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Ten years in the life of a Finance Officer

Finance

I started my current role with what was then Opportunity Youth in Dec 2007, on the day of the staff Christmas party. At that time the Finance department consisted of me and my abacus, calling on assistance from the ever supportive and able Clare McGuigan (now McConville) for writing cheques and other general Finance support when required. 

In 2007 we employed around 50 staff with an annual turnover of approx. £2m. 

All finance records and reporting had to be done manually using excel, a calculator and good old pen and paper. My first task was to address the gaps in the Finance operations and introduce and implement various systems and procedures to address these areas – the speeding up of reimbursing staff expenses being quite a popular change for some reason!

As the years rolled by, further funding applications were awarded, new staff were recruited, and the company continued to grow with all these new projects and staff members, bringing with it new challenges daily.  

The new funding streams resulted in new reporting requirements and obligations to be met. There was now a clear need for more stringent Finance procedures and mechanisms to be introduced. The additional staff numbers also meant added queries. This new workload, added to the time spent dealing with the many queries, meant an additional full-time team member was required to meet these significant changes and demands.

We then recruited a full-time Finance Assistant, and around a year later, a full-time Finance Manager to take all the flak from me and deal with the more complex and higher level Finance aspects of the organisation… this was truly a gift from the Gods to take the pressure off and I was able to have my first night’s sleep in a long time – this did not last long though as I obviously became so de-stressed that I decided to get married and have 2 daughters, ensuring the status quo of sleepless nights has well and truly resumed and continues to this day. The Finance Manager and I operate a nice wee system of good cop/bad cop in dealing with funders... I’ll let you decide who plays which role!  

We experienced and overcame many, many significant changes in so many aspects within Opportunity Youth over the years, not least by rebranding on our 21st birthday and transforming the organisation and bringing it into a new era and by changing our name to Start360.  

In the last few years we again recruited a further full-time Finance member who was brought on board to assist in the workload, bringing the Finance department to four full-time staff to deal with the ever-growing mountain of work now passing through Start360’s Finance department.  

Start360’s Finance operations are now fully computerised using SAGE software and other extremely sophisticated reporting mechanisms to meet the needs of funders, the Board and the senior leadership team, staff and suppliers, among the many others knocking down our doors for various reports and information or updates and/or payments. 

Ten years on and Start360’s Finance department has evolved into the well-oiled machine we now know and love. From where the organisation was in 2007 to where we are now shows our phenomenal growth during that time which demonstrates the commitment and drive of everyone involved.

Here are some numbers to illustrate the progress and changes the organisation have experienced – in my ten years here I have seen over 100% increase in both staff numbers and annual turnover, which is actually quite mind-blowing as I write this. We now employ over 100 staff with an annual turnover of almost £4m. This is a testament to the operational and admin staff, management and Board in going the extra mile in delivering our services, securing new contracts based on our profile and reputation in the sector as well as the vision and strategies implemented. Finance happily takes on the additional workload and gets on with it quietly under the radar crunching even more numbers, fuelled entirely by caffeine and tea (strong with no sugar and three teas in case you’re wondering).

We are also now the ‘go-to’ organisation for many of our funders who hold us up us as the shining example of how a third sector organisation should operate in today’s economic and funding environment.

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