles in 3 years then we will support you to find one. This may sound strange to some – why would we accept someone will leave in 3 years? Firstly the average tenure is 2 years currently. Secondly you will be getting complete focus and commitment for the 3 years. You can make succession plans, you likely have loyalty and an open dialogue based on your initial high integrity approach. Finally, circumstances may chance – your business may expand meaning you need the FD they have become sooner than you think!
4) Hire ‘light’. Take someone slightly more inexperienced than you may need – a part qualified rather than a newly qualified for example. They will bring bags of energy and enthusiasm, they will develop swiftly but ultimately it is likely they will have a longer tenure with you as they have a longer ramp of development before hitting your perceived career ceiling. It may be that you need a consultant FD 2 days per month that could be funded in the short term by the saving you make in the initial hire being slightly more ‘junior’.
5) Hire someone amazing but who is not overly career driven. Lack of ambition and being highly capable are not mutually exclusive. Some of the most diligent, commercially-astute and experienced qualified accountants I have ever met or represented had no desire to progress to FD.
If you have recruitment needs in finance I would welcome the chance to speak.