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Saturday, 13th April 2024
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A Day in the Life of Esat BT's CFO Back  
Having turned a negative EBITDA of €40 million into a positive €20 million, Tom Byrne, chief financial officer of Esat BT, (and president of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is aiming to keep the cash flow positive this year 'as we continue to drive cost out of the business'.
6.45 Alarm goes off giving me 15 minutes before the news and ‘What it says in the papers’. I am not a morning person so the morning ablutions are carried out in silence or at best, with some mumbling.

7.30 Head for town having quickly scanned the business pages of The Irish Times. I will not get time to revisit until this evening.

8.00 Council meeting in the offices of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) in Mount Street. As recently elected president I had checked with fellow council members if they preferred morning or evening meetings. Like all good committees we agreed to split it. Deputy president Karl Young is not enamoured at this early start so there’s a pair of us mumbling at each other.

The main issue of discussion is the new Audit and Accounting Bill. As CIMAs we do not carry out auditing. Our Institute has been prescribed underr the Bill but there are many outstanding issues to be addressed for our 6,000 members and students in Ireland. What about ‘accountants’ who practice outside recognised accountancy bodies? What of bodies like ours that have Disciplinary Procedures outside the jurisdiction as they are UK-based? The meeting ends promptly at 9am and Karl looks forward to the next one being an evening meeting.

9.30 Catherine Walsh, my PA, has been through my emails. I get more than one hundred per day so the morning queue is about twenty. I have managed to avoid the dreaded ‘Blackberry’ (or ‘Gooseberry’ as it has been referred to by a colleague’s spouse who got fed up with him sending emails in bed at night.)

10.0 Team meeting with my direct reports. We have a one-hour meeting once a week to make sure all bases are covered. We have recently won a number of major contracts and I operate a system whereby each accountant also works with a specific business area. This means that, together with their day job, they also get experience of managing a function and controlling its budget. This is invaluable in relation to rolling out larger contracts.

I carry out detailed reviews of each area as we continue to drive cost out of the business. Last year we turned a negative EBITDA of euro 40 million into a positive euro 20 million. The target this year is cash flow positive.

11.00 Usual email update. How did we ever manage before. I read recently that the first information overload was felt by the organisers of D-Day in World War 2. The troops would still be waiting to cross to France if they’d had email!

11.30 Meeting with David Taylor, head of regulatory affairs, and our legal team to discuss the latest on competitor win back and pricing policies. We have become more recognised in the market as the incumbent challenger, which means we are also coming under more pressure. We recognise this as a compliment but it calls for a greater push to level the playing field for the benefit of all. Regulatory plays a large part in this in dealings with the Commission for Communications Regulation.

12.30 I rarely go out for lunch and normally have a sandwich and a coke at my desk. Once a week I have a ‘Skip Level Lunch’ or a ‘Brown Bag’ lunch as some call it. This is a great opportunity to catch up with the team in a relaxed and informal setting and answer any questions they may have about the company. The rules are that there is a limit of four guests per lunch and they must be levels below direct reports. At this rate I will have met all the team by Christmas…

1.30 Catherine and I sit down to go through the accrued issues, telephone calls, requests for meetings, documents for review and signing, and tidying up the diary for the foreseeable future. It sure fills up fast.

2.00 Conference call with John Brougham, VP Finance, BT Global Services and my fellow VPs across Europe. We review the performance of the business and discuss issues affecting our operation. We spend the last half-hour on our ‘High Potential’ list of candidates. BT is very aware of its international mix of employees and we try to offer key staff the opportunity to work in Group and other European entities. Needless to say, Ireland appears to be a very popular destination.

3.00 We have a senior management meeting to discuss the roll out of a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System and review progress on this hugely important project. The meeting is very positive as we all feel the CRM system will give a leading edge to any sales team.

4.30 Travel to our Network Management Centre (NMC) in Dundrum to meet our engineering director, Shay Walsh. Shay is preparing for the roll out of 3G for Hutchinson, which is a very important contract win for us as a company.

6.30 Head for home. I normally work until 7pm so this evening I am greeted with a quizzical expression from my wife Bernie and daughter Louise (21) of ‘why are you home so early?’ It is a novelty to see my dinner without a bowl over it to keep it warm. My son Michael (17) comes in and mumbles at me…he’s obviously a morning person!

8.00 I am very lucky to live so near to the sea so Bernie and I take a walk along the seafront at Seapoint. Come home, feet up and catch up with the newspapers and some CIMA reading on the Audit Accounting Bill – the excitement of accountancy!

9.00 I don’t watch much television but the 9 o’clock news is a must, and I enjoy Frasier.

10.00 I am currently reading ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore. I am an avid reader and normally have a number of books lined up. The last was Bill Bryson’s 'A History of Almost Everything', and next one is Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, an oldie I have never read that was recommended to me by our CEO Bill Murphy. I get to sleep around midnight having caught the late news. I plan to start tomorrow with a smile and just a few mumbles!

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