Matt joined us in 2023 as our new Chief Financial Officer, we asked him about his career path and the experience and knowledge he demonstrates within his leadership role.
From school leaver to a qualified accountant and business owner
When Matt left school, his initial plan was to join the Royal Marines: “I hadn’t excelled, nor enjoyed academic life to this point and so decided against applying to college. Instead, I applied to join the Royal Marines. The final stage in the process was a 4-day residential assessment, I thoroughly enjoyed this and was offered a place on the full training program, however, the camp also showed me that to be successful in a military environment, you cannot question orders and that just wasn’t going to work for me.”
Matt revealed that on leaving the programme, he had missed the college application deadlines, so while taking a job alongside his dad on a production line, he considered what career path he would pursue: “This job taught me a lot about what I wanted from a career and compounded my understanding that I needed a career where I could use my brain to add value. I went back to study business at college and one of the modules was accounting which I enjoyed, while I was doing better academically, university wasn’t going to be an option.” Matt continues: “Accounting was a great career option, being in a work environment where I could continue to study and progress. With a training contract with Milsted Langdon, I could learn on the job and take exams. I became a qualified accountant, and worked in several different industry roles, generally in manufacturing and professional services.”
In 2015 Matt started up his own firm providing professional accounting services. “My drive to make a difference led me to set up my own business, from a desk in my lounge and a £5k start-up loan. This was a huge insight into all the functions outside of finance, which make a business tick, marketing, sales, IT and HR in particular.”
Stop looking for a silver bullet!
Matt emphasises the importance of not looking for one solution to everything: “You must stop looking for a silver bullet. When you look for an answer to a problem, there’s not just one, there are usually lots of mini solutions to overcome that challenge.
Matt explained how everything he was doing in his earlier roles seemed like such a big thing: “As you progress in your career, you are able to stand back and see more aspects of a business, you understand that you’re a part of something, and you remember to see the organisation as a whole that links together.”
The right balance of work and family life = true life success
Matt shared how he thinks he measures success at different points in life: “When I was studying and I was very focused on getting my qualification, I couldn’t see anything past that. I had my daughter just at the end of the qualification, so buying a house was something that felt like a big life goal and ticking that one off felt great. As my career moved forward, progression followed and although not consciously a life goal, I became more senior and achieved my own business.” He continued: “Now, it’s about trying to find a balance that avoids burnout, prioritises health and being a good husband and father, whilst still being committed to a role and delivering results”. I think that’s a challenge most people struggle with and I admit I haven’t quite got it completely right yet.”
You grow outside of your comfort zone
Matt revealed two key mentors and influences in his life: “Jonathan Langdon, the Founding Partner at Milsted Langdon was a real mentor to me, I think he recognised that I was a rough diamond and he invested the time to polish some of those edges so that I could adapt to that environment. There were times when I didn’t feel that I could achieve the qualification and he really kept me going.”
He continued: “My mum is my other influence. She died when I was 24, so I was still at an age where it changed a lot of my perceptions in life. To recognise that life can be taken away was a big driver for me to do whatever I wanted and push me out of my comfort zone.”
Be observant and keep an eye on what’s happening
Matt believes that with the pace of things changing it’s important to keep on track of what is happening: “Those influences impact businesses and so it’s my job to monitor those risks and opportunities along with the rest of the leadership team.” He continued: “I take a lot of value in networking and sharing experiences with other people who’ve been on similar journeys and are going through similar challenges.”
The challenge of working remotely
Matt shared how he finds leading a team remotely challenging: “My Myers Briggs result showed that I’m an emotional decision-maker, I like to see and observe people, you get to see the true person when you’re sat in an office with them all day. Everyone puts on a brave face for a video call, so you’d never know how that person truly feels. Leading in the digital world is a huge challenge. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, I’m just saying it’s something we as leaders have to get better at.”
A leadership style formed through sport
Matt highlighted how a lot of his leadership style has been formed through sport: “I believe it’s important to understand motivational factors and psychological points of being. You need an element of vulnerability to form a good team and build a strong bond.”
He continued: “I try to be authentic with the team showing that nothing is above or below me in terms of my role. I’d never ask anybody to do something I wouldn’t do myself. I also try to show that it’s OK to say ‘I don’t know’.”
Intrinsic motivation and direct delegation
Matt revealed how he feels motivation is intrinsic to an individual: “What you give is not necessarily what’s received, so you have to understand what is driving someone, asking them what their aims, goals and values are.”
He continued to explain how he feels communication is circular with delegation: “From experience, it’s good to check if the individual has not just heard you, but has understood what is required. Also, ask yourself if you were clear about what that is. Asking someone to repeat back so that you can get that confirmation that they listened and understood the task is really important because otherwise, you’re never going to be a successful team.”
Matt concludes: “I feel I’ve chosen Software Solved because of the values and how they are lived, it’s not a case of just doing as they say, we all live and breathe the values, especially in terms of flexibility. Success to me is being trusted and able to enjoy family life and not be a hindrance to working flexibly. I’m happy to be here and think it’s a fantastic workplace.”
Find out more about the people at the forefront of what we do on the Meet the Team page.
We have an exciting new opportunity for an AAT/ACCA Trainee Management Accountant to join our finance team. For more information and to apply, click HERE.