Business Wisdom from Sarah Connellan of EY

Business wisdom from the desk of …  SARAH CONNELLANTax Partner, People Advisory Service, EY

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After completing a Bachelor of Science in Management at Trinity College Dublin, SARAH CONNELAN joined an accountancy firm as a tax trainee and qualified as a chartered tax advisor with the Irish Taxation Institute. Her career has been spent in the Big Four accountancy firms in Ireland, specialising in the tax and regulatory aspects associated with people. She joined EY last November as a Tax Partner.

DESCRIBE YOUR ROLE: I am a partner in the People Advisory Services group, leading a team of 40 tax professionals. The group advises leading Irish and multinational employees on all employment tax and HR matters relevant to employees and directors. I love leading people and enjoy the diversity of the role and having the opportunity to influence change. I am also the chair of the EY Diversity and Inclusiveness Forum.

YOUR BUSINESS PRIORITIES? Our goal is to double our size – in people and revenue –by 2020. It’s a long term goal, with short term aspirations on an annual basis.

WHAT KEEPS YOU AWAKE AT NIGHT? I don’t tend to stress but when I feel the heat I exercise which generally helps combat any sleepless nights. If I am particularly busy, I try to maintain a healthy balance all round.

AN ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF? While I am happy with my accomplishments to date, I hope my greatest one is yet to come.

HOW YOU HANDLED A DIFFICULT SITUATION? I am pragmatic and decisive, two traits which help me in a difficult situation. My philosophy is that if something is not criminal or terminal, a solution can always be found, hence I don’t sweat the small stuff. This helps me to think clearly, and evaluate the options to ensure a measured outcome.

THREE ADJECTIVES YOUR COLLEAGUES WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE YOU: Approachable, energetic and determined.

WHICH IS THE MOST USEFUL WAY TO ENGAGE CLIENTS OR SUPPLIERS: A BUSINESS BREAKFAST OR LUNCH? Any interaction with people is good, regardless of time or place. People will ultimately hire people who offer a quality service so therefore any opportunity to engage and spend time building relationships is both worthwhile and enjoyable.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET READY IN THE MORNING? Speed and efficiency are key in the morning – it takes me about 20 minutes to go from bed to the front door.

DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE FOR WORK: I love fashion but don’t like to spend time browsing. If you’re going to look professional, and be professional, you have to wear the right attire. I’m only 5’3” so heels are an absolute must.

PASTIMES OUTSIDE OF THE OFFICE: I am a firm believer that a healthy body brings a healthy mind so exercise is an integral part of my everyday routine – either a morning session at the gym, a run with a friend in the evening or a hike at the weekend. I bought a bicycle recently in the hope of doing a 200km cycle in the new year but following a few hiccups I’m not sure if I am a born cyclist. 

FAVOURITE THINGS TO DO WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS: I try to leave the office by 6pm on Friday because I think weekends are for family and friends. I like to dine out or go out for a walk or chat over a glass of good red wine. I get back in work mode on Sunday evening so I’m prepared for Monday morning.

MY WORKING LIFE:

1. LOOKING THE BUSINESS: I believe a leader should always look the part. I think it demonstrates to the team that it is a requirement in business. I tend to wear tailored dresses and then accessorise for evening. 

2. STAYING CONNECTED: I like to catch up with people over coffee. Communication is key. Externally, I attend a lot of events and continue to liaise with people I’ve met over the course of my career. Any form of networking is important but, where possible, I like to meet face to face as I think it changes the dynamic of a working relationship.

3. PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: My priority is enjoying life in the present moment. While I am conscious of the rainy day and have an eye on the future, I am definitely more focused on creating present life opportunities and memorable experiences.

This feature appears in our November issue, which is out today with The Irish Times. Business Wisdom is sponsored by Investec, Enterprise Ireland and MERC Partners.

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