Sinead Doherty was featured as RSVP Magazine's December 2017 Businesswoman of the Month. Here's a copy of the article:
It’s a big risk to open a business in the height of the recession, but that’s exactly what Sinead Doherty did in 2009. The gamble paid off and now Fenero, a tax company that specialises in providing solutions for freelancers and contractors, employs 25 million and has a turnover of €1.5 million. Here, Sinead talks about the risks she has taken, the challenges she has faced and why emotional wellbeing is so important to her.
How did your career path lead to Fenero?
My professional background is in finance - I’m a qualified accountant and qualified financial advisor - but I’m an entrepreneur at heart. Starting my own business was something I had always wanted to do. Having worked in the industry for several years , I had lots of ideas for a new style accountancy and tax firm with an offering which was different to most small firms, so I decided to bring it to life.
What’s the most important lesson you have learnt over the course of your career?
Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks in your career or business. When you feel fear, really challenge yourself to understand your emotions. Just because something feels scary, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a risk to be avoided. Assess and protect the downside; then if the potential rewards are worth it, make the leap. As the mantra goes, “the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all”.
"Overseeing the growth of the business has been really rewarding"
What’s a typical day for you?
As the company has grown, my role has changed and is now more strategically focused. This means I’m working on the business rather than necessarily in the business so a typical day could include overseeing a new IT system, a business development meeting to map out next quarter’s strategy or an interview to recruit a new team member.
In a competitive industry, how does Fenero stand out?
We utilise our tax and financial expertise to offer quite a unique product to contractors and freelancers. We handle all of the sales invoicing, the money transfers and tax deductions for our clients so they can focus on what they do best while we take care of the financial end. We’re extremely customer focused and even put our money where our mouth is with our Money Back Service Level Guarantee on processing times.
What have been the highlights of your time at Fenero?
Building a company that is reflective of my early vision has been a highlight for me. From the very start I wanted to establish a company where the culture and values are of equal importance to financial performance. I’m proud to work with an incredible group of people who are dedicated to the constant improvement of our business.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
In 2014 I made what could be termed as a “bold” decision to reduce my client base by almost 50%. I felt we had an opportunity to become a market leader in the area which we now specialise in. But that meant restructuring the business so could reposition ourselves. I discontinued our more traditional accountancy services to SME business clients , to allow us to focus exclusively on our specialist tax and financial services to contractors and freelancers. This was a difficult choice as we had built up close and positive relationships with many of those clients. Three years on however, our business has gone from strength to strength.
What is your biggest achievement?
Overseeing the growth of the business has been really rewarding, particularly as our main competitor was over 10 times our size when I started out. Fenero’s turnover has almost trebled since 2014, as has the size of the company. We now have 25 on the team and the future looks very promising.
Does the glass ceiling exist for women?
There are more women in top jobs than when I began my career but there’s definitely more to be done, especially in relation to equal pay for men and women in the same roles. However, as a woman leading a business in an industry which is dominated by men at the top, this imbalance has never affected the way I do business or what I have been able to achieve so far.
Are you able to maintain a work-life balance?
It wasn’t something that I was able to get right overnight, but I’m now in the position where I can answer this question with an honest “yes”. Juggling the demands of a growing business with a young family is something I constantly work on, but I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t pour from a half empty cup. Properly looking after my own health and emotional wellbeing is now a much higher priority. What’s the point of it all if you’re not happy and healthy on the journey?
If you weren’t in your current position, what career would you like to pursue?
I can’t imagine ever not being in business. I just love the variety of it, the challenges and constant learnings. I find Social Entrepreneurship particularly fascinating. It’s so inspiring to see the growing number of innovative Social Entrepreneurs who are turning their business skills towards solving the world’s social, cultural and environmental problems. I’d love to contribute to that movement in the future.