Paul Bartley is the COO of Odfjell Drilling Philippines. He talked to us about transitioning from a career in accounting at a Big Four firm, to becoming a leader in Shared Services - as well as how he ended up having dinner with a best-selling author!
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I began my career as an accountant at a Big Four firm. My future seemed pre-determined. But after a few years, I realized I didn't aspire to be an accounting partner. Luckily for me, in my fifth year, the firm assigned me to a major change project, and I was "bitten" by the transformation bug.
Since then, I've alternated between project roles and running large operations in need of substantial growth or improvement. Most of these roles have been in the "shared services" industry, which deals with providing internal business support to organizations.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Being a leader in shared services means overseeing the business support functions that all organizations need: such as preparing financial statements, cutting paychecks, buying supplies and raw materials, providing IT services and operating facilities. The idea is to make these services efficient and easy to use while keeping costs low.
New technology is a big part of it, and my work touches not only an organization's employees but also its suppliers and external customers. To be successful, I have to constantly discover and apply new solutions. It also involves building strong relationships with a diverse group of stakeholders.
What gets you excited about your industry?
Being a leader in shared services has allowed me to work in many types of organizations – in both the private and public sectors. Whether an organization's mission is to drill for oil, manufacture medical equipment, provide global TV programming, or process billions of dollars a day in grant payments, they all share the same challenges - they all need to hire the best people, buy the right things, and keep track of their finances. The really exciting part of my job is learning about new solutions and applying those from past experience.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
One of my heroes is the best-selling author Keith Ferrazzi. His book, "Never Eat Alone," changed my life and even gave me the courage to meet Keith.
It was such a thrill to attend a dinner at his home along with a dozen other incredible people. He teaches that you should be unafraid to meet people you think are interesting and that you should approach your relationships with the idea of helping others. If you follow his advice you will gain a tremendous benefit: you will have the satisfaction of connecting others in ways that help them while enriching your own life.
What, or who inspires you?
My inspiration often comes from my own mistakes. I've been fortunate to have plenty!
There is a quote in Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." Early in my career, I finished a role and realized this quote accurately described my two-year journey; I hadn't gotten anywhere! I was so disappointed in myself. Ever since then, when I have taken on a new role, I have dedicated time to determine tangible goals and made plans to accomplish them.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
Since I started my business services journey, I have visited over 40 shared service operations in half a dozen countries - across the private sector, higher education, and government. My initial lack of training and experience in transformational work forced me to ask many questions of those I noticed were successful. Even as I've gained more experience, I have never given up on this strategy.
I think the best way to excel is to frequently meet others who face similar challenges and learn from them.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
A few years ago, I led an operation with 3,000 staff working from 17 locations spread across the U.S. I conceived the idea of reducing to just 2 offices and shrinking the office footprint from 200K to 150K sq ft.
I secured funding and determined a primary location. I conducted a nationwide site search and found a satellite location. The process required negotiating with union leadership and briefing Congressional staff. In the end, the project was a success, and I was able to avoid $2.7 million of costs per year while creating innovative, collaborative workspaces that increased staff morale.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
First, I'd find a way to give back to those who have helped me along the way. I'd love to find out what each person really wants and get it for them. I'd love to see their faces as they received something unexpected. I'd also invest in a business idea I've been working on that connects people together. Finally, I'd take a 3-week vacation and add to the growing list of countries I've visited.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
The best way for me to switch off is to find things to occupy my mind, so I am not tempted to "check-in" at work. Pre-COVID I used to spend a lot of time planning trips since I love travelling.
I also love discovering new restaurants, so I spend time hunting for them and then trying them out. Finally, I like to keep in touch with a large number of contacts I have made over the years and its always a joy to interact with them, whether via LinkedIn message, email or Zoom call.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
Because it involves so much change, the shared services industry tends to create upheaval in people's lives. Usually, the results are positive, but the process can be brutal as staff are made redundant or are expected to quickly learn new processes and technology.
My wish would be for us as an industry to find a way to take care of people so these changes can be a win-win for both organizations and for staff.
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulsbartley/.