With a background in financial and commercial accounting, Katja really wanted to move into an arena where she could take a view of the bigger picture and understand what the numbers tell us. As a Senior Business Partner, her goal is to add real value to the business whilst also putting her native German to use too.
Where were you working before you joined Lidl?
I'm a chartered qualified accountant and have worked as a financial and commercial accountant for a number of industries including media, charity, and health care. Lidl is my first role in the retail business and I’ve been here about 1½ years. I joined the controlling team as the stock controlling manager and since then have transitioned to Business Partnering.
Can you give an overview of your role?
As a senior business partner, I partner internal departments including buying and supply chain. It’s very interesting because it's a very commercial role. This role allows me to really step into the business and get to know operations too and then align it with the financial planning we provide to support the department. I always wanted to understand what the numbers we generate mean rather than just ‘crunching’ the numbers and pull them together.
What attracted you to Lidl in the first place?
I am German, yet I've been living in the UK for half my life. This is my first role working for a German company. What attracted me was the opportunity to use my German again on a day-to-day basis. I work with international colleagues on a very frequent basis. Lidl is well established and a very well-known brand. It's one of the main retailers where I used to live and I have a connection to the brand.
What’s the team like?
A lot of people might say they don't really understand controlling, or that finance is boring. It depends how you look it. I like the analytical side of it and I think our team is pretty dynamic.
What kind of skills do you need to have?
It’s about being able to stand back and look at a bigger picture. You also have to be an analytical and inquisitive person. And you need to be very good with people; to have that persona and be able talk to anyone in the business. You can’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask a few questions. It's about piecing your knowledge of the business together, building an understanding and an opinion and applying it.
How do you know if you’ve done a good job?
When the department first comes to you and asks for an analysis they have a certain picture in their head. This is sometimes restricted to what they want to see and it might be that we can add a bit of value by just making them think from a different angle. I work with non-financial people and try to make the financials come across in the right way, so they're not ‘scary’. I’m telling the story as to what the numbers are showing us.
Is there something you're particularly proud of? An achievement?
It’s the little achievements. It’s great when we get good feedback and a “thank-you”. Or when we present information visually in a way which makes more sense and people say, “I’ve never looked at it that way”. That’s great. That’s what I take away as a reward.
What motivates you to come to work?
It's knowing that when you get approached by someone running a campaign who wants to understand where we are, or where we're heading, and being able to deliver something for the overall company goal. It’s our role to help support that process as well as we can.
Where do you see your future?
Business partnering is still relatively new to Lidl, so I want to make sure this is a success. I'm looking to develop the team to really put ourselves on the map. Personally, I'm ambitious, so I’m looking at being a head of department at some point – not even necessarily within finance. If there's an opportunity within operations where my financial skill set is very valued, it would be good to move maybe sideways within the company too.
What four words would you choose to describe Lidl?
Challenging, demanding, fast-paced, multi-national.