Meet this former finance partner at Maersk who quit his job to help finance leaders be effective business partners
- "Sometimes in life, all you need is a gentle push out of the door to see where the world takes you."
- Hi, I’m Anders Liu-Lindberg, a Former Finance Leader from Denmark and now the co-founder and CMO at Business Partnering Institute.
- At 22, I started my Finance career at Maersk and by 25, I grew to a Business Controller and later got expatriated to Maersk Drilling USA Inc where I held the role of Finance Manager!
- In retrospect, the reason for my quick growth was having a 'career plan' and most of all a 'business partnering mindset'.
- After almost 13 years at Maersk, I said goodbye to a stable high-income job at a large company to help finance and FP&A leaders adopt a 'business partner mindset'.
- Here is my story of how I went from a Senior Finance professional to an Entrepreneur helping finance professionals be better business partners!
I figured finance was my true calling!
Growing up I never had a full-fledged career plan but somehow, I always knew I wanted to become a business leader!
I remember back in 8th grade my primary school held a theme week where all the kids had to apply for three jobs like pizza baker, bank teller, journalist, etc...I only applied for CEO jobs!
Fast forward, while still studying at University, I worked several jobs, mostly in Finance. However, at one point, I was so interested in helping companies find the ‘right talent’ that I even considered a career in HR!
I took up a student job in the HR function! The role was interesting but what got to me though was how people from outside HR spoke about the function! I clearly remember these words, “Those HR people, can’t they just stay out of my business? Just send me all the candidates that apply, and I will sort it out myself”.
Being a 21-year old student, I got scared and ran back to Finance! Also, to be fair, I have always been good with numbers and Excel… so finance did make sense!
After 8-months of leaving the HR role, I landed an opportunity (a student job again) as a Financial Controller in the Group Accounting at Maersk - a giant global company with an abundance of opportunity!
Needless to say, I was so excited!
Working on my career plan and becoming a leader at 27!
"As it is rightly said – Ask and you shall receive!"
After completing my studies, I (naturally) continued to work at Maersk and I guess you can say that my plan 'WAS' Maersk.
All I wanted was to move from Group Accounting to a Business Unit and from there land an opportunity abroad! I made a 5-year plan of how I could grow within Maersk!
Thanks to my career plan, I was doing good work as an individual contributor but in one of my appraisals, I clearly mentioned that I wanted a leadership role ideally abroad. And guess what because of those 'clearly stated ambitions' I was given the opportunity!
I went on to work at ‘Maersk Drilling’ as a Business Controller and later in 2012 got expatriated to Maersk Drilling USA Inc in Houston where I held the role of Finance Manager!
So, growing from a young professional to a leader, sort of happened in one go as I took my first leadership role as a Finance Manager at 27 years old. I was completely stoked!
Extra Tip: When I was making my 5-year plan at the time, it did not feel like a straight path but in hindsight that is exactly what happened! If I had placed my career in others' hands, things might have turned out very differently. Also, a key aspect contributing to my growth was getting to work under some very good yet quite different managers. So have a plan, it's good to know where you want to be in a few years and also work for good managers!
From working in the US to moving back to Denmark…a challenge!
In 2012, I moved to Houston, for my first expat assignment. It was a smaller operation of only one drilling rig where I was tasked with leading the finance team of two accountants.
My ambition was to introduce the concept of 'finance business partnering' and bring the team closer to the business. At the same, we needed to streamline the transactional processes to free time for more partnering. We did this by automating, eliminating and digitizing wherever possible.
The challenge with working abroad is that you typically need to come home at some point which could make it difficult to land a proper role once back…and the same happened to me!
After 2 years in the US, it was time for me to move back to my home country (Denmark).
I knew I needed to continue my path in business-facing finance roles but when I moved back to Denmark and in a different business unit, I experienced a flurry of different managers. This halted my career growth.
So, what should I do?
Building my own voice – Networking and writing articles on Finance & Business
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
I knew then I needed to take things into my own hands and find a way to grow.
I always loved writing and decided to consistently share content and new ideas so I could engage with finance and accounting professionals globally to understand their pains and help them find solutions. This also brought me speaking opportunities, the chance to co-author a book, crossing paths with people I would later start a business with, etc.
All these conversations helped me define my purpose which is “to help finance and accounting professionals across the world succeed in their careers and help finance functions drive value creation”.
Finding my voice, defining my purpose, and continuing to share ideas and expand my network only fueled my passion for driving our profession into the future further!
And let me say this: when you have a strong purpose and you are passionate about what you do there is no end to what you can achieve!
In April 2018, I co-founded the 'Business Partnering Institute' with Michael Lykke Bülow while still working at Maersk. However even with me on the sidelines, we had been very successful in the first 1.5 years and were growing very well
Saying goodbye to a stable high-income job at a large company…to start my own!
In October 2019 Michael, my co-founder, called me and said, "Now is the time to move and join the business full time!"
I had given everything I could to Maersk and it felt like a good time to try something new instead of just Finance! Also, I could only do it at a limited scale in my old job and in some ways, I was probably exceeding my mandate to do outside work activities.
Saying goodbye to a stable high income and the prospect of further career growth inside a company was a tough decision…but I knew it was the right time!
Finally, in Jan'2020 after 13 long years, I quit my job at Maersk and became a full-time entrepreneur!
Now I can write, talk, teach, train, and do this all day every day and that is a privilege that is given only to the few. I work with marketing, running a company, growing a company and so much more. Every day is littered with growth opportunities and I think that is something everyone should consider as an alternative to a full career of corporate life. And life has never been so exciting.
Extra Tip: Sometimes you must let go and release yourself to reach a much bigger potential!
Questions I get asked most often
“Tips for First-time leaders.”
I do not think there is a super recipe for a good leader. However, to me, a good leader is someone that is visionary, brings the team into setting the direction, delegates a lot of responsibility and acts as a coach on the sidelines giving timely feedback to help each individual grow.
Unfortunately, I see many leaders struggle with this as they change from being an individual contributor to a leader. They are so used to doing everything themselves that they are afraid to give away control of the deliverable. They are also afraid of failing because they think it will reflect negatively on their performance.
Instead, they should embrace delegation and give their people opportunities to grow. They should embrace failure and see it as a learning/teaching moment for improvement.
I always said, “please fail me but don’t fail me twice on the same thing”.
I want people to experiment and take chances because that means we can reach higher levels of performance. If they fail who cares but I will make sure we learn from it. Because we set high ambitions it is understandable, we do not succeed with everything.
“How Important it is to work with the right manager?”
A key aspect contributing to my growth was getting to work under some very good yet quite different managers.
- One taught me a lot functionally and made me understand what kind of standards I needed to live up to in order to succeed.
- The other gave me plenty of challenges – tough projects and tough business stakeholders to work for. He had no problem putting me in front of senior people and letting me work things out for myself. It was a sink or swim approach although he was always there on the sidelines in case, I needed help.
- And I think these two managers make for an important point for all you young professionals out there. If you get the opportunity to pick your manager then make sure you pick a great one. They have a high degree of influence on your future success. I say this because I’ve also tried the opposite and those were times, I performed the worst in my career and in some ways, it derailed me for many years.
My message to all finance and accounting professionals is that “change is coming”.
The expectation of finance professionals is changing. With digitalization and automation, there is now a greater demand from the business for 'finance' to drive performance.
We need to be 'Finance Business Partners' and deliver the most value to the business, enabling better decision making and supporting the delivery of strategy and performance.
I want you to have successful careers in the future that means you must deeply specialize in technical accounting, data science, etc., or move up the value chain and become a business partner for business leaders craving world-class decision support.
I have made it my purpose to help you make that change and that is also why I am excited to share my story with you!
Anders Liu-Lindberg is the co-founder of the Business Partnering Institute and a leading advisor to senior Finance and FP&A leaders on how to succeed with business partnering. Through learning and development programs they train finance professionals in the skills that are needed to succeed with business partnering. They also, advise senior leaders in Finance to help them better understand how strong their teams are at business partnering. Lastly, they cover immediate needs through 'interim business partnering' when you've received a critical resignation.
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