I was appointed Finance Director on the same day (almost ten years ago now) as my best friend became our Chief Executive, and there was an understanding with the shareholders (confirmed a couple of times at AGMs) that in due course I would step up to the top job. This has still not happened, and I’m becoming rather bored. Since those early days my life has changed. I’ve married and started a family, and begun to realise that there’s a world beyond the job. At work, I’m becoming concerned that my boss has been involved in some dubious transactions (without telling the Board), and may ultimately have to quit – leaving me to sort out his mess.
We’re trying to avoid things coming to head with the shareholders – we really don’t want an EGM ahead of schedule – but within the outfit there are lots of junior managers who want me to ease our Chief Executive out before the auditors find something concrete. Here’s my problem. After all this time I’m not at all sure I actually want the top job anymore. I’m afraid that I’ll end up fighting fires (perhaps unsuccessfully) only to find that the shareholders agree a takeover that leaves me out of work in a couple of years, looking stupid or crooked or both. But it’s been assumed for so long that the post was mine that I’m worried about losing face with everybody.
Each time the boss screws up, the lads all urge me to do something; each time I have to find some new excuse for sitting tight. It’s becoming highly embarrassing. The thing is, all the exciting New Product launches are behind us, and the market has become saturated. Our competitors’ offerings seem to me quite inferior – but they have a novelty that catches the eye and makes our stuff look rather tired. Renewing the range is going to be tough while maintaining current output, and we have an alarming tail of liabilities from previous product lines that makes the true balance-sheet pretty alarming reading. And don’t even start me on the pensions thing.
Some mornings, I think that some smooth young CEO wannabe deserves this particular set of hospital passes – he’s welcome to the grief he’ll certainly come to. But my dad brought me up to face responsibilities and I don’t want to let people down – even if my heart isn’t truly in it. Should I be honest and say I’m not interested? Will they fire me straight away if I do? Am I too old to make a career shift into a new sector? And if I could move, where do you suggest I should be aiming? I really don’t know what I could do now, after all these years in a dead-end FD job.
Name and address supplied,
PS Do you think my accent counts against me?
You're obviously in denial. Of course you're interested. Of course you want the job. Your whole career has been for nothing if you do not seize the moment. But enjoy it while you can. The company is heading for the rocks and you, as the FD, know that better than anyone. But even if you only get to have the job for a few months, at least you can say you've done it. And the memoirs will be more valuable won't they? Every cloud, and all that. Don't be afraid of an EGM. Feedback seems to be that the shareholders will want you out, but you've got plenty of time to expose the weaknesses of the Marketing Director. Admittedly the Chief Exec has prevented you from taking him on, but a bit more strategising from the Logistics Executive might be in order, although perhaps references to pigs and lipstick might best be avoided in future. Of the Chief Exec is indeed interviewed by the forces of law and order, my recommendation would be to call an Emergency Board Meeting and call a vote of confidence in him. You really have nothing to lose. Or do you?
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