Although Paul Norton initially imagined that he would end up as a partner in the firm where he trained, he moved to industry after deciding that he’d like to see “the other side of the equation”. Nevertheless he feels his time in practice stood him in good stead. “Qualifying in a small practice gave me a wide range of skills that I don’t think I would have got either qualifying with a larger firm or in in industry,” he reflects. “It’s also important to remember that you can’t be an expert in everything. You need to build a good team and respect sound advice.”
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Paul has never worked abroad on a long-term basis although has come close to it on a couple of occasions. “I think the role has to be absolutely right – and you have to feel that the time is right,” he says. “Once families come along, it can prove difficult.” But ultimately he does not believe that an absence of international experience has hindered his career. “Once you work abroad, it’s difficult to get off the treadmill,” he adds. “People get used to the ex-pat lifestyle.”
Throughout his career, Paul has always stayed close to the businesses he’s worked in and taken on responsibilities outside finance. “I’ve always liked having that insight into the business. I never just wanted to be the person who added the numbers up.” He’s also focused on honing his leadership skills through personal development courses. Now that he’s Managing Director he spends “a huge amount of time listening to the opinions and worries of my executive team and giving advice”. He also works closely with Harrods Aviation’s shareholders and their representatives. Moving up to MD felt like a natural progression, he says, because he had worked with his predecessor in the post for the previous five years.
What Paul liked about being an FD was being an influencer, having an overview of the business and being able to get involved in all aspects of it. As MD, he enjoys making an even greater contribution to the company’s strategy. “I’ve never been one of those guys who lives and breathes accounting standards,” he explains. If he has any career regrets, it’s only that he didn’t spend some time in the army. “But I don’t think that I was ever in the right place, at the right time, either before or after I went to university.”