“Staying relevant is a key challenge for any CEO that’s in the game a long time.” CEO Q&A: Marc O’Dwyer, Big Red Cloud

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 13 Feb | Author – Business & Finance

In our next CEO Q&A, Marc O’Dwyer, CEO of Big Red Cloud, speaks to us about innovation, driving growth and regulation challenges.


Q. What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I am continually trying to move forward with our business – driving growth & innovation within Big Red Cloud. Having worked in the Accounting software industry for over 30 years, I fully understand the need to be constantly innovating and to stay ahead of the market requirements. Only by staying ahead of the curve with ongoing changes in our industry, will we be able to maintain the success we have experienced to date. As CEO it is my job to keep this momentum going and to bring our team along with me, by keeping people focused & motivated.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

Staying relevant is a key challenge for any CEO that’s in the game a long time. Time moves fast, and the workforce gets younger, and so too do the customers, so it is vital to keep pace with the way the industry and the world is developing. “Social media” simply wasn’t a thing when I first started out and now if you don’t have a “voice” on these platforms then you will be eaten up by those who do. We must stay aligned with the younger generations to make sure we understand their needs and expectations – both which are worlds apart from the generation I grew up in.

Q. How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Every person has different aspirations, interests and goals, interacting with staff and getting to know what makes them tick, helps me to deliver the key “ingredient” for each individual to keep them motivated and to ensure their buy-in to a team environment.

Q. What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Regulation is one of the key challenges for Accounting and payroll software developers. Only this year we have had to re-develop our payroll to take account of the new revenue PAYE modernisation rules. It’s the single biggest change in the PAYE system in 58 years.

Every Budget inevitably brings changes to VAT and PRSI and with the country nearly at full employment, the industry is looking more and more to automation and the implementation of AI.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and automation are becoming huge in our industry. No longer does an Accountant or bookkeeper expect to manually input a purchase invoice or receipt into their accounting system- they fully expect now that these types of documents will be inputted and reconciled automatically.

Also, the introduction of PSD2 (Payment Savings Directive) within the banks has meant that the link between banking systems and accounting systems is becoming more integrated and bank reconciliations are being automated along with payments.

Q. Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I would like to see the Government insist that any new startup business implement a computerized bookkeeping system from the get-go. This will help to ensure that the startup has a greater chance of success by keeping proper books and records which, in turn, should ensure they are on top of their taxes. These are issues that many small businesses struggle with and it can be their downfall.

Q. As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

We are lucky in that our Accounting and payroll systems are so easy to use, we can train new staff in a relatively short period of time. So as long as we feel a person is a good fit for our business, showing them the ropes is never too difficult. However, I would say that getting sales & marketing staff with a good knowledge of our industry is difficult.

Q. How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

As we are not moving products across borders, neither a hard or a soft BREXIT will affect us greatly. We do have a number of customers in the UK and we are currently adjusting our software to take account the new HMRC digital requirements, which specify that all SME’s must digitally transfer all VAT information to the HMRC.

Q.  How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

Funnily enough, we actually thrived during the economic downturn! The reason being is that those businesses that had been relying on manual accounts or spreadsheets, found it very hard to track what monies they were owed and because we are relatively inexpensive and very easy to use, we actually increased the number of users.

Q. How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

In reverse order – I setup Big Red Book/Cloud to help small business owners run proper accounting systems so as to give them a better chance of long-term survival. I have done this by designing one of the easiest to use Accounting and bookkeeping systems on the market, so that no previous accounting training is required. This goal continues to drive me on a daily basis. How I define that success is on the number of new customers we sign up and our extremely low churn rate. I look at and measure all of our statistics on a monthly basis to ensure we give the best customer support experience available.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Employ people that know what you don’t know and most importantly let them get on with the job!

Q. What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

Winning the Business All Stars CEO of the Year and celebrating 25 years of Big Red Book Success.

Q. What’s next for your company?

We are looking to export to some of the 25 countries that already access Big Red Cloud on a daily basis and to grow our business potentially by acquisition.

Q. Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Established in at least two other geographies with a continued 25% growth.

Employ people that know what you don’t know and most importantly, let them get on with the job!