“Too often we can look at where we want to be. The problem with this approach is one tends to miss the opportunity of celebrating the small wins each month” — CEO Q&A with Jimmy Sheehan of Contracting PLUS

By Business & Finance
27 April 2022
Pictured: Jimmy Sheehan, Managing Director, Contracting PLUS

Jimmy Sheehan is Managing Director of Contracting PLUS, a specialist accountancy and tax firm for professional contractors and freelancers. With close to 5,000 independent professionals choosing Contracting PLUS for their accounting and payroll services each year, it is little surprise they partnered with Trinity Business School to create Ireland’s Project Economy, independent research produced annually which looks at the work and skills of contractors and freelancers in Ireland.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role? 

The first is to make sure everyone on the team is enjoying their work and understands how what they do feeds into the bigger picture. 

After that it’s about ensuring everyone has the right skills and support to do their best work.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO? 

In business, one’s single biggest challenge is standing out. 

Establishing and communicating your brand values (i.e., what genuinely makes you different from others in your field) and conveying what tangible benefit that brings to your customer, all while creating a market that doesn’t allow you to be directly compared to other suppliers of a similar product/service is a constant challenge. 

If you’re not standing out for any reason other than price, then you’re already on a downward spiral.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Our association with Ireland’s Project Economy research highlights our genuine commitment to the industry to better understand the needs and challenges facing independent professionals in Ireland today. The research looks at the work of high-skilled independent professionals. The companies they work with don’t need them on a full-time permanent basis. So, they operate on a contract/freelance basis.

As they hire no employees of their own the tax legislation places them in a no-man’s land. They are treated like employees for some tax reasons, and like self-employed for other reasons. The high skilled contingent workforce is a complex market which requires subtlety, not crude brush strokes. Better policy is required for a more equitable tax treatment to better reward innovative the mindset.

How do you keep your team motivated? 

For me I believe a mix of autonomy, trust and two-way communication are key. 

Keeping everyone informed and educated as to how this feeds into our over-arching goals allows everyone see the big picture, even if their daily focus is only in a specific area.

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

We have not been immune to the skills shortage. However, I believe the current market is over inflated with asking salaries far beyond the projected inflation rates for the year.

On the job training is nothing new in the accountancy space, but looking first at a customer focussed attitude is.

We have an excellent core team which allows us to promote from within and then hire attitude and work ethic and then train the skill. With a great internal training program any new team member with a first-class customer service outlook is already 75% of the way there.

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

Too often we can look at where we want to be. The problem with this approach is one tends to miss the opportunity of celebrating the small wins each month. 

If I can look back in 20 years and I am able to say with honesty that we had a happy team, that we made our clients happy, that we generated a good return for shareholders and that we rewarded individuals along the way, then that will look like success to me. 

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

Know your value, and then charge what you’re worth. Never discount, and if you must, then you must reduce the service offering. 

Within 60 seconds of agreeing a discount (with no reduction in the level of service), you’ll be angry at yourself. As your client leaves, they’ll initially be happy with the discount, but then they’ll start to get annoyed with themselves for not asking for a bigger discount. Straight away they under-value you. 

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

The success of the research around Ireland’s Project Economy has been brilliant. We also launched Teams PLUS, a service for Irish accounting firms and finance teams who are struggling with productivity, too much time tied up in WIP and the ever-increasing challenge of finding and retaining team members to get work done. Our Extended Teams service has proven popular with accountancy firms of 25+ and finance teams of 10+. 

What’s next for your company? 

Aha, now that would be spilling the beans! We’ve some exciting developments in the pipeline which will build on our customers experience and these will be launched over the next 12 months or so.