Why global business demands international experience

Gordon Naylor CPA. Photographer: Lucy Badham.

An appreciation of different business cultures and the value of lifelong learning have helped shape the diverse career of Gordon Naylor CPA, President of Seqirus.

In any given month, it’s not unusual for London-based businessman Gordon Naylor CPA to notch up more time in the air than most of us accumulate in a year.

As president of CSL’s influenza vaccine business Seqirus, frequent trips to countries such as the US and Australia are simply part of the job. In fact, as someone who has held senior roles in Australia, the UK, Austria, Ireland, Switzerland and the US, travel has always figured prominently throughout his career. 

The resulting exposure to various business cultures, says Naylor, has added immeasurably to his management skill set.

“I think hands-on international experience is a necessity if you’re involved in global business,” he says.

“It is not an option to solely operate in a single geographic location at a senior level.”

"Hands-on international experience is a necessity if you’re involved in global business."

Naylor’s management philosophy is built on constant improvement and lifelong learning – this is how he developed his career from engineer to president of a complex healthcare business. As well as his CPA designation, he has degrees in engineering and computer science from the University of Melbourne and an MBA. 

Before joining CSL in 1987, Naylor helped rebuild Ford’s Geelong plant to produce the iconic EA Falcon.

“The experience with Ford was an excellent grounding as the business is global, highly integrated internationally and one in which younger staff are given great challenges and authority,” he says.

Naylor’s first job at CSL was to oversee the automation processes of its Broadmeadows plant. He went on to become chief information officer and then chief financial officer (CFO).
While his path to the CFO’s chair was far from traditional, his management experience and MBA ensured he had a solid grounding in business.

Surrounded by exceptional accountants, he then decided on a CPA qualification to bring his knowledge up to par.

“CSL is an organisation in which we expect our managers to have a good technical understanding of their areas,” he says.

“We have a strong finance function, which has helped the long-term success of our business. 

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If you are going to be in a leadership role and support those people properly, and be able to report to shareholders and other stakeholders, you need deep insight into technical matters.”

Naylor’s current role is twofold. In a business sense, it is about turning around a substantially unprofitable company. A multi-year plan is well underway, and Naylor is confident that Seqirus will not only become profitable but will ultimately be a global industry leader.

On a personal level, his role is about ensuring work-life balance for himself and his colleagues, despite the demands of a global business.

“I don’t regret doing an international phone call at 11pm, because if I need to catch up with the kids during the day, I can just go and do it,” says the father of three.

“You need flexibility from individuals and the organisation to make this work.”

Naylor points to the fact that the average tenure of CSL’s top personnel is about 20 years.

“You get there by providing an engaging organisation that is doing something worthwhile,” he says. “ You don’t get there by wearing people out.” Another lifelong learning.

One piece of advice

"Always look for opportunities to broaden yourself."

Read next: 9 accountants who changed the world


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August 2016
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