An Interview with Caroline Blair
Behind the scenes at Global Integration is Caroline, who’s a keen horsewoman when not at work. In working hours, however, she‘s the linchpin that holds the back office together, sorting everything from invoicing to resolving last minute hitches before courses happen. Whilst some may know her name, for the most part she does such a great job that clients don’t know she’s there.
What does your week look like?
I keep up to date the invoicing, supplier payments and credit control for our Europe and US operations and update our monthly forecasts, provide management accounts and financial tracking reports.
I also ensure materials arrive on time at client locations to support our courses, which can be anything from working in virtual teams to training senior managers the soft skills required to lead matrix companies – and ensuring that the Speed Lead books [by Kevan Hall, Global Integration’s CEO] are kept stocked and shipped out as required.
I’m also responsible for producing our VAT returns and meeting statutory financial reporting requirements as well as our annual payroll returns.
I’m often called on to troubleshoot – for example one of our trainers needed help obtaining a visa urgently last week. It was unforeseeable, but makes every day different.
I also source our suppliers: I’m constantly looking out for better prices, although we’re fairly loyal to good suppliers as we won’t sacrifice quality for price. For example, we have a bank of printers who can deliver good quality materials, reliably. We could do things more cheaply but it’s too risky to jeopardise our materials being delivered shabbily. As we deliver high quality training and consultancy, poorly printed materials would create the wrong impression. It also takes a lot of organisational skills to ensure that ‘Learner Logs’, which we print, are delivered to customers on time, around the world, so we do demand a degree of flexibility and high service levels that some suppliers might regard as a nuisance.
Which job do you most enjoy?
Ahead of training sessions, trainers will sometimes put out a remote teams questionnaire to course participants which highlight any problem areas, areas of excellence, average performance etc. I collate these into a “Team Diagnostic” spread sheet, analyse the responses, and report to the trainer who can then use it to tailor the training program to address the most relevant areas of need for that team. The results can also be presented to participants or team leaders before or during training.
Which part of the job do you least enjoy?
VAT! We have an international team, working with multinational companies, and travelling around the world to deliver training. (This week alone we have courses running in the US, France, the UK and Finland.) Often a course will be developed – and incur costs – in one country, but be delivered in another, face to face or by webinar, which requires all kinds of recording and form filling.
How did you come to be working with Global Integration?
After graduating in chemistry at Warwick University, I worked as a research chemist for two years before training to become a chartered accountant (Arthur Andersen). I worked as European Financial Controller for a medical software solutions company for seven years and joined Global Integration in 2004, after a career break to start a family and a spell living in Germany (and working in a kindergarten while my children were small)
I now have my perfect job: varied work, a few minutes from home and with flexible working. Global Integration practises what it preaches and Kevan [our CEO] is great to work for. He empowers and then leaves me to get things done, I’m a part of the team, and the flexible hours are great for juggling family commitments.