You meet someone for the first time, on holiday, at a party or introduced by a friend, and chat turns to what we do during daylight hours (typically Monday to Friday, but not always). We all know what will eventually come, and I dread that question …

“So, what do you do?”

I try to avoid answering that by stating the obvious: “Oh, me, I’m an accountant”, which always results in silence. Not one to kill a conversation, I always reply I work in Facilities Management. “Oh” is often their response. Then, I say proudly, “Robertson Facilities Management!”

The obvious phrases include, “so you’re the bean counter” and “you look after the pennies, so the pounds look after themselves?” Well, I can safely say my job includes that and a whole lot more.

I’m not the typical accountant, though I do the kind of things you would expect of a director: I’m part of an active Senior Leadership Team and report to the Robertson Group Board. I like to think I bring a Finance angle to many issues, as well as a logical sense to many questions which arise day to day: providing strategic insight and direction to the wider business and (hope) help to shape key business decisions and help our business grow.

There are other questions that beset the “lonely accountant”.

“Is it true that Accountants are loners?”  

Some are, but again I am not the usual accountant! I truly believe that in any business, it’s the people, the frontline employees who matter. They are our biggest asset, without them, we have nothing. So, although my team and I provide an important service in so many ways, there is a bigger picture, and it’s important to communicate that as widely and as often as possible, which I know is difficult. This will continue to be important as the business continues to grow.

“Is our FD the typical deskbound, bookish and perhaps slightly aloof kind of accountant?”

I would hope that many people would say “No Way!”, although you had better ask my team – one of whom said in conversation – “as a boss at times I could strangle him, but he is caring and fair.”

“Accountants lock themselves away, are boring and unsociable?”

Contrary to popular belief, I am not chained to my desk, but I realise I don’t get out enough. It is important for me, as well as the business I believe, to meet and engage with employees, to understand the wider organisation.

I believe I can contribute and add value. I was in Hull last week and it was heartening to hear this comment: “it’s interesting that your questions actually have a direct impact on the operational side of delivering the contract”.

That is exactly why I love this job. To be involved not only in the financial performance, but to be somehow intrinsic in ensuring our employees, our clients and users are provided an efficient service, not to mention the wellbeing of our facilities. That’s why it’s important that we carry out Director-led H&S inspections, like the one I recently did at Carlogie Primary School part of our Forfar and Canoustie Schools project.

I also have a firm conviction, that if we better understand what our people do and how they make a real difference to the buildings which we are charged with maintaining, then I can provide a better insight to the decisions that all management make. I continue to be impressed by the professionalism of our teams, and this view is supported by the complimentary comments from building users and clients, which I receive.

“Do accountants like cake?” 

I can confirm this is true! I recently visited Café Robertson at New Craigs Hospital in Inverness, which has been refurbished by our FM team. The facility now provides a contemporary and warm welcome for patients, visitors, NHS employees and members of the public. I was very impressed by the service and menu! I would like to thank the team for the impressive improvement to this facility.

And finally: “are accountants good with numbers?”

Which number would you like? Those who really know me, know this is just part of the job. It’s a bit like The Matrix, it’s not necessarily the numbers, it’s the pattern they make that truly points you in a certain direction. I have been doing bookkeeping since I was 14 – that’s 20 years – and they ask whether I can count!


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