HR & Management

The story of an FD who chose to work part-time to fuel his passion for cycling

7 min read

16 July 2015

An experienced finance director, Paul Turner is also a passionate cyclist. Some seven years ago, he became a portfolio FD to accommodate in his life the things he truly enjoyed.

For over twenty years, Paul Turner worked as an FD and CFO with a variety of large and high-profile businesses where, on a daily basis, he faced the realities of corporate life: long hours and a highly pressurised work environment. Increasingly often, he thought about making changes to his professional life. 

“I wished to be able to choose when and how I work,” he said. “I had no intention of climbing onto the next rung of the corporate ladder of a multi-million pound Plc. Work on a consultancy and part-time basis seemed a good solution.” 

He explained that cycling was his passion and that he wanted to work on a more flexible basis that would allow him to devote his time to the things he really enjoyed. With a wife and two children, as well as a mortgage, Turner still had significant financial responsibilities, and was looking for a solution that would allow him to cover living costs while getting a day or two a week to do what he wanted.

This emphasis on extra time, he said, was because the prevalent work pattern in Britain to work hard until 65 and then you stop or you drop. 

“Many of my colleagues have worked hard and very long hours until the age of 65 and then suddenly stopped,” Turner said. “Such change affected them badly, since it is as if you have been driving at 100 miles an hour for decades and then suddenly you come to a halt. They had problems adjusting to this change; they felt lost and began planning holidays and other leisure activities just to fill their time.”

Their situation also affected their self-respect, according to Turner, as they switched suddenly from a role which was highly valued by society to a place where no one needed them any more.

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He warned that British culture conditions us to follow a traditional pattern. Your status in society is determined by what you do professionally, how you do it and how much you are paid for doing it, he said. This pattern is interrupted by an age barrier at 65, beyond which life looks like a precipice without any future. By that time, you’re more likely to have some health issues which would prevent you from doing a lot of things. 

However, Turner claimed that if you follow your passions and dreams much earlier, there is a good chance that you will have something beneficial to enjoy in your later years.

Turner said that he preferred to earn less between the ages of 40 and 60 so as to utilise that time to do everything he wanted to do like cycling or walking whilst he was still fit and healthy. 

“It remains to be seen how this plan is going to work out for me, but I intend to stick to it,” he said. “Some seven years into my portfolio FD lifestyle, I am not complaining…”

He cycles, road races and does time-trials. He noted that there were time-trials for the over 50s, 60s, 70s and for the over 80s, and that he hope that he would be able to join them when he reached that age. 

“If I train now, there is a much greater chance of me getting there,” he said.

The role of a part-time FD essentially gives Turner the choice, flexibility and lifestyle he enjoys. It also provides him with a variety of work assignments. 

“I enjoy an opportunity to move to something new when my job is done at a particular company,” he said. “It is good be able to sit at the company’s partners meeting and say to them that I was able to help them until we reached the stage when my job is complete. They don’t have to feel bad about telling me that there is no need for my services any longer and that now, I can hand over my role to the financial controller. This is a clear and satisfying end to a job well done (although in many cases they ask me to continue to advise on a ‘non executive’ basis and to keep a ‘watching brief’).”

During the first four years of his part-time portfolio FD career, Paul spent a considerable amount of time setting himself as up a finance professional. He explained that he’d found that it was difficult to control the amount of time he was working, as some of the companies had a greater need for his services than he had originally anticipated. 

“The rest of the time I devoted to looking for another professional opportunity and this compromised my lifestyle plans,” he said. “When I approached Numitas’ directors, I told them I would like someone to take care of this side of my work. I am now happy to share a percentage of my earnings in exchange for the services of the company.”

Chris Chapman is MD of Numitas.