Tim Flynn interviews with Ccentric
What was your most recent position?
Within the past 18 months I have been an Interim Head of Finance for Neurological Research Australia, the Senior Manager in Financial Policy for the Queensland Government and I also worked in remote Australia as an Interim Consultant implementing a new accounting system for one of the Homeland Associations. I am currently project managing an ERP transition for Mornington Island Council, on site, in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
How long did those projects last?
Between 3-6 months and I generally knew how long they would last however there is always a bit of an overlap. When I was working for Neurological Research Australia, the project was originally set to be a few months, and I ended up being there just under 8-9 months.
What is it like working as an Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?
There are a lot of positives to working as an Interim CFO. You develop a vast amount of experience and can work for an array of organisations. A lot of the time you can get more done than somebody who is entrenched in the culture. When you are in an Interim position, you are very mission specific and with the breadth of experience, you can be quite persuasive.
What were your main objectives while you were working for Neurological Research Australia?
While at Neurological Research Australia I was working as a long-term incumbent as the head of finance. The previous person in the role had been there for about 20 years and decided to pursue pastures new. My job was to ensure there was a smooth transition between him and the new person who was coming on board. I had to improve management reporting, create new budgets and keep it on even. It was a long hand over period as the person had been incumbent there for 2 months. I had a lot of process issues in managing the team, as I had to confront the guy sitting next to me in team meetings and give my opinion, keeping to that professional courtesy. “This is what has been going on, and this is better because of this, this and this”.
What were the characteristics that primarily attracted you to an Interim role?
I drifted into it because my son’s mother is an academic in the Northern Territory (NT). About 10 years ago we moved up to Darwin and there are a lot of organisations there that have a $20 million turnover and they can afford a good CFO for around 6 months of the year; however, they can’t afford to keep someone for the entire period.
There are also a lot of tax incentives with the public benevolent institutions to work for more than one not-for-profit in a given period. The other factor is that a lot of organisations up in the NT have the tax year end on the 31st of December. Effectively you can do the big jobs of the year twice and go through the annual financial statements preparing the budgets.
I hadn’t originally planned to take up an Interim position, but it was a niche in the market that I spotted. I have been doing it for 10 years and I have been very busy. It does demand a lot of flexibility. I have moved 6 times in the last 3 years and it is recession sensitive. The NT economy is in the doldrums at the moment, so it means I have had to cast my neck geographically a lot wider, looking at Sydney, Brisbane and remote NT.
Did you worry it would negatively affect your career?
The Northern Territory isn’t a corporate centre where there are a lot of opportunities. You either work for the NT government which has around 4 or 5 organisations, thus only 4 or 5 CFO jobs, or you work for some of the smaller players. As I was living up there I saw working as an Interim CFO as an opportunity rather than detrimental to my career and I have now been doing it for 10 years. Whether I would want to keep doing it until I was 65 I don’t know.
Do you believe that an Interim role can serve as an opportunity for personal growth?
Absolutely. I have worked all over the country. It is good because you get to the stage where you know what works and what doesn’t and quite often get a moment of Daja-vu. Most of the time you can add value to a company because they may have an idea which you know doesn’t work based on past experiences, and you can therefore offer a better alternative. There are constantly a set of circumstances you need to address and there is always a reason why you have been hired.
In your opinion, what is the main differences between an Interim, and a permanent position, other than the duration of the role?
With an interim position you tend to be there to solve a specific problem, so it is more mission focussed.
What was your first job out of University and how did it shape your future career path?
My first job was an accounting job was with a small practice in the north of UK, specialising in agricultural and government clients. It was a good foundation and I went from that to be an auditor for the NHS and that was a great experience.
My first wife was Australian who I met while working in the UK and then I moved over to Australia and I have been here for 25 years.
What were the benefits of working with an executive recruiter to secure this opportunity?
I think the main benefit for me was that Sarah could ask questions that I most probably couldn’t have. I believe that by working with an executive recruiter you can potentially get a better package as it is much easier to negotiate through someone else.
If you were to give anyone some advice about starting an interim role, what would it be?
It is all about your contacts and network. You do need to treat it like it a professional practice. It is important to have your LinkedIn up-to-date and build your connections. You need to be prepared to take roles that aren’t always what you want. I spent 3 months babysitting a STRATA management business in Darwin as a friend of mine needed someone responsible to look after their business over the Christmas period. You need to be open-minded.
How has your experience been with Ccentric?
Sarah was very professional with a lot of very good contacts within the health industry. She was very amenable and straight-forward which made it an easy process.
What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
I write historical novels and I have been published a couple of times. My writing came about from the downtime between Interim contracts. That is the one downside about an Interim position – not having the constant income. I have been lucky for the last 3 years and have been in constant work, receiving a consistent stream of income. However, in the past I have gone around 3-4 months with no money coming in and that is when you need to find a new way to make money.
Tim Flynn was placed by Ccentric as the Interim Senior Finance Manager at Neurological Research Australia (NeuRA) in 2018. Tim has previously held senior finance positions in Australia and overseas.