After completing a degree in Hotel Management with the University of Ulster, Larissa Feeney took the first step in her career as a receptionist with an accountancy firm. Supported by a partner in the firm who recognised her drive, ambition and potential, Larissa qualified as an accountant in 2005 which would begin her ambitious, innovative and hugely successful career.
Though originally from Sligo, Larissa has strong roots in Donegal through her father’s side. “I would always have felt quite at home in Donegal. Being close to Sligo made it easier to settle and we’ll probably never leave at this stage”.
Having made the decision to start her own practice, Larissa began researching the kind of business she wanted to establish. “I was doing a lot of research to see what other accountancy practices had online and I noticed the UK trend towards online working and online accountancy services.
There was nothing like that in Ireland at the time”. Seizing the opportunity, the seeds of Accountant Online were sown with the purchase of the URL, the design of a website and her entrepreneurial drive.
From humble beginnings on page 12 of a Google search, Accountant Online has seen significant growth and expansion since gaining their first client in 2010, a business in Cork. “With all the accountants between here and Cork, he chose us and that’s when I knew there was potential”.
The business got additional support from local agencies such as the Local Enterprise Office and Enterprise Ireland in relation to mentoring and digital transformation. Larissa remembers her experiences as being very positive and productive. “The company wouldn’t be where it is today without their support. I think they’ve got a huge amount to offer businesses in Donegal”.
Fast forward to 2017, the business secured some seed investment which according to Larissa “was the start of major growth for the company” and allowed them to bring in additional expertise in the leadership team.
This rapid growth wasn’t without challenges and learnings as Larissa recalls “You’re not always going to make the right decisions but that’s all part of the process. Ensuring that the right people are around you and that you have the support to make informed decisions will maximise the opportunity”.
Adopting a remote working model before it was the norm, meant that Larissa could fit in work that was sent to her around her family and lifestyle, which was also a key factor in the initial growth of the business. “We weren’t tied to an office and didn’t have any overheads so I could compete with larger practices. Being able to work with remote clients meant that we weren’t limited to our local area”.
Although the idea of leading a remote team was never in the initial plan for the business, the ability to work remotely in Donegal was a key factor in the success of the company and remains a cornerstone today. “It is more attractive for employees to travel and work remotely, and for us as employers, it's more valuable for us to attract from a much wider net”.
Developing good communication skills is essential for leading a remote team and ensuring that they don’t feel isolated. “Having that culture of trust within a company, that we trust you to do the work regardless of where you are”. Providing opportunities for individual development and training for her team and having diverse in-house skills and expertise is a core value of the company “It’s the talent in the company that will help the company grow and expand. I only have a certain set of skills so bringing in the experts was crucial to the growth”.
With March being International Women’s Month, it was timely that Larissa had been elected the Vice President of the Donegal Women in Business Network as well as being involved in other initiatives including ACORNS and Going for Growth. These initiatives support women at an early stage of development who may lack the confidence to launch, scale and grow their businesses. Larissa believes that “it is only by us and other women in business giving back and helping those coming up behind us where we see we have changed the future”.
Later this month, Accountant Online will join a number of companies that have been invited to meet with Velas, the biggest privately owned agribusiness in Denmark at a unique event in Ireland, sharing their story on the digitisation of their processes and elements of the accountancy industry.
The future is bright and ever-expanding for Accountant Online with ambitious plans for growth. Larissa’s hopes for the future are that “we continue to provide good employment on a remote basis to people around the country and indeed, the world and also, it is important to me that we continue to develop our people, our teams to reach their potential”.