The Post: Commercial Director, Andrew Ingredients

The Post Holder: John Graham

No two days are ever the same for commercial director, John Graham

Give a brief outline of your career to date.

I trained as a Chartered Accountant at Grant Thornton before spending six years working in Corporate Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions at Grant Thornton and KPMG. In 2011 I moved into industry spending three years as Financial Director at Deli-Lites in Warrenpoint. I took up my current post with Andrew Ingredients in 2014 as Commercial Director. This is a more operational role involving day-to-day management as well as working with the senior management team on the future strategic direction of the business.

What was your favourite subject at school?

History. I always preferred arts subjects rather than science and maths – strange given I went on to become an accountant!

Did you go on to further/ higher education, if so what did you study and where?

I studied Banking and Finance at University of Ulster in Coleraine.

How did you get into your area of work?

After university I travelled for a year and when I came back I realised my degree didn’t lead naturally into any specific job. I was always interested in business and after some research I began to understand that accountancy is a fantastic way to get first hand insight into lots of different businesses and the people that run them.

Is this what you always wanted to do?

No, I was a massive Oasis fan and was in a band with a few friends. Sadly, our gigs didn’t get much further than the garage.

Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?

At that time the main route into the profession was via a university degree albeit it didn’t have to be an accountancy or finance related subject.

Are there alternative routes into the job?

Yes, there has been quite a big change over the past few years. Many of the leading accountancy firms now offer training programmes to school leavers to become Chartered Accountants. This essentially allows a route to the professional qualification without having to first get a degree and incur all the university tuition fees. I have a friend who took this route when it was less common and he’s now the Financial Director for one of Northern Ireland’s biggest companies.

What are the main personal skills your job requires?

Resilience, organisation and positivity. Attention to detail is also important.

What does a typical day entail?

The great thing about my current role is that everyday is different. I spend quite a bit of time meeting with suppliers, working with our sales and marketing teams on new opportunities and, of course, keeping a close eye on the commercial performance of the business – can’t get away from the numbers!

What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

The best aspect of the job is working with the team of people we have in the company. It’s very enjoyable to go into work everyday when there is a team of people with a positive attitude and a genuine interest in seeing the company do well.

The most challenging aspect is staying focused on the bigger picture and the strategic direction of the business. It’s very easy to get lost in the day to day operations and challenges but the long-term growth of any business requires strategic planning innovation and continuous improvement.

Why is what you do important?

I believe passionately that Andrew Ingredients plays a key role in the ongoing success of the baking industry in Ireland. We are very focused on bringing new product ideas and ingredients to the market to ensure that our customers are maximising their sales potential and staying relevant to ever changing consumer trends. Providing an efficient and friendly service to bakers across the island also means that we play our part in making sure fresh bread and cakes hit the shop shelves every day.

What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?

Don’t let the professional exams and relatively low paid training contract put you off becoming a Chartered Accountant. It’s over in a flash and once qualified the profession opens up so many doors and potential career paths.

If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?

Definitely in a band! The Rolling Stones are still touring so there’s still hope!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?

I’d tell myself to watch Steve Jobs’ Commencement Address to Stanford University in 2005 on YouTube. It should be essential viewing for anyone starting out or changing their career. In it he tells three simple stories with the key messages being: don’t be afraid to follow your own path; enjoy what you do; and have the courage to follow your own intuition.

Describe your ideal day off.

Spending the day with the kids, then dinner with my wife in Macau on the Ormeau Road, finished off with a couple of Dark and Stormies in the Spaniard.

And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?

Be proactive but also be patient. Your perfect job may not appear exactly when you want it but the opportunities will come if you are patient.

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