For any company, a challenge is to keep updating and modernizing your services so that you don’t fall behind. This is difficult enough for the average company but what if you’re one that spans a century?
In Sheil Kinnear’s case, it’s doing a good job of matching the pace of change and showing that older firms can match the pace of modernization.
The firm, based in Drinagh, just south of Wexford town, works with businesses that are just as old as itself, working with family-owned businesses that span two or three generations in the south-east region.
For Michael McDonald, the director of Sheil Kinnear, he said that such a situation is pretty typical of any long-standing professional firm outside the main urban areas.
“That’s pretty typical of any long-standing professional firm in any kind of rural area and outside the main urban areas,” he said. “Every town has a legal practice that’s been there for generations… and people tend to stay with what they know, or what their parents dealt with”.
The firm has seen many changes in its lifetime, including 15 years ago where it combined its three offices – then based in Enniscorthy, Wexford town and Arklow – into the one in Drinagh.
It currently employees 25 people from senior to junior level and one of the things McDonald is proud of with Sheil Kinnear is the level of progression its employees can expect.
“[Something] we’re quite strong on is that any staff coming in to work… they’re not just coming in to stay at that level,” he said. “Everyone is here to progress through the professional bodies exam system, to graduate after two or three years and move up”.
While it’s been a firm steeped in tradition, it has moved with the times by adopting new technologies and tools to help its clients. Big Red Cloud plays a major role in how it delivers its service and for McDonald, how it eased the transition between manual to digital was a clever one.
“What really sold it, and the name describes it really well, there were other computerized systems that are not as intuitive or as user-friendly as the approach that [the then-named] Big Red Book took in the early days,” he said.
“They were very savvy in identifying that, the people who are going to start using it are most likely those people who are currently or were currently using those big red ledger books.
“They designed the look of the various screens be it the money coming in, cash receipts, money going out, check payments, purchases, the sales, they laid out the screens in the same format [as the physical books] that the person could intuitively see.
“It gave people a little bit of reassurance… [and] just eased the transition for people. They were very ahead of their time in spotting that whereas other systems were accounting systems designed by programmers, as opposed to accounting systems designed by accountants”.
Its long partnership with Big Red Cloud has seen it go from a PC-based program to a cloud-optimized service.
As it wants to serve its clients the best it can, it means keeping up with the most current and efficient ways of both getting the necessary information in and maintaining accounting records.
Something McDonald has noticed is that as the younger generations start taking over their family business, they’re more willing to embrace these services.
“The trend towards online accounting facilities such as Big Red Cloud, because it is certainly a noticeable trend, both say with new and younger clients,” he said. “They’re more tech savvy and it’s just the way of life for them to be able to use cloud facilities be it on the PC, or on an app.
“Also all the facilities that the likes of Big Red Cloud bring like putting structure…is far more useful for our clients running their business. It gives us a much more streamlined mechanism for producing their annual accounts at the end of the year”.
That trend is only accelerating as younger generations coming in starting a business or taking over a family business. It’s just second nature to them, rather than being a major cultural shock to their parents”.