Name: Sean O’Loughlin
Job Title: Chief financial officer (CFO), Crystal Palace Football Club
My position in a nutshell… My role covers finance and purchasing, but also HR, IT and some legal matters – the back office functions which enable the club to run smoothly. It might sound like some of the less exciting stuff, but I do get to interact with plenty of the football side of the business!
I got the job… I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so kept my education as broad as possible and did a business degree at Loughborough University. I started out as an accountant after a summer job at PwC and, after a few years there, and a career break, I decided that I wanted to work in sport. I worked for Fulham Football Club and Wimbledon (The All England Lawn Tennis Club), before joining Palace two years ago.
My typical day… I like to start early and get things done so that I can try and get some time for myself later in the day to do some sport or spend time with my family. We deal with a lot of international enquiries, so messages tend to come through late on in the day and need picking up first thing the following morning.
My most memorable moment… Passing my accountancy exams – I found it very hard work and it was just about rolling my sleeves up and getting through them! Also, working in sport I have been able to attend some amazing matches (although not as many wins as I’d like at Palace!) which helps to balance out the hard work. It’s great to have the highs to bring us all together and give us a shared sense of enthusiasm.
The worst part of my job… I think the worst part of my job – and any aspect of life – is dealing with awkward people, particularly if they are in a more senior position than you. It’s about building confidence and resilience in your own personality so that you can deal with that. Take a deep breath, remain as calm as you can, and move on.
The best part of my job… for me, working in football, it’s the sense of engagement – when I see coverage about the club on TV it gives me a real buzz and a feeling that I’m involved in something I care about and am interested in – and other people are interested in too. When the team plays really well and everything goes according to plan, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.
Advice / key skills needed for anyone wanting to become a chief finance officer… Learn the basics first – ensure that your work is detailed and accurate so people know they can rely on you. You need to be able to adapt your communication style depending on who you are dealing with – and it’s important to be approachable, . and be someone that other people want to talk to. Listen to ideas, give credit where it is due and bring teams together. Help others to develop and, in turn, this will help you grow.
Something you can do right now to take a step towards gaining work experience…Get out and get in to places – easier said than done right now – but try and get your foot in the door even it has to be virtually at the moment. Many colleagues at Palace have started at a junior level and progressed quickly because they have shown promise and an energy and desire to do things. Ultimately, it’s your attitude that will impress people and win them over. Find something you really want to do and then get some experience, however small. Show people what you can do and what you are like as a person. Attitude, desire and credibility can be just as (if not more) important than academic skills. Put yourself out there.