12 Apr 2024

A focus on: The people behind Business Recovery and Insolvency

At Monahans, we pride ourselves on having a workforce full of people with a variety of backgrounds, experiences and skillsets, who are passionate about helping their clients. As part of this series, we want to focus on the people behind each department, this time we speak with Steve Elliott, Partner and Head of Business Recovery and Insolvency.

How did you get into business recovery and insolvency?
I began my career at Monahans in 1986! About five years into my role, after qualifying as an accountant, the recession hit, which meant that the insolvency team suddenly had a large workload, so I was drafted in to help. Quite honestly, I had never heard of business recovery and insolvency at the time, but I soon realised how much I enjoyed the variety of work and the friendly team and haven’t looked back since!

Why do you like your profession?
Variety of work
The nature of the role means that we do not have any recurring work. This is brilliant from a variety and flexibility point of view as no two days are the same, and it allows us to pick up additional projects, but it can also be challenging as our number of clients often fluctuates meaning we cannot regulate the volume of work. This makes referrals from our clients crucial to our ongoing customer base and has been integral to our success as a department – I estimate about 95% of our work comes through referrals from other professionals, notably other accountants.

A dip into a wide range of sectors
A part of the job which I find particularly fascinating is the variety of sectors that you encounter and the need to gain a basic understanding of that particular industry.

For example, our work requires an understanding of certain aspects of law, not only those related to insolvency but also the niche legalities surrounding each industry such as employment, commercial or premises law.

Or it might be the regulations relating to a certain sector, for instance we recently completed some work with an equine veterinarian surgery where we needed to know the rules around aspects such as ‘how long is a vet required to keep client records for?’ and ‘what responsibility does a Liquidator have for controlled equine drugs?’ Learning about the intricacies of a wide range of industries keeps us on our toes and means that we are constantly adding to our knowledge and experience bank.

A people-focused role
I realised early on how much commercial work was involved in the role, which means that although we are of course focused on the numbers and on our clients, we are also often engage with a wide range of other involved parties, such as employees, customers, suppliers, landlords or directors, to name a few.

As a result, we are speaking with people at different seniority levels and with differing perspectives which can often require a consultative and empathetic approach, tailored to that person’s needs and concerns, which again, keeps the role interesting and varied.

Job satisfaction
Job satisfaction, for me, is a huge part of why I enjoy the role. We are often meeting people who are facing a challenging and sometimes distressing time in their lives, and although we cannot wave a magic wand to make everything go away, the manner in which we approach that issue can make all the difference. We understand the pressure that person may be facing and therefore ensure that we approach every circumstance in an empathetic manner, taking the time to really listen to the clients concerns and act as a sounding board for how to move forward.

Ultimately, our aim is to bear some of the weight on our clients’ shoulders to ensure that they are not lying awake at night worrying. We want to take away some of that stress so that they can concentrate on what is really important, whether that be looking after their families or making plans for the future. I have received several letters over the years from people who say how much of a difference it's made to their lives, and that makes it all worth it.

What skills make a good business recovery insolvency professional?
Consultative support
What makes a good practitioner is just as much about the person, as it is the technical expertise. If someone has the right personality and attitude, you can easily teach them the rules and procedures.

As mentioned, we are often speaking with those who may be under quite a large amount of emotional stress. As a result, having strong communication skills and being patient and empathetic is crucial but so is being able to get to the crux of the problem.

It is definitely a learned skill to be able to guide someone who is distressed to calm down enough so that they are able to actually talk through their options. Sometimes the people that come to us are burdened with stress to the point that they cannot think clearly and are unable to see a way ahead. Even if the problem cannot be completely eradicated, we want them to leave in a position where they are able to see a constructive way forward. This again requires you to have a calm, but also firm manner, and to tailor your approach to each individual’s needs, for instance we may be speaking with a business owner one day, then a creditor who hasn’t been paid, or an employee who is worried they are going to lose their job the next.

Because of the range of actors and stakeholders that we deal with, it means that we are never operating in a vacuum or on our own, instead it requires a collaborative approach. We have built really strong working relationships, which gives our working environment a really positive atmosphere, despite the sometimes-challenging subject matter. I personally love the teamwork involved in every project.

Any advice for those going into the profession?
I think networking is an important part of any role and I would recommend putting time into building this out, as soon as you can. In-person interaction has always worked best for me, so I attend as many networking events as I can, whether that be with accountants, solicitors, bankers or community groups. It is a brilliant way to build relationships with other financial professionals in the local area and to get a sense of trends or challenges affecting the industry. I tend to complement that with LinkedIn, to continue the relationship digitally and to help with my visibility to others in the industry.

Why is Monahans’ team culture so positive?
The business recovery and insolvency team has built a really supportive and positive team culture and at the core of it, we are all people who genuinely care about what we do and about helping clients.

On top of this, although we all have our own roles to play, I think we are good at ‘mucking-in’ and pulling in the same direction when it comes down to it. We want to do a great job and are happy to pitch in wherever needed.

Cultivating a supportive and welcoming environment has always been important, as is recognising and respecting each other’s strengths, it doesn’t matter how experienced or junior someone is, everyone will have something useful to offer.

Because the nature of the work can be demanding, we also put a lot of emphasis on ensuring that we look after ourselves. It’s not only important for our own mental health and wellbeing but also in being able to provide our clients the best possible service. After all, in order to be able to help other people, you need to look after yourself first.

If you need support, or just want to talk through your options with one of our experts, reach out to us today. The first step is a completely free and confidential consultation. We will use this time to understand your financial circumstances, where you are now and where you need to be. Get in touch today.

Steve Elliott