Tax and Managing Partner Mary McKeogh was featured in the Sunday Business Post, discussing setting up her own firm and the challenges running a firm presents.
Services of the highest standard from Limerick firm
Mary McKeogh partnered with Eoin Gallagher and Eoin Ryan two years ago to launch professional service firm McKeogh Gallagher Ryan. The company employs 30 people in Limerick city and recently joined HLB International, an international network of independent professional accounting firms and business advisers in more than 110 countries.
The move marked a major milestone for the firm, which provides audit, assurance, taxation, business advisory, corporate recovery and accounting services nationwide.
“If any of our clients have overseas interests, we can partner with our HLB colleagues and provide a complete service. This is very important for a firm like ours as it means we can present a real alternative to other larger branded firms operating in our market,” said Mary McKeogh, co-founder of HLB McKeogh Gallagher Ryan.
Before setting up her current venture with Gallagher and Ryan, McKeogh spent nine years as a founding partner in Limerick-based Horwath Bastow Charleton.
“In 2012, it merged with BDO, and I decided to use that as an opportunity to set up my own practice with Eoin Gallagher and Eoin Ryan, both directors with whom I had worked,” said McKeogh.
“I actually started my career in BDO and was made a partner with them nearly 20 years ago before leaving in 2003. You never quite know the direction things can take, and returning to BDO was really coming full circle.
“I like to think I opted for the serendipitous route, using it as an opportunity to set up HLB McKeogh Gallagher Ryan rather than going back into a larger entity.”
The practice got off the ground with bank support, and works primarily with SMEs.
“While this sector has suffered a lot in the recession, we are seeing some improvements,” said McKeogh.
“There is definitely some regeneration in the region and we are attracting new indigenous clients all the time. We are starting to see a bit more movement in the property and other sectors.”
“Turnover has exceeded our conservative projections for our first two years in business and we have set ourselves the ambitious task of doubling it in the next three years. With our HLB Ireland colleagues, we are aiming for the HLB Ireland Federation to be ranked in the top ten accountancy networks by fee income.”
The most important lesson McKeogh has learned has been to keep costs and overheads under control. “They can spiral very quickly, so you always need to watch what is coming in and going out,” she said.
As a woman in business, McKeogh is eager to see more females reaching senior positions.
“I think women can be too discreet about their abilities and achievements. To advance in this profession, you have to tell people about your achievements and look for reward and recognition,” she said.
Assembling the right team around you is another vital part of doing well in business, McKeogh said.
“There are two sides to this – you need to present a well-rounded skill-set to the market. You also need internal balance to make sure the business runs smoothly. This is a people business, and your staff and partners are just as important as your clients. If you can get your staff level and mix right, there is no stopping you.”
Leaving an established practice to set up a new firm with Gallagher and Ryan was a big risk for all three, McKeogh said.
“You need to bring staff and clients with you so you have to ensure you can hit the ground running. That requires a large capital outlay at the start, which brings its own stresses and worries. On top of that we had to put a huge amount of work into making the firm succeed.
“Having experienced both booms and busts, I have learned you have to be able to move with the market, which means knowing how to scale down as well as up.
“You have to react quickly. The factors that affect my business affect my clients’ businesses. I have to be able to devise solutions and offer realistic practical advice to the issues they face today, which are very different to those they faced in the past.”
This article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Business Post on May 4th, 2014