The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands and clients. As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, this is their time to shine.
Shirley Tan is a senior finance manager at IPG Mediabrands, and has been with the group for 10 years. Her role involves the team’s daily operations, collections and office administration. She is often caught in between a rock and a hard place when clients don't pay on time and she has to update her bosses.
Why is your job important?
I manage one of the most critical aspects of company operations which are managing the cash flow of the company.
What is the hardest and stressful part of your job?
My job involves following up on all the collections, so as you can imagine, it gets pretty stressful when there is a backlog on this. I often have to chase up on the collection, or perhaps certain sign-offs on the Letter of Agreement are not done which stalls the process.
It is extra stressful when there are no answers to report to internally, and both the financial controller and CFO are breathing down my neck!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Ultimately I’m happy when payments that have been promised on are made, and the collection is complete. And of course, the best days are when I am awarded and recognised by the company.
What is the first thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them about your job?
People think I’m the most important person in the company as they think I control all the cash and financial operations of the organisation.
How would you correct/explain to them what you do then?
Well, I correct them to say that I do only one part. However all the aspects are important, as there is a whole infrastructure that involves the collection, payment, reporting, and billing, and we work as a team.
Is there anything you want to change in your job?
Perhaps we could have some system improvements that would help us to automate and generate all the information I need which would better help us to manage the collections process.
If you weren’t a senior finance manager, what would you be?
Well, I always wanted to be a quantity surveyor as I enjoyed construction design and the industry, however, the course was too expensive for me to pursue.