Mohamed Chaudry of FoodHub: “You can’t do everything yourself”

All good managers need to learn the art of delegation. You can’t do everything yourself. Delegating shows that you trust the people you work with to complete a job the way that you would wish to complete it yourself. A good way of doing this to link people with projects. If they take ownership, they […]

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All good managers need to learn the art of delegation. You can’t do everything yourself. Delegating shows that you trust the people you work with to complete a job the way that you would wish to complete it yourself. A good way of doing this to link people with projects. If they take ownership, they develop pride in their work. As a manager, you always know who to follow up with when you need a progress report.

As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A C-Suite Executive’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Mohamed Chaudry.

Mohamed Chaudry is Group Chief Financial Officer and Growth Accelerator at FoodHub. With an extensive knowledge of corporate finance in the SME arena, he has worked with numerous multi-million-pound businesses, often starting small and helping SMEs to grow into their full potential.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path to CFO was not in any way planned. I came from an entrepreneurial background having set up and sold businesses. That led me to take an MBA. I gained my qualification from a top tier business school, then moved into consulting in a mid-tier accountancy firm in Scotland. It was from here I decided to formalise my skills with an accountancy qualification and did my ACCA. I achieved first time passes, and gained a corporate finance position within a top 10 accounting firm. This is where I really got to grips with corporate finance, and working in a top tier firm gave me exposure to very large deals.

From there, I moved to a partner role in a corporate finance boutique and had an exceptional year, even during the credit crunch. I then set up on my own as a consultant, working across many industries doing M&A, disposals and finance raising. During this time, I worked very closely with high street banks. They would refer me to their clients to undertake assignments, assisting the business with nurturing relationships. This naturally then transitioned into contract/interim Finance Director roles and through this journey, I ended up at Food Hub.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I was three months into my role and had to travel to India to our back office and major cost centre. On the

journey there, mutual discussions with my CEO were about cost cutting, looking at areas of waste, and ways to streamline operations. On arrival we went into a management meeting with various team leaders to discuss sales targets, customer onboarding, etc. During this meeting, without any prior discussions with me, a monthly budget of 50k was agreed for bonuses, spot awards, team outings. Feeling a bit bemused after the meeting I queried the budget, especially in view of my previous discussion with the CEO, and his reply is something that still makes me chuckle to this day. His response was that he was a CEO, and his job was to keep his staff motivated and focused. He reminded me that my role was that of a CFO and it was to make sure that what he just promised did not happen!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My stomach still churns when I think of this, even though it was over 20 years ago. Being a recent graduate, I got an opportunity to interview for a stockbroking firm. I have no idea why, but for some reason I had 2 pm in my head as the interview time. I was so excited about this opportunity, I got up at 8 am, collected my suit from the dry cleaners, turned up in the vicinity at noon just to make sure I was not late. 1.50 pm I was in reception. My heart sank when I was told the interview had been scheduled for 10 am. They never called me back. Lesson learned. Write down everything and make use of your calendar.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Foodhub helps to support independent takeaways and restaurants by offering a 0% commission, flat-rate subscription fee model. Our rivals charge up to 36% commission on orders taken, so our clients, on average, save around £1,000 per month on commission fees. As the largest EPOS provider to the hospitality market, we’re also able to provide our clients with 24/7 customer service, marketing support, and a listing on our Foodhub food delivery platform to help them obtain new customers. I think that’s what makes us different.

I don’t really have a story, but this kind of demonstrates why our customers choose to work with us. One of our latest clients, Archer’s Sweets, chose Foodhub to support the growth of their business through Covid. Our service proposition, the simplicity of the interface, and the money-saving aspect all appealed. But they can explain their experience better than I can — you can see their testimonial here —

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people? What advice would you give to other C-Suite executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Our most exciting project right now is an expansion into other countries including Australia, Mexico and the USA, among others. We want to bring 0% commission to more business owners, to help them save money. We’re also working on improving the user experience for customers and clients alike, through the use of technology and people.

Hopefully, that will help more people to grow their businesses. We want to ensure that our clients receive the best possible service from us. We want to help them save money, whilst improving the number of customers and orders for them — ultimately helping with their bottom line. A great user experience for the customer will lead them to a higher satisfaction rate, which leads to greater profitability for our clients!

As for advice, well, it would probably be to have an open channel of communication. If you listen to your employees, you can learn a lot. After all, they are the ones who have the most direct contact with customers. They are the ones who field most complaints. And they are the ones in the best position to identify areas in need of improvement. So, talk to your team. Listen to what they have to say. And encourage them to share their ideas. You’ll learn a lot that way.

How do you define “Leadership”?

I would say leadership is the art of influencing behavior to accomplish a task in a manner that suits you and your business..

What advice would you give to other C-Suite executives about the best way to manage a large team?

Part of this goes back to the point above. Communication. Without open communication, your team can feel undervalued, you’ll miss out on a lot of useful insights. So, having clear lines of communication is key. And that feeds directly on to empowering your team. With an open-door policy, and an understanding that their opinions will not just be listened to, but genuinely considered, team members start to feel that they matter to the company — and as a result, the company starts to matter to them.

On top of that, all good managers need to learn the art of delegation. You can’t do everything yourself. Delegating shows that you trust the people you work with to complete a job the way that you would wish to complete it yourself. A good way of doing this to link people with projects. If they take ownership, they develop pride in their work. As a manager, you always know who to follow up with when you need a progress report.

Managers also have a duty to their teams, that means setting a good example yourself. Your behaviour should never be at risk of being called into question, and you should always work to the highest standard. But here’s the important bit — you can’t just be a stuffed shirt. It’s really important to have fun and enjoy being at work. Have a laugh with your team members, get to know them. These are people that you’ll be spending most of your waking hours with, so don’t make it a miserable time for anyone.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My route into accounting was not the conventional route. I was lucky when I decided to move into accounting, that my wife was already a qualified accountant and tax adviser. Having her mentoring me through that journey, and having someone around who was always there to provide guidance and knowledge, helped me not only through the ACCA exams, but also post qualification when I first started on my accountancy journey. Not coming through the conventional accounting route, I initially really struggled with my Debits and Credits and this led to many head banging sessions with her! I will always be grateful for her support.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I work pro bono for many individuals who are starting out and wanting to set up their own business. Many are people who initially came into the country as refugees/immigrants, and worked and saved money to fulfil their aspirations of setting up their own business. I help them develop their business plans and raise funding from the bank. One such success story is a refugee who came to this country and lived in one bedroom with his wife and three children. He worked in a takeaway for 10 years, slowly moving from washing dishes to a restaurant manager. He had saved £40k and was introduced to me as he wanted to buy into a fast-food franchise. The same individual now owns 4 franchise outlets, employing 80 staff. It’s a great feeling when you can help people like this who are driven and hardworking, who need that corporate support to get them off the ground.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CFO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Highs and Lows

The role of a CFO can be an emotional rollercoaster, a high one day and a low the next. You swing between managing tight cashflows, to enjoying healthy bank balances — and sometimes back again, often dealing with economic circumstances beyond your control. Your back might be against a wall one week, the following month everything is plain sailing. It can be really difficult to prepare for that mentally. But you have to expect it and plan for it if you’re going to succeed.

2. It is a lonely world at the top

At Foodhub, we have been on a hyper growth journey. And being a bootstrapped business puts extreme strains on cashflows. As CFO, managing the balance of such growth and cash management, is your decision alone. Any consequences lie at your door. That can put a lot of pressure on you. And you can’t share it with anyone.

3. You will always be the bad cop

Managing resources means you have to reject certain proposals and cut certain budgets. No one likes having their budget cut. No one likes having their proposals rejected. The CFO will always be the bad cop! But there are kind ways of saying ‘no’, that can at least help to mitigate and prevent you from being the bad guy.

4. You will need to get your hands dirty

Working with an entrepreneurial company going through hyper growth means you have to get involved with your team, roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. Delegation is great, but you can’t delegate everything.

5. Solicitation emails

I get at least 30–40 emails/LinkedIn messages of people soliciting services every week. Many are things not even relevant to me or our industry. It’s annoying. It takes up time I don’t have. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it, other than to accept it and to deal with it. And that’s actually kind of a good lesson to learn and apply across a whole range of business topics. You can’t control and change everything. So, focus on the things that you can.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think probably the best thing I could do would be to inspire a movement around immigration and employment. Immigration is usually considered to be a bad thing — and I can understand that viewpoint. No country has unlimited resources. But if handled correctly, immigration holds enormous potential. It’s like the man I was talking about a few questions ago. With help, he moved from being a dishwasher to a major employer. So, my movement would be aimed at helping refugees to get businesses up and running. Providing help, advice, support, access to funding, and mentoring. Because that way, refugees have the ability to become significant contributors to a great country’s growing economy and that can only be a good thing — for everyone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get on with people. Communication skills are key, how to engage with people.

In the work environment, you come across many different personalities and I have found managing how you communicate with people is how they perceive you and how they wish to work with you. At C-level and board level this is critical when trying to get your point across and trying to get people to agree with you.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Arnold Schwarzenegger. I hadn’t been a fan of his films and knew very little of his career except for the fact he won the Mr Universe title many times. Working in the corporate world in a life of networking, entertaining clients — a very stressful environment — I let myself go to an extent that I weighed over 100kg, overweight, not in good shape, high cholesterol etc. An incident happened in my personal life which got me to reassess my health. I started working out, had a new diet etc then I came across his motivational videos, one which still resonates was where he spoke about training 4–5 hours a day, then working in construction to pay his bills, and then taking acting classes at night. He spoke about his focus on his goal. I kind of emulated that. For the last 7–8 years (although with ups and downs), I’ve been waking up at 5 am, getting to the gym at 5.30 am, working out for 2 hours, before a 2 hour train journey to work. I would get back home at 9 pm and would still make time to study and learn something new before I went to bed. It’s how he had a goal and he made every minute of his day count and work towards his goals. I transformed my body whilst I worked my way to my goal of becoming a CFO.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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