Having worked in sales for a number of years I moved into a role between finance and sales at computer hardware provider Compaq (acquired by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2002), which gave me a real interest in how the finance function works.
I then home-studied for my qualification while based in the UK and settled into a series of roles in finance – my last pure finance role was looking at the balance sheet and forecasting for the EMEA region.
I then began a business practice finance role, which coincided with a move back to South Africa in 2010. It was at a time when HP was going through a huge amount of change. In this role I started to look more closely at the approach of the sales force to achieve better returns at a lower cost.
A small core management team put together the structure for the plan, which set out to not only empower the sales team, but also encourage it to compile high-quality information from clients.
Part of the work involved making sure sales professionals understood that this information would be used not only to improve overall intelligence on the market, but to give them the means to close more and better deals.
It gave sales teams the chance to construct their own P&Ls and showed them how and where they needed to improve their efforts.
As a result, salespeople began asking me if I could attend customer meetings for a number of reasons. For example, I could talk to the finance director of the client if they were present, or help with contract negotiations.
My role has changed to become increasingly more customer-facing as a result of my ability to translate detailed financial information into effective sales material and demonstrate and articulate the benefits of doing business with HP in a way that makes sense to other senior finance leaders.
The impact of this has been a dramatic fall in bad debts and a drastic increase in returns on large deals in hardware infrastructure and professional services.
My CIMA qualification has helped me all the way in this process. It has given me the confidence to make key decisions and better understand the broad range of financial implications that each decision brings.
This understanding also means I can clearly explain the reason behind decisions to finance and non-finance people alike.
Guiding sales teams to improve performance
Start date: 2010
End date: Ongoing
Location: Durban, South Africa (pictured)
Name: Ian Smulders, ACMA, CGMA
Role: Enterprise business finance manager
Industry: IT and professional services
Location: Durban, South Africa
CIMA qualified: 2006
[HP by numbers]
2012 revenue: $126.4bn
2012 loss: $11bn
Goodwill and intangible asset impairment associated with acquisition of Autonomy: $8.8bn
Global workforce: 350,000
- Business ethics 
- Career talk 
- Corporate finance 
- Law and regulation 
- Management accounting 
- Networking and social 
- Professional development 
- Reporting and Governance 
- Risk management 
- Strategic management-economics 
- Studying CIMA 
- Sustainability 
- Technology 
- Studying Exam E1 
- Studying Exam E2 
- Studying Exam E3 
- Studying Exam F1 
- Studying Exam F2 
- Studying Exam F3 
- Studying Exam P1 
- Studying Exam P2 
- Studying Exam P3 
- Studying Exam T4 
- Studying Exam C02 
- Studying Exam C03