Q&A with GM at Red Bull

From Finance Director to General Manager at Red Bull with Matt Clews

When you reach Finance Director and CFO level, it may seem like there's no where else to go, but Matt Clews, GM at Red Bull, proves that progressing through the Finance ranks can be a pathway to the top spot. 

Our Head of Accounting & Finance Brad Gatehouse sat down with Matt over a Red Bull to hear more about his move from Finance Director to GM in this Tribe Talks interview. 

Tell us about your career journey

My career has mainly been in finance. I followed the standard accounting career path starting in the CA environment for 5 years learning the ropes, then moving into the commercial world where I thoroughly enjoyed being closer to a business. I worked for two household consumer brands (DB Breweries & Griffins Foods) before I moved overseas for 5 years which broadened my experience before coming back to NZ and working for Red Bull. I have been lucky that my roles have been very commercial and I’ve worked very closely with all functions in the business which enabled me to become more strategic which has helped facilitate my more recent move into the General Managers role at Red Bull.

What is it like heading a dynamic brand like Red Bull?

I feel very privileged to lead a company full of people that are energetic, high performers and all focused on our Mission, Vision & Values. No one day is the same and there are always challenges, however, when you see what we do to give wings to kiwis and their ideas it makes it all worthwhile. This includes our team at Red Bull, as without them the brand would be where it is in NZ.

How did you make the transition from Finance Director to General Manager?

I was fortunate that I was in the right place at the right time and was given the chance as Acting GM for quite a few months while the decision on the permanent role was taking place. This enabled me to immerse myself in the role and show that I had the right skills to lead Red Bull into the future. I have always worked closely with the Leadership Team as FD so the relationships were already there and my style is more collaborative so that continued when transitioning roles. I had some ideas on things I wanted to change, however I worked these through with the leadership team to ensure buy-in and they were aligned with our Mission, Vision & Values.

Do you think your international experience helped you get to where you are today?

Yes definitely. Working in the UK & Ireland during the GFC taught me how agile you need to be and how to prepare for the future, as it will never be plain sailing all the time.

What would be your three tips for people keen to transition from FD to GM roles?

1. Work closely with the business as a challenging partner and not just someone that says no all the time.

2. Work closely with the Leadership Team on the strategic plan so that you are aligned with the direction the company is heading.

3. Build your profile within the business and earn the teams respect, once you have this the transition will be easier.

Was it a big change for you? Have there been any challenges, if so, how did you overcome them?

Yes it has been a big change. I am now fully focused on the longer term strategy from a business perspective to achieve its new Mission & Vision, as well as ensuring the whole organisation is able to perform at their highest ability.

How has the role of the Finance Director evolved over your career?

Gone are the days of the perception that the FD is someone who reports on the past and has no impact on the future. FD these days need to be all about the future and ensure the business is heading in the right direction, while ensuring the foundations are in place for the here and now.

The world of work is changing - what are the biggest trends that are impacting your industry?

1. Attracting graduates to the FMCG industry vs the sexier IT, Banking and Telco industries. This is a massive focus for the industry as a whole and I am sure the FMCG brand will become more attractive in the years to come.
2. Legislative and regulatory changes that will impact the way we do business in future and how this flows through to our employees as well as consumers.

Interested in hearing more?

Read about Jason Shoebridge's move from CFO to CEO at Kantar New Zealand here

To find out more about Accounting & Finance recruitment at Tribe, get in touch with Brad Gatehouse on 027 611 3638 or brad@tribegroup.com