Five minutes with Eugene O’Neill, Managing Director at Inspired

To mark two years of Inspired, we sat down with Eugene O’Neill, Managing Director at Inspired to find out more about the company’s journey to date and its ambitions to grow.

What motivated you to set up your own company?

“It all happened quite quickly. At the start of Covid, I started working from home. During this time, I was leading a tax incentives team in a large accountancy firm in Belfast.

Covid took my commute from 3 hours a day to a 30 second walk up the stairs. This gave me a lot of time back to spend with my family and made me realise it was something I was never going to want to give up again.

Meanwhile, Colm and Sean Cavanagh, previous colleagues of mine, mentioned that there may be an opportunity working in tax for ourselves. I thought, ‘could we make the same amount of money or more money than we would at our previous firms?’ After we sat down and evaluated the risks, we realised we could do it. We decided to set up Inspired and I handed in my notice.”

 

How have you found the last 2 years of Inspired?

“I love it! To me, it doesn’t feel like work. I love the business aspect of it as well as the tax advisory side which I’ve always done. I enjoy working with so many great people and planning on how we can continue to grow and maintain our quality of service.

I enjoy working with people who I have been close friends with for years before Inspired was even an idea.”

 

What are your values as a company leader?

“Trust and transparency is key. I try to be very open with the team, whether it’s moving offices or bringing on new staff, I let everyone know. I like to be one of the team. I don’t think there should be a ‘them’ and ‘us’ approach which I have seen in other workplaces. I don’t need to sit in my own office where I can’t be approached by staff with queries. I sit with the team and would say I am very approachable.

I am also keen to surround myself with people with great talent. Michael Heinicke is the most technical tax person I’ve ever worked with, and I’m delighted to work with him again. Paddy Pringle and Cathal McGaughey are fantastic managers and great role models for the rest of the team to follow.”

 

Can you describe the culture at Inspired?

“The culture at Inspired is one where people work hard because they enjoy what they do with people they like. Everyone is valued and appreciated and share the same ethos to work collectively towards the same goals.

At Inspired, there’s very little red tape. There are no meetings for the sake of meetings and no office politics. Yes, we have to meet compliance requirements for clients, but our company culture allows us to be agile.

Staff enjoy working here which can be seen by the company’s employee retention. We value our people and wouldn’t be in this position today without the dedication of our employees.”

 

What are your plans for Inspired?

“As we continually meet with great businesses, growth is undoubtedly on the cards. At present we employ 25+ staff across all offices and it could be 50 within the next year. In the future, I foresee us opening an office in another city in Northern Ireland, this will give our current staff, as well as future recruits another option to work within a commutable distance.

I think tax incentives will continue to be a core service area for Inspired, however, our tax services will broaden, I believe we have the potential to be one of the biggest tax practices in Northern Ireland.

We aren’t solely a tax advisory practice any longer. We provide Corporate Finance and Transaction Advisory Services to a wide range of clients. There are other services we may wish to offer our clients in the future and this is definitely something we will explore.”

 

What are you most proud of in your career?

“We recently celebrated our annual Inspired summer party. When I looked across the table and saw everyone around me – it made me feel proud that we were able to assemble this team. Sitting together because of the business we set up was a very proud moment in my career.

When we set up Inspired, we had three people in an empty office. Currently, we’re sitting in our new office in Cookstown which is four times the size of our old office. It’s very exciting to see how quickly the team is expanding!”

 

What is your current or ideal work life balance?

“I am not a big believer of overtime, and I don’t like staff doing overtime if it can be avoided. Of course, there are times where certain projects may demand a little extra, but it should not be on a regular basis. We are organised, plan ahead and are able to deliver projects in a timely manner.

Personally, I don’t want my kids to grow up and for me to not be a big part of their lives. At the end of the working day, I’m out the door, attending my children’s soccer or Gaelic practice, and I expect everyone in the team to be able to do the same.

If the workload is unmanageable, then we recruit more people. I do not expect people to sit in the office late at night because this is simply not sustainable. It’s important to me, that we maintain the high quality of work as well as employees’ work-life balance.”

 

Would you describe yourself as a “risk taker”?

“I probably would! I gave up a good job to set up Inspired. Was I scared? Yes! There was an element of fear, but I had the confidence to believe we could do it. I thought, I was delivering these services for someone else, so why could I not do it for myself?

People work with people and businesses I have worked with across my career know the quality we deliver, this is what has enabled Inspired to grow, the same quality under a new brand.”

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