Andrew Chilcott is the Head of Management Accounting in Automotive Holdings Group, Australia. During his spare time, he is also actively involved in a number of start up ventures. He has diversified experience with expertise in the areas of Management Reporting, Operational Excellence, Cash & Treasury Management, Shared Services and Return on Capital analysis. A professional with a such an experience certainly will have wonderful treasure tips in him and it shows up in this interview too.
Tell us about yourself and your involvement in Startups
Entrepreneurship is in my blood and it’s a quality I have inherited from my parents who are both very entrepreneurial in their own ways. They imparted on me equal parts of a solid work ethic and street smarts which have helped me succeed in many different arenas.
I started my first business when I was 14 years old, collecting aluminium cans from the local area and selling them to a scrap metal merchant.
At 15 I then ran an aluminium can collection facility at a local shopping mall where people would bring in trailers, bins, bags, all full of aluminium cans where I would weigh them and pay. During university I moved on to nightclub promotion and DJing – these were the types of things entrepreneurs did before the internet and apps were mainstream. Nowadays I talk about innovation, technology and start-ups at Andrewchilcott.com
I love what the internet and technology has delivered to us in such a short period of time and regularly attend hackathons and start-up events in Perth. Lately I have become involved in a diverse range of start-ups including:
– Eagle Bay Residences which provides a marketplace for exclusive rental properties in Eagle Bay, Western Australia;
– Raw Beauty Blends a super food enriched beauty elixir; and
– Seeklocal a local shopping app that sends you deals from nearby stores.
By far the most exciting company I am currently involved with is Matchacar which is a white glove vehicle matching service that uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to price, source and sell cars between private buyers and sellers. While we are only in the early stages, Matchacar has grown to be one of the largest used vehicle sellers in Australia despite being 100% online. I believe this business model has the potential to be a major disruptive force in the Australian automotive industry.
You have worked in various sectors – Banking, Automobile, Mining and New Media. Did your way of work change based on the sectors?
My professional career has run along two major paths including Operations (Mining, Metals and Automotive) and Professional Services (Banking, Treasury and Telecommunications). I have found that whether you are working for a business with physical operations and machinery or just office space, the foundations of the way you work can be carried across industries.
“The value that you provide to a corporation is dictated by your own personal strengths and what you want from life”
Some people are most happy working 9am-5pm and devoting time to family or hobbies, others are driven by compliance and are most happy when they are responsible for ensuring processes are met and finances are accounted for down to the last dollar.
I am driven by learning and growth and have been able to provide disproportionate value by improving processes and finding new ways to make or save money. A key factor in this has been an ability to build relationships. By spending time with Senior Executives and uncovering their pain points I have been able to anticipate areas where I can provide the most value for each manager.
When you start delivering valuable insights to Senior Managers you can establish yourself as the source of information and they will start to come to you for assistance when a new project is created. This gets you involved in the most exciting projects and helps you to become more visible in the organisation.
A final word on working across industries would be that even if you are providing disproportionate value to a corporation, the biggest factor determining your success is likely to be the culture of that workplace.
Great work at a toxic culture is almost counter-productive while great work in a workplace that has a culture of continual improvement will magnify your efforts.
Share the knowledge you gained in leading some company transforming initiatives.
Across different industries I have led a number of transformative projects including the implementation of a CRM platform and methodology at Sims Metal Management (Salesforce.com), the creation of a new financial reporting framework (SAP) at Telstra International, and a number of Procure to Pay and Analytics initiatives (Concur, Converga, Prophix, Tableau, Docusmart) at Automotive Holdings Group. You can view a case study of our award winning Concur implementation here – Concur helps AHG standardise processes across a diverse range of businesses.
You have a limited amount of time and effort, so be careful which projects you align yourself with. Be aware of competing projects and align with those which deliver the greatest impact for the lowest effort as they have the greatest chance of success.
Gaining a mandate:
Understand who the power brokers are in your firm and make sure your team actually has a mandate to deliver a certain project. Canvas widely to understand who is supporting your project, who is opposing and who is competing for the mandate. Make sure you have rock solid support from the most senior people in your organisation before proceeding as its no point doing all the hard work only for power brokers to come in over the top of you and taking control of your project once you have gained some traction – play defence early.
Avoiding project killers:
Once you have a mandate but before you commence with implementation, workshop all the different ways your project could be killed off. Ensure you have powerbrokers on your side, identify potential saboteurs and create advocates to ensure your success.
You have invested a lot of time in academics through various courses. How important is continuous learning for a professional?
Investing in learning through structured academic courses is very important and not important at all.
I think everyone should work hard at school, go to University and get the best degree they possibly can. To study a topic that motivates and fascinates you is the best thing you can do in your early career. Years spend at High school and University can be the best times in your life with unlimited upside and no downside given how much time you still have left to correct your mistakes.
However, the way we learn is now changing, and an expensive, professional undergraduate degree is now only important for a limited number of professions such as Lawyers, Doctors, Engineers etc. There is now so much free information and cost effective short courses available from instructions like Khan Academy, Udemy and Coursera that you don’t need to commit to years of study and thousands of dollars in debt.
Therefore, a formal qualification is becoming less valuable, especially for entrepreneurs. Currently I am experimenting with Python, Tableau and SQL all for a small time and financial commitment but these will be the skills that drive the next phase of my career.
Your favourite books
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
I am just fascinated by this insight into the most powerful man in the world at the time. Even the Emperor of Rome devoted time to thoughtfulness and compassion. Despite being written 1,800 years ago, Meditations reads like a modern piece and its insights are as relevant as ever today. This book was my first foray into Stoic philosophy and I am constantly referring back to this book in everyday life.
“We all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions more than our own”
Fabric of the Cosmos – Brian Green
A deep journey into the bizarre world of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics. This book can get very deep and bend your mind in ways you never thought possible. I will never look at the world the same again after reading this book.
“The universe, according to quantum mechanics, participates in a game of chance”
Shantaram: Gregory David Roberts
One of the few non-fiction pieces I have ever read, and an epic read at 933 pages. The main protagonist is a Zen-like gangster and the story follows his adventures from an Australian prison to Indian slums and the Taliban controlled bad lands of Afghanistan. Having travelled to India a few times myself, this book seems to capture those authentic moments, sounds and smells that are uniquely Indian. This book has been on 5 holidays with me and each time I picked up again like recalling an old memory. A truly captivating story.
“Love is a one-way street. Love, like respect isn’t something you get; it’s something you give”
I am open to future adventures and really excited by the new breed of automotive technology companies that are on the rise. I think that in 10-20 years UBER will be different and transform logistics, the way we use and own cars will be different and we may be buying our cars from companies like Google, Apple and of course Tesla.
Currently am really invested in leading a team towards build a world class automotive analytics platform that supports the Automotive Holdings and Matchacar businesses.
Creating a team culture where people can feel fulfilled, appreciated and valuable is the ultimate goal
I am fascinating by what can be created when talented, likeminded individuals come together for a common cause.
The potential to create an innovative, high growth company out of thin air is the major driving force behind all my initiatives and I am excited to see what each of them become.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts with us Andrew.