It’s a very small world. As guest Julian O’Neill and host, Kevin Appleby discovered in the first few minutes of the episode. 20 years ago they both worked for PwC Consulting and were on the same client project in the Ministry of Defence. Before that, they were both accountants in manufacturing businesses. But since that brief spell working together their careers have been very different. Julian has operated at the board level for a number of big-name brands before taking up the role of CFO at a high growth start-up.
Julian qualified as an accountant in industry. He then briefly worked as a management consultant. Next, his journey took him to IT Director and a number of CFO roles in divisions of large corporations. Julian joined Arcadia Group and ended up doing a commercial role. He stepped away from big brands and joined a startup as CFO, taking over as CEO when the original founder was forced to step down. After the sale of that business, he took on his current CFO role, preferring that to another challenge as CEO.
Julian O’Neill reflects on his experience, sharing lessons he learned at each stage of his career. He adds that his time outside finance, in commercial roles has been invaluable.
Listen to the full episode and hear Julian’s full, and extremely fascinating, story.
- Julian O’Neill on LinkedIn
- Kevin Appleby on LinkedIn
- Find out more about becoming a CFO
- The CFO as co-pilot to the CEO
01:48 Accountancy and finance open a lot of doors
03:40 Early career in telecoms; qualifying as an accountant in Cable & Wireless
06:18 Spicing things up at General Motors
11:30 Doing an MBA at Warwick Business School
12:10 First role outside finance at Siemens
13:25 Joining PwC Consulting
15:42 The decision to leave the big 4
17:00 Pizza Hut
17:30 First director role
18:20 The challenge of being an IT director
26:25 Arcadia, as a divisional CFO
30:50 CFO of an airline
32:20 Moving from a big brand to CFO at a £2m turnover high growth business
34:50 Taking over from the CEO
37:30 Finding a new job while selling the business
38:28 Back to a CFO role in a small business
39:00 Small startup vs big corporate
40:54 The importance of getting experience in commercial roles outside the finance function