St John Ambulance finance director sets out seven traits for success

14 Oct 2019 News

Jo Keaney, St John Ambulance

Finance leaders need to take tough decisions, build a strong team and invest in others, but also have fun, delegates at last week’s Charity Finance Summit heard. 

Jo Keaney, director of finance and corporate services at St John Ambulance, delivered the closing keynote at Civil Society Media’s Charity Finance Summit last week, where she outlined the seven key themes which help to build a successful finance team:

  1. Mentor 
  2. Develop and invest
  3. Tough decisions 
  4. Build your team 
  5. Business partner
  6. Reslience
  7. Have fun

Mentoring and development

Firstly she highlighted the importance of a good mentor, and said that early in her career she had had a boss who had “pushed me”. 

“I felt he put his faith in me, and sometimes it didn’t work out,” she said, but, “he gave me a lot of belief and a lot of confidence”. 

Following on from this she said it was also important to continue to develop in yourself and others. 

‘Taking tough decisions’ 

Keaney said leaders also needed to know when to make tough decisions. 

She described a time in her career where she had needed to tell the chief operating officer “that we were insolvent from a professional point of view”, which was a “horrible time” because it led to friends and colleagues having their jobs put at risk. 

But it meant the company was “able to get somebody to come in and help”, and the company was bought out of administration by a broadcaster. 

Building your team 

Keaney said that it is important to spend time “building your team” and to “get people who get where you’re coming from and stand by them”. 

She explained that this had to be built on “trust and respect” and that this had to “go both ways”. 

As well as building the finance team, she said that business partnering across the charity is “something I am really keen on”. 

She went on to say that resilience is particularly important for a finance leader. At St John Ambulance, “we have got two boards, so sometimes there’s 28 people” to present results to. 

In her spare time she volunteers as a tennis umpire and she says this experience is key to helping her resilience. 

“It’s amazing how much confidence and strength I can get from that,” she said. 

Finally she said it was important to “have fun”. 

“If you don’t enjoy what you are doing then find something else,” she said. 

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