Future of Retail — The CFO Issue

issue 04

“Deals are a lot of pressure but you get the buzz. You’ve got to have the belief that we can do what we’ve done so far.”

going and for this we need more resources. We need ways to raise equity – through the equity market and via crowd-funding. It’s very much necessary as we’re driving the business that way with double-figure annual growth,” says Woodhouse. Although such activity comes with plenty of pressure,

he adds: “It’s definitely the exciting bit, including doing the investor presentations. Deals are a lot of pressure but you get the buzz. You’ve got to have the belief that we can do what we’ve done so far.” This communication with shareholders and potential

investors is a vital element of his role at Chapel Down, which he says is necessary in order to convey the message that management is confident of hitting the targets and that underpinning the strategy are some solid financial metrics. “They’ve got to have belief in the management team

and in particular the FD’s numbers and predictions that will show the business can deliver on its strategy,” explains Woodhouse. This involvement in strategic aspects of the company

is very much indicative of how his role has developed at Chapel Down: “I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve seen it transform massively. It was very much numbers-based role and involved putting the right practices in place. Wine businesses are a great way to spend money so you’ve got to stay on top of that. Increasingly my role is strategic and this has evolved [largely] over the last four or five years.” He believes that CFO roles in general have changed

in a dramatic fashion over the last 10 years to now be “increasingly more rounded and involving an understanding of where their respective businesses can get to”. This has been partly driven by the development of

software solutions that can handle some of the heavy lifting of accountancy and financial planning. This, he

suggests, has enabled CFOs to be more pro-active in their approach to analysis and it frees up their time to work more on developing conclusions rather than simply crunching the numbers. Woodhouse has been particularly keen to develop

his own position to encompass broader commercial aspects, which he says is made possible by ensuring there is technical accounting expertise available within a company. “There are different accountants. I’m not a technical accountant, I’m more commercial. This means you have to have somebody who does the more technical aspects on your team,” he says. One aspect he is heavily involved in is determining

where the investments are made within the business. This is made more complex, and no doubt also more interesting, by the fact Chapel Down sells both wine and beer: “They are very different. Wine is very long-term - with five to 10 year horizons - while you can ramp up beer production very quickly. They have different demands on cash. The challenge is to keep a perspective on both the long-term and short-term elements.” For smaller businesses like Chapel Down, IT frequently

comes under the remit of the CFO, which certainly provides another challenge as the world of retail technology is becoming increasingly complex. “The difficulty of investing in retail and the web is

finding the right solutions. This is an issue for SMEs. You can spend a huge amount of money and not end up justifying it with a return on investment,” says Woodhouse. Despite the myriad challenges he recognises that

high growth environments such as that at businesses like Chapel Down provide the incumbent CFOs with plenty of opportunities to stretch themselves through embracing strategic aspects and to accumulate sufficient experience that could potentially help them, if they have such ambitions, to move into a CEO position in the future.

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