My business tree had its roots in Tubbercurry says leading BDO executive

05 July 2022

Teresa Morahan​ chats to Gerry McLaughlin, The Sligo Champion about her role in a leading national and international company after studying accountancy and how her love for business began in her native Tubbercurry where the family ran a very busy supermarket, petrol station and undertakers.

Tubbercurry’s Teresa Morahan may be scaling the heights in the world of national and international business, but this most gracious and grounded lady will never forget where she is from, those who shaped her, or the south Sligo town she loves so well.

Teresa was recently appointed Head of BDO’s Global Industry Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) of the company and is the first woman to fill the role.

“I have worked for BDO for 24 years and during that time most of my work was in the technology media and telecom sector serving clients in Ireland, including local Sligo companies. But a lot of my work is global and international. I have been involved with our international, media and telecom industry group for the last ten years. The group gives advice to companies from an industry expertise perspective and from a business advisory audit and tax perspective also. That is our area of expertise, and the opportunity arose in terms of the new lead for that area last year due to the retirement of one of my colleagues in Canada. I was approached about taking on that leadership role. I am now leading that group, looking at our strategy for BDO global and extending it globally.”

It’s a huge task but Teresa says she is very lucky because of the fact she had worked with many companies internationally.

“I have been very lucky in this respect and have built strong relationships with people in those offices over the years and with companies in those jurisdictions as well and with different companies. This has led to be a good fit for the role as I know the people and the various different cultures, and you have to respect those so that we can work together. There is a great team of people behind me, and we all work closely together and get on well and there are 164 countries within the BDO network, and we have 1700 offices.”

An accountant by training, she had served as BDO in Ireland’s Head of Audit, specialising in the provision of audit and accounting advisory services across IFRS or International Financial Reporting Standards, Irish and US GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) while working with a range of clients, including large international groups.

And although Teresa has a high-powered position she comes across as a very calm, thoughtful and eloquent person who is in a job that she clearly loves.

What services does BDO provide?

“BDO is a provider of audit, tax and advisory services to companies and individuals internationally. We advise different companies at various stages of their development. We work for large global organisations as well as local domestic bodies. We have a very wide variety of operations. We would deal with entrepreneurial Irish companies to companies who have a very significant global international presence.”

“BDO in Ireland is 40 years old and globally it is much older than that. We are business advisers including tax, accounting, consulting and it is very wide and varied.”

The company has three offices in Dublin, Cork and Limerick and Teresa is based in the capital.

Early life

Teresa was born in Tubbercurry in the early 1970s and grew up in a hard-working family business in the south Sligo town.

“My family had a supermarket, a petrol station and were funeral undertakers so it was a traditional Irish family business. We all worked closely, and I learned very quickly the work you have to put in when you have your own business and the dedication that you need to keep going. I was very involved in the business from a very young age.”

Her father was Joe Morahan, and her mother is Joan, who is still alive, her father Joe has sadly passed away. Teresa has one sister Anne who also worked in the family business.

“It was a great variety of business, and our shop was open 363 days of the year, the only two days that we closed were Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day. It was my grandfather Bernie Morahan’s business originally. We were on the top of the hill on the left-hand side of the road as you come in from Sligo. There were a number of Morahan family businesses in the town and all are related. There was a draper’s shop on the Square and a third business as well.”

Teresa’s grandfather came from Carrick-On-Shannon and his family would have lived in Sligo before moving out to Tubbercurry. And her grandmother’s family came from Doocastle and her mother’s father was from Templehouse, so there are strong Sligo roots in her DNA.

Tubbercurry

Tubbercurry was a very vibrant place in the 1970s as Teresa grew up.

“There was a great buzz around the place as the factories were doing well and that was very much reflected in the town. And there was a very active drama group and the GAA was strong too so as a result there was a great sense of life around the town. It went through tough times in the 1980s but there is always a great sense of community around the town and the Old Fair Day is a big one still.”

“We had some fantastic leaders in Tubbercurry, when you look at Annie Killoran in terms of her getting Gallagher House opened and that was a great achievement and it added something else to the town. People got involved and there was a great community coming together and it was a lovely place to grow up in.”

Education

Teresa went to the Marist Convent for both primary and secondary school and she has abiding happy memories.

“School was a very nurturing, encouraging place and it was all about being well rounded in terms of education. It wasn’t just books, we had elocution, music, cookery and sewing skills so it was a most varied experience. We got a great foundation and we had great opportunities and you felt empowered and there were also opportunities through sport. I made some good friends there and there was also a lovely community sense about the school.”

After school Teresa went to the then UCG where she did a B Comm.

“I always wanted to work in business and I kind of knew that I wanted to do accountancy. UCG was a great college, the right size, education wise and there was a great camaraderie among the students. It is a lovely city as well and still is and I do a bit of work with the University, and you still get a sense of the grace of Galway.”

Teresa then trained with a firm in Castlebar for four years and she got her accountancy qualification in Chartered Accountants Ireland.

She moved to BDO in the late 1990s in Dublin as a newly qualified accountant and began working with internationally based companies and some large Irish family businesses as well.

Teresa’s job has many facets, all of whom she finds interesting and stimulating.

“You get a great sense of satisfaction seeing companies and individuals doing well. I love the variety with companies facing different challenges and issues, companies who at different stages of their life cycle in terms of where they are. I work with start- up companies and long-standing companies with shareholders looking to exit from to realise the value of their shares. It is great, and you build long term relationships with these clients, and you build trust which is very important as well. It is important to give the clients the right advice and it is very important to listen to them.”

Advice for anyone starting up in business

“For a small business starting out, you need to know what you are trying to achieve and what do you want to do with your business and that is very important. It is important to know what type of structure you are putting in place. Is it a company or are you acting as a sole trader? The legal requirements are also very important as well in terms of how to organise the business and that will depend on its size. Will there be people working directly or will there be external roles? It also deals with how businesses are funded and how they are set up and how you get and keep that funding. Businesses need to know about accounting and taxation keeping books and records and they need to be compliant with Revenue. You also need to be in a situation where you are going to be able to repay any debt the business incurs.”

“Marketing is a very important part of starting up and you must decide what kind of a market you are going to target and how you get into that market,” she adds. There is no point in setting up a business in an area if there is already an oversupply of business in that area. You need to see if there is a gap in the market and seeing if you can break into that market and that is the key thing. BDO is approached by quite a number of companies for our services. We also have a network of contacts from third parties, and they could recommend us and that is a very effective way of getting business. We also have our own marketing as well and we approach companies and advise them what we can do for them.”

Her roots are firmly planted in Tubbercurry

Teresa comes home to Sligo once a month and has close contacts with her roots.

“It depends on a lot of things. Pre-Covid I had to do a lot of international travel. That has changed and Covid presented challenges. We all had to adapt very quickly to working from home which was a big change for us all and I was used to going into an office with over 200 people working in it to going to work from home. It is a very different way of working, but we adapted very quickly, and we have all the technology available to us. We were able to work remotely, and it has challenges with new colleagues, and we did not get the chance to meet. I am back in the office now and our headquarters is just off St Stephen’s Green.”

Teresa’s hobbies include walking which is great for “clearing the head.” She loves watching sport and reading to “switch off from my work life.”

She is a keen fan of Sligo Rovers and Sligo GAA team, and she was watching the recent Tailteann Cup match penalty shoot-out between her native Sligo and Leitrim.

“It was very dramatic, but we got out on the right result. In 2002 Sligo did very well in the Qualifiers and I saw them beating Tyrone and then unfortunately I was in Navan also when they lost to Armagh who went on to win the All-Ireland final that year. And Tyrone went on to win the All-Ireland the year after. I have a great interest in sport as had my parents.”

“Tubbercurry is still very much home to me even though I have not lived there in 30 years. It is very much the community that shaped me in terms of community spirit, the variety the town had and has to offer, and it was and is a very supportive and nurturing town,” she concludes.


Content adapted from The Sligo Champion.