“I have evolved within my role as Chief Executive Officer in the family firm in a very informal manner,” Beppe Muscat smiles. After graduating from university in 2012 and acquiring his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) warrant, as well as his practising certificate in auditing, the youthful leader took the reins of the company, intent on keeping a close relationship with the company’s staff and championing change within the business that had been started by his father 30 years ago.
“Over the years I’ve grown with the firm, as has our team, of which I’m very proud. When I joined, I inherited a system that had been used over the past 20 years, and which focused mainly on local clientele seeking accountancy services. This system worked but it wouldn’t allow us to grow any further, so I have strived to introduce an international aspect to our business, and that has become a major source of growth over the past few years.”
This approach challenged the entrenched mentality of the company’s shareholders, as well as Beppe’s family and loyal employees, who had been with the firm since its early days. However, in time, the mindset has shifted and – as Beppe says – while people resist change, in this case, adaptability has been the name of the game.
“We had to change the mindset and culture of the firm. I would say we’ve managed and that this has been an accomplishment, allowing us to onboard a very diverse clientele. Today, we are no longer simply a company that provides accountancy services, but we have widened our offering to various corporate functions, while still assisting our local client base and also ensuring diversification in other new avenues.”
Beppe’s success in leading the company through this transformation is in no small part a result of his ability to juggle and to encourage a healthy work-life balance for himself and all his staff.
“It’s useless trying to solve problems if you don’t have a clear mind to do so, and this is the attitude I have tried to instil in our company culture. It’s important to have your own interests, whether that’s practising a sport or a particular hobby, since this can help you relax and face the issues you’re anyway going to have. It’s something my father always taught me.”
And, Beppe certainly practises what he preaches. He is an early riser, sometimes starting his day at 4am. “I have two kids,” he says, “and I like to answer any emails which come in overnight before I head to the office.” Then, Beppe’s day is taken up with meetings with clients and his team. “I have always had an open-door policy with our staff at NM Group. It’s important to have that line of communication with the team, as well as with our clients, and I think solidifying these relationships is crucial to the growth of the company,” he insists.
Indeed, nurturing relationships is one of the aspects of his role he loves the most. “My passion is helping people to develop themselves and to grow, and I enjoy the interaction with my clients and the staff at NM Group. I am constantly trying to refine the company’s vision which is based on three pillars: innovation, quality and people.”
Beppe credits this vision for the steep growth of the company. “NM stands for Noel Muscat – my father. The firm owes its beginnings to the death of my six-month-old brother, who passed away of heart failure following a protracted illness – and all the stress that my parents experienced travelling to London for medical opinions. When my brother passed away, my parents thought there couldn’t be anything worse and if they were to take any chances in life, then they should. So, my father quit his stable job and set up on his own, with my mother helping.”
The firm operated out of the family home for many years, moving from garage to basement and even expanding to the dining room table upstairs. “When I joined, we were five people working from a large basement. But when we grew to 15 staff, the place was literally full up. So, at one point, I had six people working from my parents’ dining room table. My mother drew the line at the kitchen table,” he laughs.
While 2020 challenged the 35-strong firm, it has also been replete with opportunity, Beppe says. “Our clients were impacted last year, though there were industries which flourished, such as the medical and homeware sectors. What 2020 did was precipitate change that was coming at any rate,” he explains, pointing to the firms’ increasing reliance on technology.
“And, jobs will transform because of this, with technology taking over many tasks. There is much that human beings can do, which technology cannot, and that includes increasing value in personal interactions, customer service, as well as identifying problem areas and issues which go beyond numbers and the output produced by our technological tools,” he outlines.
And this is the motivation behind Beppe’s commitment to ensuring his clientele get a personalised service. “This is the reason for our insistence on adding value, on adding quality to our service, in terms of going that extra mile and being better than our competition. We don’t want to be just another firm in the sector. The industry is very conservative and procedural, but I want to challenge that,” he asserts.
Looking towards the coming year, Beppe is aware that uncertainty still hovers on the horizon. “We have to see how this pandemic is resolved and how long it’s going to take for things to get back to normal. As a firm, we’re aligned to our vision, and, since 2021 is our 30-year anniversary, we will be marking that milestone,” he says.
To this end, the firm is embarking on a process of rebranding, which is going to be a reflection of “the perception we want to create around NM Group,” he explains. Moreover, company-client relationships – as well as the interactions between the firm’s staff – will continue to be key to the success of the company, and are a particular source of pride for the young leader.
“We believe we’re only as good as our people, so it’s important to choose them carefully, train them up, and prepare them to be able to offer the level of service we expect to give to our clients,” he concludes.
This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.
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