Andy Irvine

Andy is the Managing Partner of Shorts Chartered Accountants, one of the most respected business leaders in the South Yorkshire market and is a close partner to Pratap Partnership.

March 16, 2021
Mar 16, 2021
CFO Interviews

Building his career from 13 years at PwC (across Glasgow, NZ and Sheffield), he joined Shorts in 2007 and has led them on a consistently steep growth journey ever since. They now employ 106 staff across their Sheffield and Chesterfield offices and have a large client base across the full range of sectors.

Andy’s story is great to share for a number of reasons – some inspiration for accountants looking to progress their career within practice and an informed view on the issues and prospects for our region.

What is the best thing about being a partner of a firm of Chartered Accountants?

For me there has always been 2 key things which I love about what I do:

  1. Being able to build long term, enduring relationships with clients and have the benefit of seeing how they and their businesses develop and grow with our help over sustained periods of time.
  2. As an owner of a business you get the privilege of setting the strategic agenda and the direction of travel of your firm.  It’s a lot more responsibility than just being a competent technical accountant but if you get it right, the rewards can be worth it.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced  in the past few years?

With any fast growing, people centric business (we have a net headcount growth of c60 people in the last 5 years) the biggest challenge is always finding and recruiting the right people but not negatively impacting on the thing that’s made you distinctive and successful in the past: your firm’s culture.

As a partner group we have always been clear on what makes Shorts tick: a focus on professional competence and technical ability, a real commercial approach to client advice and support and crucially, ensuring that we are always fair and respectful towards every single member of our team. We work very hard to make sure that we live by these core values, rather than just being some inspiring words to put on a meeting room wall which nobody pays attention to. I know its an old saying but actions really do speak louder than words in many cases.

Can there be a positive legacy from COVID for our region’s businesses?

Without doubt it has clearly been a challenging time for all, particularly in the hospitality and leisure sector.  And of course, unfortunately, many people have died as a result of COVID which is a tragedy we will all have to live with both now and in the future.

So it’s important not to be too trite but I do think that faced with these significant challenges, many businesses in the region have shown incredible resilience and an ability to embrace change, probably far quicker than they would have thought possible.  We’ve got to try and keep hold of that “can do” attitude and continue to innovate and create jobs and opportunities in the region: I am quietly confident the region will bounce back strongly once the current restrictions have been lifted.

What advice would you give to young accountants  starting out their career?

It’s a great career and as a qualification and training ground, it can open up so many options as you progress.  Sometimes it can be very tempting to take an opportunity for a little bit more money/a quick progression here and now rather than thinking about things strategically for the long-term benefit of your career. Where are you going to learn the most, develop the most, grow the most? They are the questions to focus on in my view; not where can I earn a bit more money now?

If you think strategically its far more likely that you will end up where you want to be in my view.

What does your normal day look like?

Unfortunately, a lot less interesting than it used to before COVID .

Usually my wife Steph and I will walk our dog Matilda round a local wood about 8:15 or so. I find it’s great to clear the head and get some fresh air before starting work. By 9:00 it’s time to walk down the garden to our office, make a cup of coffee and switch on the pc.  I normally spend about half of my time on teams/zoom with either clients or team members. The rest of the time is spent reviewing work, reading business strategy books (I am really interested in marketing and business culture currently) and dealing with the unexpected queries from clients and the team alike.  

It’s very easy when you become a partner to become super focussed on being as busy as you can be with a packed diary.  I am convinced it’s crucial that partners/leaders should have plenty of space built into their weekly diaries so they get time to think, to be accessible to their teams and sometimes to just flex and see where the week takes them.

What would people you work with be surprised to know about you?

I’m hoping this will come as a surprise. When I was at PwC in New Zealand myself and a couple of my mates dressed up in drag and performed the theme tune from Priscilla Queen of the Desert (I will survive) to over 300 colleagues at our office Xmas party.  It was received very well but looking back I am thankful nobody had smart phones which they could record it on.

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