Seek out the silver lining

Apr 03, 2018
Opportunity lurks at every corner, but you need to have a positive mindset and the right people on board to capitalise on it.
In business, I tend to take a positive view irrespective of the challenges facing the firm. In the last decade, we navigated the fallout of the financial crisis while keeping all our employees on board. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve found that businesspeople tend to be imbued with a positive outlook that helps them navigate the inevitable rough and tumble that comes with running a business in a competitive market.

Change on the horizon

There’s plenty of change on the horizon too. Making Tax Digital (MTD) is due to come into effect in April 2019 and then, of course, there’s Brexit. Although no business likes uncertainty, there will always be a positive in there somewhere. Following the introduction of pension auto-enrolment throughout the UK, for example, we saw a major upswing in the number of firms outsourcing their payroll activity. Likewise, we’re busy working with businesses on both sides of the border as an InterTradeIreland-approved Brexit Service Provider. So while these are seen as challenges in the wider context, there are pockets of opportunity – the challenge is to identify them and act quickly.
In that sense, our practice has remained quite nimble. We invested heavily in cloud computing capacity having taken our lead from our extremely innovative fellow accountants in Australia and New Zealand. The automation that comes with it has allowed us to re-focus our business on areas of growing concern to our clients like MTD and Brexit. It has also led to some strong partnerships with other accountancy practices south of the border whereby we assist in filing their clients UK corporation tax returns in iXBRL as we have the software and capacity to do it. It’s a great example of the Institute’s members working together, really.

Client management

When it comes to client management, we place a huge emphasis on client access to senior people. That level of access often means sitting at a client’s kitchen table to discuss succession planning or tax mitigation – even if that business owner is working all over Europe or turning over tens of millions in revenue. It might strike some people as an odd setting for such as discussion, but that personal touch is something our clients value greatly. It helps us differentiate ourselves from other firms in the marketplace but it also means we get to know the family and care deeply about the success of the business at a personal level. In some cases, we are now advising the third generation of the same family.

Talent management

Our 160 staff are spread across five locations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, so ensuring good channels of communication is vital for us. In the current market, it’s very difficult to get the right staff so we’re acutely focused on building an attractive employer brand and the only way to do this sustainably is by looking after your people. We try to help people realise their potential through training and career progression. Once people find their work exciting, challenging and worthwhile, you’re half-way there. But sometimes the little things – such as our tradition of buying all our employees and their children Easter eggs – have a really positive effect.
Ronan McGuirk FCA is a Director at ASM Chartered Accountants and is based in Newry.