After becoming a member of ACCA in 2016, I began looking for new challenges. I took on the position of a company accountant with Hegarty’s Auto Services in early 2017.

Hegarty’s Auto Services is a Ford dealership that sells new and used vehicles. It also provides all kinds of after-sales care to our customers. This can be everything from a simple tyre change to more complicated jobs done by our highly skilled mechanics and body shop professionals. Our sales team satisfies the demands of various customers with regard to vehicle specification, and sources cars and vans far and wide.

Together with my colleague, you could say we steer the ship behind the scenes. My responsibilities include cashflow management, payroll management, ledger management, credit control, audit preparation assistance, Revenue and bank compliance and queries, monthly reporting to Ford HQ, and assistance and support to our MD Andrew Hegarty in decision-making.

The past few months have been a bit of a rollercoaster for us – no different to a lot of other businesses. Complete lockdown back at the end of March meant it was necessary to cancel bookings. Massive uncertainty was, and still is, in the air. Due to the nature of the business some of our team were working on frontline units: ambulances, ESB and Garda Síochána vehicles. People will still get sick, and law and order must be enforced – life goes on.

Resilience and good business sense will help us to get through these very tough times

Eventually, we all got back to our jobs (huge credit to our MD for keeping everyone on). However, we have had to rethink some processes, redesign the layout of the premises, and get equipped with the best possible Covid protection. We have also added a new service: hygienic cleaning and ionisation of the vehicles. The market is so flexible and adaptable in this way, and the old rule always applies: if there is demand, there will be a supply.

Budget 2021 will bring extra challenges to the motor industry. Brexit, our close proximity to the border and now Covid-19 make sales of new vehicles to Irish customers very difficult. However, this year, Hegarty’s will have been in business for 60 years and we have seen serious challenges before. I believe resilience and good business sense, careful planning, good control over costs, our qualified and experienced workforce, and support from the government and our banks will help us to get through these very tough times.

To quote the WHO epidemiologist Michael J Ryan, perfect is the enemy of speed. The Irish government made a lot of massively important moves back in March and at a great speed. So, thankfully, there is already a lot of support and help available out there, such as the wage subsidy scheme to keep employees on payroll, and the credit guarantee and working capital schemes from SBCI. Budget 2021 offered additional measures, although the problem of administration and red tape might prevent some proportion of Irish businesses from accessing this support.

The most important business lesson I have learned is that it is invaluable to have vision, ambition and a well-trained, loyal and well-rewarded workforce. Add to that up-to-date and reliable financial and management information and smart technology, and you are well positioned to achieve your long-term goals.