Author: Julie Bickerdyke FCMA CGMA

It’s four years since I split from both my husband and my employer in the same month.

My marriage ended, as did my job. Within a year, I’d also lost my house, my car and, very sadly, my lovely mum. It was a pretty tough time.

Truthfully, I had no idea where to go next, or which path to take. Yet I could be certain that it was a chance to wipe the slate clean and figure out what I wanted my life to look like.

Finding my way as an outsourced FD
I’d spent 20 years at Austin Hayes, becoming the Finance Director, followed by two years as the MD. As I set the budgets, reviewed the forecasts and weighed-up the different financial scenarios, I knew it was the right move to make myself redundant in 2016, along with around 20 other staff. The last few months were some of the toughest I’ve faced as I personally held every redundancy consultation meeting, and then delivered every piece of news, good or bad, in person.

I recognised the skills I’d gained would be really valuable to others and I wanted to use my financial expertise to help people grow and succeed. After careful thought and lots of conversations with friends and connections, I found there was a real need for a virtual FD, based here in Yorkshire and able to work nationally, with a desire to make a big change to businesses. I’d run a business, secured funding and created growth strategies, so I knew I could do the same for others. I’d also dealt with all other aspects of running a business so was bringing more to the table than accounting knowledge.

In early 2017, I joined forces with Debbie Whitaker’s accountancy practice Not Just Numbers as a sister company: I became Not Just an FD. I set out to help others realise their potential with a clear view of their financial position. I haven’t looked back.

Refining my values and sharing them with others
So the time has come for more new starts. I’ve put my flat on the market, so I’ll be moving house again. The new Not Just an FD website also launched recently, updated to include more focus on why the work I do matters and the difference it makes. Some of my clients have been kind enough to share their stories about the work we’ve done together.

My clients have inspired me, too. I’ve really focussed on who I want to work with and the values I want them to share. From start-up firms to established non-profits, I’m lucky to be discovering the clients who share the same ethos as me. They’re the people who care about supporting others and place huge emphasis, as I do, on mental wellbeing.

Sharing experiences and supporting others
Being open and honest is so important. Talking to someone about the battles you’re facing and being a listening ear for those who need it is so important for our wellbeing. I hope I lead by example by sharing my story. In all honesty, it doesn’t miraculously get better overnight, and the tough times keep on coming, but you become more resilient and they are easier to deal with and seem less catastrophic.

I have spent time getting to know myself again over the last few years and re-discovering parts of me that had got lost along the way. I have so much gratitude for the people who have supported me along the way and become friends if they weren’t already. I feel loved and that is very welcome and comforting. What has become clear is the importance of being around people who make me feel good about life because they are such positive role models. We all have off days and delve into some dark places at times, but if you have surrounded yourself with the right people they will not feed your negativity but will share your pain while reminding you of the joy to found in gratitude for the little things in life.

Honesty is crucial for our businesses too. As an FD, I need my clients to be transparent about their situation and their challenges and successes so I can help them meet personal goals that are right for them. When we’re open about our life experiences, it refuels and refocuses us to think about what really matters and the ways we can support one another and make a difference.