Finance professionals need to learn from their mistakes to grow

Three CFOs told the Finance Indaba what they would go back and tell their younger selves.

Being a CFO is not an easy job and not every decision that CFOs make is going to be right, finance professionals heard during a panel discussion titled Advice From My Younger Self last week at the Finance Indaba. On the panel were Craig Sumption, CFO of Hatch Africa, Andrew McMaster, FD of Peninsula Beverages, and Sanele Mbatha, CFO of Discovery Vitality.

“I don’t believe in regrets, I would rather learn from my mistakes,” Craig told a room full of finance professionals. “We were not all born leaders and being in a leadership position doesn’t mean you have all the answers.”

Craig thinks he would have learnt more in his younger years as a CFO if he’d accepted that he didn’t know everything and engaged more with others. He emphasised that learning from others was an integral part of leadership. “No person is an island; you cannot do things on your own.”

Craig thinks one of the biggest challenges of being a leader is trying to understand people and how they work, and getting the best out of them instead of just imposing yourself on them because you’re the boss. Speaking to people from different backgrounds and taking advice from a diverse people is what makes companies grow, he said.  

Andrew shared the same view. He added that a good CFO knows how to pull the community together and create platforms for engagement.

“Acknowledge when you don’t know something, take the initiative to find out and come back with something. No one knows everything.”

He highlighted books as an incredible source of knowledge and encouraged CFOs to read regularly.

Sanele said that knowing who you are and being comfortable with oneself as one of the most important things he learnt throughout his career.

“I didn’t believe in myself when I was younger,” says Mbatha. “I had doubts and this hampered my growth for a bit. There’s something about believing in yourself and going out there to go get it.”

However, Sanele warned against being arrogant and not listening to other people’s opinions.