Last modified January 7, 2014 by Adrian

John Stout


John qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Robson Rhodes and has over 30 years’ post qualification experience in business.

Before joining Financial Progression, John was FD and then CEO of a large joint venture that created a well-known brand from scratch. He’s therefore no stranger to Marketing and PR activity. John is used to negotiating and managing complex financial transactions within commercial contracts, as well as influencing fellow Board members and suppliers.

John focuses on non-media audit engagements.

John’s background and approach

Here is a recent interview with me to give you a little more background on who I am and what makes me tick.

What prompted you to start contract compliance auditing marketing agencies?

I saw it as an opportunity to use my contract knowledge and auditing skills. I had experience of agencies as a client, so I thought it would be interesting to see how they worked close up and from a different perspective. Finally, there was an opportunity to work with someone who has a lot of experience in this field — it makes for a great learning opportunity.

What’s most important to get right in a commercial contract?

You need to be very clear from the outset what you want to achieve; it needs to be kept as simple as possible so all parties can understand it easily; it must not be too one sided otherwise the disadvantaged party will resent it; and finally there should be an appropriate amount of legal input. Solicitors should be involved but not allowed to take over, otherwise it ends up as point scoring over trivial legal points! Finally, after signature, the contract should be managed. Nearly every contract, once signed, has actions that need to be taken shortly afterwards. These things either don’t get done or drift for months if no one is actively managing it. This also applies to revisions and updates. If not done and issues arise in the contract or the relationship, there will be problems!

How have your previous experiences in business helped you at Financial Progression?

Whilst all businesses have different attributes (this is what makes them interesting!), there are certain strands that are common to all. Commercial issues, understanding the reasons why people act the way they do, relationship management and the need to make auditees feel that the audit is not personal or threatening are common to all businesses. Sometimes a way of dealing with a certain problem or issue in one type of business can be transferred effectively to another, which is always interesting.

What was it like to be part of the senior management team that launched a new brand?

It was exciting and, for me, a great experience. It was fascinating seeing how all the parts came together i.e. the name, designs, logo and, of course, the launch itself. There was also great trepidation as we were branding a new concept (Oystercard) in an area where it had not been done before.

What is the most challenging situation you have come across in a senior finance role?

Definitely when I was working on the Oyster project. We fell behind on the programme and had to renegotiate, not only with the client but also the banking consortium that was lending us £192 million. There was a lot at stake as failure would have spelt the end of the project (and probably my job!). The renegotiation took the best part of 9 months, which meant relationship management amongst all the parties was key and very hard work.

How would people describe you?

Thoughtful, pragmatic, outgoing and, hopefully, patient. Also straight talking, focused and intolerant of waste.

Which part of your work gives you the greatest sense of achievement?

I get the greatest feeling of satisfaction and achievement from improving things, whether they be processes or people’s understanding, and successful problem solving, especially if there are tight constraints over aspects such as cost or time.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time reading, gardening, model railway building and taking an interest in current affairs.

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