In a new series of interviews with Irish Business owners Mary-Jane O’ Regan chats to Cormac Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald and Partners,a Kinsale native who has managed a splendid pivot during these uncertain times. His accountancy practice is well known in Cork and his team of colleagues are well respected and loved. He has always championed Kinsale as a high end business destination and is well known for his work on this.
Tell us about your business, the history, present, team and goals?
Fitzgerald & Partners are a CPA Member firm based in Kinsale, Co. Cork with over 20 years’ experience dealing in accountancy as a general practice with a focus on SMEs and advisory. Details of the firm can be found on www.fitzgeraldandpartners.com . We do a lot of work in the hospitality sector and with High-net-worth individual clients moving to the area from overseas in terms of dealing with expatriates. Our team ae a highly skilled one, with each team member working towards a common goal, client satisfaction.
What have been the new challenges faced by you and your clients during the pandemic and how did you pivot?
Like every business we have seen a huge change and we have adapted by being there as a support for our clients. We changed how we operate in the pandemic by closing our office to the public, having a dedicated drop off point in our reception for any records, having our front of house in reception screening and scanning information to our team working remotely and I stayed in the office on my own dealing with clients on the phone helping them to problem solve.
Every week is different as new legislation is enacted and new supports are available etc. We have adapted well by helping our clients in advisory to navigate these supports and listening to their issues. In effect it is crisis management.
We have focussed on advisory and communication and used the pandemic to communicate with our clients to get a deep understanding of the issues which can be both personal and corporate. Our team have also improved their digital competency led by Jer Field FCPA, Senior Manager.
As an SMP we are always on the look out to see what new services we can provide, and we are now fully digitally enabled, and we have upgraded our IT in terms of hardware and software. There have been many challenges for businesses including the ever- changing supports available. We have helped our client’s access these supports and to deal with changes in them including The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.
How have your team adapted and has it meant more work from home?
Our team have been working from home for a few months and despite it being a new set up for us all it has worked well.
We have also adapted by bringing in health and safety measures such as installing hand sanitisers, screens, a temperature checker, each staff member has their own office and we have all the safety measures in place for the safety of our team and clients. Most of our communication is now done over the phone, email or on Zoom/ Skype/ Microsoft Teams etc.
What are your plans for the remainder of the year?
We have experience in many areas and our niche for 2020 is to focus more on building our advisory services including deal advisory and helping our clients to survive, recover and grow again and be ready for the upturn when it happens.
Cybersecurity is another important area, so we are encouraging our clients to be vigilant in this area to protect their data. People are adapting to the change and businesses are adapting quickly to survive.
Are you hopeful for 2021?
Having worked with hundreds of businesses in the last few months as accountants and advisors, the great resilience of business owners has struck me and how they have adapted to change and have been quick to innovate. SMEs have used the time to refit and make safe their place of business, adhering to the health and safety guidelines. Everyone is trying their best and doing their bit. Resilience is learned from set- backs. Some new businesses have opened which is encouraging to see and some entrepreneurs thrive in chaos. However, there is a cost in adapting your business to the new environment.
How were you able to help clients and add value to their service when face to face meetings were problematic?
We have done a few key simple things that our clients really appreciate in these uncertain times, giving them some free added value. Some brands have really stepped up to the mark in this crisis helping others and some brands have let themselves down by trying to capitalise on it in my view. People will remember that long term. Our reception manager has engaged with our clients ringing them and asking if we can help in anyway in our client out-reach program.
The pandemic has been difficult for everybody in different ways and has also demonstrated how important the SME sector is as the engine of our economy. Hopefully, some further stimulus packages and supports will be put in place to keep entrepreneurs and SMEs going in the context of the budget.
What are you most excited about when we return to “normal”?
A lot of good business and networking is done in person and I look forward to resuming same in a safe way again. Zoom & Skype have been especially useful in the pandemic to communicate but better business can be done in person, so perhaps a blended approach is the best option going forward. The CPA Ireland webinars have been great over the last few months to keep up to speed on various topics.
Read more from Cormac in these articles: