Leadership Insights: Anne Heraty on learning to adapt

Anne Herarty on the importance of adapting in business - Crowe Ireland

Anne Heraty, CEO of Cpl Resources plc, speaking at a recent business seminar co-hosted by Crowe, Bank of Ireland and the FD Centre.

Drawing on Crowe’s experience of helping clients build lasting value in their businesses and to mark the launch of our new Leadership Insights magazine, we are delighted to launch a special ‘Building Business Value’ series in conjunction with five of Ireland’s most successful business leaders.

Crowe partner Chris Magill comments, “We work with clients to build long-term value in their business by identifying and leveraging the key value drivers specific to them. By critically analysing their business, we can provide practical advice to maximise opportunities and mitigate risk.”

“We believe that crucial lessons can be learned from the experience of others. For this reason, we have collaborated with business leaders to discuss key drivers they have leveraged to scale their business and building long-term value.”

Anne Heraty spoke about the importance of adapting quickly to overcome obstacles:

Learn to adapt, quickly

When Cpl founder Anne Heraty started her business in 1989, her vision was to focus on a deep understanding of the tech sector and the opportunities it provided. It was a bold move in an era when unemployment was running at almost 16%, and few believed in her vision that companies would pay her to find employees.

In 1992 the company had only £165 in placement fees against £151 in cost, but by 1999, when it floated, it had accumulated profits of £3m. It now has a turnover of €523m and gross profits of €83m, up 16% year-on-year. She has brought the company through two recessions and emerged from each stronger than before.

At the time of their IPO, the tech sector was experiencing strong growth and the decision to carve out a niche in this area was paying off, but the dotcom crash changed everything in 2000-2001. “At that time we had to restructure our business model – but we still believed very much in that ethos of being specialist,” she states. The management team set up a number of specialist businesses in different sectors, including Pharma, Finance & Accounting and Healthcare.

During the first difficult period, as a recruitment company, Cpl could see the signs: “We are a lead indicator in terms of the economy. People stop hiring on a permanent basis and then let their temporary staff go. We could see that early on,” she says. But the focus was still predominantly placing people in permanent jobs.

However, when the 2008 recession suddenly hit, it was more of a shock. “The second time around we didn’t have the same warning signs,” Heraty recalls. “We were scrambling to survive and this recession brought about another rethink on the business model. We had really started to figure out, in the mid-2000s, the importance of flexibility to businesses,” she continues, and described the evolution of the business to “Total Talent Solutions,” giving customers options all along the spectrum from permanent staff to a contract or fully outsourced model.

For Heraty the learning is really about making decisions quickly and early. “But most fundamentally it is about the people around you – people who have the will and the attitude to succeed, who have that grit and resilience, who are prepared to stick with you and drive the business forward with you.”

One piece of advice: Understand the value of good customers and pay attention to their changing needs. “It’s about relationships. Laser focus on relationships with staff and customers.”

As a leading accountancy and business advisory firm in Ireland, Crowe has been supporting and growing Irish businesses for over 75 years. We have an unrivalled understanding of the Irish business environment and pride ourselves on delivering hard-working, practical solutions to all our clients’ business challenges. Contact a member of our SME team to find out how we can help you.