Olsen, who is judging the finance category of the AM/Courland Rising Stars, sponsored by Bank of Scotland, adds: “You can be too keen to get to the next rung on the ladder before having all the skills and experiences to be a success. Moving around a company will broaden your view because it takes time to learn an industry – you can’t just buy experience off the shelf.”
BCA is only Olsen’s second employer, but he has worked in a number of positions. An accountant by trade, he came to the UK from South Africa with Deloitte on a two-year contract. That was 19 years ago.
He joined BCA in 1991 as financial controller, helping the group make acquisitions in mainland Europe and moving from finance director to group financial director and, finally, managing director.
“BCA appealed as a fresh challenge. I could see the opportunities for expansion and that’s what drew me to the business,” Olsen says.
“People shouldn’t choose an industry because they perceive it as an exciting place to be; they should look at the challenges offered by the role.”
His financial experience provided an ideal background for managing a company. “Most companies are assessed by results. Being able to understand and evaluate the figures stands you in good stead when going into a general manager’s role,” he says. “All finance people need good attention to detail, and reporting and risk management control. If you get it wrong, there will be a costly penalty to the business.”
So what is Olsen looking for in the finance category? “The entry form gets you to the first base, then you will have to sell yourself in the interview and be able to back up what you say with facts,” he says.
“I am looking for someone with a broad plan of progressing beyond their current role. I will want to know how the fit into the team, whether they roll their sleeves up and get involved in every aspect of the company. They need to understand every department and they need to have a positive attitude.”
Olsen also believes it is important for people to be able to assess their strengths and weaknesses, which shows they can self-evaluate – a key skill for continual improvement.
He points to a fundamental difference between management and leadership. Management is dealing with known situations with set parameters and evaluating results. Leadership is about foreseeing what is coming and outlining a vision to take the company forward. In essence, leadership is inherent, while management can be taught.
“Leaders can articulate the vision to the team, enthuse them to be part of it and then to deliver on it,” Olsen adds.
“Leaders initiate self-confidence and they accept that mistakes will be made along the way.
“You will go a long way to resolving any problems you face if you have a positive attitude. Listen to others and don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.”
How to enter rising stars
Three finalists from four core industry sectors – retail (car sales and repairs), manufacturer, fleet/leasing and industry supplier – will be identified in six categories: marketing, HR, sales, general management, finance and PR.
To qualify, you must be under 40 and submit the following by June 23:
Winners will be announced at an exclusive dinner on September 12. Complete the form on the website (www.automotive-risingstars.com).
Courland Automotive Practice is the only resourcing firm dedicated to the global automotive industry. With unrivalled knowledge of all automotive sectors, Courland has a reputation for high quality executive search, interim management and consulting services.
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Sir Peter Vardy
The overall winner of the 2006 Rising Stars and the company they represent will receive complimentary membership of The Future Group – an exclusive forum providing networking, mentoring and personal development for the next generation of UK business leaders. For more details see: www.f-group.co.uk.