Tony Roberts was inspired to become a finance director when he took his first job in industry with a motor dealership-petrol station group called Selwood Motor Holdings. He watched the group’s then accountant rise through the ranks until he ended up running the business and becoming a multi-millionaire. “I thought: ‘Crikey, if that’s what being an FD can do for you, there’s an opportunity that I fancy my chances with.’”
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Now, Tony has the enviable job of managing the finances of Mercedes-Benz World, a driving experience centre based at the Brooklands racing circuit in Weybridge, Surrey. Besides finance, he is responsible for the centre’s IT, legal and general administration. A rugby lover, Tony has always tried to heed the words of former All Black Sean Fitzpatrick, who advises ‘being the best you can be’. “You’ve got to recognise what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, and work on them,” he explains. Compliance has featured heavily in his role over the past few years due to Mercedes-Benz being listed on the New York Stock Exchange and having to meet the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. “The new challenge for us is how to manage the increased use of smart technology and social media and how that will impact on how we market and what we do,” Tony says.
During his career, Tony has worked in both the Middle East and Eastern Africa. “I think working abroad does broaden your mind,” he says. “Often you’re out there on your own so it’s a great opportunity to learn about different cultures, laws and accounting practices.” Up-and-coming FDs should know their business, stay technically up to date, work on their leadership skills and display the highest level of integrity at all times, he believes. Networking is essential, he adds. “It’s very important to network with people in your industry and in the finance industry. You share ideas from those people and learn from them as well.”