Gary McGaghey

CFO at Williams Lea Tag

Gary McGaghey has extensive experience as Chief Financial Officer and Group CFO of international companies. Most recently, he has joined Williams Lea Tag in this capacity.

Gary McGaghey came onboard with Williams Lea Tag, which is owned by the private equity firms PE Group and Advent International. McGaghey’s role with Williams Lea Tag has been as the company’s Group CFO, overseeing cost restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, carve-outs, divestitures, and balance sheet refinancing for the €1.3 billion company.

Before joining Williams Lea Tag, Gary McGaghey previously worked at Robertsons (March 1993 – March 2002), Unilever (April 2002 – April 2017), and Nelsons (May 2017 – June 2019). He joined Unilever when it acquired the Robertsons subsidiaries, and he eventually left Unilever for Nelsons.
McGaghey worked with several companies while at Robertsons, including Robertsons Foods, Robertsons Homecare, and Baker Street Snacks. His positions at these companies were Chief Operating Officer, CFO, Vice President of Logistics, Audit Committee Member, and Group Board Member.
When Unilever acquired the aforementioned subsidiaries, McGaghey initially remained with Unilever Bestfoods Robertsons for three years. He then was with Unilever South Africa, Unilever, and Pepsi Lipton International. During this time, McGaghey largely served as Vice President of Finance, CFO, and Group CFO of the various subsidiaries. He also held stints as Mergers and Acquisitions Director and Interim Chief Executive Officer, though. McGaghey’s last position with Unilever was as the Pepsi Lipton International Joint Ventures CFO.

Between his time at Unilever and joining Williams Lea Tag, McGaghey served as Nelsons’ CFO for just over two years. He was here from May 2017 until June 2019, serving as CFO, Company Secretary, Executive Board Member, and Statutory Director.

Before starting his professional career, Gary McGaghey studied at the University of Natal and the University of South Africa. He has both a bachelor’s degree and a postgraduate degree in Commerce.
In addition to his degrees, McGaghey is a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Management Accountant. He also holds a Non-Executive Director Diploma.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

It starts with an early start to exercise each morning. I plan my day 8 30am-9 30am. My day is mostly filled with calls and meetings from 9 30 through to 6 30pm. Followed by a commute home or a walk. Evenings I try not to work late but do spend the time reading documents/materials and prepping for the following day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I talk to people. I work best with my team exploring ideas and building on each other’s thoughts. I like working collaboratively with my team. I am a planner. I feel a strong plan gives one the freedom to execute dynamically within a framework and react fast to changing circumstances.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The changing dynamic of work-life balance where technology is enabling one to work from any part of the world.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I work hard. I feel there is no substitute for commitment. But the most important factor of my success is I build and work with great people and great teams.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Knowing when to be patient and when to push
Knowing when to speak and when to listen
Put the best people around you and get the best from these people
Take judgment calls quickly on what is important to get right and what’s not important to focus on, then move forward with conviction and speed.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Sometimes it is fine not to know the detail on a topic as long as you are confident in your delivery of the message, people will follow you
Speed is the most important factor in business. You don’t have to get everything right 100% of the time. You need to move fast, make mistakes, take fast corrective action, learn and move on.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Listen to everyone around you, particularly your team.
Step back and see the big picture before launching into deciding things.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I took on a COO in an industry I knew little about. Changing both factors of a new industry and moving away from finance, was a mistake. However, the biggest mistake was I did not do sufficient due diligence on the culture of the business and personality fit with the CEO. After 3 months I decided the fit wasn’t right and we parted ways amicably.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Great execution always beats strategy but speed is the most important currency in today’s fast-changing business world. Execute with speed.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Dinner with my partner and children at a nice restaurant. It’s too easy to get caught up in work and Covid and not go out to enjoy other peoples’ company and experience life.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

MS Teams…..communicating with my teams.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The 7 Day Week. This book breaks all the “normal recognised approaches to business challenges”. It shows that if we trust and inspire our teams, they will be most happy and productive.

What is your favorite quote?

“Winning is about winning the inches”.