“It’s important to aim high.” CEO Q&A: Sarah Daly, Chief Executive of GroForth

Business, CEO Q&A | Wed 16 Jan | Author – Business & Finance
Sarah Daly, Chief Executive of GroForth

In our next CEO Q&A, Sarah Daly, Chief Executive of GroForth speaks to us about reaching goals, hiring the right people, and the benefits of technology.


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

My main priority is to ensure that my clients reach their goals, with the first step of having an effective, functioning finance department in place.  To achieve this, I need to understand where my clients want to take their businesses so that we can put the bespoke financial systems in place for them.

Every client’s business is different and has different challenges.  In small businesses, for example, often personal issues can interfere with growth potential.  I help these businesses to navigate their way through these challenges.

I work with a select number of clients in businesses of all sizes, each year where we brainstorm and set up strategies to create new streams of income to help them reach higher targets. I listen to out-of-the-box ideas and encourage when needed. My clients always know I am open to what might seem like the craziest of ideas and then we build on it to make it right for their business and help their vision to become a reality.

Q. What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

As with any business, hiring the right talent and getting a team together that gels well and works well has been a huge challenge.  Time management is another challenge I face.  I have learnt to recognise that I cannot split myself into 40 pieces.  My clients are based around Ireland and overseas.  I find it works more efficiently for everybody to use online technology such as Zoom or Skype, for example, for meetings and phone calls.   A lot of our business is done using this technology. We use WhatsApp frequently for speed and efficiency. Technology has been a real game-changer for our business.

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

I am a huge believer in empowering people so they are motivated to develop themselves.  If there’s one thing I have learnt it’s that people are motivated by very different things.  I think everyone thrives on responsibility, so my aim is always to make my team responsible and accountable for their work as soon as they are sufficiently trained.  I also believe in up-skilling and team-building.  A happy team will stay with you and will ultimately mean a happy customer.

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

Technology is a huge asset to our company, but it’s also a challenge.  I work with companies in the technology and medical devices sector, for example.  In these sectors, new technology such as Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality are becoming seriously hot topics.  I really need to understand these developments as they affect how I forecast, report and manage my clients’ accounts.

Trust is another challenge common in this profession.  I work with senior management teams and it’s vital that they take me into their confidence and we communicate regularly so I can help them to make informed decisions for their business.

Q. What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Automation of the industry is definitely an area to watch.  Technology can provide access to anyone to start a business from scratch now, which is excellent.  What might have taken weeks or months previously can now be done in a couple of hours using the correct technology.  For example, it is now possible to set up a website and link it with a payment platform to allow customers to tap and purchase your product with instant payment.

Business to Consumer businesses are great examples as they can avail of platforms such as Amazon and Shopify to help them to get started quickly and reach their markets. These platforms can link into ecommerce networks such as Paypal and Stripe to collect payments immediately and link with accountancy platforms.  On the backend, you now have systems like AutoEntry to help you electronically manage your accounts.

With all this automation comes the collection of significant data and I would caution all my clients to be aware of the regulations around data protection.  In addition, having the ability to effectively leverage customer behaviour data and analytics can be hugely beneficial in driving customer acquisition, retention and growth.

Although automation is a positive development, I would still encourage business owners to exercise caution and to retain control and ensure accounts are properly managed.  You still need to know what is going on with your finances – do not be complacent!   Revenue will not accept ignorance so get tax advice and make sure your financial affairs are in order:  You will save on Revenue fines and penalties and less trouble in the long run.

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

There is a huge gap in the market currently for experienced accountants who understand businesses from a business owner’s perspective.  Accountants who can see beyond figures, and assist a client in realising his or hers company’s vision, are very rare.

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

We absolutely need better airspace management. A reduction in flight delays would improve the passenger experience and reduce the additional overhead costs the Airline incurs due to those delays.

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

Brexit uncertainty is a huge cloud over all businesses at present, especially with those who do a lot of trade in the UK.  I’m finding that many of my clients are standing still until such a time as we have more certainty on how things are going to progress in the UK.  This is quite common at the moment in the export sectors such as retail and medical devices for example.

Exchange rates are affecting the retailers close to the border with the cost of fuel for example.  Many other businesses, such as those in the medical and retail sectors are expanding to, or sourcing from other European countries.  Other businesses who are currently selling directly to the UK, are now refocusing their business to countries such as Germany and Austria through online retailers such as Amazon.   The uncertainty is also impacting a number of my clients who regularly use the transport infrastructure in the UK.

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

I get huge satisfaction in seeing my customers realise their goals.  I get the most enjoyment out of working closely with senior management teams and helping them meet their objectives.

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

Hire the right people for the right roles – you won’t go wrong if you get that right.

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

This year, I have seen clients overcome personal and business challenges to exceed and watch their business grow.  One of our ecommerce clients is now reaching new target markets within Ireland and attracting a lot of attention from investors. Being integral to this success is extremely satisfying.

We have also set up a strong network of collaborators which can make a huge difference to businesses.  For example, I linked one of my clients in with a marketeer recently which resulted in their business turning around.

Another client was looking to expand into the international market and I linked them with an organisation that had already achieved this successfully.

Most significantly, we have partnered with a select number of accountants, who I know I can trust and who may specialise in certain industries.  We work closely with these accountants on the client’s behalf.

Q. What’s next for your company?

I will continue to develop the GroForth team and I aim to build on our significant experience in the medical devices, proptech, fintech, and professional services sectors.

Consultancy is a big growth area for us. For example, I was recently called in to look under hood of the company that was underperforming. I found that there was a blockage in their processes. We implemented a process that resulted in their debt being reduced by over 80%.

Q. What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2019?

We are seeing a steady increase in the number of business owners enquiring about our external finance department services and are anticipating growth in this area. This work has been steadily increasing with business owners seeking to leverage the knowledge/capabilities that we can bring, particularly when in a growth phase. We are also seeing an increase in our consultancy work, particularly for businesses that have established finance departments who either want to maximise their efficiency or fix issues.

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

This time next year, I see the business as being recognised for offering personalised, high quality finance management services for growing and high-performing clients. I see the business expanding rapidly in the next year. I think it’s important to aim high. Our clients are hugely important to us and the more successful they are, the more successful we are.

Hire the right people for the right roles – you won’t go wrong if you get that right.