Leadership Insights: Bernie Kinsella on investing in talent

Bernie Kinsella on investing in talent - Crowe Ireland

Bernie Kinsella, Managing Director of Wheels Couriers, 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 Aiden Murphy 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.”

Bernie Kinsella shares her insights into building up a business and selling it only to buy it back at the start of the last recession and the importance of investing in staff to grow your business.

Invest in talent

After buying into Wheels Couriers in 1997, Bernie Kinsella sold her business to An Post in 2000. However, in 2008 she decided to buy it back. At the time it had a turnover of €250,000, and it now has a turnover of €10m.

“When I sold the company, I stayed on the board and used that time while we were part of An Post to put corporate structures into the business and leverage off the resources that we never had, so we made the best of the time we were there,” Kinsella recalls.

“When we put a bid in to buy back the company there was no recession, it was an absolute no-brainer, and then literally the next day the crash happened.” As someone who is not naturally inclined towards living on debt, it was a daunting time, with the biggest loan of her life hanging over her head. “At least we had a business and it was a business I knew very well. We threw the silver overboard and cut our costs straight away,” she says.

A key challenge was finding staff. “When there is a recession we have no problem getting drivers.” But when trades and building are booming it is very difficult to compete on wages while giving customers value for money. During the bad years, Kinsella made the most of what could be done then. “We quickly realised we had an opportunity to take in a really good set of middle management, to invest in the management that was there already and had stuck by us. We really looked at what our staff wanted – lifestyle recruitment, four-day weeks, training. I would say 90% of those drivers are still with us now. We took on health and safety training, tech training… and gave them added skills.”

Additional staff training led them to step back and look at the industries they were serving, inspiring them to segment the business and specialise further in sectors such as medical, banking and food, adding value in areas such as compliance, GDPR and food safety and temperature control.

One piece of advice: “You are never too small a business to offer share options to your staff and the people around you.”

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.