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Leadership in Action

Anne Brady, Anne Brady McQuillans DFK

Anne Brady set-up her accountancy practice from her mother’s back bedroom, and has since grown it into a highly successful firm based in the heart of Dublin. Ahead of her addressing the Chartered Accountants Ireland Annual Conference, she speaks about how her business has evolved over the years and what is important when building and developing a successful firm.

I set up my practice in 1992, starting from nothing and building it into what it has become today. Its success is down to a number of factors, from having staff which are both valued and supported to being a huge advocate of technology while understanding that traditional methods such as always carrying a business card can be just as important.

I started my practice from my mother’s back bedroom with just one employee after qualifying as an accountant with Stokes Kennedy Crowley - now KPMG. Clients were mainly from referrals through family and friends, but as word spread our reputation was established and we were able to move into rented accommodation and eventually I bought my own premises. Fast forward to July 2005 and Anne Brady DFK merged with McQuillans DFK to form Anne Brady McQuillans DFK. McQuillans DFK was established by the late Ken McQuillan in the 1960s. Natalie Kelly trained with McQuillans and was subsequently appointed partner in 2003. Natalie and I have very similar core values, so the move made sense.  I’m pleased to say that we have continued to go from strength to strength. We now have 23 members of staff, and provide a range of specialist services including Advisory, Audit and Assurance Corporate Governance and Taxation.

Meeting the needs of our clients is extremely important and we are committed to building strong relationships and providing quality advice, something that is highlighted through our motto ‘Accountants of Choice’. I’m often asked who comes first, the staff or clients. It’s an interesting question, but I would certainly say my staff because happy staff members look after the clients.

I have a huge interest in training, with CPD being a focus within the practice. Line managers hold monthly support and supervision sessions which give colleagues an opportunity to speak about any training or support that would benefit them. We also run a continual improvement programme so our staff can make suggestions which may improve the practice. We always take these suggestions on board, and often implement changes based on them. It’s a way to show our staff that their opinions are valued and that they can shape the future of the practice.

Social events are another part of achieving staff satisfaction. Our social club organises regular outings throughout the year, and it gives staff members an opportunity to spend time together outside of the work environment.

I’m very technologically driven and like to think that we are ahead of the game in the practice when it comes to technology. We utilise the latest software to benefit our clients and have also been in “the Cloud” for eight years, something that has enabled us to work remotely which is very important in today’s fast-paced world. It also proved very useful when we were up against heavy snow earlier this year, and despite us having to close the office, we were all able to work from home so our clients received exactly the same level of service. It’s certainly something I would recommend for any successful practice.

Marketing is something else that always pays off, whether it’s marketing your business or marketing yourself. Social media has become an incredible tool which allows you to instantly connect with people and promote your services. Being active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enables you to connect with different audiences and actively engage with them. But despite being a big fan of technology, one of the simplest pieces of advice I could give is to always carry a business card. I carry one in my pocket absolutely everywhere I go – something that my family finds quite funny, but you never know when you might meet a new contact.

Another huge part of building a successful business is networking. A big part of this for me is being a member of DFK International, a worldwide association of independent accounting firms. This membership enables the practice to provide advice on international business and tax matters. Its conferences and events are held across the globe, giving members an opportunity to network, share best practice and make contacts in other countries which will benefit the firm and our clients.

Personally, I am highly involved in the association and have just taken on the role of Vice President of the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. I also champion the development of young professionals and future leaders within member firms, assisting with the organisation of conferences to help equip delegates with leadership skills and competencies as they progress to a senior level. It’s important to invest in young professionals as they are the future of the profession.

I am also an advocate of women in business and achieving gender balance in the workplace. I am the chair of the new DFK Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee and we hope to help not only advance women in the workplace at present, but also redefine opportunities for future generations of women. Developing more female leaders is simply better for business.  Companies and firms with greater gender balance outperform others in terms of profitability, winning new business and attracting and retaining talent.

Another professional group I am a board member of the Timoney Leadership Institute, a not-for-profit educational institute whose mission is to develop competent, responsible, people-centred leaders who aspire to have a deep, positive and lasting impact on people, organisations and society. I am a great believer in leading from the front in my own organisation and strive to continually improve. Everyone can be a leader, even if it is not their official title and I hope that in turn I inspire others to continually better themselves. The Timoney Institute is not only excellent for my own development, but through its alumni association is also great for meeting different people from  different sectors  which enables me to assist  my clients.

Making an impact is essential when leading a successful business.  Be it writing an article or giving a presentation it always pays back.   Many years ago I gave a presentation on “Selecting an Integrated Accounting System”, and eight years later someone got in touch to ask for my advice, which shows just how important making a lasting impression can be.

From day one I have been involved in Chartered Accountants Ireland and have volunteered my time to sit on various committees. It is extremely important to not only grow a successful practice, but also develop the profession in general. I am also a member of Toastmasters International, which helps members brush up on their public speaking skills and give a polished presentation, and I would recommend anyone to go along to Society Toastmasters which meets every second and fourth Thursday at 7pm in Chartered Accountants House.

Anne Brady – Bio

Anne is a member of Chartered Accountants Ireland and the Irish Taxation Institute. She is also a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors and the Life Insurance Association (LIA).

Prior to starting her own practice in 1992, Anne both worked and trained with KPMG. She is Vice President of DFK EMEA and is heavily involved with helping younger professionals to develop their leadership and communication skills, which she believes can be lacking in highly qualified accountants.

Anne's role involves being a business advisor as much as an accountant. She is a well-respected member in the accounting community, and clients appreciate the fact that she has built up an in-depth knowledge of their needs and business affairs over many years.

She specialises in auditing charities and not-for-profit entities and is an expert in advising not-for-profits and business start-ups, in particular technology companies, about implementing controls and assisting with the restructuring and re-organisation of companies. Anne has also successfully completed the Certificate in Charity Law, Trusteeship and Governance with the Law Society of Ireland.
Originally published in Accountancy Ireland (April 2018 Edition).