The starfish story: how temporary financial directors are overcoming the odds

The starfish story: how temporary financial directors are overcoming the odds

It was an early morning… and the old man enjoyed the cool beach air.
In the distance, he saw a young girl moving like a dancer. As he got closer, he realized she wasn’t dancing… she was picking up starfish and tossing them back into the ocean.
“Young lady,” he asked, “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
She replied: “The sun is up and the tide is going out… if I do not throw them back in they will die.”
“But young lady, there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along it. You cannot possibly make a difference.”
The young woman listened politely, paused, and then she picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea.
She turned to him and said, “It made a difference to that one.”

 – Author unknown; Source:

In both our personal and professional lives, we are occasionally put into situations where the magnitude of our individual impact is dubitable. We wonder how – if at all – we can make a difference.

Sometimes, the limitations are caused by our own mental roadblocks. Other times they may be dictated by our level of involvement in a project. But the much-beloved ‘starfish’ story illustrates that we can indeed make an impact, even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

No one has learnt this lesson better than a temporary financial director. In order to do their jobs successfully, these professionals are required to overcome both mental and physical barriers every day:

  • A temporary financial director is brought in to a company for a limited time, so she only has a short while to learn her role and become proficient at it. There’s a mental battle that accompanies this sort of circumstance. It’s the thought that: “there’s not enough time to make an impact, so I’d better just maintain the status quo.”
  • A temporary financial director is physically limited by the short-term nature of their position. If he makes a decision for the company that will only come into effect in three years’ time, chances are he won’t be around to see the results.

Despite these two overtly limiting factors, there have been several remarkable successes in the temporary financial director space. Richard Angus, chief executive of The Finance Team, shares two examples of how these skilled finance professionals have made lasting positive changes, one company at a time.

Building relations — and stock levels
One instance involved a temporary financial director improving supplier relations and stock levels.  It all started with this person “assisting in cash flow and working capital management,” said Angus. As a result, “the client had better supplier and employee relations due to on time payments. In addition, the company enjoyed greater availability of stock due to improved supplier relationships.”

Supplier-relationship building was probably not in the job description of this temporary financial director, but his excellence ensured that it was one of the company’s benefits.

Systems upgrade
A second ‘starfish’ moment was experienced by another part time finance executive. Even though she had a temporary role, this person revolutionized the systems in the company she was working for. The result was that she “successfully created new reporting frameworks to allow the business owner to make accurate and reliable decisions based on facts — and not just gut feel,” said Angus.

Again, the manager who hired this finance professional probably didn’t expect her to undertake a systems overhaul. And yet, as part of doing her job to the best of her ability, that’s exactly what she did. The effects will be felt years after she leaves the business.

There are countless other examples of temporary financial directors throwing that proverbial starfish back into the sea. They’re strengthening companies, giving confidence to business owners and helping organisations meet their long-term objectives. If you’d like to know more about how a temporary or part-time financial professional can assist your business, contact The Finance Team today.

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