Big softie Gary want’s Rishi’s job

In the Spotlight this week is Gary Laverty, a director with Lisburn-based digital accountancy specialist Exchange Accountants

In the Spotlight is Gary Laverty from Exchange Accountants
Gary Laverty from Exchange Accountants (MATT MACKEY)
  • What was your first job?

I worked on the ‘dodgems’ at Barry’s Amusements in Portrush - and I loved it!

  • How much were you paid?

£16 for a 10-hour day.

  • What qualifications do you have?

10 GSCEs, three ‘A’ Levels and a B.Sc hons degree in accountancy from Queen’s, after which I completed my professional ACCA exams.

  • What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

Becoming a partner in Exchange Accountants in 2011, following an MBO alongside fellow directors William Gould and Conor Walls. Another highlight was Exchange becoming the first accountancy practice in Northern Ireland to be recognised as Gold Partner with market-leading cloud accountancy software provider Xero.

  • What do you attribute your success to?

Without doubt, the women in my life. As an only child, with no sibling rivalry to spur me on, my mother was such a driving force in my life, instilling a strong work ethic and teaching me resilience, toughness and self-motivation. I’m also very lucky and thankful to have an amazing wife and five daughters, whom I love very much and who give me all the strength and support I need to succeed.

  • How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I’d say I’m loyal, hard-working and I don’t shy away from challenges or difficult tasks. I try not to take things too seriously and some say I’m a big softie at heart - but there’s nothing wrong with that!

  • Who do you look up to in business?

Definitely my dad, who’s still running his own business at 70 years of age. He’s a tremendously hard worker and an excellent people person, with the courage of his convictions. Having worked most of his life as an electrician, he started his own hospitality refit business in his mid-50s and it’s still going strong today. He’ll probably be surprised and embarrassed to read this but he’s a real inspiration to me.

  • If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland (or beyond), what would it be?

I think there’s a real culture of ‘late payment’ in Northern Ireland which I’d like to see eradicated. Thankfully we don’t have that problem with our own client base but I’ve seen many good companies go under as a result of bad debt. I know it’s a cliché but, for small businesses, cash flow really is king. So if you have plenty of money in your bank account, why make your supplier call you three times before paying them three months late.

  • How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I try not to micro-manage staff and empower them to take responsibility for their work - and sort out problems themselves. At the same time, I want them to know that I’m always here for them if they need a little help or advice.

  • What’s your greatest passion outside work and family

I’m a big sports fan and play rugby for Belfast Harlequins 3XV. I was also honoured to be invited to play for a touring over-35s team called ‘The Perennials’ which is great craic! I also like a new challenge so lately, I’ve joined a ‘Lads and Dads’ Gaelic football group at St Brigid’s. Outside of that, I’m a big Liverpool fan and like to get over to Anfield when I can.

  • What website or app could you not do without?

The cloud accounting website Xero. As a digital accountancy specialist, we use Xero all the time to manage our Exchange clients’ accounts – and also our own business. It really makes accounting easy and is incredibly flexible and mobile so you can manage your accounts on the move and in real time.

  • What is the best or last book you read?

I’m currently reading ‘Say Nothing’, an incredibly powerful book by Patrick Radden Keefe and one where fact is stranger than fiction. The last fictional book I read was ‘The Trial’ by Rob Rinder.

  • What car do you drive?

An Audi e-tron electric car – great from both an environmental and tax efficiency point of view.

  • Have you any unfulfilled ambitions?

Just to continue growing Exchange Accountants as NI’s digital accounting specialist. Having identified where accountancy was heading many years ago, we were the first accountancy firm in NI to become a Xero Gold Partner - and are now Platinum Partners. Businesses need to embrace Making Tax Digital and we’re here to make that transition easy for them.

  • What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

University is not the ‘be all and end all’ for accountancy. There are really good apprenticeship schemes out there which enable students to work while studying and earn while they learn - without the burden of debt that comes with full-time education, which is effectively an additional tax that university students have to pay for much of their working lives.

  • If you could swap jobs with someone else for the day, who would it be and why?

There is a crazy part of me that would actually like to be a political figure or work in government, so I’ll aim low and go for Joe Biden or Rishi Sunak!