Getting to know you: Vicky Wilson

Vicky Wilson HCS and Clarke's Environmental

What do you currently do? 

I’m the finance director for two companies in the Clarke Group – a 3rd generation family business established in North Yorkshire in 1920. HCS Mechanical Services is an independent heating and plumbing provider based in Northallerton which delivers services across sectors spanning education, local authorities and hotels and leisure. Clarke’s Environmental, launched in 2006 following concerns regarding falling standards within the asbestos removal industry, the business has nine teams of asbestos removal experts.

What is your inspiration in the business?

The fact that the Clarke Group is extremely family orientated and champions a work life balance. As a mother of two young boys, this is particularly important to me and it feels like we are part of a bigger family at work, which creates a positive work environment. Our MD, Richard Clarke, the grandson of founder Harry Clarke, makes time to get to know all the staff and takes a genuine interest in their development. We also finish early on a Friday, which is invaluable and enables employees to spend more quality time with their families and friends.

Who do you admire?

Gary Barlow and the incredible way he has progressed from a teenage star to writing songs for the ‘Finding Neverland’ musical. I particularly applaud his relentless campaign to ‘put something back’ into wide ranging charities, including Comic Relief, The Prince’s Trust, Breast Cancer Care and the blood cancer charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research over the years. He’s also organised a sponsored climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro to boost funds for Children in Need.

Looking back are there things you would have done differently?

No, the paths I have chosen have worked well for me. I have gained almost two decades of experience working in finance and enjoy playing a key role as the group continues to go from strength to strength. I started as an accounts clerk for a large retailer, and progressed to a management accountant role for a franchising services company after less than a year. I’ve successfully led organisations through challenges like internal SOX audits and complete overhauls of accounts systems. These experiences have been, and continue to be, invaluable to me.

What defines your way of doing business?

Working in an SME – as opposed to a ‘corporate’ business – with a smaller team and a more varied workload. I thrive in this type of environment which also provides great opportunities because you have more responsibility and learn more. As a profession, accountants tend to get ‘pigeonholed’ whereas in my current roles I also contribute to the wider strategy as well as the finance elements – which makes work more stimulating and interesting.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

That the world of work is not all about going to university and coming out with a degree. It’s about gaining experience at grass roots level and achieving the right accountancy qualifications, which acknowledge your commitment to the profession and to your prospective employers.

Having gone down the University route, I would not recommend it and would encourage employees to embark on apprenticeships before studying for their Association of Accounting Technicians qualification (AAT), which will give you an exemption from your Chartered Institute of Management Accountants qualification. There is no substitute for getting stuck in and learning in the real world.