Craig Broughton CA, CFO tells how Adaptability and a Good Mentor Can Boost Your Career

Craig Broughton’s story is one of perseverance and determination. It demonstrates how being adaptable and forward thinking can allow you to make the jump from VP to the top finance job.   It also shows how putting the key people in place, not getting too comfortable and taking one step at a time can set you up for a truly successful finance career.

Where did you go to school?
I went to Wilfrid Laurier University, which was a smaller school of about 6000 people in Southern Ontario. It was conveniently located down the street from Waterloo. I say ‘conveniently’ because it meant that Laurier had access to the resources from a bigger school, but still had a small school feel.

Where was your first job and why did you choose it?
My first job was with Price Waterhouse in audit and assurance. I remember that I was making $26,000 and I worked a thousand hours of overtime. In hindsight I guess you could say that we were incredibly underpaid and yet I loved it because you were always on a team and you really helped one another.   I had some great managers that were willing to invest in you if you worked hard.

I remember that I was making $26,000 and I worked a thousand hours of overtime. In hindsight I guess you could say that we were incredibly underpaid and yet I loved it because you were always on a team and you really helped one another.

Do you feel mentors are important?
I absolutely do. My second job, for example, at International Wall Coverings in Brampton, happened because my mentor from Price Waterhouse went there as the CFO and she brought me with her. When she went to Siemens, she took me with her again. She has been one of the people who have developed me and my career the most and I am grateful. We had a good team there.

My second job…happened because my mentor from Price Waterhouse went there as the CFO and she brought me with her.

You’ve worked on a few acquisitions, including at International Wall Coverings. What did you learn?
I learned that there are different reasons to do an acquisition. Sometimes there are fantastic business reasons and sometimes acquisitions are ego-driven, which can cause problems to say the least.

If you are big enough then you can parachute in a team after the buy and you can implement your global processes. On paper, you have it done after 3 months. The fact is it takes far longer.

I also learned that even if you integrate quickly, you need to have a real understanding of what the real revenue producing asset is. You have to determine how this newly acquired business made money in the past. In other words, it is absolutely critical to understand what the value proposition is and how the acquiring company can take that and turn it into an advantage.

As an example, I am now with a company called Bermingham and we are a part of a family of 250 other companies all of similar size, so I ask myself how will we plug into them and work to generate more value for customers? Another key question I have to ask is, what is the plan to make the overall business greater than the sum of its parts?

Sometimes there are fantastic business reasons and sometimes acquisitions are ego-driven, which can cause problems to say the least.

You speak a lot about how important it is to have a good team. How have you built teams in the past, say at Siemens?
I have to say that starting a new business from scratch is a dream. You can identify the right people based on what the business needs. At Siemens, there were BU’s that were growing and we had to sit down and decide how we were going to meet the needs of the business. At the outset we realized that we were looking at the biggest opportunity for the Siemens business in Canada so we had to execute properly. In response to that knowledge, we did the following:

  • Step 1: We knew that we had high performers within the organization so we started internally.
  • Step 2: Once the internal candidate pool was exhausted we identified unique recruiting plans. We knew that we could hire right out of school for the project controller roles. The key was going to selected schools on a recruiting drive across Southern Ontario. We brought them in and enrolled them in our own “in-house” training program that served as a commercial project manager certification program
  • Step 3:  After completing the CPM program the participants were empowered to go and become a functional part of the team.  We kept working with them  to ensure that the could deliver on expectations.  Of the 7 people we recruited, 6 were fantastic and 1 didn’t make it through.

I have to say that starting from scratch is a dream. You can identify the right people based on what the business needs.

What is the biggest piece of advice you could give someone looking to make the jump from Director to VP Finance, or from VP Finance to CFO?
When I made the jump from director to VP the advice I received from a colleague was that as a VP you need to spend most of your time working on the business, rather than in the business. This is a mindset you have to adopt if you’re going to be successful in making the jump.

What is your biggest regret?
That I chose to start my career in a small market rather than going to Toronto, or another major market.

What is your biggest success?
The quality of my successors and the teams that I have been a part of throughout my career.

…as a VP you need to spend most of your time working on the business, rather than in the business.

What advice would you give a younger you?
I would say that the long, hard hours will pay off. I would reinforce that the younger me must focus on delivering for his boss and mentor, as well as the client. Looking back on it now, the fact that I was willing to go above and beyond made it easy for my mentor to support me. I would volunteer for grunt work and always come through.

Finally I would tell a younger me to work as hard as you can and if there is something new or strange coming at you then take it every time. Don’t get comfortable and be adaptable. People will notice and this will pave the way for your success.

Looking back on it now, the fact that I was willing to go above and beyond made it easy for my mentor to support me.

Craig Broughton’s career is filled with stories of how a good team, an openness to challenges and consistently delivering for the people that matter can move your career forward. There is no doubt that Broughton’s belief in not getting complacent or comfortable, and of ensuring that you have a mentor who can help guide your career, allowed him to get promoted, and be the successful CFO he is today.