Kevin Fleming, the CFO at Elder HQ, explains why finance needs to be at the heart of a well-running business with a strong value system.
Kevin Fleming is the CFO at Elder HQ, a UK-based company working to revolutionize eldercare by providing an alternative to traditional residential care homes.
Since starting this position in June 2019, the global pandemic has changed a lot about the world of healthcare and eldercare. It was up to Kevin to make sure Elder HQ was up to the task of handling it.
To Kevin, finance is at the heart of a well-running business with a strong value system. Especially in rocky times, where the future of the eldercare industry — not to mention the worldwide economy as a whole — is in flux, a company with a finance team that’s ready to take the lead is going to have a better shot at success.
As a CFO, Kevin values having a deep understanding of a company’s core ethos and knowing what’s happening on every level of the company. To him, each and every person who works at Elder HQ is valuable, and it’s up to the financial team to optimize the work they do and make the magic happen.
In this episode of The CFO Playbook, Kevin talks about the importance of a knowledgeable CFO, how to make financial technology systems work for you so you can leave the menial tasks to the automation systems, and the importance of agility when working in an industry that’s as mercurial as the healthcare system is right now.
Name: Kevin Fleming
What he does: Kevin is the CFO at Elder HQ, a fast-growing UK-based company working to provide an alternative to traditional elderly care.
Key Quote: “I see finance as being the compass and the radar of the ship. You need the vision to find the obstacles and challenges that are coming toward you. It becomes the radar to really plot the best course of action through both stormy seas and times of opportunity.”
Where to find Kevin: LinkedIn
Automate basic finance functions to enable your team to catch bigger fish.
As the CFO, are you spending too much time on bread and butter finance tasks when you could be spending your time on more in-depth projects that further your company’s mission? One of the best ways to move a finance team past spending excessive time on menial financial tasks is to spend some time upfront working to automate systems to perform tasks like purchase order, reconciliation, and bank transactions.
Even a simple system like Xero, which Elder has been using for years, can provide automation functions, and it’s worth the effort to get those systems to start working for your needs.
During tricky times, the finance department can truly shine.
When referencing the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin explains why finance was crucial to steering Elder in the right direction and handling tough times as smoothly as possible. As an eldercare company, the pandemic put the company into completely uncharted territory. It was impossible to know exactly what would happen. So the finance team created different models for a range of potential scenarios. This provided some security because it enabled leadership to better prepare even in the midst of uncertainty.
Finance shouldn’t lose sight of the company’s core mission.
Just as the finance team should be treated like a crucial part of enacting a company’s ethos, the team should also look outward and stay focused on goals — beyond the daily financial grind.
The way Kevin sees it, the work Elder does is revolutionary and has the power to change people’s lives in a real way, and the team is reminded of this by frequently looking at some of the work that’s happening on the ground with caretakers working to change the eldercare game. When people working in operational roles see the impact of the work their company does, they’re able to push through some of the daily challenges for the greater good.
“In the earlier stages of my career when I was in audit, I tended to work in larger organizations where I was more of a back office function, not doing much except for processing transactions. That really didn’t engage me at all. I really struggled with myself and where I personally fit into the finance world. I felt I was more creative and entrepreneurial, and I wanted to be driving business decisions more.”
“Finance is at the forefront of operations. It can really help the business understand opportunities and succeed in its strategic goals. Finance is really about leveraging data inside and making sure we're driving decisions by using financial data to optimize the returns of the business.”
“Automation is becoming a bigger and bigger aspect of the transactional side of finance. We spent a decent chunk of time upfront to get those basics right that would allow that [automation] infrastructure to work with things like accounts payable and receivable and the reconciliation processes. That investment in setting up infrastructure, setting up your systems, your controls, your processes, and optimizing for automation has meant that actually we've operated with a relatively small team and allowed more people to actually be business partners, which has been hugely valuable.”
“I've worked in many fast-paced businesses, but it's off the charts here. We’re a healthcare business, so the last 18 months have been incredibly interesting. Anyone who’s reading the papers right now will know that sourcing of healthcare workers is at an all-time low right now, so we’ve had to be incredibly agile, really making sure we’re focusing on the right areas to be able to plan for the unknown with COVID.”
“I think the reason we tend to operate so well as a business is that everybody feels empowered. They have ownership of their own role and they know exactly what it is they need to do. They know that if they feel like they can expand, improve, and suggest changes — even outside of their own department — they have that opportunity.”
“I think the key to being a good finance leader is understanding the business. If you understand how marketing works, how people speak to your customers on the phone, how your product is assembled, you’ll have a much richer understanding about the economic drivers in your business.”
“The CFO and the finance function is very much at the front and center of the business. Finance is not a back office function that just pays the bills.”
“If you want to see through the numbers and actually understand the levers that are driving business performance, get on the phone and stand on the assembly line. Really get into the business and properly understand it.”
“We're all on one team. Everybody's got a different position to play, but all our roles are relevant.”
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