Thursday 20 October 2016

My Big Idea: 'Workplace wellbeing shouldn't be the preserve of large companies'

Published 12/05/2016 | 02:30

Sinead Doherty: founder and chief executive of Fenero
Sinead Doherty: founder and chief executive of Fenero

Sinead Doherty (35) is the founder and chief executive of personal tax company Fenero.

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"I was born in Dublin but grew up in Essex, and moved back to Ireland after finishing my degree. I've been here ever since.

I started my accounting career with Nolan Murray in Monkstown, Co Dublin, but was always enamoured by the idea of running my own business - that's one of the reasons I chose to become an accountant, because accounting skills are so useful for entrepreneurs.

Fenero came about after I saw a gap in the market for tax services for individuals. There were very few service providers targeting individuals at that time in Ireland and those that did were very expensive. I wanted to make tax services available to more people at a more accessible price.

I decided to focus particularly on contractors, since the number of people working on a contract or freelance basis has shot up in recent years, particularly in sectors like IT. It's estimated that 50pc of all US employees will be contractors by 2020 and Ireland is very similar. But many contractors find the process of getting their taxes in order very stressful, confusing and time-consuming.

I launched the business in 2009 at the height of the recession. Maybe I was naive, but I wasn't put off by the financial crisis. It was actually an opportunity because people were becoming more cost conscious, there was demand for a more competitive offering. I was able to undercut my competitors by more than half in some cases.

We were busy straight away. So much so that my husband joined the company after the first crazy year - he is a qualified tax accountant. It is quite a big deal to commit to work with your spouse but we felt it was the right decision for us and thankfully we have been proved right.

Fenero is based in Blanchardstown and today has 18 employees.

One of the things I am proudest of is our focus on workplace wellbeing. I knew from the outset that I wanted to create a positive, supportive, healthy working environment.

The accounting industry has a reputation for being highly pressurised with very long hours. Both my husband and I had experienced that and did not want to recreate it in our own company.

We provide staff with things like fresh fruit, standing desks and weekly mindfulness sessions. We offer free health checks and access to counselling services. I was so proud when Fenero won a 2016 Workplace Wellbeing Award from the Nutrition and Health Foundation.

Unfortunately most corporate wellbeing services and even information is targeted at big businesses, not SMEs. That's not right - workplace wellness should not just be the preserve of large or profitable companies.

The biggest challenge has probably been managing growth as the business has expanded quickly. Maintaining quality and the corporate culture we wanted while our workload quickly intensified was difficult - 2012 was particularly challenging because we had to close down one part of the company, which offered services to small businesses, to focus on our core skills.

It was tough since the part of the business we were closing had good, happy clients, but we felt we could make a bigger impact by focusing on our key markets.

My goal for the business is to build it up into a nationally recognised brand.

I want Fenero to be the go-to place for tax services for individuals. We are focused on Ireland for now, but expansion into the UK is a possibility in the future."

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