FINANCIAL FEMALES: ALYSON JOHNSON-SMITH

Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with customer service manager Alyson Johnson-Smith at The Payroll Site.

Alyson Johnson-Smith
Alyson Johnson-Smith

Alyson, please tell us about what you do… I have been with The Payroll Site for just under 10 years and over that time my role has evolved as the company has grown.  Essentially I run the Customer Service Department and most of my time is spent problem solving and unpicking mistakes customers have made with regards to their payroll figures.  All companies who operate payroll have to submit their figures to HM Revenue & Customs whenever they pay their employees, if this is not done in a timely fashion or the information is incorrect the result can be a financial penalty for the customer.  Helping a customer sort out their figures is therefore a priority.  I also manage our Company accounts, deal with invoices and produce statistics for our CEO to help us move forward as a company.

How did you get into this?  Did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey? 

After studying for a Diploma in Travel and Tourism at college I decided to spend a year in Australia, which was a fantastic experience. I had worked on reception at a hostel whilst I was away and realised that I enjoyed Customer Service so when I returned home that is what I did.  I worked my way up to Management level within Call Centres, which gave me more freedom to help customers and deal with their problems from beginning to end.  I spent many years as a Customer Service Manager working for British Gas, and then a Telecommunications company before joining The Payroll Site in 2007.  The Payroll Site is a smaller company by comparison and so my role is much more diverse.  My responsibilities are greater and so I also deal with HR, recruitment, staff training and looking after the company finances.   Having a more varied role means that things certainly never become routine.

Can you explain what a typical day for you would be? 

There is really no such thing as a typical day in payroll, although my first priority is dealing with any customer emails that have come in overnight.  I also ensure that all customer payments are allocated first thing.  The introduction of the Workplace Pension has made my day a little more complicated.  As most of our customers are small businesses they are implementing their chosen pension for the first time.  Whilst The Payroll Site makes it as easy as possible for the customer to calculate their pension contributions it is surprising how many Pension Companies give little or no help. As a result much of my day will be spent reading between the lines of what the customer actually wants compared to what they need.

What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?

 If you are passionate about working with people, like dealing with figures and get a buzz from helping a company grow then it is perfect.    

What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession? 

Customer Services departments can get quite a lot of bad press but if you like helping people it can be a great place to start.  You will certainly learn problem solving skills, organisational and time management skills, not to mention emotional resilience, all of which can help propel your career in any direction you wish to go in.

What’s your best financial advice for any woman? 

If you can’t afford it and don’t need it then don’t buy it.  As Polonius in Hamlet once said: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” which is a good philosophy to live by.

 

FINANCIAL FEMALES: ALYSON JOHNSON-SMITH

FINANCIAL FEMALES: EUNICE ONYEMA

eunice_enoaccountantsEmpowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with London based accountant Eunice Onyema of  http://enoaccountants.com/

How did you get into this? 

I became an accountant taking advice from my dad who felt it was a good profession for me to get into. I attended university to study accounting and I have always been great with figures. Partway through my career I hated it and tried to change but couldn’t, however I eventually discovered  a new love for it.

 

Can you explain what a typical day for you would be?

I work for larger clients which means a daily commute into their offices. A typical day will involve me being in meetings, troubleshooting accounts and challenging operational managers on their spend within their service area. Another day can involve me submitting tax returns for my clients and liaising with HMRC on their behalf.

What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?

I believe that the job is great for women. However it is dependent on the industry you are in. The great thing about accounting is it is attached to the activity level of the company you are working for, ranging from small and relaxed to large and intense with lots of activity. It gives women flexibility to choose because accountants are always needed

What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?

Recognise the involvement required to keep up your skillset. Continuing Professional Development is quite crucial as there is very little room for mistakes with people’s money.

What’s your best financial advice for any woman?

From an investment point of view, I will say start building up a retirement plan early, develop multiple streams of income and invest in a good portfolio with passive streams of income i.e. income that can come to you while you sleep

 

FINANCIAL FEMALES: EUNICE ONYEMA

Education and Investment Will Get Us Through

Business Life After Brexit

None of us knows what the next five years will bring now that the decision to leave the EU has been made, but what we can do, as business leaders and individuals, is place ourselves in the best position to weather whatever may be ahead.

We have little control over what happens next, but what I know is that we should…

Educate Ourselves

It’s up to us to become more financially aware so that we can make decisions about what is best for our businesses in the time ahead. Read the financial pages and The Economist and instigate conversations with your staff about what’s happening. Many people are complaining that they didn’t know what was going to happen post-vote and are startled by all this uncertainty, but the knowledge of what could happen if we left the EU was all out there. We owe it to our staff and customers to be as educated as possible and share that knowledge.

Stay Calm

The truth is we don’t know what is going to happen and it could actually be good, especially if we are determined to make it so. Now is not the time to panic, but instead stay calm and wait to see the lay of the land. There is no need to rush into making any big decisions. As the months go by it will all be unravelled and then we will be more informed. We are not going to stop trading with Europe overnight. They will certainly want to make sure we keep buying their luxury goods, food and wine and foreign investors are still attracted to our economy.

Above all, don’t let the media whip you up into a panic.

Take Professional Advice

If you employ EU staff then now is a good time to start shopping around for an immigration lawyer who can keep you to date with any needs to get Visas or work permits. Reassure your staff that you’re looking after them and working to keep them with you.

Look to New Partnerships

One thing this will do is open up new markets and make it more likely that trading with countries from Africa and South America become easier and more attractive. Perhaps this will also start to redistribute some of that wealth to the people who really need it at the same time.  Don’t forget that the current position of the pound make our products and services extremely attractive to the overseas market and could be the perfect opportunity to start forging stronger bonds further afield.

 

Education and Investment Will Get Us Through

A 10 Step Business Model to Help You Think Bigger

How Women in Business Can Break Out of Small Thinking

The No. 1 area where women fall down in business is not honing in on making more money. In my 15 years of working with female business owners as a tax consultant and business planner, I frequently encounters these four scenarios:

  1. Clients being scared to earn too much money in case they need to move into a higher tax bracket and/or pay more tax.
  2. Falling into the “do what you love” trap and spending too much time and energy on small lifestyle businesses, which perhaps start as a hobby but do not develop into a strong business model.
  3. Business owners’ falling prey to false economics, scrimping and saving pennies and cutting back on necessary expenses when they could be focusing that energy on bringing in more sales revenue from new business as well as doing more for existing clients.  By looking at their pricing structure too they may be able to increase existing revenue streams.
  4. A tendency to spend time on the “nice” and “fun” things like multiple group networking and unnecessary social media activity, when in reality their time would be better spent on strategically planned marketing strategies directly leading to sales.

coinsI’m not sure if it’s societal conditioning, but women do often seem to play it safe and fail to pay attention to the money and their finances. Of course, in some cases they may only want to do something they can enjoy and are happy with lower earnings, but I think a lot of women are missing out on their full potential because they are fearful of the serious impact of business and scared of charging the right amount for their worth. As someone who puts together business strategies for my clients, I can see the potential in any business, but feel that some women are not putting themselves out there and giving it their best shot for fear of not delivering or the unknown, and their own dread towards sales and cash flow management.

My top 10 suggestions for women wanting a more serious business model are:

1. Follow The Money

Choose a business that can make real money. Look at the real potential. If you’ve got one asset like let’s say a vintage caravan, you can only ever make a certain amount of cash from that one asset and that may therefore not be easily scalable. Rather than do what you love (unless it can bring in big returns), learn to love what you do and the real money you make from it, there is no shame in that.

2. Consider Upscaling

If you’re working on your own, you only have so many hours in the day to work and make money. Taking on others can therefore multiply earning potential.

3. Know Your Money

Learn what your gross profit margins are and improve them, so that your gross profit is working harder for you and not the other way round.  (Your gross profit is your return on sales before your overheads but less your costs of sales).

4. Be Time Savvy

Understand that for the main part spending time collecting cards at networking lunches and events doesn’t bring good returns. Far better to make authentic, real connections with people and existing or past clients who may already be in more of position to buy your service, and remember that time with your existing clients could be far more effective than time spent making new friends.

5. Put Work First

Plan your life around your business, not the other way around. Should you be putting the washing on in working hours or need to stop work for the whole of the school holidays, and could you benefit from hiring a cleaner?

6. Bring in More

Look at your turnover: increase sales, increase the prices you charge and do perhaps decrease your costs if it doesn’t jeopardise the business. But remember that bringing in more money is far more valuable than spending too much time look for utility bill deals and saving on the small things like your stationery spend.

7. Set Boundaries

Don’t work with awkward clients that take up too much time; set boundaries and don’t allow people to eat up your professional time if they are not paying for it or not going to bring you real business.  Yes everyone might know someone who could be your future client but focus on your biggest referrers, which may even be your existing clients.  Don’t be scared to chase up late payments as sales without payment aren’t real sales. Think of it as educating your client in how you work so that they can be a better client to enable you to better work for them.

8. Build Up A Support Team

Build up a professional support team around you.  That may be in staff, business partnerships, business service providers and advisers, as well as creating strategic alliances with other similar industry professionals who you can cross-refer to.  Most of all, make sure your network is working for you smartly and you’ll no doubt do the same for them, so it’ll be mutually beneficial in the long run.

9. Delegate

Stop trying to do every aspect of the business yourself: aim to delegate, delegate and delegate, and the money will follow as it will free up more of your time to sell more of what you do.

10. Set goals and targets.

Know what and how much you want and then work out how to achieve that by setting SMART marketing and business strategies that really work.

But my biggest piece of advice is:

“Never be afraid to earn more money, or pay more tax. 60% of something is better than 100% of nothing, surely?”

A 10 Step Business Model to Help You Think Bigger

FINANCIAL FEMALES: SUE MURRAY-JOHNSON

Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Sue Murray Johnson of The Family and Childcare Trust

What do you do?

Sue_croppedI am the Director of Finance and Resources at the Family and Childcare Trust but I have held similar roles within a range of charities.  The roles in each charity have varied according to the priorities and issues affecting each one.  In this role, as a new charity the development of financial systems has been pivotal but in others I have managed the finance teams whilst dealing with broader organisational development matters.

How did you get into this?

By accident, and by not being scared of numbers!  I graduated in Environmental Sciences with a particular interest in environmental hazards (floods, earthquakes, volcanoes) and joined the voluntary sector in an overseas development role.  My first task was to organise a shipment of water purification tablets to Bangladesh.  It became clear in that role, and in later ones, that I was quite happy to manage budgets and ensure that reports were submitted on time.  This became a key part of later roles.  I took a management role in my early thirties in a charity that had to rapidly modernise their financial management processes and I introduced Sage accounts to the charity.  Within a year I was producing the year end accounts.  My training was very much “hands on” and under the guidance of the charity’s auditor.  Since then, I have held director-level finance and general management roles in three national charities.

Can you explain a typical day?

Not really, and that is part of the attraction.  My recent jobs have all included line management and membership of the senior management team, so there are responsibilities that go alongside the substantive elements of my role.  My tasks over the past week have included writing Board papers, dealing with banking issues, resolving a collapse of the telephone system and reviewing the risk register.  I enjoy working in a medium-sized charity where it is important to be both operational and strategic.

From your experience, would you say it’s a good job for a woman?

In general, yes.  In a financial management role there is an element of routine (despite what I said above) in that month-end, year-end, VAT returns and audits are regular events.  This means that key elements of the role can be planned in advance.  From a personal point of view, I have benefitted from working for some very flexible employees and have had a range of part-time arrangements in place, alongside the ability to work from home.

What advice would you give to someone entering the profession?

I think that for finance personnel in the voluntary sector it is important to have an understanding of and empathy with the work of the wider organisation.   Communication skills and getting involved in the charity will enhance the experience of being in the finance team.

Best financial advice for any woman?

Budget, and keep a track of expenditure.

 

FINANCIAL FEMALES: SUE MURRAY-JOHNSON

FINANCIAL FEMALES: LISA STANLEY

Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Lisa Stanley of http://good-with-money.com/

 

Lisa Stanley, Good with Money
Lisa Stanley

Together with her partner, Rebecca, Lisa Stanley is the co-founder of www.good-with-money.com, the website that provides information and highlights deals that benefit your pocket, people and the planet.

How did you get into this? Did you train straight out of school/Uni or was it a more roundabout journey.

Becky had the initial idea last summer, and when I was leaving my previous job as head of comms at Triodos Bank, we discussed how we might make her idea a reality. We started work on the site in July and launched officially in September. As a teenager I always wanted to be a journalist and worked on a local newspaper after graduating in English, writing for the university paper, etc. Sadly I found the entry level work a little monotonous and it didn’t quite pay enough back then (or now!) to make me want to stick at it, either. So instead I went into the marginally more lucrative PR sector, and found it a much better outlet for the creative juices. Doing PR for financial services meant there was always a bit of an intellectual challenge as well – how to create engaging stories around subject matter people generally turn away from.

 
Can you explain what a typical day for you might be?

Woken up at 5.30am by 2 year old son, get up, 5 year old son gets up an hour later, together with husband get kids fed, dressed and out the door for school / nursery. The working day now is incredibly varied, but generally doesn’t start until 930 and pauses around 3 for school pick-ups, dinner and kids’ bedtime. Often back to work in the evening for an hour or so. The role itself consists of covering news stories, writing opinion-led blogs, product news, and longer pieces, as well planning out content for coming weeks and months. Becky takes on the lion’s share of the writing and I spend more time on the promotional side, posting on social media, writing the weekly newsletter, promoting the site in the media, working with other journalists and sites. We both also spend time trying to build relationships with current and potential partners, researching products and organisations we might want to feature on the site. It’s a 5 day a week job conducted outside of the usual 9-5.

 
What’s your experience from a women’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?

It is – as a mother, yes, because being self-employed we can generally choose working hours that suit us. However, I don’t see that journalism or PR is particularly more suited to women or men than any other roles, from accountancy to fund management, teaching, medicine, etc. Having said that, I didn’t enjoy my local newspaper doorstepping experiences, didn’t really feel I had the stomach or front for it.

 
What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?

Read read read – newspapers, websites, twitter, books, etc. Write write write. And if you’re doing PR, make sure you know cover to cover the title you are pitching to. Also remember there’s no particular route in, network as much as possible and make use of those contacts. Finally, don’t be afraid to promote yourself.

 
What’s your best financial advice for any woman?

Firstly, shamefully, a rather girly comment: it’s as important to be in control of your finances as you are of your wardrobe. (Sssshhh… my wardrobe is not very tidy!) Secondly, don’t be put off by the pink of the FT – it’s a fantastically objective all-round read.

FINANCIAL FEMALES: LISA STANLEY

FINANCIAL FEMALES: BRIDGET GREENWOOD

Empowering and Encouraging Women in Finance: an interview with Bridget Greenwood of financial-socialmedia.co.uk

Bridget greenwoodBridget, please tell us about what you do now and your financial background….

I now help financial companies with their social media and digital communications.. I was an IFA, which I tell everyone was BC (Before Child).

I had thought I’d return to work as an IFA, but my son didn’t let me sleep for the first 18 months of his life, and the firm I was associated with were looking at taking 75% of all fees earned if you brought in less than £250,000 a year. That and RDR on the horizon, and a single mum now, I couldn’t see how to remain an IFA and be the parent I wanted to be.

 

How did you get into this?  I.e did you attend university, and/or fall straight into a role or was it a more roundabout journey?

I did go to Uni, but I fell into financial planning when I moved to Norfolk and there weren’t any jobs available that would pay me what I was used to earning, so I was asked if “I’d like to sell finance?” I looked into it more and started my journey as a financial adviser.

Can you explain what a typical day for you would be?

When I was a financial planner my days would be a mixture of travelling to see clients, spending time with them, discovering all about them, and delivering a financial plan to fit in with their situation and dealing with all the research and paper work that goes with the job. Also making sure I could find new clients and delivering talks at schools around the area.

What’s your experience from a woman’s point of view. Would you say it is a good job for a woman?

It’s a great job for a woman, generalizing, women are more focused on the big picture for the client, rather than selling products or focused on investment performance

What would your advice be to someone thinking of entering this profession?

That it’s more important to have people skills than to be good with numbers. Learn to get out of your comfort zone and trust your instincts.

What’s your best financial advice for any woman?

Follow the rules of the Richest Man in Babylon for yourself.

FINANCIAL FEMALES: BRIDGET GREENWOOD