Rebooting Ireland: Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com, discusses the challenges and opportunities of the economy reopening

Business, Rebooting Ireland | Tue 30 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com

 Joanna Murphy, CEO Taxback.com, discusses the challenges and opportunities as the economy reopens and the best ways to motivate a team. 

What are the biggest challenges in your role as CEO?

From a strategic growth perspective, our business needs to be nimble in order adapt to our ever-changing work environment. Fast reaction times will suffer if I allow my days to become lost in administratively heavy work.  Our success to date has been predicated on listening to our customers and being alive to their challenges. The Taxback DNA is in finding practical solutions to our customer’s problems, and this has never been more important.    

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated?

This is a team effort – we keep each other motivated. I am a big believer in communication and then more communication. This has taken on an even greater degree of importance, now that we are all working remotely.  When you flatten the corporate structure, staff have an opportunity to input their own ideas and to affect change. The knock-on effect of this is that teams become highly motivated. The best, and only, way I know of doing this is to build a good rapport with each individual and to continuously seek their input and imprimatur.  

The COVID-19 pandemic placed so many temporary restrictions on our day-to-day lives, do you see any of these restrictions having a lasting impact when it comes to people’s work environment?

It is certainly conceivable, if not inevitable, that remote working will become even more ingrained in Ireland’s ‘work culture’ over the longer term. Remote working can offer a range of advantages to employers and employees alike – from reduced rent and utility bills for businesses, to a better work-life balance for workers, which in turn, could make for a happier more motivated workforce. But there are challenges too. For instance, fostering and encouraging team spirit and morale can be tricky when there can be no face-to-face engagement between colleagues. Thankfully, we live in an age where technology – such as Zoom, Slack and Skype – enable teams to stay in continuous contact and countless businesses across Ireland have experienced the benefit of these services during this crisis. 

But bolstering moral and fostering an energy of collaboration and inclusion, and tackling feelings of isolation, are now major considerations for managers. It has been and will continue to be a learning curve for all involved – but I would hope that the end result could be a more fluid and flexible workforce throughout the country for years to come. 

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

Government priorities change, markets change, consumers’ purchasing patterns change, and this will always be the case. As a 23-year-old business, Taxback.com has seen its fair share of challenges and has built a culture of adaptability and acceptance to change, which has meant that there has never been a trough without a corresponding peak. The most important thing is to be alert to change and to embrace it. We have built our business on understanding customer pain points and finding solutions for our customers. Where there is difficulty, there will always be opportunity.  

COVID-19 has unquestionably been challenging for every facet of society. What are the most common concerns for your customers at present?

In recent weeks, people have been voicing their concerns about the prospect of having to pay tax on the COVID-19 support payments, be they the Pandemic Unemployment Benefit or the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.  While the Government’s response to the crisis has been largely commendable, and we appreciate how difficult it was to get this off the ground in the time allowed, further clarification surrounding the taxation of the support payments is greatly needed.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The sharing economy is growing exponentially, and technological advancements have meant that people now have ways of generating income that are virtually unlimited. Tax compliance has always been so important, and the Revenue commissioners are adept at collecting what is rightfully due to them. 

Whether you are a large business or a ‘gig economy’ worker, the biggest kindness to oneself is to make sure you are on the right side of a potential Revenue audit. Many people earning additional or supplemental income are not aware of their tax obligations – most want to be tax compliant, but they’re not sure how. That’s where we come in – we make it simple & straight forward for people to stay on the right side of tax compliance. 

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

Entrepreneurialism and lateral thinking have been the foundations of the success of the Irish across the globe.  That willingness and ability to spot a gap in the market is gradually being eroded and becoming quite homogenised. An over-emphasis on specific fields of study that satisfy the multinational sector may not be all that healthy for diversity and development of indigenous business.  It is vitally important to embrace creative thinking, and to encourage children to think about opening their own business and teach them how to assess risk – but not be afraid of it. Not every child is wired for STEM subjects for example, let’s not try to force square pegs into round holes, markets are diverse as our consumer tastes. We don’t all have to march like ducks in a row – in fact, those who don’t will be those who win big.      

Ireland is in a different position to when the last Recession hit. Do you think our economy will be able to rebound more quickly this time?

Absolutely. As a country, even through the last Recession, which was tougher economically in many ways because of our starting point, we still managed to rally and to see off those difficult years and emerge fighting and prosperous. But we will be looking to the Government to put the necessary supporting infrastructure in place to keep small businesses afloat, to encourage growth and development in large organisations, and to continue to build upon Ireland’s entrepreneurial flair.

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

Not in our sector specifically – but once the economy has opened back up again, I would certainly like to see the incoming Government place a greater balance on regional economic development.We cannot have enough FDI in Ireland. We need to encourage as many routes to that end as possible, encourage companies to locate outside of Dublin, creating much needed rural employment and adding value to rural Ireland, thereby relieving pressure on the capital city. The upside benefit is enormous for Ireland, less pressure on housing supply, more access to education, a better standard of living – these are all natural by-products of pointing investment firstly into Ireland and secondly out of Dublin.

The new Government must adopt a strong policy around the attraction of foreign direct investment. Future changes in global tax rules have the potential to shake Ireland’s value proposition in terms of corporate tax rates and could well leave us floundering if we do not take the time now to reinvent this proposition and to become more creative in how we position Ireland as an attractive location to do business. We need to ensure that the emphasis placed on FDI continues into the future, but is also balanced by the greater encouragement of indigenous companies who can create employment in the regions.  

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

I am deeply passionate about my family and my work in equal measure. My success is ultimately determined by the happiness and satisfaction of those around me – in work if my customers and employees are happy, I see that as a success. It’s the same with my home life – a happy family is a success in my eyes. Being able to balance both simultaneously can be challenging at times but, just as in work, having the right team around you at home certainly makes all the difference. 

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

The best advice I have ever been given was given to me by Terry Clune, founder and CEO of the Taxback Group & one of Ireland’s most distinguished Fintech entrepreneurs. He reminded me that the two most important words in the English language are ‘thank you’, say them regularly and sincerely.  He also taught me the value of giving credit away, credit is of no value to you, but of enormous value to the person being recognised. 

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

I have a very clear vision of where I want us to be from a revenue perspective, we have a plan that we measure against every day and a clear strategy to get there. There will be challenges of course, but in the modified words of Derek Trotter (aka Del Boy), ‘she who dares wins’!