FD in Five Minutes: Mark Guilford

Third Sector speaks to the finance director at Breast Cancer Haven

Mark Guilford
Mark Guilford

Why did you choose finance as a career? I always wanted to be a pilot in the RAF. I was in the air cadets at school and gained my glider pilot wings at the age of 16. I am 6ft 2 inches tall and learned that I was too tall to fit in the cockpit of a fighter jet, so I had to think of another career. My mother’s cousin is a chartered accountant. He had a big house and a fancy car, so I thought I would give it a go.

I took a year-out between school and university, and I worked for a small accounting practice in Northamptonshire. Much of the work involved creating accounts from incomplete records, which were usually delivered as a pile of scruffy receipts and bank statements in a brown paper bag. I learnt a lot about basic book-keeping and decided that accounting was indeed the career for me. The salary wasn’t great, about £100 per month, but I built up a "beer-fund" for my first year at university.

What made you work in the charity sector? The first 10 years of my career were in the accountancy profession working as an auditor, computer auditor and management consultant. This was followed by 15 years working for multinational corporations in the UK and continental Europe.

The salary and benefits packages were great, but I became disillusioned with the rat-race mentality. In the charity sector, I work with like-minded colleagues and get the satisfaction that I am giving something back to society. In my current role, I can really see the difference that we make to people affected by breast cancer.

What is the proudest moment of your career so far? While working for a multinational printing company, I set up a brand new manufacturing facility in the UK, creating the biggest digital print facility in Europe. We were one of the first companies in this sector. Within a year we had created a £10m-turnover, 10-employee business which generated £5m net profit.

What do you do outside work? My wife and I are keen, but amateur, gardeners. We are fortunate to live in a small village surrounded by a network of public footpaths. We are members of the National Trust and English Heritage.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career/life so far? My boss, Martyn, at one of my roles in the printing sector. He was a great people person who taught me a lot about staff management and motivation, as well as the mantra "don’t jump up and down and shout when a problem occurs: it might make you feel better for a few minutes, but it won’t fix the problem".

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