Each week, the Sunday Business Post profiles one of Ireland’s foremost corporate leaders, tracing their career to date and exploring lessons they have learned along the way. This week, Mark Graham is interviewed.
Mark Graham is Executive Director at Immedis, a division of The Taxback Group, providing international payroll and global mobility tax services to multinationals with overseas staff. Launched last year, Immedis has a presence in more than 100 countries. It employs 70 people in Kilkenny and Dublin. Taxback Group has 1,200 staff in 33 offices worldwide. On foot of its recent acquisition of US company Expaticore, it has announced plans to create 150 new jobs over the next three years.
Tell us about your career to date.
I studied construction management at Cork Institute of Technology, but left before graduating to travel to the US, where I worked in construction until 2003. I returned to Ireland at that point and worked in sales roles before joining Taxback in 2014 as manager for global mobility. I was appointed commercial manager for global mobility tax and payroll a year later and have been executive director of Immedis since last November.
I’m not sure anyone expects their career to be in payroll. I began in construction, but no one could account for the downfall of the industry in Ireland in 2008. Rather than dwelling on it, I took the opportunity to reinvent myself.
I knew I had strong skills in sales and building relationships, which I could apply to almost any industry. I was confident I could make an impact in the right organisation. When the opportunity arose to join The Taxback Group, I jumped at it.
The company is entrepreneurial in its thinking, and Immedis is testament to this.
I constantly review and adapt my career goals to reflect the company’s ambitions. Immedis is moving at pace. Its strategy now looks very different to what it was just 18 months ago.
What was the best career advice you got along the way?
Do not be afraid to hire people who are better than you are. You can never have too many good people and I think this applies across any industry, but is particularly relevant for ours. Our team is a mixture of highly qualified tax professionals, innovative technology developers, client service support people and project managers. It would be impossible for any one person to be an expert in all of these fields. You need a strong team to excel.
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Based on your own experience, what are your top career tips?
- Be adaptable: the world never stands still and neither should you. Technology has never evolved quicker, so it is extremely important that your goals and expectations match the current environment of your industry.
- Think big: it’s far easier to scale businesses internationally than ever before so do not be afraid to think big. International markets like the US offer huge opportunity for Irish businesses that can offer a great solution.
- Act with honesty and integrity: this is a cornerstone of any long-term career success. It is crucial that you always act with these traits, both internally and externally.
- Work hard: always be prepared to work hard. It might sound clichéd, but opportunities don’t come looking for you, go out there and hunt them down.
How would you define your work style, and how has this evolved over the years?
My work style has definitely evolved over the years. When I started in my career, I felt I had to do everything myself. When you move into a management role, you learn to trust your team and delegate where possible. This allows you the time to look at the bigger picture, strategically plan for the growth of your business and ensure that the service you are offering existing clients is where it needs to be.
In terms of managing teams and individuals, what are your insights?
There are a number of important areas that I like to focus on in managing teams:
- Support them;
- Be ambitious and set targets for your team and be part of the plan implemented to achieve these;
- Be transparent – to me it is important for the entire team to know the goals and ambitions the company has and the challenges we face in addressing them. Business is not always smooth. In order for their capabilities to evolve, your team need to be included in overcoming the challenges facing you.
What about communication and negotiating the typical ups and downs of working life?
Communication is fundamental to success in any business. It’s important to encourage everyone to be open, honest and transparent. If everyone understands where the company is going, the journey to get there is a lot smoother. I remind my team constantly that my door is open and we try to ensure everyone in our leadership team is approachable on any issue.
Creating a strong impression is essential to growing a business. Clients need reassurance and confidence that you and your team are experts in your field and will help make their lives easier.
For me, it’s simple. Hire the best and put them in front of clients. Knowledge and enthusiasm shines through and clients know you have their back.
Has networking played an important part in your career?
Networking is important to any business in any industry. Without clients, a business cannot survive. What is important is to understand what type of networking suits your personality and industry. You will be far more effective in an environment in which you are comfortable.
Modern social media platforms allow you to network more easily these days, but I tend to encourage my team to engage in person where possible. In my view, that is still by far the most effective way to build relationships.
If you had to choose another career tomorrow, what would it be and why?
My interests are business, sports and travel, so although I’m very happy where I am, another career combining all three has some appeal. Having lived in the US, I have firsthand experience of the benefits of travel as a means to learn about other places and experience new cultures.
Visit businesspost.ie for the full interview.