In this #PeopleFirst we speak to Helen Keogh, Payroll Manager, who, alongside Kirby, turns 60 this year. Helen first joined us in Limerick in 1983 at 19 years old to work on the reception.
“We had an office in Thomondgate, it was a converted house and shop. At that point we had around 80 employees, and just eight of us were based in the office,” says Helen, who has 36 years’ service with Kirby.
“I was at Kirby for two years before the 1985 recession hit. I left Kirby to work somewhere else, and two years later, in 1987. I was approached by Tom Kirby to come back. I jumped at the chance.”
We asked Helen what drew her back to Kirby and what has kept her here for the last 36 years. She smiles, “It’s the people, the culture, and the work. Every week is challenging, but you have the people around you to support you, and who are honest with you. Kirby people are decent, honest people.
“For me honesty is incredibly important, if you don’t have that then you don’t have a foundation to build on,” she adds.
Helen first worked on reception at Kirby, supporting the finance manager and the estimating team. It was at that point that she discovered her love for figures and numbers, and an eye for detail and accuracy. When she returned to Kirby in 1987, she worked more and more with the finance manager, taking on a role in finance when it came up.
Helen was one of the first in Kirby to have a computer. “I sat down at my desk and was the only one that could work it. It transformed the way we did accounts and payroll, moving from a manual system to a digital one.”
In the mid-90s Helen and colleagues travelled to go to Birmingham, United Kingdom, to train up on the first estimating computer packages.
“Kirby started to grow significantly when we opened an office in Dublin in the 90s, but even then, I would still know the names and employee numbers of everyone at Kirby.”
Now Helen manages a team of eight people, as the company continues to grow.
“We have maintained the personal touch though,” she adds. “I always say that I have a contract with each person at Kirby, every single one is my boss. I work for them, to make sure their payslips are accurate and on time.”
We ask her if she still knows everyone’s employee numbers, she laughs, “I often see people on the ledger that have been here a long time. That’s nice. It makes me smile, they must be happy here, like me, and that’s a nice feeling.”
“It’s not the same company I joined, but that’s a good thing. It’s evolving and adapting, but the people, culture and generous spirit remain. We all work hard, but the love of the work stops it being a chore.”
Kirby has long since left the office on Thomondgate. We moved to the Raheen Business Park in Limerick 23 years ago, and the building has been renovated a number of times. The latest extension and refurbishment project took Helen aback. “It was a pinch me moment. I was so proud of everyone, and what we have achieved. We have come such a long way.”
Helen celebrates 60 years alongside Kirby this year, “a lot of good things started in 1964,” she says.
Throughout this year we will interview the people who shaped Kirby’s past and are forging its future.