Richard Paterson of TheCommercialFD
The majority of growing SMEs could really benefit from a financial director but not all businesses can afford the luxury. Luckily, Birmingham start-up theCommercialFD has a solution…
Richard Paterson is a financial director on a mission. Tiring of the corporate life, he decided to setup his own business helping SMEs with their finances by setting up TheCommercialFD. BQ found out more...
Tell us about TheCommercialFD – what does the business do and how does the business model work?
theCommercialFD provides strategic financial and commercial support to small and medium sized businesses in and around Birmingham and the West Midlands. This support comes in many forms and differs from client to client but essentially we:
· Get to the root causes of critical business issues and help find the solutions
· Uncover profound ideas and insights, enabling transformational change (if needed)
· Identify solutions to challenging situations
· Improve business performance, profits, growth and provide board-level advisory services
· Provide support for funding and investment
· Manage cash flow and working capital requirements
· Address previously insurmountable problems
We help businesses avoid a number of the pitfalls and mistakes that can be made whilst a company is growing and in doing so, we will help businesses achieve the targets that they have set out to achieve.
What inspired you to launch the business? Can you remember the lightbulb moment which sparked it?
I was inspired to start the business in 2015 after leaving Town Hall and Symphony Hall where I had been director of finance and strategy for three and a half years.
Having had my eyes opened to the transformational effect that a strategic finance professional can have on a business, a role as a middle manager in a large corporate didn’t really appeal and I set out to see if there was a service I could offer to a number of organisations, rather than being employed by just one.
After spending a number of weeks talking to small business owners in and around Birmingham it became clear to me that there was a big gap between those companies that had the scope to employ a full-time finance director and those that had the desire to expand and grow, who really would benefit from the skills and experience of a good FD but were not big enough to justify a permanent salary.
That is the gap that I hope to fill and if I can help businesses in the West Midlands expand and grow, I will have achieved what I set out to do.
Tell us a bit about yourself, where did you grow up and study and what previous jobs had you held prior to launching the company?
I have been fortunate to have lived, studied and worked in and around London, Glasgow and now Birmingham.
My parents moved to Solihull from Scotland when I was 16 years old and I went to Solihull School to complete my A-levels. From there I went onto the University of Glasgow to study Accountancy. An amazing experience, but if I am brutally honest, and I had my time again I would probably choose a different degree as the course wasn’t that effective at keeping me out of the bars and nightclubs of Glasgow…
After graduating, I moved back to Solihull and spent a year working for the housing department at Birmingham City Council whilst I looked for graduate placements in industry. From the council I moved to Fujistu, first in the glamorous town of Stevenage and then on to Slough and Staines – I really do have all the luck!
Having qualified as an accountant with Fujitsu, I moved back to the Midlands and started working for Serco, where I had a number of commercial roles across the Division – helping the business improve financial and operational efficiency. Latterly I was based in Glasgow – travelling up and back on a weekly basis - where I was Head of Finance for a Joint Venture between Glasgow City Council and Serco.
After leaving Serco I had a brief 18-month stint working in Loughborough before I ended up working for Town Hall and Symphony Hall – an incredible organisation, doing amazing things in the city.
Did you receive any support when starting up and getting it off the ground?
I’ve not used any external support or funding to get the company off the ground. It is an entirely self-funded organisation.
What challenges have you had to overcome since? How did you overcome them?
There have been a number of challenges to overcome, but by far the biggest one has been to learn to be salesman, marketing manager and business consultant all rolled into one. Although I wouldn’t classify myself as a “traditional” financial accountant that you may find at one of the “Big 4”, I haven’t had the background or training in sales and that is something I have had to learn. Converting opportunities into sales has been difficult at times.
Moreover, finance support can, at times, be seen as a bit of a luxury so demonstrating the value that theCommercialFD can bring has also been critically important. Businesses need to see us as an investment, not a cost.
The challenges have been overcome by nothing more exceptional than learning as I have gone along. Yes, I have made the odd mistake and yes, at times my laptop has almost been flung out of the window, but there is no better way to learn than by working hard and making mistakes.
Why did you choose to setup the business in the Midlands?
Not only is Solihull home, but Birmingham and the Midlands is an amazing place to be at the moment. Birmingham has a great buzz and you only have to walk into one of the numerous independent coffee shops in the city to realise that something special is happening.
You also only have to see the stats about the number of new businesses being started – the most outside London – to see the opportunities that exist. And all those new businesses will hopefully need some support at some stage…
How much has the company grown since its launch?
We have doubled turnover in the last year.
What do you put this growth down to?
Hard work and getting the message “out there” – both networking and working with partners that can refer work.
Looking forward, what are your plans for the future?
Put simply, I would like theCommercialFD to be the ‘go to’ expert for business growth advice and support for small and medium sized businesses in the City; whilst complementing the support and advice that you can get from the various business growth accelerators and the Local Enterprise Partnerships.
To achieve this I would like to continue to grow the business – diversifying the services we provide - helping more businesses achieve their targets and goals.
Finally, if you could give three tips to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would they be?