The Choices We Make

There is a famous exchange in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland that will strike a chord with any business advisor; as Alice asks, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” and the Cat replies; “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”.

This certainly resonates with us, as the question we get asked most by clients is “What are my options?”

People like to know what decisions they need to make and what the likely consequences of those decisions will be. It’s human nature to want to know what comes next and how we can get to where we want to go.

At BDO NI, whilst we’re used to answering these questions for our clients, it’s important that we also reflect on our own options and assess the decisions we need to make. This helps ensure we continue to grow and thrive as a business.

One thing we do know for certain is that all these choices bring about change and, as a business, we must either choose to ignore change, respond to it, or create it.

Within BDO NI we like to plan ahead and seek to prepare for the unforeseen as much as possible. However, no matter how much we seek to do so there will always be unknowns that simply cannot be prepared for.

Life here has changed considerably since we opened our doors in Belfast’s Callender Street back in 1989.  Indeed, the internet as we know it didn’t exist, email was years away from widespread adoption by business and social media amounted to sharing a copy of the morning newspaper with your colleague.

Life has changed immeasurably in recent times and that relentless march of progress means our world will continue to change and evolve.

In recent years, local businesses have had to make difficult and urgent decisions in order to protect their operations - in a relatively short space of time we’ve had the NI Executive collapse twice (with all the issues that came with that); Brexit; the Covid-19 pandemic and, most recently, the cost-of-living crisis as a result of spiralling energy costs and inflationary pressures. Perhaps nothing illustrates the unstoppable pace of change more than the fact that we’ve had the same number of Prime Ministers in 2022 as we had in the first 18 years of our business.

Indeed, recent years have made us look again at how we work, and we too have had to make a number of decisions about what is best for our team and best for our clients, to ensure BDO NI remains on the path that will lead us to where we want to go.

We have increased our workforce to 150 in recent years and as well as direct hires, this has included people coming through our local university mentoring and award programmes, as well as many being supported through the post graduate diploma by the firm. This helps us recruit the brightest and best in the country. This is a good thing, as we have plans to grow even further in the coming years. We have also had to assess what we need to do to provide for our team and be able to continue to provide the same unrivalled quality of service to our clients. 

After almost 35 years we have also chosen to move from our Callender Street base to new facilities on Donegal Square South to accommodate our growing team and meet the changing needs of a modern office environment. Our new facility provides even more for team break-outs, collaborative working and online meetings.

BDO NI has chosen to continue to invest in Belfast City Centre, thus underlining our confidence in the city as being the primary hub for business in Northern Ireland.

It’s important for businesses such as ours to be part of the fabric of the local area, to support other local firms, especially retail, the coffee bars and sandwich shops, and to continue serving the needs of our team as well. We feel connected by being in the beating heart of Belfast.

We have chosen to invest in this new property and in state of the art technology to better serve our clients and improve the well-being of our team.

As employers, we know there’s no point investing heavily in our employees if we don’t also ensure that we appreciate the impact recent changes have had on our lives. When the pandemic first hit, we struggled to get used to working from home - from embracing online meetings and figuring out how to mute/unmute to struggling with home schooling and wrestling unruly pets who insisted on making starring appearances on every call.

In some ways, this has helped humanise working relationships, reinforcing the fact that we all have a life and commitments outside of work; ss the old proverb says, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. We found that productivity actually increased in this period and these learnings have helped shape BDO NI’s choices for how we wish to grow as a business.

We have always viewed ourselves as a family. We support each other’s charitable works; we sponsor and cheer on the local sporting groups and clubs our colleagues are actively involved with, and we strive to help ensure our team enjoys a proper work-life balance.

To reach this goal, BDO NI recently launched its ‘agile working’ arrangements that allow our team members to work the hours that suit them best (in consultation with their colleagues and clients) as we know some people work better outside of the usual 9-5.

This has been an absolute game-changer for our business, and for our people, with unprecedented levels of support being voiced by them.

Productivity and retention rates have increased even further, and we have found that clients appreciate the flexibility as they too face the same challenges. As a result, we are better servicing the needs of both employees and clients.

So, in answering the eternal question “What are my options?”, we will always remain focused on leading our clients on the best path to where they want to go. We know we must always be prepared for change we know how to choose to embrace it and we know how to make sure it works for your business.

We’ve experienced a lot of change in recent times but as Lewis Carroll also wrote; “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.”

At BDO NI, we never stand still. We choose to work smarter, to empower our staff to work in a way that suits them and to recognise that the world has changed for all of us.

Yes, change can be difficult, and we may sometimes miss ‘the good old days’, but then the wise words of Alice spring to mind once more “it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”


Chat to our team of experts over a coffee for all your Business Advisory, Audit and Tax needs, contact: Brian Murphy, Nigel Harra, Michael Jennings, Laura Jackson, or Maybeth Shaw

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