S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E W A R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | A U T U M N 2 0 2 0
BUSINESS Recalibrate, plan and survive
BETTER BUSINESS AUTUMN 2020
IRELAND’S INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURERS
On the road to
CURVE EMERGING BEHAVIOUR TRENDS
DAVID MCCOURT’S GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND
connectivity THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR
HOPES FOR STABILITY WITHIN CHILDCARE INDUSTRY
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Supporting your business through COVID-19 Business Loans up to â‚Ź25,000 Contact us about our Covid-19 business loans. Or visit your Local Enterprise Office.
Microfinance Ireland (MFI) benefits from a guarantee funded by the European Union under the programme for Employment and Social Inclusion (EaSI)
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S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E W A R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | A U T U M N 2 0 2 0
WELCOME AUTUMN 2020
BUSINESS Recalibrate, plan and survive
BETTER BUSINESS AUTUMN 2020
IRELAND’S INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURERS
On the road to
CURVE EMERGING BEHAVIOUR TRENDS
DAVID MCCOURT’S GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND
HOPES FOR STABILITY WITHIN CHILDCARE INDUSTRY
THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR
On the cover: David McCourt, Executive Chairman, National Broadband Ireland Photography: Brian Arthur Photography
Editor: Colin White Contributors: Clara Hester, Shelly Madden, Deanna O’Connor, Dean Van Nguyen Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designers: Alan McArthur, Anna Wesolowska Design Assitant: James Moore Production Executive: Nicole Ennis Account Director: Shane Kelly Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email: email@example.com or write to: Better Business, Ashville Media, Unit 55, Park West Road, Park West Industrial Estate, Dublin 12, D12 X9F9. Tel: (01) 432 2200 All rights reserved. Every care has been taken to ensure that the information contained in this magazine is accurate. The publishers cannot, however, accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2020. All discounts, promotions and competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118 SFA is a trading name of Ibec.
Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community. The SFA office has been abuzz recently after the launch of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2021 by Awards Patron, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD. Find out more on the Awards page about our latest search for the best small business in Ireland. This autumn we sit down with members of the newly founded Childhood Services Ireland, the newly established trade association for childcare and early years service providers, to learn about the challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing sector. Check out our feature on digital adoption to see if Covid-19 will fast forward us to the future and find out more about changing consumer behaviour. Elsewhere in these pages you will find the SFA’s response to Budget 2021, where small firms will benefit from the equalisation of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the extension of the commercial rates waiver and tax warehousing scheme. We bring advice on the necessity of issuing written contracts of employment to your staff and we share tips on how to sleep better. This magazine contains stories that inform, inspire and entertain. It showcases and celebrates the achievements of small companies, provides advice to help you in your business and keeps you up-to-date on the latest trends at home and abroad. There are over 267,000 small businesses (less than 50 employees) in Ireland. They represent 98% of businesses in the country and employ 755,800 people – half of the private sector workforce. These companies can be seen in every city, town and village in the country and together they provide employment to half of the private sector workforce. The SFA proudly represents a diverse membership of businesses with less than 50 employees; homegrown and spanning every sector of our economy. Our members can be found in every town and every city in Ireland. We want to make Ireland the most vibrant small business community in the world – an environment that supports entrepreneurship, values small business and rewards risk takers. Better Business is the magazine of the small business community. We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SFA_Irl. Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association
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CONTENTS AUTUMN 2020
04 10 14
Big News for Small Business News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland.
Fintech Innovations We focus on two companies challenging legacy systems to simplify the world of banking.
Small Business Profile Clara Hester chats with Vivid Edge’s pioneering CEO Tracy O’Rourke.
16 22 26
Sector Spotlight Better Business chats with three providers within the childcare industry.
Cover Story On the road to connectivity with National Broadband Ireland Chair David McCourt.
Entrepreneurs For small manufacturing businesses, optimism and innovation have been the key to survival.
Digital Transformation Will Covid-19 fast forward us to the future? Colin White asks digital strategy expert Professor Theo Lynn.
Trading Places Founder of PlayerStat Data Colin Brett discusses his career as a sporting performance data expert.
Arts and Culture Dublin-born guitarist, music producer and David Bowie collaborator Gerry Leonard looks back on his phenomenal career.
Travel Despite Covid-19 travel restrictions, there’s still a world of adventure to explore around the island of Ireland.
31 34 36
The Consumer Curve Ian McShane reviews emerging consumer behaviour trends as we continue to evolve to a world with Covid-19.
44 60 68
TV Advertising TAM Ireland CEO Jill McGrath tells Dean Van Nguyen what television advertising can do for SMEs.
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Autumn 2020 Contents
FROM TOP LEFT: Clara Hester chats with Vivid Edge’s pioneering CEO Tracy O’Rourke, page 14 // Grovelands Childcare’s Regina Bushell discusses the financial stability of the childcare sector, page 16 // Elliot Hughes of Dingle Distillery on how optimism and innovation have been the key to survival of manufacturing businesses, page 26 // Founder of PlayerStat Data Colin Brett discusses his career as a sporting performance data expert, page 36
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BIG NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESS
INTERACTIONS RESEARCH FINDS THAT BUSINESSES WILL HAVE TO ADAPT TO NEW WORK PRACTICES Interactions Research has partnered with Aecom, a multinational engineering consultancy, to investigate the effect of coronavirus on the way people work and travel. After surveying a representative sample of the population it has been found that travel habits have changed for good. ■ 69% of people want to work
remotely in the future, citing work-life balance, cost savings and time savings.
■ Not everyone has the necessary
facilities to work from home (22% use the kitchen table) and one-third find it difficult to wind down.
Clonakilty Distillery leading the way in uncertain times
Multi-award-winning Clonakilty Distillery has partnered with premium drinks importer and distributor, Mangrove UK, to become part of its portfolio of exclusive brands and launch in the UK market. The distillery, perched by the waterfront in Clonakilty town, commenced distilling in March 2019 and in its first year was awarded ‘World’s Best Irish New Make Single Pot Still’ at the World Whiskey Awards 2020. They use their own barley, grown on their maritime coastline, to produce a triple distilled premium quality Irish single pot still whiskey. The UK is just one of many new markets the company has entered over the past year, having signed three of the largest distributors in the US and recently sending their first order of spirits to Russia. Like many other distilleries Clonakilty did feel the effects of Covid-19, with the closure of the on-trade (pubs, hotels and restaurants), both at home and aboard, which accounted for a large percentage of its sales.
■ For those who don’t want to
work from home, the main issues are poor wifi, distractions and the need for interaction.
■ Employers will need to adapt,
investing in regional satellite offices, using co-working spaces, community centres, etc.
■ For those who have to travel
to work, businesses will have to ensure social distancing and allow flexible/staggered work hours so that they can avoid crowded rush-hour travel times.
NEW IBEC PRESIDENT ANNOUNCED Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, has announced Alastair Blair, Country Managing Director for Accenture in Ireland, as its new President for 2020 to 2021. He succeeds Pat McCann, CEO of Dalata Hotel Group. Alastair is a recognised leader in the field of European business and his experience and insights will support Ibec’s efforts over the coming year to help navigate the economy through the dual threats of Brexit and Covid-19. Alastair is Country Managing Director for Accenture in Ireland. Alastair Blair A senior managing director in the company, he also sits on the UK and Ireland Leadership Team. In his role, he has overall responsibility for the growth and success of Accenture’s business in Ireland. He is a board member of Business to Arts and chairs the Agri-Food Inclusion and Diversity Council. Alastair previously chaired the Worker of the Future Leaders Group for Business in the Community Ireland. He was appointed to the Ibec Board in 2015.
SFA MEMBERS IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS SOME NEWS TO SHARE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE FEATURED IN THE NEXT EDITION OF BETTER BUSINESS, CONTACT ELIZBETH BOWEN ON (01) 605 1626 OR EMAIL ELIZABETH.BOWEN@ SFA.IE.
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Help to #ChampionGreen by nominating a small business in the @SFA_Irl Awards!
Well worth joining @SFA_Irl for support, advice & networking!
@SkillnetIreland & @SFA_Irl MentorsWork initiative is aimed at guiding Irish SMEs through their current business challenges towards stabilisation and recovery, six months on from the outbreak of Covid-19.
Positive engagement today with
@EnterInnov @LeoVaradkar @Damien_English @RobertTroyTD
and fellow stakeholders, including our colleagues in @SFA_Irl, on this much welcomed platform for promoting the growth of our SME community.
IREVISE OFFERS ONLINE REVISION SUPPORTS Irish online study and exams resource, iRevise.com is offering free membership to all students registered to sit 2020 Leaving Certificate State exams, starting in November. The Galway-based company provides study tools and premium revision content for both Junior and Leaving Certificate students. The complimentary revision resource will support the students in what has been a most challenging exam year, according to Padraig Ryan, iRevise Commercial Director. “These students have had to cope with a most stressful school year, and are obviously now focused on completing their second level education and demonstrating their learning.” iRevise is the largest online study platform in Ireland with over 30% of students in exam years using the resource, and 700,000 registered users since its launch over ten years ago.
Today on #GoodMorningDublin at 10:00am, Michael Glynn and Colin McStay are chatting to Sinead Healy from #DublinChamber SustainabilityAcademy, Lord Mayor @hazechu and Sven Spollen-Behrens from
Idiro Analytics celebrated a double award win, ‘Analytics SME of the Year’ and Aidan Connolly, CEO and founder, received the honour of ‘Analytics Leader of the Year’ Aidan Connolly at the Analytics & AI Awards CEO and founder, 2020 held on 17 September Idiro Analytics 2020 and organised by the Analytics Institute of Ireland. The awards promote excellence across the Irish analytics industry, with winners selected by industry peers in a highly competitive nationwide vote. The awards showcase some of the great work being delivered in both the private and public sectors. Idiro Analytics is a leading international data analytics consultancy. Headquartered in Dublin, Idiro’s highly experienced team helps global companies across industries unlock value from their data using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
IDIRO ANALYTICS PICKS UP TWO GONGS AT 2020 ANALYTICS & AI AWARDS
COVID-19 CREDIT GUARANTEE SCHEME LAUNCHED
The Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme facilitates up to €2bn in lending to eligible businesses. Loans under the Scheme range from €10,000 to €1m for terms of up to five and a half years. Financing will be offered through a range of products, including term loans, working capital loans and overdrafts. Loans of up to €250,000 under the Scheme are available unsecured (except where this is a requirement of the product feature, as in the case of asset finance, invoice discount facilities). The Scheme is operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) through participating finance providers. GREEN COFFEE KUDOS!
An idea from speciality coffee roasters, J.J. Darboven, has seen the Dublin business secure new hospitality and café contracts for its ecofriendly coffee supply. New retro-looking refillable coffee tins, containing the company’s Eighty9 brand of smallbatch Irish roasted coffee, have attracted the attention of top hospitality operators, including the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Killiney in Dublin and the Michael J. Wright Group. Styled to look like an old-fashioned milk churn, in a wooden crate, the reusable 6kg coffee tin saves roughly 40 individual coffee bags and one cardboard box. The foodservices supplier won ‘Best Sustainable Packaging Product’ at the Irish Foodservice Suppliers Alliance (IFSA) Awards for its innovative Irish design. The Eighty9 packaging is an attractive and practical solution for customers who want to improve their green credentials and provide a premium coffee offering. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 5
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SFA MEMBERS CONTACT THE DBEI BUSINESS SUPPORT CALL CENTRE FOR INFORMATION ON THE GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS AVAILABLE TO BUSINESSES AND ENTERPRISES AFFECTED BY COVID-19. CALL (01) 631 2002 OR EMAIL INFOBUSINESSSUPPORT @DBEI.GOV.IE.
COMPANY REGISTRATIONS BOUNCE BACK POST-LOCKDOWN
Company formation specialists Company Bureau report that despite Covid-19 threatening an economic recession, new company registrations are now on par with quarter three of 2019. This news is very promising, given that new company registrations dropped by nearly 40% amid the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. The reported numbers in 2020 are conservative given the growing backlog of new company registrations. The government body responsible for processing these requests has been operating at a reduced capacity since Covid-19 restrictions were first announced six months ago. The lead time to form a new company is now between 8-10 working days increased from the norm of five days. The level of startup requests returning to normal is a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of people in Ireland despite the current economic uncertainty.
“Small firms continue to hope to see a swift conclusion to Brexit negotiations. A ‘no-trade deal’ Brexit would spell further difficulties for small companies who are already intensively managing coronavirus-linked disruption.” Sven SpollenBehrens, Director, SFA, welcoming latest Brexit supports
“These awards acknowledge innovation, resilience, strength and the importance of the small business sector to the Irish economy and, in particular, to the future of the Irish economy.” An Taoiseach Micheál Martin speaking at the launch of the SFA National Small Business Awards
“In our general election manifesto SFA called for the setting of clear and definite environmental targets. While we welcome putting targets into law, we continue to call for policies and incentives to help small businesses transition to a low-carbon economy.” Elizabeth Bowen, Senior Executive, SFA on the launch of the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020
MARKETINGCOACH.IE CONTINUES GROWTH MarketingCoach.ie has accepted another award for their work in developing marketing strategies for the SME sector, winning the ‘Micro Business Award’ for Best Business Support 2020 at a recent award ceremony. This year has been a year of expansion for business owner Muireann Fitzmaurice. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, MarketingCoach.ie has actually expanded the business this year. MarketingCoach. ie launched two new brands this year: www. BrandedCourses.ie and www. DigitalPractice.ie. Both were launched in response to the challenges being faced by different sectors of the market. BrandedCourses. ie was launched to help business coaches and consultants transfer their intellectual property online. DigitalPractice.ie was launched in March to support the professional sector develop and enhance its online presence.
Muireann Fitzmaurice, founder, MarketingCoach.ie
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BREXIT PREPAREDNESS Whatever the shape of the future trading relationship with the UK post-transition, trading conditions with the UK will change and businesses need to prepare for that change. Use the below steps to get started today. Assess whether your business trades with the United Kingdom or moves goods through the United Kingdom. IF IT DOES: ■ TALK to your business partners. The end of the transition period might also impact
your supply chain, so you need to be aware of what it means for your suppliers, intermediaries or transporters.
■ CONTACT your Local Enterprise Office and review the Brexit Preparedness
Checklist to get full details and explanations on what you need to be ready for at the end of the transition period.
■ CONSULT the Brexit Readiness Action Plan, where you will find information on the
steps to take now.
■ VISIT the Getting Business Brexit Ready website to learn how Brexit will affect your
■ SIGN UP for Clear Customs Online 2020: Skillnet Ireland’s free online customs
training, for businesses that move goods frequently to, from, or through Great Britain.
■ APPLY for Ready for Customs: a grant of up to €9,000 through Enterprise
Ireland for businesses per eligible employee hired, or redeployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role.
■ ACT now! Do not wait until the end of the transition period to think about how you
need to adapt. Some of the processes and procedures you need to follow take time, so you should start as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary difficulties for your business.
The UK government launched a new campaign, Keep Business Moving, which will provide information on the actions EU businesses will need to take to continue trading smoothly with the UK at the end of the year. Visit www.gov.uk/eubusiness for more information.
BEELINE CLAIMS TOP SPOT AS LEADING VITAMIN BRAND IN IRELAND
SFA member Beeline Healthcare was recently announced as the number one Vitamin brand in grocery in Ireland by Checkout magazine. The findings were based on EPOS sales (through the till) recorded by AC Nielsen.
GRAEPELS BRINGS BESPOKE WALKWAY INTO COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION
Despite 2020 being an unconventional year, the Graepels team has managed to continue to innovate and grow. With the addition of new capabilities and services, Graepels are excited to introduce two new products to the market: Chelsea Gold: an awardwinning metal flooring initially designed as a bespoke walkway for the Chelsea Flower show has now been developed into a commercial product in its own right. The second new additionto their range is outdoor metal furniture with stackable chairs, tables, beautiful planters and screens perfect for cordoning off outdoor spaces. New tooling developments and fabrication will bring added value to their customers and the company. The biggest development to date is the arrival of Laser to Graepels, which enables them to supply a broader range of products to industries from pharmaceutical and food processing to architectural and waste management.
SFA MEMBERS IF YOU WISH TO GET IN TOUCH FOR ADVICE ON BREXIT, CONTACT ELIZBETH BOWEN ON (01) 605 1626 OR EMAIL ELIZABETH.BOWEN @SFA.IE.
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IBEC SETS UP NEW CHILDCARE ASSOCIATION CHILDHOOD SERVICES IRELAND (CSI) IS IBEC’S NEWEST TRADE ASSOCIATION AND REPRESENTS CHILDCARE PROVIDERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
ith the childcare sector in Ireland looking after more than 200,000 children across 4,600 childcare services and employing almost 31,000 childcare professionals, the newly founded Childhood Services Ireland (CSI) brings together childcare providers from a diverse range of services as the strong unifying voice of providers in Ireland. The childcare sector in Ireland has suffered from years of inactivity in policy developments and structural improvements since the foundation of the State. The Government in recent years have made evident efforts to improve the sustainability and quality of the sector, but
it has become increasingly apparent that efforts must be significantly improved and refocused to make a positive impact on the ever increasing issues faced by children, parents, providers and practitioners. The lack of affordable childcare in Ireland has detrimental knock-on effects for parents who want to continue working, with women being disproportionately affected. It is evident that a lack of sufficient and appropriately targeted subsidies for parents are a significant contributing factor. Increasing costs, consistent underfunding from Government, and a lack of available staff creates significant strain on the sustainability of the sector and viability of providers.
The onset of Covid-19 has proved detrimental to sectors nationwide. Within the childcare sector, providers have been pushed to the point of closure either due to lack of funding or lack of staffing. Ultimately, it is the children and parents who are affected most by the sectoral inadequacies. Childcare funding in Ireland is currently at a level of merely 0.2% of GDP. In comparison, the OECD average is 0.7% and Unicef have recommended appropriate funding to be 1% of GDP. The Government’s current commitment to double funding by 2028 would therefore still leave the childcare sector critically underfunded. CSI, as the unifying voice of childcare providers, are working to drive policies that address the critical underfunding of the sector and attractiveness of the profession as a whole, while ensuring a balance is struck between the diverse needs of the various private and community models of childcare. The CSI Council, chaired by Alec Flood, was appointed in September 2020 and consists of 16 members from across the sector. Darragh Whelan has been appointed as CSI Director and manages the operations of the CSI Executive. The CSI Council and CSI team are all dedicated to the betterment of the sector and engage constructively on policy formulation through evidence-based research. CSI engages actively with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and other relevant stakeholders on key issues and are active members of various sectoral committees. To learn more about the CSI visit www.ibec. ie/join/childhood-services-ireland or contact Darragh Whelan, Director, Childhood Services Ireland at email@example.com.
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Get Connected Events
GET CONNECTED ALTHOUGH UNABLE TO HOST IN-PERSON EVENTS, THE SFA HAS BEEN ENGAGING WITH MEMBERS AND CLIENTS REGULARLY OVER RECENT MONTHS.
SFA NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS 2021 CATEGORIES ■ Manufacturing
Supported by NSAI
■ Food and Drink
Supported by Bord Bia
The SFA National Small Business Awards 2021 were launched by Awards Patron, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD on 14 September. The aim of the awards is to celebrate the achievements of small business in Ireland and to recognise the vital contribution of the small business community to the Irish economy. Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “The SFA National Small Business Awards are very important, particularly as we live with Covid-19. These awards acknowledge innovation, resilience, strength and the importance of the small business sector to the Irish economy and, in particular, to the future of the Irish economy. We need agility, flexibility and adaptability in the midst of the global pandemic and there is no better entity than a small business to demonstrate these characteristics.”
Free to enter with a prize package valued at €50,000 for all finalists, the Awards are open to all companies in Ireland with up to 50 employees. At the launch SFA Director Sven SpollenBehrens commented: “The SFA National Small Business Awards continue to celebrate the grit and fortitude of business-owners across all sectors and parts of the country. By taking part in the awards you are confirming your belief in your business, employees and your entrepreneurial spirit. The search is now on to find the best small business in Ireland for 2021.” The 2021 Awards programme is now closed for new applications. However, the 2022 programme will launch in September 2021. Keep up with us on Twitter @SFA_irl and www.sfa.ie/Awards for the full list of 2021 finalists.
Supported by Microsoft
■ Outstanding Small Business (up to five employees) Supported by One4All
■ Innovator of the Year
Supported by Permanent tsb
Supported by SBCI
■ Workplace Wellbeing Supported by Decare
■ Small Business Exporter of the Year Supported by Enterprise Ireland
■ Emerging New Businesses Supported by IE Domain Registry
Thinking Ahead Series Thinking Ahead is a monthly webinar series brought to you by the SFA and supported by Flogas offering small businesses access to expert information and advice from their office or home. This series hosts a new webinar on the first Thursday of every month. Topics so far have covered grievance and disputes procedure, managing cashflow and financial supports, and GDPR with the Data Protection Commission. Listen back on www.sfa.ie/events. Check www.sfa.ie/awards for upcoming dates and more SFA virtual events. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 9
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Feature Fintech Innovations Innovations
LEVERIS’S CONOR FENNELLY AND BIG RED CLOUD’S MARC O’DWYER DISCUSS HOW THEIR COMPANIES ARE CHALLENGING LEGACY SYSTEMS TO SIMPLIFY THE WORLD OF BANKING. SHELLY MADDEN REPORTS. 10 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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the dawn of the 21st century, fintech has expanded its offering from credit cards and ATMs to incorporate a whole new wave of innovations. The past decade in particular has seen an exponential rise in mobile banking as virtual wallets have lured the user away from their leather counterparts and payment apps have forced traditional banks to up their technological game. While some may mourn the loss of simpler times, it cannot be denied that the evolution of fintech has made banking a lot more seamless and accessible for the average consumer. When it comes to running a business, however, an overhaul of financial processes can be more daunting. There is a lot more at stake and some firms may be hesitant to migrate to a cloud model. This is why some platforms are offering a helping hand when it comes to removing the constraints of older banking methods. We spoke with Marc O’Dwyer, CEO of Big Red Cloud, and Conor Fennelly, founder and CEO of Leveris, to demystify the cloud and learn more about how their companies are using new technology to tackle legacy systems. Big Red Cloud provides cloud-based accounting software for companies, aiming to take the pain out of processing invoices and making payments. O’Dwyer took over the original company, Big Red Book, in 2001, before it moved into its new form. “We were early adopters of the cloud and, after attending an Enterprise Ireland seminar on cloud software back in 2009, we set off on the journey to move Big Red to the cloud, and hence Big Red Cloud was rolled out in June 2012,” he recalls. Following in these virtual footsteps is Leveris, which was launched in 2016 as a digital banking and lending platform. Fennelly tells us the company was “born out of the belief that there was a better way to build a digital bank”. With its cloudnative system, the startup aims to “enable banks to break free from the shackles of legacy systems” and simplify their transition into the banking and lending space.
Fintech Innovations Feature
Silver linings When it comes to banking and accounting, cloud is often viewed as the way forward. For one thing, a cloud-based platform enables staff to access important information from anywhere in the world. It has made remote working more feasible, which has proven essential in this current climate. “Now more than ever with most staff working remotely, our software has really come into its own,” adds O’Dwyer. “The ‘anywhere, anytime’ access differs [from] a product that is only available at the office or at one location.” Another aspect is speed. According to Fennelly, legacy systems are “innovation stoppers” that “limit the ability of banks to operate in an agile fashion, react to change effectively and meet the user experience expectations of a generation raised on rich, interactive, intuitive digital apps”. He continues: “With the Leveris platform, for example, banks can launch new retail products at speed, revise products on the fly and target customers with individual accuracy – something they could only dream of while operating on legacy systems.”
“NOW MORE THAN EVER WITH MOST STAFF WORKING REMOTELY, OUR SOFTWARE HAS REALLY COME INTO ITS OWN. THE ‘ANYWHERE, ANYTIME’ ACCESS DIFFERS [FROM] A PRODUCT THAT IS ONLY AVAILABLE AT THE OFFICE OR AT ONE LOCATION.” Marc O’Dwyer, CEO, Big Red Cloud
O’Dwyer agrees that recent banking innovations have been time-saving for entrepreneurs. “The ability to import banking transactions into your accounting system not only cuts down on time and errors, but it actually speeds up the whole process of producing a full set of accounts. This means that a business owner has a much quicker idea of how well or how badly their business is performing, enabling them to act quicker by way of getting access to more cash or expanding the business as they see fit,” he explains. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 11
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Feature Fintech Innovations
Perhaps the biggest advantage outlined by these two companies is the fact that with a cloud model, all user information is stored in one place. Big Red Cloud has recognised the value of this by recently integrating with data network Plaid to launch an open banking feature. This move enables Big Red Cloud to link with established Irish banks and neo-banks such as Revolut so it can “import all transactions that appear on an SME’s bank account into their accounts system, saving them huge amounts of time and cutting out manual errors”. Meanwhile, Leveris is championing what it calls the ‘single customer view’. Fennelly explains: “It’s what you get when you combine different information on a customer taken from different silos, centralise it, and present it as a precise, comprehensive view of each customer.” For the Leveris CEO, joining up this data is valuable in terms of personalising the user journey and enhancing the overall experience. As he says, “What customer wants to be treated as a series of disconnected accounts rather than an individual?” So, the benefits are clear. Are there any potential pitfalls? “Migration to a cloud model can be incredibly painful and there is a high rate of failure. Even success can be painful due to feature poverty in the new system,” Fennelly cautions. That said, he believes a changeover is inevitable. “A new front-end will only fool your customers for a while until a newer, better challenger bank arrives offering features you can only dream about. Going halfway by using a middleware solution merely kicks the can down the road, creating a bigger mess to unravel when core migration cannot be put off any longer.” O’Dwyer is optimistic about the changeover process and believes any perceived complexity can be easily overcome. “In most systems it is not possible to import transactions from an older system. While this may seem a pain point, it isn’t that bad. When migrating to a new system, a business will generally import opening balances for customers, suppliers, nominal ledger accounts and their bank. After a few months they will have built up new transactions with customers and, once they have kept old copies of outstanding invoices, it’s easy to bring the new system up to speed. New systems are slicker, faster and have a better user interface so, like anything new, they just take getting used to.”
Conor Fennelly, founder and CEO, Leveris
“GOING HALFWAY BY USING A MIDDLEWARE SOLUTION MERELY KICKS THE CAN DOWN THE ROAD, CREATING A BIGGER MESS TO UNRAVEL WHEN CORE MIGRATION CANNOT BE PUT OFF ANY LONGER.” Blue skies ahead As cloud services continue to proliferate, is there anything else on the fintech horizon that we should keep an eye out for? “I believe we will see a consolidation within the financial services industry, with a number of institutions merging, and a seamless link between accounting and banking,” suggests O’Dwyer. He also foresees more competitive features being launched by challenger banks, offering easier-to-use services in contrast to established institutions. For Big Red Cloud specifically, the next steps include automating the bank reconciliation process and providing a multi-currency feature to coincide with Brexit. Fennelly, meanwhile, is laser-focused on data. “We believe that the use of data will be the key battleground for banks and financial institutions in the years ahead. If you think about it, banks are sitting on an extraordinary resource: customer data.” He concludes: “Banks don’t just understand intent, they capture what is transacted. And transactional data is much more reliable as an identifier of future intent. It also creates a much more forensic profile of an individual than one generated by organisations in other industries. We want to be at the forefront of the transformational change that this can bring to banking.” This enthusiasm for innovation is something all Irish businesses should consider adopting in order to fully reap the benefits of fintech. In the face of unforeseen challenges, a willingness to embrace novel technologies will unlock doors for entrepreneurs and, in turn, their customers. To sum it up, both O’Dwyer and Fennelly are aligned on one key point when it comes to banking methods: out with the old, in with the new.
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Muireann Fitzmaurice owner, MarketingCoach.ie
e g d e l a t i g i Ad
MARKETING EXPERT MUIREANN FITZMAURICE TAKES US THROUGH FIVE STEPS TO CREATING AN EFFECTIVE DIGITAL STRATEGY FOR YOUR BUSINESS. DEFINE YOUR GOALS
Digital marketing is such a broad term that it can be overwhelming for business owners to know where to start. Every good strategy starts with defining your business objectives. All marketing decisions should then be at service to those business ambitions. Well-articulated digital goals typically include three elements: the audience you are targeting; what you want them to think, feel, know or do; and what is the financial gain for your business if that happens.
GET THE BASICS RIGHT
There are simple things you can do to lay a good foundation for your digital marketing strategy and help improve your search engine optimisation (SEO). Check your site load speed, links to and from other trusted websites, keep your site updated e.g. blogs or news, check your analytics and use keywords in the urls, content and images on your site.
Spread the word Go out and tell people about your website and give them a reason to go and visit.
PICK THE RIGHT TOOLS
Once you have the target audience chosen and the objectives defined, the next step is to pick the optimum tool to achieve those goals. There is a large selection of channels to reach your customer online. You do not have the time or money to be on all of them. The best way to choose is based on three measures: your business, your customer, and your expertise. If you look at your customer first, find out what tools they are using. Out of that list, choose the tools that are the best fit with your business. Then you can decide if you have the skills to use those channels, or if you need to outsource it.
THINK IN INK
The biggest challenge facing any SME is the lack of expertise and time. The best way to maximise your effectiveness is to firstly take time out to create a strategy. Brainstorm all of your ideas and refine it into a one-page action plan. You can either work with an expert to develop the strategy or get feedback on your plan from a marketing expert once you have got your ideas on paper.
CREATE COMPELLING CONTENT
There is so much noise in the marketplace now, with a lot of businesses trying to attract the mind space of your customer. If you want to build a digital strategy that is sustainable and will help your business grow, then you have to put your customer and their needs at the heart of all of your plans. Create content that adds value into their world. Show them how your product enables them to feel safe and secure, how you can help increase their sense of belonging, how you can boost their peer perception or self-esteem as a result of your product or content.
BOOK A POWER HOUR
The best marketing plans are the ones that are executed! Gift yourself the time to action your ideas. Book in space in your diary that is specifically for marketing. Small actions taken consistently over time are how you build a sustainable brand both on and offline.
Encourage customers to give you their contact details as an exchange for valuable content. And use remarketing ads to retarget them once they have left your site.
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Small Business Profile Vivid Edge
CLARA HESTER CHATS WITH VIVID EDGE’S PIONEERING CEO TRACY O’ROURKE TO DISCUSS DELIVERING BUILDING AND EQUIPMENT UPGRADES IN A MORE CAPITAL EFFICIENT WAY.
on the Tracy O’Rourke, CEO, Vivid Edge
ynonymous with the natural world and climate action, 94-year-old Sir David Attenbourough recently released his most important documentary to date, his self proclaimed ‘witness statement and my vision for the future’, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet. In the haunting film, one of the most profound and stark lines of his commentary states, “Human beings have overrun the world.” His advice to halt the impending doom? “We need to learn how to work with nature rather than against it.” It’s this spirit of collaboration between the natural environment and entrepreneurial thinking that is at the heart of the success of Dublin-based energy efficiency firm Vivid Edge. Company CEO Tracy O’Rourke believes the right equipment can transform the energy efficiency of any business, while also helping address societal challenges to reduce carbon emissions and build a greener economy. “Vivid Edge is a commercial venture with a social purpose,” she explains. “I got to a point in my life where I wanted to do something innovative, but also something that had a purpose and an impact on society.” Vivid Edge offers a unique service model to businesses that allows businesses to improve on their
energy savings through their own capital budgets. “This way, our clients can select what they need,” says O’Rourke, “whether that’s a new lighting system, new boilers or air conditioning controls. Anything that consumes energy is scope for us. We fund the project’s full cost and charge a service fee. The best thing is, the energy savings our clients make often covers our fees, so it ends up being self-funded.” Since securing their first contract in 2017, the SME based in Dublin’s NovaUCD campus is having a big impact on a global scale by working with an array of multinational companies to accelerate climate action through energy efficiency. “Even in 2017, the importance of climate action wasn’t fully understood,” explains O’Rourke. “We’ve seen multinationals now citing the planet as a core strategic pillar that is absolutely at the heart of what they’re doing. Whereas, previously, it played a lesser role within corporate social responsibility. It wasn’t centre stage on corporate agendas.” She adds: “What’s happening now is the big multinationals are setting budgets and targets and many are making commitments without having figured out how exactly to meet those commitments. I think that’s fabulous, as corporate business doesn’t often operate that way – that’s more of an entrepreneurial way of thinking.”
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Vivid Edge Small Business Profile
“WE’VE SEEN MULTINATIONALS NOW CITING THE PLANET AS A CORE STRATEGIC PILLAR THAT IS ABSOLUTELY AT THE HEART OF WHAT THEY’RE DOING. WHEREAS, PREVIOUSLY, IT PLAYED A LESSER ROLE WITHIN CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY. IT WASN’T CENTRE STAGE ON CORPORATE AGENDAS.” New thinking Often viewed as a monumental challenge too big to even begin to tackle, O’Rourke believes that the key to tackling the climate change crisis is through momentum and collaboration. “That kind of attitude is what stretches your thinking and gets momentum going. So, these kinds of changes in behaviour in the corporate world give me great encouragement. I really think that we can get there through collaboration and a different way of thinking.” Through her background in finance and aircraft leasing, O’Rourke is conscious of the importance of maximising assets and valuing suppliers. That is why her model is so unique; Vivid Edge ‘slot in’ rather than replace what’s there. “We’re not trying to displace suppliers or other businesses,” she says. “What we want to do is increase momentum. We will work with the suppliers and facility managers that are already in place. We bring the money and the structure and then enhance what is possible with our service model. She continues: “We’ve all the technologies in the world that we need today to reach the targets of the G20 [the international forum to promote international financial stability]. The investment is there in the technologies, the problem is insufficient investment from businesses. “The International Energy Agency has stated that we need about five times more global annual investment to reach the energy efficiency targets. So, that would be an extra $1.2 trillion annually needed. We’re hoping that with a much smarter funding model, we’ll encourage much greater investments.”
A collective approach For business owners, these are challenging times. For society as a whole, these are unprecedented times. Since the pandemic hit Ireland in March of this year, O’Rourke has seen parallels between these two major global challenges that have shifted the course of human behaviours and encouraged a more collective worldly approach to problem solving. “The pandemic and climate action are both big monsters facing society that nobody anticipated. Good can come out of them though. When people want to do good they like to collaborate and work together. “People are realising that living simpler doesn’t mean living worse off. We are becoming aware that health is really important and that’s really at the core of both of these issues.”
Pictured (l-r): Eimear Cahalin (CFO). Paul Boylan (Technical Director) and Tracy O’Rourke (CEO),
SFA Fact Did You Know? Earlier this year, Vivid Edge scooped top prize in the ‘Sustainability’ category at the 2020 SFA National Small Business Awards.
Similar to the guidelines for fighting the spread of Covid-19 that have been reiterated for months, O’Rourke applies a similar attitude to her business approach on energy efficiency. “At Vivid Edge, we don’t see it as something that governments and big business have to solve alone,” she states. “This is about society fundamentally living differently – everyone doing their bit. I’m not talking about preaching some impossible way of life. It’s about what gets measured and managed. Little changes in the home and business can have huge impacts overall. “The younger generation is looking to work for companies that are environmentally conscious. Supermarkets are looking at suppliers and their operations to see what’s sustainable. Big businesses are really committing now to meeting targets on sustainability and climate action. “It’s a wonderful time to be a part of that story,” she concludes. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 15
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Sector Spotlight ï€ª Childcare
BETTER BUSINESS CHATS WITH THREE PROVIDERS WITHIN THE CHILDCARE INDUSTRY AND REVIEWS THE OBJECTIVES OF THE NEWLY FORMED CHILDHOOD SERVICES IRELAND SET UP TO ENSURE THE FINANCIAL STABILITY OF THE SECTOR. 16 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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hile the Coronavirus pandemic has plunged several sectors in Ireland into crisis, the early years childcare and education sector had already been in crisis for a long time. The haphazard evolution of the sector started with individuals meeting a need until the government belatedly stepped in to retrofit some form of regulation. Now Pobal (a body set up to administer and manage government and EU funding to address disadvantage and support
Childcare Sector Spotlight
the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), yet sector workers are poorly paid and the quality of childcare here is low. The OECD reported that Irish parents devote 27.8% of their salary to childcare, compared to Czech parents who spend just 2.6%. Parents in Ireland currently pay an average of €177.92 per week for full-time childcare, although the majority of childcare takes place in Dublin where rates are nearer the €250 mark. On the other side of the fence, trade union SIPTU estimates that two-thirds of childcare workers are earning below the living wage of
“WE NOW HAVE INTERACTION WITH THE TWO DEPARTMENTS – DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN, EQUALITY, DISABILITY, INTEGRATION AND YOUTH (DCEDIY) AND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AS WELL AS BODIES SUCH AS POBAL, TUSLA, BETTER START, COUNTY CHILDCARE COMMITTEES, THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH SECTION OF THE HSE. ” social inclusion) estimates that there are roughly 200,000 children attending early years services at 4,600 settings countrywide. The sector finally came to breaking point this year when tens of thousands of service workers and parents took part in a national strike on 5 February. Monthly strikes were planned around the country, but then the pandemic closed everything down and the issues raised during the strike were put on the backburner. If the pandemic served to highlight anything in the early days of the lockdown, it was how reliant our workforce – and consequently our economy – is on crèches and other childcare settings. But with Budget 2021 paying only the briefest of lip service to childcare, it looks like this beleaguered sector is going to have to find another way to bring its case to the attention of the government. There is a fundamental paradox at the root of the childcare problem: Irish parents face one of the most expensive childcare rates in
Regina Bushell, Managing Director, Grovelands Childcare
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Sector Spotlight Childcare
Alec Flood, Company Secretary, Little Rainbows
“THE GOVERNMENT ALSO NEEDS TO RECOGNISE THAT THE MAJORITY OF CHILDCARE BUSINESSES IN IRELAND COMPRISE LESS THAN 20 EMPLOYEES AND, AS A RESULT, ANY REFORMS AND IMPROVEMENTS SHOULD BE TARGETED AT IMPROVING THE VIABILITY OF THESE PROVIDERS.” €12.30 per hour. Combine that with the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) 2019 report ranking Ireland’s childcare sector as the secondworst performing country in Europe and it becomes clear that a major overhaul is required. Regina Bushell is the owner and manager of Grovelands Childcare, which has six settings in Athlone, Tullamore and Mullingar. She is also the founder of early years advocacy group, Seas Suas. She explains that the sector is drowning under the weight of regulatory administration. “We now have interaction with the two departments – the Department of Children,
Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) and the Department of Education, as well as bodies such as Pobal, Tusla, Better Start, County Childcare Committees, the Environmental Health section of the HSE, to mention a few. The involvement of all those organisations has brought with it increased government funding which has to be accounted for and increased administration which the sector is finding very challenging to cope with.” Most crèches have an owner/manager who would ideally be involved in staff development (especially considering the high turnover in the sector), implementing improvements, overseeing quality control, and generally interacting regularly with the staff and children to create a fun, productive, nurturing environment. That is what we all hope when teasing clinging little arms from our legs and handing our precious bundles over to crèches in the morning. However, the magnitude of administration required means that, in reality, most managers are unwillingly tied to their computers waiting for frustrating systems like the National Childcare Scheme’s registration portal to stop crashing so that they can keep operations flowing. If they are able to function in their actual role as manager, it’s mainly because they bite the bullet and do the administration in the evenings. Alec Flood, Company Secretary of Little Rainbows in north Dublin, agrees that the administration requirements are a burden on crèches. He also highlights the second major problem facing childcare providers. “Since 2016, it has been a regulatory requirement to have a minimum of Level 5 NFQ in Childcare,” he states. “As a result, there has been much more focus on recruiting graduates because of the government’s objective of having a graduate-led workforce in childcare. Childcare providers broadly agree that increased qualifications will improve the quality of the childcare sector. However, many also believe that this is not the only criteria for improved quality and that continued training, improved employment terms and conditions, such as pay rates and pensions schemes for early years workers, is essential to ensure a balanced improvement in quality.” With early indicators suggesting that enrolment in early years education courses in 2020 is down significantly owing to the pandemic, the problem of recruiting graduates is only set to worsen. Elaine Dunne, owner of Treehouse Montessori and Chairperson of the Federation of Early Childhood Providers, explains how a lack of government funding is at the core of the recruitment problem. “Only 5% of graduates are coming back out to work in the sector. The rest are going on to do social work and other things like that. The DCEDIY is telling us that there are plenty of qualified people out there, but the reality is that they aren’t sitting around waiting for a minimum wage job to come knocking. Most of them have used their childcare qualification as a back-door entry into other better-paid careers.” Dunne believes that this lack of staff availability is causing extreme anxiety for many childcare operators. There is a further fear that the extraordinary levels of administration required will mean smaller services are forced out of the sector as doing administration of this level is only logistically feasible for large chains. Of the 4,600 providers countrywide, only about 9% have multiple branches, and many of those are only two or three within the same locality. Alec Flood says that the government needs to take the Irish early years landscape into consideration when making any future reforms.
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Childcare Sector Spotlight
“In relation to the future sustainability of the sector, I accept that there may be a degree of consolidation where more and more European style childcare chains exist, but the government also needs to recognise that the majority of childcare businesses in Ireland comprise less than 20 employees and, as a result, any reforms and improvements should be targeted at improving the viability of these providers.”
Increasing frustration The decision to close crèches on 12 March sent the sector into a panic as already razor-thin margins created concerns about whether staff would get paid. Regina Bushell participated in an advisory group to the DCEDIY on childcare provision during the Covid-19 outbreak. She says that they were able to finally get the government to engage with them and made some meaningful progress, for example with restart grants to allow providers to reopen on 29 June 2020 and bridge the gap between then and the end of August when the new pre-school year commenced. However, Bushell does voice her frustration: “It begs the question as to why it took the emergence of a global pandemic to get the department to engage in meaningful consultation with the sector.” Because of the dire situation in the early years sector, Budget 2021 was awaited with baited breath. Advocacy groups like Early Childhood Ireland and the National Women’s Council of Ireland called on the government to increase spending on the early years sector from the current 0.2% of GDP to 0.5% by 2023 and bring it in line with the Unicef benchmark of 1% by 2025. Unfortunately, despite a whopping €17.75bn pot to draw from, childcare was almost entirely overlooked. Teresa Heeney, CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, published a press release in which her frustrations at the inadequacies of the budget were apparent. ‘We are relieved to see the Employment Wage Support Scheme extended for the childcare sector, but in the grand scheme of challenges that providers have been facing for some years now, this is a short-term sticking plaster at best,” it stated. The incumbent minister of the DCEDIY, Roderic O’Gorman, has said that he is awaiting the findings of two reports in the new year before outlining any government decisions on how to increase funding to the sector. However most within the sector agree that there is already a mountain of research available. This oversight by the government further entrenches the idea that childcare is a vocation rather than a viable career path. When asked, Elaine Dunne freely admits that she does it out of sentiment rather than financial gain. “My business is not sustainable. I haven’t drawn a wage for myself since June. But the one thing I get every day is job satisfaction. Every day I know that what I’m doing is making a difference and giving young people the best possible start in life. If I could run my business on hugs I would be a rich woman.” Regina Bushell echoes these frustrations and comments that, despite the government starting to engage on some aspects, it doesn’t seem to be willing to put its money where its mouth is yet. “The most immediate challenge is to deal with the staffing crises, which has existed for the past few years but it has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” she reiterates. “It is almost impossible to recruit support staff because of the restrictions due to the requirement for qualifications. Temporary emergency measures are needed, but the government is not listening for now at least.”
Elaine Dunne, owner, Treehouse Montessori
“MY BUSINESS IS NOT SUSTAINABLE. I HAVEN’T DRAWN A WAGE FOR MYSELF SINCE JUNE. BUT THE ONE THING I GET EVERY DAY IS JOB SATISFACTION.” A better future In order to make its needs heard and avoid being overlooked again, the early years sector will need to consolidate its stance and speak to the government through one unified platform. To that end, Child Services Ireland is a newly created trade association for early years service providers with an aim of creating a unified platform and the last word in childcare advocacy. Bushell is optimistic that it could be the solution. “The biggest challenge in the long term is bringing the sector providers together with one voice, whether they are sessional, full-day, school age, independent or community,” she comments. “For at least 15 years I have worked at bringing providers together, and it has been like a game of snakes and ladders. The DCEDIY has a difficulty deciding who to listen to, but if Childcare Services Ireland can achieve this, it will set us all on course for a better future.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 19
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Advice Wise Guys
SIX INDUSTRY EXPERTS SHARE ONE PERSONAL NUGGET OF ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS.
MARKET RESEARCH Charlie Butler COO, Bounce Insights
Be courageous. I think this is the most important trait for any aspiring entrepreneur, as it drives effective decisionmaking. There is a common feeling of ‘imposter syndrome’ for many people starting their own business; a feeling which is accelerated when you are young as you feel like you don’t have the knowledge, skills or experience to pull it off. That is simply not the case. With the right vision, the right attitude and the right people around you, there is no reason why you can’t launch a successful business. As I learned from Ben Horowitz, indecision is the inhibitor of innovation. I would sooner be wrong and learn from my mistakes, than remain idle and guess ‘What if?’
PUBLIC RELATIONS Sharon Bannerton Managing Director, Bannerton PR
In PR, you’re supporting a range of clients with diverse needs. Frequently, many need your attention at the same time. I aim to be productive, rather than busy. I look at what needs to be done and assess which activity and outcomes will most add benefit, both to clients and to the Bannerton business. It’s too easy to react to people or things as soon as they hit the desk, or to get distracted by the phone or the inbox filling rapidly. Get in the habit of doing a quick cost-benefit analysis on each task, and it becomes easier to prioritise and to be productive, rather than a busy fool.
HEALTH Brian Fitzpatrick Managing Director, Oriel Marine Extracts
Surround yourself with those who make or challenge you to be better. This is not just a mantra; for us, it is a proven philosophy. The right people are not always the ones who will agree with you, or the ones with the cash – they are most likely the ones that, through looking at what you are doing, put potential roadblocks and challenges in your path and force you to find the way to turn these roadblocks into opportunities.
There are many definitions, but there’s one thing that all great business leaders agree on, and that’s how success can only come by persevering despite failure.
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Wise Guys Advice
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
SURGERY Dr Altona Myers Owner, Facial Rejuve
Starting out on your own is daunting; but it is also hugely satisfying and rewarding. My advice is to find something you love and are passionate about – and just start! If you wait until you feel your product or service is perfect, who knows when you will actually start? Be prepared for the grind and put the work in. Focus on setting and achieving small incremental goals – setting realistic goals and milestones is key to building long-term success. Try to build a team of like-minded people who share the same vision as you. For me, building long and meaningful relationships with each of my customers has been the cornerstone to the business success.
If you are a business leader
DESIGN Aveline O’Sullivan
Owner, Bloom in a Box Be passionate, and have a little fun, as it is essential to keep going. Relationships are the key to everything; your relationships with your customers will either make you or break you. Good relationships and being honest on the journey will get you out of many difficult situations. Be kinder and more patient with yourself, as starting a business can be a lonely journey, and it will take longer than you expect. Take the wins and celebrate them. Keep focused on the end game and the destination, but be prepared to veer-off the path occasionally, or even try a new route. Listen and be open to ideas, while also trusting your own judgement.
Malcolm X, human rights activist (1925-1965)
COFFEE Graham Mongey Managing Director, J.J. Darboven
My advice for any aspiring entrepreneurs is to be brave. You need to set aside fear and the feeling of ‘what if it doesn’t work’. You need to be able to try new things and do not, under any circumstances, listen to the people who are negative. It is imperative to drive your business forward relentlessly. Finally, make sure to set aside real time every week to actually think of new ideas. Be creative and use your imagination. Don’t be afraid to sit down and think – it is not a waste of time.
and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with he small business community please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cover Story ï€ª National Broadband Ireland
David McCourt, Executive Chairman, National Broadband Ireland
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National Broadband Ireland Cover Story
On the roadto
NATIONAL BROADBAND IRELAND EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN DAVID MCCOURT IS PASSIONATE ABOUT CONNECTING THE NATION. HE TALKS TO BETTER BUSINESS ABOUT HIS GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND AND EMPOWER ENTREPRENEURS.
announced in 2012, the National Broadband Plan (NBP) is a Government initiative to ensure every Irish premises has access to high-speed broadband service. After a series of stops and starts, the €3bn contract was finally signed in November 2019, in what former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described as the “biggest investment in rural Ireland ever and the most significant since rural electrification”. The successful bidder for this initiative is National Broadband Ireland (NBI), a consortium led by the global telecom investors, Granahan McCourt. The role of NBI is to design, build and operate a high-speed fibre broadband network in the country. It will follow the NBP roadmap (known as the Intervention Area), which incorporates 544,000 homes, farms and businesses, covering 96pc of Ireland’s land mass. David C. McCourt is the man behind the ambitious plan. A Boston-bred entrepreneur with roots in Craughwell, Co. Galway, McCourt has decades of experience in the communications sector. He recalls a few key milestones that set him on the path to success, one of which was a failed attempt to become a police officer. His father refused to let him wallow and instead urged him to contact the local Congress representative. This meeting set off a chain reaction of opportune meetings that saw McCourt go on to work for Irish-American politician Tip O’Neill and make connections with the Federal Communications Commission. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 23
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Cover Story National Broadband Ireland
One day, while reading about the difficulties of bringing cable TV to the suburbs, he had a thought: “Why don’t they rethink the way they build cable systems?” McCourt’s curiosity spurred him to invent a cheaper and quicker alternative to laying cables, sparking his career in connectivity. He founded McCourt Cable Systems and landed a major contract, becoming “the largest designer and builder of cable systems in America”. He later ventured into telecoms by establishing Corporate Communications Network, which merged with MFS Communications and was acquired for more than $14bn. McCourt went on to build more networks in Europe and South America, earning such accolades as EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year for his contribution to the telecoms industry. Fast-forward a few years, the telecoms mogul is now focused on his role as chair of both Granahan McCourt Capital and NBI. He notes that the road to securing the NBP had a few potholes. “It was a hardfought battle to get this contract. I was always referred to as the ‘last man standing’ in the paper and, when I’d read that, I’d think to myself, you know, I’m the last man willing to stand.” McCourt maintains that NBI is on course with the fibre roll-out, working closely with Eir and The Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to hit the targets. “From a technical standpoint, it’s quite interesting because we’re laying enough fibre to go around the world nearly four times,” he says. The guarantee is that 1.1m people will have access to high-speed fibre broadband within seven years, though there are hopes of completing the plan ahead of time. The initial task for NBI was to lay out a series of Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) around the country to provide free high-speed connectivity at community venues such as town halls, GAA centres
National Broadband Ireland team
and enterprise hubs. The project commenced work last January and the first BCPs were launched in early October. The aim is to reach approximately 275 BCPs by year-end, which McCourt hopes will pave the way for citizens to secure employment, create jobs and grow businesses in rural Ireland.
Rural ambition In the midst of Covid-19, the option to work from home has gone from a perk to a necessity, adding a new level of urgency to the NBP. “Covid has accelerated what was gonna happen and it’s just accelerated it by a full generation,” says McCourt. In his opinion, the potential death knell of the nine-tofive lifestyle is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it might even be an opportunity to rethink our reliance on cities as the epicentre of employment. Companies that insist upon employees being in the office at all times run the risk of cutting a huge chunk of the population out of their talent pool. “Why should our opportunities not be the same no matter where we live; why should we not have an opportunity to work for Arthur Cox, KPMG, Google, Facebook, or anybody else? Why should we have to be down by the canal in Dublin to do that?” McCourt questions. For rural dwellers, the NBP will be a vital platform for nurturing business. And, although speedy broadband is not necessarily a silver bullet for all the issues faced by entrepreneurs, it is an important stepping stone. “Broadband by itself will give you a foundation, and it will be as useful as if you or I had to live in a foundation – it’s not a full house. It’s not the roof, the windows, the doors, the living room, the kitchen. It’ll give you something but it won’t solve all the problems, and we can’t ignore that,” McCourt urges. “We need to empower people; we need all the other arrows in our quiver to make sure people have jobs, and they could be hired by global companies or they could create their own business or they could grow their own business.” Rural and urban differences aside, all entrepreneurial-minded people need to be adaptable in the face of inevitable challenges. As outlined in his new best-selling book, Total Rethink: Why Entrepreneurs Should Act Like Revolutionaries, McCourt says existing institutions and practices need a complete overhaul if we are to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead. “We need to rethink everything about society the way we knew it,” he advises. “You might not want to be an entrepreneur, but at least think like one. You might not want to be a revolutionary, but think like one.” What about those who are hesitant to welcome the benefits that accompany a speedy internet connection, such as a mobile-friendly website and
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National Broadband Ireland Cover Story
“THE SOLUTION THAT IRELAND IS TAKING, WHICH IS INCREDIBLY BOLD AND INCREDIBLY BRAVE, IS TO SAY, ‘WE’RE GONNA REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND’ – AND THE FIRST STEP IS CONNECTIVITY.” contactless payment? For McCourt, this reticence is not an option. “If they’re not willing to change in a world that’s changing this fast, then the future’s not so good for them.” He adds: “For businesses that are willing to embrace the new world, then the opportunities are endless.”
Past the finish line Speaking from his Irish base in Co. Clare, McCourt is clearly passionate about his heritage and is eager to see first-hand the benefits that fibre broadband will bring. In his view, the NBP is propelling Ireland to new heights on the global stage. “Ireland has been the Rolls-Royce in many areas,” he says, citing the smoking ban and citizens’ assemblies as proof that the country is a forward thinker when it comes to necessary change. “The Europeans’ mission has been to create a gigabit economy by 2025 and Ireland, again, is going to be the Rolls-Royce in that … In America we have this ‘Revitalising Rural America’ programme but it’s not as far along as the National Broadband Plan,” he adds. When the NBP was first unveiled, the minimum
speed promised was 30Mbps. That figure is now 500Mbps, “a world-leading speed”, according to the NBI chair. “The solution that Ireland is taking, which is incredibly bold and incredibly brave, is to say, ‘We’re gonna rejuvenate rural Ireland’ – and the first step is connectivity.” Residents who have languished on the wrong side of the digital divide for years will finally be connected to the online world. Lengthy commutes could become a thing of the past as the average employee opts to make use of the high-speed internet in their own home, working for a multinational while overlooking a scenic view. McCourt concludes: “The rural community has millions of talented men and women that want to work for one of those companies, to support their families, or grow a business or start a business. So, we’re excited for the communities to start realising those benefits, which we think are going to be transformational.” Though a tumultuous year in many industries, the NBP at least appears to be right on track as rural Ireland gets set to broaden its horizons and reap the broadband benefits. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 25
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FOR SMALL MANUFACTURING BUSINESSES, THIS YEAR HAS BEEN A STRANGE TIME, WHERE OPTIMISM, INNOVATION AND STRATEGIC THINKING HAVE BEEN THE KEY TO SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS. DEANNA O’CONNOR REPORTS.
manufacturing industry has been on a rollercoaster ride throughout the past few months. Modern industries such as pharma and IT have been more cushioned, while in the traditional sectors such as food and forestry, greater falls in figures have occurred. Economic confidence has gone up and down, regressing in August after improving in early summer. Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed manufacturing production was 11.6% down year-on-year in May when most of the economic restrictions curtailing movement were still in place. Then in July the sector showed its greatest bounds forward after the sharp increase in activity following the reopening of international markets. Speaking in September Dr Loretta O’Sullivan, Group Chief Economist at Bank of Ireland summed up the likely future ahead, saying, “There is a growing sense emerging nationally that things may be somewhat ‘stop-start’ over the coming months.” Beyond that, who can say, as 2020 continues to challenge us all on every level – personally, professionally, mentally and strategically. This month our four interviewees, with vastly different manufacturing operations, inspire with their innovation and determination in challenging times.
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Merenda is a family business established in 1984, headquartered in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim. The company is dedicated to manufacturing high-quality wood veneer component products for furniture makers, interior joiners and fitted kitchens. With over 35 years’ experience dedicated to the craft, the skilled team manufactures superior products according to specific architectural requirements, and exports to 12 countries. As the new generation at the helm of the business, Haslette is bringing both updated technology and a keen interest in best practices in management to the
RONAN HASLETTE, MANAGING DIRECTOR, MERENDA
“WE’RE A FAMILY BUSINESS, BUT OUR ATTITUDE IS THAT WE CAN BE AS GOOD AS ANYBODY IN THE WORLD. BUT TO DO THAT YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN YOUR TEAM.” family firm. “We’re a family business, but our attitude is that we can be as good as anybody in the world,” says Haslette. “But to do that you have to believe in your team firstly, and you also have to focus on their skillset and their education and how you can continually improve them, the way they plan, organise themselves and structure their workload. We try and get 1% better every day – that’s the attitude.” While the factory was closed during lockdown, Haslette implemented a personal development programme. “Once a week we went through personal development and team development, using talks from TED Talks, which we aligned with the strategy of the organisation. My theory, and what I told all my staff when we went into lockdown, was that we would come back stronger.” The lockdown had given Haslette a chance to finalise a new strategy, bearing in mind that his company supplies specialist joinery companies that would be fitting out bars, hotels and offices, sectors that will no doubt see challenging times ahead. “Without giving too much away, the intent is to innovate and evolve the organisation, and do more value-added products. That’s in the broadest sense, and within that there are key pillars of how we do what we do, the what and the why. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. “We’ve upped our lean programme significantly to make us a more efficient organisation from an operational perspective, and we’ll be launching an e-commerce site early next year. And we’ll be launching brand and an innovative new product.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 27
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My Name is Ted designs and manufactures luxury leather bags and accessories for men and women with seamlessly incorporated tech features, such as wireless charging and GPS tracking. Pre-Covid the company was in talks with international buyers from the Chinese and US markets and on a high after Irish celebrity Laura Whitmore had worn one of their bags to London Fashion Week. As the pandemic spread, talks with exciting prospective new retailers stalled, and the company pivoted its strategy to online retail. “By the time we tried to move with the contracts it was all on hold,” explains Kasia GaborecMcEvoy, co-founder. “Our plan had been to go abroad and gain exposure in international markets, but we had to readjust and focus on online sales.” Despite the challenges of this year, Gaborec-McEvoy estimated that their business is up 40% on last year. “We are thrilled that people are supporting local businesses and buying from Irish brands. We were also lucky to be selected as one of the brands featured in Brown Thomas as part of their Create programme, and they are restocking us for Christmas which is brilliant and great opportunity for us as a brand.” Some of the growth is down to quick-thinking and new product innovation. She recalls, “It was the fastest product development ever. It came into my mind at 2am one Saturday night when I couldn’t sleep, I shared it with my husband in the morning, he designed it on Sunday, we sent the design to our factory in Italy on Monday and had the prototype in our hands by Thursday.” The product in question, HandySan, is a leather carry case for a hand sanitiser bottle that could clip on to a handbag, keyring or belt loop. “We are back talking to American retailers now and they are very keen to get it into the market. It’s solving a problem, and keeping our customers stylish and safe.” Like most Irish fashion design brands, they manufacture abroad – currently Italy in the case of My Name is Ted. Despite the factory being located in one of the areas most affected by Covid in Italy, Gaborec-McEvoy says they were able to keep working. “They were able to adjust more quickly than bigger manufacturers, and could put all the social distancing requirements in place quickly. At the time Italy went into total lockdown we had enough stock to keep us going. We were nervous about fulfilling orders, but they did deliver. They were flexible and wanted to keep the business going.”
KASIA GABOREC-MCEVOY, CO-FOUNDER, MY NAME IS TED
“WE ARE THRILLED THAT PEOPLE ARE SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES AND BUYING FROM IRISH BRANDS.”
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ELLIOT HUGHES Dingle Distillery launched in 2012, founded by Elliot’s father, the late Oliver Hughes, along with Liam LaHart and Peter Mosley, the people behind Porterhouse Brewing Company, one of the pioneers of craft brewing in Ireland. While the small independent distillery was founded to produce whiskey, they made gin and vodka to pass the time while waiting for the first whiskey to mature in its cask, a process that takes three years. While there are now over 50 Irish gin brands, Dingle Gin was one of only two gins being produced in Ireland at the time. It was a runaway success, and last year beat off competition from over 400 gins from all around the world to win both the World’s Best London Dry Gin and the overall award for World’s Best Gin 2019. “We were performing quite well and were quite happy with how things had gone coming into 2020. We were about to do our biggest whiskey release yet, and had quite aggressive plans to further grow the gin numbers this year,” says Elliot Hughes, Managing Director, Dingle Distillery. “Our whiskey launch was planned for 24 March, so we had to cancel, and didn’t hit the ground running with that release as much as we would have liked. “We’ve always been quite strong in the on-trade and, obviously business in the off-trade has gone up, but not to the same degree to make up for losses there. Also, one of the biggest revenue generators for a
ELLIOT HUGHES, MANAGING DIRECTOR, DINGLE DISTILLERY
lot of the distilleries would be through the airport Duty Free sales. Those would be our two biggest fall-offs this year.” The other usual activity in the distillery is tours, but Hughes says this was “more of a brand builder than a revenue generator” leading to social media activity, recommendations, and people leaving with a sense of expertise about the brand, which they love to pass on. During lockdown, with supplies of sanitiser hard to come by, the distillery, which employs around 24 staff between
the distillery in Dingle and salespeople on the road, turned its attention to producing hand sanitiser to ensure local businesses were adequately stocked up. “There were a lot of queries around whether we would be allowed in terms of tax implications, but things were moving at quite a pace back in March so we quickly made a decision, and the vast majority of our activity moved into hand sanitiser. It was extremely labour intensive, but the guys were working hard and it was good to keep people in the distillery and keep things ticking over.”
“WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN QUITE STRONG IN THE ON-TRADE AND, OBVIOUSLY BUSINESS IN THE OFF-TRADE HAS GONE UP, BUT NOT TO THE SAME DEGREE TO MAKE UP FOR LOSSES THERE.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 29
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RONAN CLARKE While Smarter Surfaces founder Ronan Clarke was working in the construction industry, a customer asked him to cover an entire meeting room with whiteboards. Ronan quickly realised that this solution wouldn’t fit their needs; he wondered if it would be possible to create a solution to write on the entire wall seamlessly and the idea for Smarter Surfaces was born. “We’re really in the business of simple tools that help people communicate and work together in a school or office environment,” explains Clarke. “They’re very simple but have a powerful effect on how people can learn.” Looking back to how things were going before the pandemic hit, he recalls, “We went into the year in a good place and had a very good Q1. But that’s business isn’t it, that’s how it goes. Having been in the construction industry previously, going through the last recession was a very painful experience.” He is generally optimistic about how well business has held up, saying, “We’re probably seeing, overall, the business is down about 30%. Some markets, like the UK, are quite badly down, but other markets like Australia, the USA and Germany have held up very well.” With distributors in 25 countries, Clarke has had illuminating discussions with his global network, and can see how some markets are holding up better than others: “There are government supports in countries like Australia and New Zealand, compared to our distributors in Eastern Europe,
who are getting very little. We’re very lucky in Ireland, and we’re getting the same kind of support as our peers in the Netherlands and Germany, which is huge at times like this.” When asked the secret of growing export markets, he sums it up in two words: “Pain and hardship! Our business model has evolved now, and we are still recruiting new distributors now and building relationships. Even in countries that are in difficulty, people are still looking for opportunities and to expand their product range.” As the world turns their back on their offices, Ronan admits, “The projects have gotten smaller, and the sales are down, but it’s still the same profile of customer. We see in various markets, government grant money for small works is flowing through and people are investing in their spaces. Although we are primarily B2B we have noticed a pick-up in the home office market also. Our R&D is looking forward to the new workspace and the new world reality. We are now developing products that are going to address the new concerns of the workplace.”
“THE PROJECTS HAVE GOTTEN SMALLER, AND THE SALES ARE DOWN, BUT IT’S STILL THE SAME PROFILE OF CUSTOMER.”
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Ian McShane ï€© Interview
M U E S R N O CURVE
E H T
BETTER BUSINESS PICKS THE BRAINS OF MARKETING EXPERT IAN MCSHANE TO REVIEW EMERGING CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR TRENDS THAT WILL SHAPE THE ECONOMIC OUTLOOK AS WE CONTINUE TO EVOLVE TO A WORLD WITH COVID-19.
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Interview Ian McShane
being present in Ireland for many months, the damage to small businesses throughout Ireland has been widespread and profound. Within this changing economic landscape, consumer behaviour is evolving rapidly. Proactive and regular communication with customers is key to ensure your business is well positioned to survive this difficult period, whilst the importance of keeping abreast of any shifts in the economic playing field is increasingly evident. Vastly experienced across quantitative and qualitative market research services, Ian McShane has been at the helm of independent market research agency Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) since 2006. Here, he outlines why it’s more important than ever to stay focused on what you can influence and control, while, at the same time, planning for the uptick in growth when it does come.
Q. What does your role as Executive Chairman at B&A involve? Ian: All of B&A’s Executive Directors and shareholders fulfill
both strategic management and client project management roles. In addition to contributing to B&A’s future direction strategy as Chairman of the Board, most of my time is actually spent generating new business, designing research solutions for a range of clients, and advising key clients on their own strategies based on B&A’s research insights. Q. How has the industry evolved since you first entered it? Ian: I entered the research insights business in the mid-
eighties during a fairly severe recession, and very much in the pre-digital age! Apart from the migration of a sizeable proportion of both our quantitative and qualitative work to digital platforms, the very nature of what we do has also evolved enormously. At a conceptual level, all of the work B&A produces is by now rooted in the academic and theoretical constructs of behavioural economics, psychology, sociology and ethnography. The type of relationship between research agency and client has also changed over the years from a classic client-supplier dynamic to one of strategic partnership. Q. How should SMEs in Ireland provide clients with a deeper understanding of the markets within which they operate? Ian: Although it sounds obvious, the most critical aspect
of any client project is the initial briefing stage, where the strategic business objectives of the exercise are teased out at the finest level of detail. An initial client interactive session should usually be conducted prior to signing off on the ultimate research design, as this meeting will often identify critical client needs which may not necessarily have been included in the original written brief. The second stage of the process is then of course to design what is usually a tailored and bespoke research solution for the project, and this will often be a blend of qualitative and quantitative research. Finally, a truly deep understanding of the client’s market will emerge from analysis and interpretation of the research findings. At B&A we often submit the research data to advanced data analytics to ensure we can provide a 360-degree view of the market.
Q. As Irish SMEs adapt to a new world, what are the key challenges they face? Ian: One quite functional challenge facing SMEs relates to
how their organisations can be configured to cater for the accelerated move towards working from home. Brexitrelated challenges range from uncertainty around potential supply chain disruptions, fears of increased tariffs and rates, staff retention, and also the already mounting increase in administrative documentation required. A number of other challenges then straddle both Brexit and Covid-19, not least being concerns around cash-flow, and the need for Government supports as SMEs shy away from taking on any more debt. Q. How have consumer trends and behaviours changed during the pandemic? And will these trends remain post-pandemic? Ian: From the beginning of the pandemic B&A has tracked
consumer behaviour and attitudes by way of panel-based ethnographic diary research. Perhaps the most profound behavioural shift throughout the pandemic has been a marked increase in consumer saving and debt reduction behaviour, resulting in significant amounts of disposable cash on deposit. All of B&A’s research over the last number of months has confirmed this trend, and there is clearly a significant pent-up demand waiting to be released into the economy once consumer confidence improves. Our research also indicates that some categories are likely to benefit more so than others as the economy begins to recover. For example, the home improvement and DIY market will remain strong over the coming months, as will people’s investment in new technology and in-home entertainment platforms. Other trends likely to continue post-pandemic include affordable food and drink product treats, household goods and restaurant dining. B&A is also happy to predict that people will begin shopping for the Christmas period earlier than ever this year – partly to ensure that Santa’s presents are still in stock, but also to make this Christmas more magical than ever before, as recompense for the misery of 2020.
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Ian McShane Interview
Q. Are consumers increasingly going online with their purchasing? Ian: Yes, all of our pandemic period tracking
research confirms that more and more shoppers have moved online in recent months. For example, just last month 52% of all Irish adult consumers reported that they were now purchasing more products and services online than they were before the pandemic. However, this is not to say that we feel traditional retail is doomed. Our ‘Shaping Ireland’s Future’ retail study conducted a couple of months ago highlighted steps that could be taken to retain the attention and custom of grocery shoppers. For example, solutions from larger retailers to meet the consumers’ need for speed and safety in executing their shop as efficiently as possible, local retailers capitalising on the benefits of shopping near to home while supporting the local economy, etc. Q. Are we seeing a rise in conscious consumption? Is there a growing desire to shop local? Ian: Our September tracker research indicated that Ian McShane, Executive Chairman, Behaviour & Attitudes
Q. WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR SMES LOOKING TO STAY CONNECTED WITH CONSUMERS AT PRESENT? The easiest advice to service sector SMEs is to invest in a decent customer experience research programme through which they can immediately identify what their consumers needs are, and how they can best be met. Where budgets are perhaps a little tighter, a great starting point would be to review and update your customer or client database and instigate regular email correspondence with the consumer, even if only to keep them abreast of future plans and initiatives. Arguably the least expensive and effective means of staying connected with your consumer is to maintain a regular social media presence and don’t be afraid to invest some time in search engine optimisation to maximise your brand’s online search salience.
37% of Irish adults were purchasing more Irish brands from smaller local shops and suppliers since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. This behaviour was obviously influenced by the tendency to shop nearer to home at the height of Lockdown restrictions. Follow-up interviews with our panellists confirmed however that they would like to continue shopping locally where possible, and that doing so had the added benefit of knowing they were helping to support the local economy. It will therefore be imperative for retailers to continue to provide true value for money to the consumer, recognising at the same time that good value need not always equate to the lowest price. Q. Should SMEs be reimagining new ways of working? Ian: Yes, this is undoubtedly the case, especially
in relation to facilitating at least part-time home working, as well as investing in employee programmes designed to protect the health and mental wellbeing of staff. Our TAM Ireland Covid research tracker confirmed that in May of this year, 30% of all Irish adults were working from home, either full-time or part-time. As Covid restrictions have lifted, the proportion of people working from home has dropped to around 20%. But there is still a long way to go before everyone is back in the workplace, and the indications are that many – if not the majority – will settle on a blend of home/office-based work. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 33
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Feature Digital Transformation
TRANSFORMATION CORONAVIRUS HAS PUSHED THE ACCELERATOR ON CHANGE. BUT, WHEN IT COMES TO DIGITAL ADOPTION, WILL COVID-19 FAST FORWARD US TO THE FUTURE? COLIN WHITE SPEAKS WITH DIGITAL STRATEGY EXPERT PROFESSOR THEO LYNN.
has been a year unlike any other in our lifetime. We’ve experienced a shift in behaviour, in practices and in direction. And for SMEs, the potential benefits of digital adoption are becoming increasingly apparent as technologies continue to transform the way we operate and innovate. As both Professor of Digital Business at DCU Business School and Principal Investigator at the Irish Institute of Digital Business, Professor Theo Lynn is passionate about promoting the adoption of digital technologies and the transformation of businesses. Lynn’s primary focus is on research and the applied end of the spectrum, working with companies and exploring how digital technologies impact real lives. “I primarily teach digital marketing and strategy,” comments Lynn, “so our reach really informs both our teaching and how we engage with wider community. To some, my research seems eclectic, as it ranges from cloud computing and social media to Big Data and the Internet of Things (IoT) and how these technologies are used to solve problems in business or society.” The Irish Institute of Digital Business at DCU is committed to an array of funded projects. The organisation has a number of these with companies or local authorities running at any given time, as well as and then a couple of notable European Union projects. “We’ve just started a €5m Horizon 2020 project to explore how digital technologies can accelerate deep renovation of the European housing stock,” says Lynn. “It’s quite exciting, because it is really about transforming a significant chunk of the construction sector and could be a great opportunity for the Irish ICT and construction industry.” The use of digital technologies, data and applications across industries is opening the potential for enhancing productivity. And Covid-19 will undoubtedly accelerate the shift to digital and fundamentally shake up the business landscape, according to Professor Lynn. “We have two crises: a health one and an economic one,” he states. “These are changing consumer behaviour and some of those changes will be, if not permanent, long lasting. Driven by need, businesses have accelerated the digitalisation of their employee, interfaces, interactions, customer and supply chain processes by years. Mostly likely achieving much more than they would or could have in a steady state. “More companies are moving to the cloud, embracing teleworking, selling online, rethinking last mile delivery, and their employees and customers are adapting. Some business sectors have shown how resilient they – and their workers – are, but the real test is how many of them improve and grow as a result of the Covid-19 experience.”
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Digital Transformation Feature
unavailability and data protection as we rely more and more on digital technology. While remote working has kept businesses open, it has opened a new frontline for cyber attacks.”
Theo Lynn, Professor of Digital Business, DCU Business School and Principal Investigator, Irish Institute of Digital Business
Changing direction The difficulties being faced by small business owners within the challenging economic outlook is dependent on what sector and what stage in the organisational life cycle the business is in. “If your revenues were in decline before Covid-19,” says Lynn, “and you’re in a sector being adversely impacted by the pandemic, that decline is probably accelerating and it depends whether you can change direction.” “So at a real strategic level, a lot of CEOs have serious questions to ask themselves about the relevance and
Now, more than ever, it is vital for Irish small firms to understand the concept of digitalisation to ensure competitiveness in a post-Covid landscape. In terms of investments in technology, if any small firm had reservations about moving to the cloud, these have, more than likely, evaporated after the last number of months. “Apart from enabling scalability,” says Lynn, “it [the cloud] shifts risk and injects resilience into your technology environment and, if done right, improves your cashflow significantly. You are literally able to leverage the scale and distinct competences and capabilities that Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, Salesforce, etc. have in cloud computing and cybersecurity so that you can focus on satisfying your customers.” He continues: “Any technology that reduces costs, improves quality of services, generates new revenues or creates competitive advantage is worth investing in. I can’t think of a single industry that can’t benefit from more data, programmability and new customer interfaces. However, research suggests that large companies are up six times more likely than SMEs to leverage the data that IoT generates.” Lynn also points to three major challenges that
“MORE COMPANIES ARE MOVING TO THE CLOUD, EMBRACING TELEWORKING, SELLING ONLINE, RETHINKING LAST MILE DELIVERY, AND THEIR EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS ARE ADAPTING. SOME BUSINESS SECTORS HAVE SHOWN HOW RESILIENT THEY – AND THEIR WORKERS – ARE, BUT THE REAL TEST IS HOW MANY OF THEM IMPROVE AND GROW AS A RESULT OF THE COVID-19 EXPERIENCE.” sustainability of their business against the backdrop of uncertainty and changing consumer behaviour, amongst other things.” Lynn believes others may look at this as an opportunity to accelerate changes in direction, or to double down on existing initiatives. “I think, somewhat ironically, leaders have probably become more a part of their team and are communicating better as a result of Covid-19 and increased digitalisation. I also think CEOs have a greater appreciation of their high performers and high potential staff, but also of risk. The risk of losing key team members, but also the risks associated with
have been an influence on why some small firms have struggled to implement IoT technology: people, risk and money. “SMEs typically lack awareness of IoT and how it could transform their business. They often also lack the skills to exploit IoT management, are relatively risk averse when it comes to data, and simply don’t have the money to invest in it. It’s a mind-set problem.” Professor Lynn concludes by urging SMEs to take urgent action and embrace digital technology. “If you think right now is early in terms of digital adoption, you are already late,” he stresses. “Digital transformation offers a business the opportunity to define a new normal for the company and its customers.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 35
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Trading Places ï€ª Colin Brett
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FOUNDER OF WATERFORD-BASED PLAYERSTAT DATA COLIN BRETT DISCUSSES HIS WORKING LIFE IN CANADA, NEW ZEALAND AND LONDON BEFORE MOVING HOME TO WATERFORD TO FOCUS ON HIS CAREER AS A SPORTING PERFORMANCE DATA EXPERT.
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Colin Brett Trading Places
olin Brett is a hard man to keep up with. His days as a goalkeeper in the Waterford junior leagues are well behind him, but it’s clear football is in the man’s blood. He set up PlayerStat Data three years ago, which goes by the tagline ‘Accurate, intelligent player performance data solutions’. Brett jokes, “It’s not quite as catchy as ‘Just do it’, we’ll have to work on that.” Whilst it might be a bit of a mouthful, his slogan succinctly lays out exactly what his company is all about. Focusing on League of Ireland matches for the moment, Brett watches every Premier Division match and collects data across 50 different metrics per player, then correlates the data and sells subscriptions to the information. Becoming a sports analyst wasn’t an inevitability for Brett. After finishing his master’s degree in Waterford IT, he freely admits he was a homebird. “I had no intention of leaving Waterford when I graduated. In fact Dublin was too far for me when I graduated. But my nowwife gave me a nudge. She took me to Manhattan for five days and that was it, I realised there’s a big world out there and you’ve got to see it.”
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Trading Places Colin Brett
Not a man to do things by halves, Brett moved to Toronto, Canada, to work with Virgin Media as an administrator. “Toronto was totally different to Dublin. In Toronto cars would stop to let you cross the road. In Dublin you always felt they were speeding up to try and hit you!” Of course, why move halfway around the world when you can move the whole way around? So he then set off for New Zealand and took up a position in wholesale administration with Toyota Finance New Zealand. Being in New Zealand gave Brett the opportunity to explore interests he wouldn’t have otherwise. “In Auckland I read a book on sports analysis and I immediately thought to myself, this is the life for me. They say that if you work at something you love you never work a day in your life and I felt that this could be the case for me.” In 2014 Brett tried to move back to Ireland, but finding very little work he headed to London. Despite not having a sports science education background, Brett threw his hat into the ring for a position at match analysis company Football Radar. Out of the 475 applicants, Brett managed to score one of the six coveted positions and from there he was on his way. “Football Radar was one of the largest betting analyst companies in the world when I was working with them in London. They were determined to be the smartest people in football and they put a lot of money into R&D and training, so I got an inside track into the market and the way it all works on a scale that would have been very difficult to get access to in Ireland.” After five years in London, Brett finally found his way back to his beloved Waterford. “I loved living in London, but we would spend our holidays coming back and forth for weddings and holidays in Ireland, so we never got the chance to go the other way, over to Europe. And then we were looking to buy a house and start a family and with London you can either save for a deposit and not have a child, or have a child and not save for a deposit.” Once safely back in the Déise, Brett became involved in Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme, which he says was key to building his business. “The New Frontiers programme was big on creating a business model. I thought I would focus on team markets at first, but they helped me develop a much more detailed threepronged subscription model which allows
Colin Brett, founder, PlayerStat Data
teams, agents and players to subscribe and receive regular updates on their stats.” He also praises Paula Fitzsimons and her initiative Back For Business, which is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs. At the moment Brett is using ‘off-the-shelf ’ software to analyse over 8,000 data points over ten teams every weekend. “At the minute it’s very laborious and time intensive. It takes five hours to do each match. But we’re in the early stages of development with Waterford IT, where they’re building an artificial intelligence platform for us to automate as much of that process as possible. That could cut data collection by 80%. The aim is to have that up and running by this time next year so that we can branch into other football markets.” There are other, much larger companies such as InStat Sport and Wyscout doing match performance analysis, but Brett has identified a niche area where they are lacking. Whilst larger firms only offer pre-defined packages, Brett is able to offer bespoke packages that can vary from week to week depending on client needs. This flexibility means his clients can look to improve one aspect of their game in week one and a totally different aspect in week two. “We can change the output that they get that week. For example, a player client might contact us and say that he wasn’t in possession enough in the last week so we can focus then on giving him information on the attacking and defensive side, as well as the possession side.”
A new frontier The recent pandemic came on the back of the most intense two weeks of Brett’s life. For a start, he was trying to find 80 hours a week to keep up with the goals set through the New Frontiers programme to get his business off the ground. He got the keys to his house at the end of February and then his wife went into labour the very next day. Of course, all sport came to a grinding halt when
Ireland went into lockdown two weeks later. “It’s taken a lot from us in one sense, but it gave us the opportunity to get our house in order – literally. If I’d have kept going on that treadmill something would have had to give”, he reflects. He’s taken the opportunity to get his business into the best possible shape for the coming year. “It will come back around. Recruiters for the English clubs in the lower leagues would be my target market and they’ve gone into survival mode for 2020. But Irish footballers are a relatively viable and under-valued recruitment market, so I’m confident when it all picks up again we’ll be in demand.” PlayerStat Data moved into an office in Waterford IT Sports Campus, which is under the management of John Windle. Windle’s goal is to build the campus up to rival UCD’s Belfield sports campus in Dublin and the Waterford Arena gym has won the National Quality Standards Awards’ ‘Best Fitness Facility’ for the third year in a row. Waterford IT is also offering the first e-sports degree in Ireland. “It’s a good place to be,” Brett says. “John Windle is really behind sports tech innovation and there are world-class athletes like Thomas Barr and Phil Healy on site, so there’s plenty of energy in the place.” When asked for what advice he has for the next generation of sports analysts and would-be entrepreneurs, Brett balks up at the idea of being old enough to be able to give advice. “The first thing is you have to work hard. I work seven days a week. I’m up at 6am on weekdays and 7am on the weekends.” He is also keen to point out that you can never read or travel too much. “Travelling really broadened my mind, it brought me into contact with people I would never have spoken to and books I would never have read otherwise. You bring that open-mindedness with you into whatever you do then and it gives you the ability to try new things.”
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Sleep Deprivation Health
> Stress and your hormones
WITHOUT ENOUGH SLEEP, YOU CREATE AN UPHILL BATTLE IN SO MANY DIFFERENT WAYS, WRITES B-WELLHIVE CERTIFIED NUTRITIONIST MICHELLE RYAN.
Lack of sleep also messes with stress hormones, and stress messes with your sleep. It’s a vicious circle and one particularly good reason why it is so important to take the time to unwind before hitting the sack. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones. It should follow a specific pattern throughout the day, starting off low, rising to a peak in the morning to get you out of bed and gradually tailing off towards evening time. Prolonged periods of stress can create an imbalance in this daily rhythm that may lead to cortisol levels being high come night-time. Typically, this would leave you feeling tired but wired – absolutely exhausted, but your head is buzzing when you hit the pillow. Not exactly the recipe for success.
> A good night’s sleep
There are a number of things you can do (or not do) to improve your chances of sleeping well. DO: nT ry to go to bed at the same time every day – your body thrives on routine. n Keep the bedroom completely dark so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful. DON’T:
nE ngage in stimulating activities. nD rink caffeine in the afternoon –
including coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and colas. nU se alcohol to help you sleep – alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
– how much you have and the quality of it – matters even more than you probably realise, and not getting enough is sabotaging your health and any health goals you might have. In this article we share exactly why it matters so much and what to do about it.
You will almost certainly have read some of these tips before. Just knowing the information is not going to give you the restful night’s sleep you are looking for. The only thing that counts is action. You might have a whole list of things on your list already this week but focusing on this one thing might be what you need to see a real shift in everything else. If you’re struggling or would like to know more about how to sleep better, get in touch with Michelle by calling 087 670 4930 or visit www.bwellhive.ie.
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SFA HR Contracts and Inclusion
A COMMITMENT TO CONTRACTS BETTER BUSINESS HIGHLIGHTS THE IMPORTANCE FOR EMPLOYERS TO OFFER ALL EMPLOYEES A DETAILED AND CLEARLY SET OUT CONTRACT ON COMMENCEMENT OF EMPLOYMENT. Employment contracts have evolved over many generations, from the basic verbally agreed conditions between a master and servant, to the more tangible and detailed document of terms and conditions between the employer and employee, which has become the subject of legislation and stringent regulation in more recent times. An employee must receive within five days of their start, a written statement of their contracted terms and conditions of employment, as per provisions of the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994-2012. Such contracts must be clearly presented and understood by both parties and must set out in unambiguous terms, the implications and procedures where there is any material breach. The primary purpose of a contract of employment is to specify the rules concerning
rights and obligations between an employer and employee. It is critical for establishing the conditions under which a relationship in the workplace should exist. The composition of such contract, ideally in a written format, must include both statutory (implied terms) and non-statutory (expressed terms). Implied terms are the broader conditions which are set out by legislation and regulation, such as health and safety in the workplace and application of the minimum wage. Express terms encompass the explicit conditions, agreed and/or negotiated between both parties, including, for example, company sick pay and holiday entitlement. The above agreed terms of a contract, whether implied or expressed, are of paramount importance in clarifying the rights, duties, and responsibilities of both parties from the outset.
In small businesses, a specialist HR manager or administrator who solely focuses on recruitment, selection and onboarding may not exist. As a result, there is a risk of not giving due consideration to employment contracts and many of these businesses do not have formal documentation completed in this regard. Many businesses have established and maintained working relationships with employees over time based on mutual understanding, consensus and through verbal agreement. Where an official document does exist, it may be of a basic or insufficient standard. In the absence of a formal contract of employment, there may often be ambiguity in relation to important terms and conditions which may lead to conflict and tension between the employer and the employee. This may in turn lead to disputes and ultimately an irretrievable breakdown of the employment relationship. From an employer perspective, a contract of employment provides protection as it governs and clarifies the company’s expectation of the employee. It confirms the company’s policies, procedures, and practices in the workplace, such as the disciplinary and grievance code of practice. Where a formal contract does not exist, a significant challenge will arise for the employer if, for example, disciplinary action is required, as standard protocols and approach, such as the employees right to representation and a fair hearing, will not be clearly set out or documented. A further important example would be in the case of the lay-off of an employee. There is no automatic right to do so and unless the right is explicitly included in a contract, legally, the employer would require the employee’s consent before proceeding. The existence of stated terms of employment will ensure that any confusion or ambiguity is minimised. The issue and completion of formal contracts of employment is critical to ensure proper employment procedures and practices exist in the workplace. It is also important to note that a formal contract of employment provides security and reassurance to both the employer and employee at the commencement of employment and can be the basis for the development of a mutually beneficial working relationship.
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Contracts and Inclusion SFA HR
FOSTERING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN A REMOTE ENVIRONMENT Working from home in the coming months will be a reality for a lot of people and it will continue to be a predominant feature of the Irish workplace.
It is imperative that businesses encourage a diverse and inclusive culture that recognises differences and respectful and dignified treatment of employees. The sudden occurrence of the Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the progression of remote working across the world. In a time of unprecedented fear and uncertainty for employees, business models must adapt to meet the needs of the workforce. In doing so, the potential experience of individual isolation and disconnection must be acknowledged and recognised. As a result, inclusiveness is critical to support the wellbeing of staff and help promote the long-term success of the organisation. To embrace diversity and inclusion, employers should: ■ Create awareness by carrying out diversity training and ensure all members of the company understand the policy around it. Employer’s commitments must be followed by concrete actions which will demonstrate to employees that the business is committed to diversity and inclusion. ■ Take time to develop and implement a credible diversity management program. Businesses should follow through on this and ensure it’s not just a box ticking exercise. Ask employees for feedback and use the results to shape future programs and training. ■ Communicate and engage often. Listening is the key to establishing levels of trust and transparency. It would be advised for managers to over communicate with their employees, particularly at the outset, to enhance engagement and to maintain a sense of community and inclusion. ■ Consider availing of Employment Assistance Programs (EAP), which can provide benefits and support to the wellness, health, and resilience of employees. ■ Consider operating communication mediums which will allow employees to communicate virtually. ■ Discuss the company’s objectives and performance milestones with employees. Uncertainty and a lack of information can exacerbate the feelings of disconnect. Remote workers will lose a sense of connection to the business and work colleagues unless it is maintained and nurtured. As the traditional method of employer/employee engagement through face-to-face interaction has become restricted, small businesses must recognise and maximise use of new technologies to engage with existing and potential employees. By utilising appropriate media and having regard to the competencies and abilities of the individual, this new approach to communication can become the norm. It is important to recognise that not all employees will easily accept or be comfortable with this change in work practice. Fostering diversity and inclusion in a remote environment will be critical for business to support and retain the talent that is its workforce.
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SFA Policy Climate Action, Commercial Rents and Budget 2021
policies PROMOTING PROGESSIVE
WE REVIEW THE CLIMATE ACTION AND LOW CARBON DEVELOPMENT (AMENDMENT) BILL, A NEW CODE BETWEEN LANDLORDS AND TENANTS AND THE DETAILS ANNOUNCED IN BUDGET 2021.
TAKING ACTION ON CLIMATE The Programme for Government commits to a 7% average yearly reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade, and to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. In order to drive the implementation of a suite of policies to help achieve this goal, in October the coalition government launched the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2020. The Bill includes the following key elements: ■ Putting the 2050 climate target in law ■ Carbon budgets including a provision for
setting sectoral targets ■ Annually-revised Climate Action Plan ■ Strengthened role for Climate Change
Advisory Council ■ New oversight and accountability by
Oireachtas The Bill draws on recommendations of the cross section of Irish people who took part in the Citizens Assembly on Climate, as well as those of a Joint Oireachtas committee on Climate Action. Despite a commitment in the Programme for Government that the Climate Action Bill would include a section banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, or
A NEW CODE OF CONDUCT FOR COMMERCIAL RENTS EARLIER THIS MONTH THE GOVERNMENT LAUNCHED A NEW CODE OF CONDUCT BETWEEN LANDLORDS AND TENANTS ON COMMERCIAL RENTS. It states that landlords and tenants should act reasonably, swiftly, transparently and in good faith to resolve disputes. While the code states that tenants who are in a position to pay in full should do so, it also states that landlords should seek to share any benefits they have received due to deferral of loan payments with the tenant in a proportionate manner. It also lists some of the issues to consider when determining the impact on a business and the tenant’s need for a concession, and it outlines suggested options for new arrangements. Additionally, the code looks at how disputes over service and insurance charges could be resolved. Over recent weeks SFA have been actively working with Government officials to ensure the needs of small businesses are reflected in the voluntary code.
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Climate Action, Commercial Rents and Budget 2021
the importation of second-hand petrol and diesel cars from that date, the newly published Bill does not include this. The bill proposes greater accountability and oversight by the Oireachtas with all relevant ministers required to give account for their sectors annually. The Bill does not define sectors, but we believe they will likely be: energy, industry and commercial, agriculture, transport and waste. The SFA will monitor the passing of this Bill to understand what relevant sectors will be included and the level of targets. In our general election manifesto, SFA called for the setting of clear and definite environmental targets. While we welcome putting targets into law, we continue to call for policies and incentives to help small businesses transition to a lowcarbon economy. And look for additional State supports to identify and exploit opportunities from the green economy as they emerge. This Bill is very ambitious. Therefore, it is essential that the pre-legislative scrutiny is robust and consultative. The SFA will work with all key stakeholders to ensure that the new climate targets are evidence-based and achievable for small firms.
BUDGET 2021 THE SMALL FIRMS ASSOCIATION WELCOMED BUDGET 2021 WHICH HAS GIVEN THOUSANDS OF SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS THE CERTAINTY THEY NEEDED TO PLAN FOR THE YEAR AHEAD. Responding to the details announced in the Budget, SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, said: “We welcome the equalisation of the Earned Income Tax Credit with the PAYE credit, the return of the 9% VAT rate and the extension of the commercial rates waiver and tax warehousing scheme. The commitment to continue the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme during 2021 will give those dependent on it more certainty, especially businesses in the experience economy. “ Self-employed business owners will welcome the reliefs announced in Budget 2021, which show the Government’s commitment to indigenous entrepreneurs. The establishment of a Covid Restrictions Support Scheme will help businesses most affected by rolling Covid-19 restrictions. The allocation of additional funding to assist small firms to work alongside health and business restrictions and prepare for a post-Brexit environment will continue to support small firms in the months ahead. As we move forward it will be essential that Budget 2021 measures are implemented as quickly as possible. It is regrettable that the Government has again ignored the SFA’s call to reduce Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to 20% across the board to make investing in a business in Ireland more attractive. At 33%, Ireland has one of the highest rates of CGT amongst developed economies. It is disappointing that the Government has decided against introducing measures which would stimulate economic activity and add to our competitiveness. Budget 2021 will further increase business costs for small businesses with the decision to raise carbon tax to €7.50 per tonne. The SFA is working alongside small firms to ensure that they can properly engage with Government on the transition to a low carbon economy. We have also called for Government to outline a long-term strategy on the transition and for further supports to allow the small business community to gain from the transition, as micro generators, investors, consumers and as suppliers of products and services. These are hugely worrying times for small businesses, and, for many, 2021 is going to be a difficult year. SFA believes Budget 2021 is an important step in providing the certainty needed by small businesses to overcome the challenges posed by Covid-19 and thrive on the other side.
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Feature ï€ª TV Advertising Advertising
televised WILL BE
TAM IRELAND CEO JILL MCGRATH TELLS DEAN VAN NGUYEN WHAT TELEVISION ADVERTISING CAN DO FOR SMES.
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nyone who has ever purchased a television set for their living room corner is familiar with the term ‘TV ratings’. Viewership numbers shape the whole industry and beyond – you’ve probably have heard the US President pontificate on their supposed importance on more than one occasion. But ratings are the primary barometer of how well TV shows are doing. The information gathered on audience figures today will shape the look of your RTÉ Guide in the near future. TAM Ireland (or Television Audience Measurement Ireland) is a not-for-profit that oversees the measurement of TV viewing figures in Ireland. The organisation’s membership includes broadcasters operating in the Irish market, such as RTE, Virgin Media, TG4, eir Sport, Sky Media, Viacom and Channel 4, as well as various advertising and media agencies. The measurement itself is taken by global data powerhouse Nielsen. How it works is this: around 1,100 Irish households equating to approximately 2,700 individuals sign up to report what they watch every single day. A meter records what shows are being viewed and who is watching them. At around 3am, the data is delivered to Nielsen. Additionally, TAM conducts its establishment survey twice a year. The study interviews over 9,300 homes, recording the make-up of each household, the number of sets and devices within, and what company provides its service. Television ratings aren’t necessarily a measure of a show’s quality, while some programming exists to provide a public service and so its success is less tied to the numbers. Still, ratings are important in calculating how much a network can charge advertisers for airtime. Equally, the knowledge of the size and make-up of a show’s audience is of interest to the advertisers themselves. Despite the myriad of options available to companies who wish to promote themselves in the media, studies continue to show that TV advertising remains the most impactful and trusted. “It remains because of a number of reasons,” explains Jill McGrath, the CEO of TAM Ireland. “Firstly, because of how TV is consumed. Generally it’s on a large screen – on the largest screen on the house. There’s very little distraction on the screen, it takes up the whole screen, whereas on social media, if you’re viewing on a device, it’s not necessarily the full screen, and it’s not the same kind of environment you’re viewing it in.” McGrath also stresses the sense of trust the public has in TV advertising compared to other forms of ads. “That cliché ‘as seen on TV’ actually really stands up because people trust TV and they trust the brands they see on TV. They think they must be trustworthy because they are in that medium and indeed they are because they go through a rigorous process before they get on air of copy clearance to ensure what they’re saying is legal, decent, honest and truthful.” Indeed, earlier this year TAM commissioned market research company B&A to conduct the ‘Reopening Ireland Tracker Study’, a real-time report in conjunction with the loosening of
TV Advertising Feature
Did You Know? Irish viewers are reported to watch over 200 minutes of TV every day.
restrictions in Ireland following the first lockdown to see how the Irish public was reacting to the changes in their lives. Its findings showed that people turned to TV as their single most important source of news and information during the period. By contrast, social media has been by far the least trusted source of news and information during the Covid-19 crisis. This is further reflected in the findings of the European Broadcast Union’s Trust in Media report, published in April, which showed that radio and TV are the most trusted media throughout Europe. By contrast, social networks are the least trusted in 85% of countries.
Brand building Though TV advertising can be seen as a playground for super brands like Guinness, John Lewis and Coca-Cola, McGrath insists that SMEs can also thrive on the medium. “TV for SMEs is hugely beneficial,” she says. “TV can do two things: one is it can build a brand over time. So, it can get your name out there and it can help you become a household name over time, because you are talking to almost all households. But it also drives sales overnight. So short-term sales, long-term brand building; the perfect combination if you like for building sustainable businesses. I know that people can have a fear that it’s going to be really expensive. But it’s surprisingly affordable and there’s an awful lot of options available.” She continues, “A strength of TV that comes through the measurement is that only pay for ads that have been seen at normal speed by a human. That is reported by us. So, in those terms, you know that what you’re paying for is real people [seeing] your ad. It’s just as effective now and it’s always been. There’s an awful lot of noise out there in the marketplace but TV advertising is incredibly strong for building brands and also for short term activation and that’s been proven time and time again.” The global pandemic has established a strange gambit for TV advertisers. On one hand viewing figures have risen as more people have observed lockdown measures and spent more time at home. But the public also has less disposable income and is more likely to hold onto the money they have. “We had viewership figures that were the largest in a decade at the start of the crisis when people wanted to know what was going on and went to the TV to find,” explains McGrath. “A lot of [advertising] campaigns got pulled because nobody knew where we were going, how long we were going to be in this situation and what was going to happen. But that has, I’m glad to say, come back now. As we now understand more that life goes on, the economy keeps going, people still need to buy things – and, indeed, we asked, in that tracker study we did about the reopening of Ireland, consumers and how likely they were to buy different types of products over the next number of months – you could see the confidence in the consumers increasing as time went on. “So advertising has picked right back up again to expected levels for this time of year.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 45
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Itâ€™s time to invest in you. Talk to us about a retirement plan that works for you and your financial wellbeing.
Letâ€™s chat about your pension. boi.com/pensions
Terms and conditions apply. Life assurance and pensions products are provided by New Ireland Assurance Company plc, trading as Bank of Ireland Life. New Ireland Assurance Company plc, trading as Bank of Ireland Life is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Member of Bank of Ireland Group. Advice on Bank of Ireland Life products is provided by Bank of Ireland, trading as Bank of Ireland Insurance & Investments, Insurance & Investments, Bank of Ireland Private or Premier. Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Bank of Ireland is a tied agent of New Ireland Assurance Company plc for life assurance and pension business. Members of Bank of Ireland Group. Information correct as of August 2020.
WARNING: The value of your investment may go down as well as up. WARNING: If you invest in a pension you may lose some or all of the money you invest. WARNING: If you invest in a pension you will not have access to your money until your retirement date.
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Bank of Ireland Partner Profile
PLANNING YOUR WORKPLACE PENSION BANK OF IRELAND’S DECLAN MAHER DISCUSSES THE ART OF SUCCESSFUL PENSION SCHEME ENGAGEMENT. Ensuring a meaningful and consistent level of engagement by employees of their company pension plan can be challenging. Another challenge is instilling an understanding of the generous benefits provided by both their employer and the state through the tax reliefs provided. For employers, the necessary time taken to review and evaluate their pension arrangements in terms of suitability and effectiveness for staff, or even the return on investment for the company, is often overlooked and seldom prioritised as an action point. In the current economic climate these issues are becoming more acute for both employees and employers. Many employees are juggling the challenges of working from home while company’s struggle to ensure continued staff morale and productivity, manage costs efficiently and drive growth in the fractured economic backdrop of Covid-19 and Brexit. For businesses and employers, to ensure that their company retirement plans are suitable for this more flexible and modern working environment, there needs to be an increased focus on plan design, efficiency of administration and importantly effective employee engagement to combat these challenges. In a recent survey of defined contribution plan sponsors conducted by SSGA in determining key objectives when selecting a pension provider, it found that in the majority of respondents (47%), the most important decision taken by an employer or sponsoring company when selecting a plan provider was making sure that the retirement plan was easy to implement, maintain and monitor; employee and member engagement ranked lowest amongst respondents. The same survey also revealed that when
Declan Maher, Head of Corporate Pensions and Risk, Bank of Ireland Life
“IN THE CURRENT ECONOMIC CLIMATE THESE ISSUES ARE BECOMING MORE ACUTE FOR BOTH EMPLOYEES AND EMPLOYERS.” asked how much they think members and employees valued different features in their retirement plans, the ability to access advice and information was valued the most highly. If employee and member engagement is to register greater significance for
employers, yet simultaneously be delivered and provided to employees who value member engagement and advice the most, then alternative avenues of communication with greater level of choice must be introduced. Pension engagement cannot afford to lag behind the cutting edge of digital communications technology already introduced in other areas of financial planning and advice. The rising popularity of smartphones and tablets for younger generations, notably millennials or ‘digital natives’, means pension providers and sponsoring employers must embrace digital technology solutions for the multiple age-related cohorts of pension savers. With more workers expected to be enrolled onto their workplace pension plans in Ireland over the coming years, as auto enrolment is introduced, fintech providers are rapidly transforming the digital technology solutions needed to streamline and alleviate many of the administrative burdens for employers by making pension information more accessible, transparent and understandable. These advances will also help to better facilitate pension scheme administration and risk management, particularly for smaller plan sponsors and employers, who may have fewer inhouse resources and could benefit the most from the lower costs and improved efficiency provided. In this period of increased workplace challenges, partnering with pension providers capable of delivering such solutions is more paramount than ever, which is why at Bank of Ireland we have already partnered with leading fintech providers to bring about this desired change for both employers and employees, delivering better workplace pension engagement. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 47
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Partner Profile European Commission
TIME FOR BUSINESSES TO GET PREPARED HEAD OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION REPRESENTATION IN IRELAND GERARD KIELY DISCUSSES THE EU’S RECOVERY AND RESILIENCE FACILITY AT THE HEART OF EUROPE’S ECONOMIC REVIVAL. On 21 July 2020, the European Council (attended by the Taoiseach and leaders from the other EU Member States and institutions) reached a historic agreement on a recovery package that will help the EU to recover economically from the Covid pandemic, while supporting investment in the green and digital transitions. To achieve the desired result and be sustainable, the EU’s leaders decided that the recovery effort should be linked to the traditional budget of the EU, which has shaped EU policies since 1988 and offers a long-term perspective. The EU leaders agreed on a comprehensive package of €1,824.3bn, which combines the EU’s 2021-2027 budget (€1,074.3 billion) with an extraordinary recovery effort under the Next Generation EU (NGEU) instrument (€750bn). The multiannual EU budget funding worth almost €1.1tn represents the ‘bread and butter’ funding for EU programmes right across the spectrum of EU economic activity. Many programmes funded by the EU are multi-annual in nature and the beneficiaries of these multi-annual programmes need confidence about the level of funding over the programmes’ duration. The assurance provided by the agreed budgetary framework is nowhere more important than in agriculture, where tens of thousands
of Irish farmers make multi-annual commitments for which they need certainty and predictability before making important decisions, particularly related to investments. The recovery fund Next Generation EU is designed to provide the Union with the necessary means to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the agreement, the European Commission will be able to borrow up to €750bn on the markets. These funds may be used
Gerard Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland
“THE MULTIANNUAL EU BUDGET FUNDING WORTH ALMOST €1.1TN REPRESENTS THE ‘BREAD AND BUTTER’ FUNDING FOR EU PROGRAMMES RIGHT ACROSS THE SPECTRUM OF EU ECONOMIC ACTIVITY.”
for back-to-back loans and for expenditure channelled through the EU programmes. Capital raised on the financial markets will be repaid by 2058. Among the seven programmes funded under Next Generation EU the highlights include: • Recovery and Resilience Facility, worth €672.5bn • Just Transition Fund, worth €10bn • Horizon Europe, worth €5bn • RescEU, worth €1.9bn According to the plan and timeline agreed by the EU leaders, the money will go to the countries and sectors most affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Regarding the Recovery and Resilience Facility, 70% of the grants will be committed in 2021 and 2022 and 30% will be committed in 2023. In order for this historical agreement to be implemented, a number of legislative and policy decisions need to be made in a very tight time frame by the EU institutions. The European Commission is working closely with the European Parliament and the Council to finalise an agreement on the future long-term budgetary framework and the accompanying sectoral programmes. The goal is to complete this work in the autumn so that the new long-term budget can be up and running, and driving Europe’s recovery on 1 January 2021. As a next step, the European Commission has focussed its efforts on the key recovery instrument at the heart of NextGenerationEU: the Recovery and Resilience Facility will provide the unprecedented €672.5bn of loans and grants in frontloaded
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European Commission Partner Profile
financial support for the crucial first years of the recovery. In September 2020, the European Commission set out strategic guidance to the governments of EU Member States regarding the implementation of the Recovery and Resilience Facility. In order to benefit from these funds, EU Member States need to develop and submit their draft recovery and resilience plans outlining national investment and reform agendas in line with the EU policy criteria. These plans should address the economic policy challenges facing each country. They should also enable Member States to enhance their potential for economic growth, job creation and economic and social resilience, and to meet the green and digital transitions. The European Commission is already available to engage with Member States at all levels regarding the preparation of their plans. EU governments are encouraged to submit their preliminary draft plans to the European Commission for advance consultations by 15 October 2020, although the formal deadline for submission is 30 April 2021. This does not mean that businesses across the EU need to wait that long to prepare to take advantage of the opportunities of the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The Commission has already provided some initial guidance on the key priorities to be supported across the EU. Based on their relevance across Member States, the very large investments required, their potential to create jobs and growth while reaping the benefits from the green and digital transitions, the Commission strongly encourages Member States to include in their plans investment and reforms in the following flagship areas: 1. Power up – frontloading future-proof clean technologies and acceleration of the development and use of renewables. 2. Renovate – improve energy efficiency of public and private buildings. 3. Recharge and refuel – promote future-proof clean technologies to accelerate the use of sustainable,
“THE RECOVERY FUND NEXT GENERATION EU IS DESIGNED TO PROVIDE THE UNION WITH THE NECESSARY MEANS TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES POSED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. UNDER THE AGREEMENT, THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION WILL BE ABLE TO BORROW UP TO €750BN ON THE MARKETS.” accessible and smart transport, charging and refuelling stations and extension of public transport. 4. Connect – ensure the fast rollout of rapid broadband services to all regions and households, including fibre and 5G networks. 5. Modernise – digitalise public administration and services, including judicial and healthcare systems. 6. Scale-up – increase European industrial data cloud capacities and the development of the most powerful, cutting-edge and sustainable processors.
7. Reskill and upskill – adapt education systems to support digital skills and educational and vocational training for all ages. If your business is in one of these areas, it would be advisable to start drawing up plans and prepare to take advantage of the EU’s unprecedented support package. You could become a key player in the EU’s most ambitious effort to protect the livelihoods of all Europeans, and to invest in Europe’s long-term transition towards a fairer, greener and digital future. For more information, visit: https://ec.europa.eu/info/ departments/recovery-and-resiliencetask-force_en#contact. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 49
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Partner Profile Microfinance Ireland
REBOOTING IRELAND MICROFINANCE IRELAND IS SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES TO MANAGE THE CHALLENGES OF 2020 AT THIS CHALLENGING TIME. Microfinance Ireland (MFI), the government funded, not-for-profit lender is providing much-needed financial support by way of business loans up to €25,000 to support
Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfinance Ireland
microenterprises through the current period of uncertainty and to protect jobs in businesses right across the country. While business owners are still trying to stabilise and recover their business after the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit once again looms large and which may have further ramifications for Irish businesses by year-end. Microfinance Ireland has a range of loan options up to €25,000 to help businesses based on their specific business needs. Whether a business is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, or additional working
capital/funding is required to deal with the pandemic, Brexit or normal business needs, or you are a starting a new business and you are having difficulty in accessing funding from
“MICROENTERPRISES REPRESENT APPROXIMATELY 94% OF ALL BUSINESSES IN IRELAND AND ARE ANY BUSINESS – A SOLE TRADER, PARTNERSHIP OR LIMITED COMPANY – THAT HAS LESS THAN TEN EMPLOYEES AND AN ANNUAL TURNOVER OF UP TO €2M.” Banks and other commercial providers, then MFI may be able to help. Demand for MFI’s Covid loan, which was launched in March, was extremely high with application volumes up fourfold on normal levels during Q2. Due to this unprecedented demand the initial Loan Funds were all fully subscribed in early July with circa €20m in loans approved supporting almost 1,000 businesses across all sectors.
Funding for growth
As part of the July Stimulus Package, the government launched a range of business supports where
Microfinance Ireland received additional funding to support a range of loan offerings. These initiatives are all experiencing strong demand. Microfinance Ireland is there specifically to support those microenterprises that are unable to access finance from banks and other sources. Microfinance Ireland’s CEO Garrett Stokes explains: “We are set up to support microenterprises who cannot get finance through commercial lending providers. Microenterprises represent approximately 94% of all businesses in Ireland and are any business – a sole trader, partnership or limited company – that has less than ten employees and an annual turnover of up to €2m. The MFI Covid-19 loan is specifically to support businesses who were negatively impacted by the pandemic and we also have other funds for startups or other microenterprises that are just starting up or looking for expansion funds.” Stokes adds: “I advise all businesses to review your financial position taking both Covid and Brexit into account over the next 12 months or so and get facilities in place. Talk to your bank and see what financial assistance they have to offer. If that is not feasible, MFI is delighted to receive applications from eligible small businesses that are in need of financial support and we assess all applications in a fair and supportive manner. Our mandate from the government is to support small businesses, protect jobs and the economy – that support is needed now more than ever.” For more information, go to https://microfinanceireland.ie/ loan-packages-2.
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National Standards Authority of Ireland Partner Profile
EXCELLENCE THROUGH PEOPLE HAVING AN ENGAGED, MOTIVATED WORKFORCE INCREASES THE OPPORTUNITY OF HAVING A PRODUCTIVE WORKFORCE AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, PRODUCTIVE AT DOING THE RIGHT THINGS, TO MAKE SURE YOUR ORGANISATION DELIVERS ON ITS STRATEGY. Owners of small businesses know only too well that staff management is critical to success. It is paramount that each employee pulls their weight, as there isn’t the organisational scale for a staff member to be carried by others. In addition, a further difficulty experienced by small businesses is that of staff turnover. This can be detrimental to productivity as valuable time and effort is given to training new workers. Clearly, it is much better to retain experienced staff, particularly in a tightening labour market. A proven method of engaging and retaining staff is through NSAI’s Excellence Through People (ETP) Framework, which gives a roadmap to ensure staff are well managed with a certification to prove they are. ETP is a certification scheme designed to help improve organisations from the inside out by ensuring organisations are better at engaging with their employees and giving an
Michelle Browne, NSAI Enterprise Through People trainer
effective framework for all aspects of people management. The beauty of the programme is that many businesses are probably doing it all already without bringing it together. The ETP Framework looks at five key areas of effective staff management: 1) B usiness planning The organisation effectively plans where it is going and continuously improves its approach to quality to ensure staff understand the vision and values of the organisation and operates according to these principles. 2) C ommunication and collaboration The organisation communicates with, and encourages people, in an effective manner to ensure engagement and encourage collaboration thereby eliminating the grapevine and breaking down wasteful silos.
3) L eadership and people management The organisation leads and manages its people and their performance to pre-determined objectives in a competent and effective manner. 4) L earning and development The organisation plans and evaluates the development of its people in support of the achievement of its business goals to ensure value for money in the investment made in staff. 5) H R systems and employee wellbeing - The organisation has appropriate HR policies in place and ensures the health, safety and wellbeing of its people in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner. As any business owner knows doing each of the above steps is part and parcel of every manager’s job, but doing them successfully is what leads to business success. On 2 November NSAI will hold a half-day online training programme, which will outline in detail the ETP scheme, defining and breaking down in detail what is required under each of the five sections. The course will equip participants with a complete understanding of what is required from each question. The course will also offer participants methodologies, best practice and templates to support them as they progress through the scheme. For more information on this training course and future courses, contact email@example.com or for more information on the ETP scheme in general contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Here to help.
Resources from the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) are here to help your organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic, including: Workplace Protection and Improvement Guide Consolidating the practical advice available on protecting employees and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail Protection and Improvement Guide The retailerâ€™s one-stop-shop guide to preventing, mitigating and recovering from the spread of illness. Shopping Centre Recovery and Protection Guide Guidelines for shopping centres restoring business operations following a closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Guidance on Manufacturing and Importing PPE and Medical Devices To ensure compliance with the EU legal framework during the COVID-19 pandemic. SWiFT 19:2020 Barrier Masks for consumers - requirements A consensus-based specification for non-medical and non-PPE masks (barrier masks) for the general public. Medical Equipment Standards The COVID-19 Response Package provides access to a set of Medical Supplies Standards at no cost.
1 Swift Square, Northwood, Santry, Dublin 9, D09 A0E4 + 353 1 807 3800 NSAI and the NSAI logo are registered trademarks of NSAI.
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Enterprise Ireland Partner Profile
A FAST-TRACK TO FUNDING AS BUSINESSES ACROSS IRELAND PREPARE TO ACCELERATE THEIR RECOVERY FROM THE IMPACT OF COVID-19, ENTERPRISE IRELAND HAS SEEN A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN DEMAND FOR THE SUSTAINING ENTERPRISE FUND. Launched in April of this year, the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) sets out to help companies negatively impacted by the pandemic and offers qualifying businesses funding of up to €800,000 consisting of up to €200,000 in non-repayable grants and a further €600,000 in repayable support over five years with a grace period of three years before repayments commence. “Up to 50% of the funding can be made up of the non-repayable grant subject to a maximum of €200,000,” says Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager with Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Services Division. But, the SEF funding is time limited, so it is important that businesses apply as soon as possible for the funding they need to stabilise, reset, and accelerate their recovery.” One business which has already benefited from SEF funding is J.C. Walsh & Sons, owners of the iconic Connemara Marble brand. The company supplies three key markets – giftware products for the tourism retail sector, jewellery through TV and online retailers such as QVC Channel and The Irish Store, and religious goods including rosary
beads to customers in Ireland and the UK. “Covid-19 came at the worst possible time for us,” says Managing Director Stephen Walsh. “In early March every cent of our working capital was tied up in stock ahead of what everyone expected to be a bumper tourism season.” The collapse in global tourism dealt the business a heavy blow. “Tourism retail here in Ireland is geared towards overseas visitors. There is no real domestic market for it,” adds Walsh. “50% of what we produce is exported, with the US being our key market.” The response was swift. “We did a couple of things when Covid hit. We took immediate action and put our staff on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and we effectively ran the business by candlelight. We also called Enterprise Ireland. “Enterprise Ireland did three things when we contacted them earlier in the year – they supported us, they encouraged us, and they believed in us. They appointed a business adviser who did a report confirming that we had a viable business and they then hooked
“COVID-19 CAME AT THE WORST POSSIBLE TIME FOR US, SAYS MANAGING DIRECTOR STEPHEN WALSH. IN EARLY MARCH EVERY CENT OF OUR WORKING CAPITAL WAS TIED UP IN STOCK AHEAD OF WHAT EVERYONE EXPECTED TO BE A BUMPER TOURISM SEASON.”
Stephen Walsh, Managing Director, J.C. Walsh & Sons
us up with a consultant to write the Business Sustainment Plan.” The company received €200,000 in SEF funding in late August – €100,000 in a cash grant and €100,000 in a repayable advance. “The beauty of the advance is you don’t have to start repayments until after three years. The SEF has given us the cash to support the business and invest in new product development as well as develop our online business. I would encourage other companies to talk to Enterprise Ireland. They really have their clients’ best interests at heart.” For more information, contact the Business Response Unit by emailing email@example.com or calling (01) 727 2088.
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“The course is tailored to the needs of our business”
Skills to Advance Highly subsidised Supervisory Management training ₀ To help team leaders and supervisors meet the business challenges of Covid-19 ₀ To upskill in people management, digital and remote working Contact your local Education and Training Board or visit skillstoadvance.ie
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Knowledge Transfer Ireland Partner Profile
LINKING ACADEMIA AND BUSINESS, ENABLING INNOVATION KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER IRELAND HELPS BUSINESSES FIND RESEARCH PARTNERS IN THE ACADEMIC WORLD, TO INNOVATE AND BUILD OUT R&D CAPACITY. Housed within Enterprise Ireland, Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) is a connector, linking academia and business. This works in two ways—helping businesses find research partners in the academic world, and helping academics commercialise research, such as when forming a spinout company from a university. KTI can help organisations of any size and in any sector to innovate their business and build out their R&D capability by tapping into the public research available to them in higher education institutions across the country. “Knowledge transfer can really provide cost-effective means by which companies, regardless of their size, can increase their innovation capacity,” says Siobhan Horan, Industry Partner Engagement Manager, KTI. “The process for engaging with the system is the same regardless of the company size.”
Dr Alison Campbell, Director of KTI, and An Tánaiste Leo Varadkar launch KTI’s Annual Review and Knowledge Transfer Survey
companies haven’t engaged with the research base in the past, they can find it difficult to know where to start. We have a lot of resources to make that process easier.” The KTI website has a database of Demystifying the process all the researchers in Ireland who are As well as helping companies find the publishing, by topic, and links to get in right academic researcher or institution touch with them. “Every university or IT to work with, KTI can also assist with will have a Knowledge Transfer Officer, finding State funding supports that could sometimes called an Industry Liaison be relevant to the research they plan to Officer, to help businesses navigate the carry out, and help companies structure institution and find the right researcher, the arrangements between and help structure collaborative themselves and the research research projects,” she adds. institution to ensure KTI also has a listing they maximise the of existing new benefits that result technologies ready from any research to be licensed out being carried out. into industry. “They “In general, we would be cutting help demystify the edge technologies, process,” says Horan. already in existence “We try and bring and the institution predictability is looking for a and transparency commercial partner to the research to bring them Siobhan Horan, Industry system. If to market.” Partner Engagement Manager, KTI
Practical guides offered by KTI cover topics such as how to licence out technology, how to set up consultancy agreements, and how to navigate state funding regulations. There are also model agreements and templates available (free of charge) for licensing, nondisclosure and so on. “They are widely in use across the research system, and it helps everyone be on the same page when engaging in negotiations around intellectual property,” says Horan. A new monthly webinar series is geared specifically at the business audience to uncover some of the key questions companies have when engaging in knowledge transfer for the first time or indeed, further down the line. The webinars cover a wide range topics relating to intellectual property, collaboration and how cutting edge research such as that in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) can be of direct benefit to business. For more information see www.knowledgetransferireland.com.
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DeCare SFA partnership Ad Print.qxp_Layout 1 20/10/2020 12:25 Page 1
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28/10/2020 21/10/2020 15:15 17:33
GETTING BACK TO NATURE DURING COVID-19 NATURE CAN HELP FOSTER A GREATER SENSE OF CONNECTEDNESS WITH SELF AND OTHERS, AS WELL AS PROMOTING AN ETHIC OF CARE. Since March of this year we have been grieving the loss of normality. Anxiety is a growing health issue amongst people, which can lead to more complex health issues. Social isolation and lack of social connectedness are the biggest health issues we face. The new report prepared by the EPA and the NEAR Health Project Team at NUIG showed the potential of nature in Ireland. Whether it is a yoga hike, a walk, run or cycle, or maybe swimming or surfing, each one has a proven evidenced-based positive effect on our mental and overall wellbeing as shown from this study. Nature provides us with clean air to breathe, the food we eat, fresh water to drink, and spaces to spend time in, to be active, to be reflective, to feel joy and wonder at the beauty that surrounds us. We are part of nature and we need nature to be healthy. Being healthy and well is about how we work, rest and play and how we fulfil meaningful roles in society. At a community level, when we share these
experiences with others, nature can foster social cohesion. At a wider scale, natural resources underpin societal and economic processes. When we notice nature and feel joy, we are more connected to nature, and are motivated to conserve it. While there is a general acknowledgement of the value of nature and the environment for human health and wellbeing, there are also recognised barriers that prevent people from engaging with blue and green spaces in Ireland. These include polluted or degraded environments which are some of the biggest barriers to engaging with nature. People have become disconnected from nature, and for some, nature can be a place of fear or risk. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress
“WE ARE PART OF NATURE AND WE NEED NATURE TO BE HEALTHY. BEING HEALTHY AND WELL IS ABOUT HOW WE WORK, REST AND PLAY AND HOW WE FULFIL MEANINGFUL ROLES IN SOCIETY.”
David Casey, Wellness Health Promotion Manager, Decare
hormones and has an overall positive effect on your mental wellbeing. Evidence is mounting that links the environmental crisis to a society-incrisis. We live in an age of disconnect. We are not just living increasingly urbanised lives, but indoor lives, diminishing access to a wide range of health benefits associated with being in nature. Growing stress, anxiety and mental health difficulties are linked to the fact that we have become disconnected. We need to think about how we navigate our workplace wellness programmes to optimise exercise and green spaces in Ireland today. Find out more information on Decare’s benefits in dental, vision and wellness services at www.wellness.decare.ie and www.decaredental.ie.
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Partner Profile Credit Review Office
COVID CHANGES EVERYTHING — INCLUDING CREDIT CREDIT REVIEW CAN HELP BUSINESSES WHO HAVE BEEN REFUSED LOANS OR HAD CREDIT FACILITIES REDUCED, AT A TIME WHEN ACCESS TO CREDIT IS VITAL TO SURVIVE THE COVID-19 CRISIS. Access to bank credit will be vital to keep going, adapt to new conditions and work towards recovery for many businesses, particularly when the current bank payment breaks for SME’s finish over the coming months. Credit Review can help. Set up by the Minister for Finance in 2010, it has a simple mission: to assist SMEs and farms which are viable or potentially viable, to get access to the bank finance they need for their businesses. It provides an independent appeals process, reviewing credit and loan refusals by the banks. It also operates
a helpline for business borrowers having difficulty getting credit. Credit Review also reviews changes to existing credit facilities, where credit facilities are being restructured, reduced or even withdrawn. If, for example, your bank reduces your overdraft limit, you can appeal to Credit Review, where we will take an independent view on what the business needs. Or if you need to extend the term of your business loan, or amalgamate short term debt with longer term, to deal with a fall in revenues in the short term and the
bank refuses your request, you can appeal to Credit Review. We accept applications from businesses that have had credit facilities of up to €3 million with refused, reduced or restructured by AIB, Bank of Ireland, PTSB and Ulster Bank. Contact CreditReview.ie and talk to one of our professional reviewers so that you are fully informed on bank credit issues relevant to your business. Phone 087 121 7244 or email info@credit review.ie
Credit where it’s due during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Considering your credit needs during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic? Having difficulty getting a business loan from your bank? Need to restructure your existing credit facilities? Established by the Minister for Finance, we are here to help. Call our helpline on 1850 211 789 or visit creditreview.ie
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SOLAS Partner Profile
THE URGE TO UPSKILL NOW, MORE THAN EVER, COMPANIES NEED TO ENSURE THAT THEY HAVE STRONG PEOPLE MANAGEMENT SKILLS, AND A NEW TRAINING INITIATIVE IS PROVING A VALUABLE RESOURCE AS SMES CONTINUE TO ADAPT. SOLAS and the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) developed a new Leadership and Management training initiative, in collaboration with employers, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Regional Skills Fora. The highly subsidised training is available to employers to upskill their staff and rebuild their business during Covid-19. The programme is part of the national Skills to Advance Further Education and Training initiative, which supports businesses to develop their employees. It is being rolled out by the ETBs nationwide. The Leadership and Management programme aims to upskill supervisory
staff in areas including change management, motivating workers, digital skills and remote working.
A new landscape
SOLAS, the ETBs and their enterprise partners encourage employers across all industry sectors to avail of this opportunity to upskill key managers at this critical time for business recovery.
Providing highly subsidised training to supervisory staff, companies will have access to local high-quality online training to maximise their ability to deal with the new business environment, its challenges and opportunities. Further information is available at www.skillstoadvance.ie or by contacting your local Education and Training Board.
“THE LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME AIMS TO UPSKILL SUPERVISORY STAFF. ”
What’s on your
You’re not alone When it comes to coping www.turn2me.org
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23/11/2011 15:07:58 27/10/2020 17:11 28/10/2020 16:30
Arts and Culture ï€ª Gerry Leonard Leonard
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Gerry Leonard Arts and Culture
BETTER BUSINESS CAUGHT UP WITH GERRY LEONARD, THE DUBLIN-BORN GUITARIST, MUSIC PRODUCER AND DAVID BOWIE COLLABORATOR, TO LOOK BACK ON HIS PHENOMENAL CAREER.
Leonard first picked up a guitar in the coastal suburb of Clontarf, but his skill with the instrument would eventually transport him to the highest peaks of musical stardom. As an instrumentalist, producer, and music director, Leonard has built a client list that includes Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright, Cyndi Lauper and Avril Lavigne. He’s written and performed his own material as one-half of the ethereal folk-rock band Hinterland and under his solo moniker Spooky Ghost. But Leonard is undeniably best known for his work with David Bowie. If nothing else, the Dubliner can say he’s part of the legendary starman’s limitless legacy. Born in the early 1960s, young Gerry attended Belgrove School, having moved to Clontarf from Marino with his family. It was during his school days that he took an interest in the guitar, yet his first dabble with music came when his parents sent him to piano lessons. “I hated the piano lessons,” remembers Leonard. “Poor Mrs Gilligan [the teacher], I thought she was 100 years old. I’m sure she was younger, but she was an older lady and took no nonsense. I’d run out to the field and hide, I didn’t want to go to piano lessons.” With the encouragement of his schoolteacher, Vincent Conway, Leonard took to the guitar more naturally. “I learned it really quickly,” he says. “I just kind of figured it out.” Growing up he loved Top of the Pops and started his first band around age 12. Leonard’s dad even helped him build his first electric guitar from instructions published in a magazine. But it was the recording process that soon piqued Leonard’s interest. As a teenager he experimented on a reel-to-reel recorder he acquired, pushing the limits of the technology. As luck would have it, a job interview came up at Lombard Sound Studios when he was 16. But Leonard soon discovered it was less a job interview and more recruitment for a session happening in the building that very night. “I learned the craft of recording and I was studying classical guitar. So it was all going on at the same time, it was immersive, but I was super keen and loved it.” Leonard wanted to leave school early but was talked into sitting his Leaving Certificate with a promise from the studio that a position was waiting for him. He admits doing the bare minimum to get through his exams, and went straight into Lombard at 17-years-old, working up to 20 hours a day. On top of that, he continued to work on his own music. “Dublin was small enough to feel like you could pursue your ambitions without the feeling that it was completely impossible,” Leonard says. “And it was nurturing in terms of bands and stuff. It seemed very easy then – you just got a bunch of guys together, you wrote some songs, you got a record deal, you’ll be on Top of the Pops. That was the back of the envelope formula.”
“EVERY ARTIST IS SO DIFFERENT AND THEIR NEEDS ARE DIFFERENT. IT’S KIND OF LIKE PRODUCING – I GOT TO PRODUCE SOME RECORDS AT THE TIME AND IT’S A SIMILAR THING. ” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 61
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Arts and Culture Gerry Leonard
He continues, “U2 were coming up at that time. The new wave scene had just hit; it seemed like there were a lot of possibilities. If you had a bunch of guys, some ideas and some attitude, you could be a band. It took me a few go-arounds. I didn’t get a proper record deal until I was 27-years-old. So that’ll show you, it wasn’t like magic. I had a lot of learning to do along the way.” That record deal came after a period living in Copenhagen. Leonard survived in the city busking for spare change – better than washing dishes, he figured – and it was during this time that he met Donal Coughlan, who would become his partner in the band Hinterland. After returning to Ireland, the duo nailed down some demos and got signed to Island Records. Their album, Kissing The Roof of Heaven, was released in 1990. But when the pair weren’t picked up for a second LP, Leonard decided to move to New York with the intention of becoming a guitar player for hire. It was 1993 – the year of Rudy Giuliani’s first New York mayor election win and Nirvana’s famous unplugged performance in the city. Essentially starting over from scratch, Leonard would move furniture between auditions to help pay the bills. Luckily, it was the Irish singer Susan McKeown that gave him a tip: Cyndi Lauper was looking for a guitarist, and after an impressive audition, Leonard got the gig. Before long he was working regularly as a session musician and producer for an array of different artists. “It’s a different kind of process in a sense, you’re there as a collaborator and support,” says Leonard. “But I’ve always found myself becoming attached to the artist. Because I’d come from the band mentality, I understood what they were going through, so I was always there for them. “Every artist is so different and their needs are different. It’s kind of like producing – I got to produce some records at the time and it’s a similar thing. You’re asked to produce a record, so you have to go in and see what’s needed, where the artist is at. Some people need organisation, some people need musical input in terms of writing or arranging, some people need a good coach, whatever it takes. The success of that project is about what’s needed and trying to solve those problems.” It was through his working relationship with singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik that Leonard met Mark Plati, who had produced on a number of David Bowie albums through the 1990s and early 2000s. Leonard had already played guitar on some of Bowie’s recordings when Plati revealed he was leaving his role as the legend’s musical director before touring his 2003 album Reality began. It was Plati who suggested Leonard replace him. “I ended up getting the job, which was a day, I’ll tell you,” beams Leonard. “When I got that call I was
driving to a gig when Mark goes, ‘I’m talking to David and I’m going to put you forward as musical director for the band.’ I was like, ‘Holy crap’. I said I need a few days to think about it because it seemed so monumental. But all my friends were like, ‘You’re crazy, you’ve got to do it’. So I did it. Look, it was super hard work, but it was the greatest job ever.” He continues, “It’s always a pleasure when you get to work on David’s music. It’s the same amount of prep and headaches and stuff, then you get to the music and your like, ‘Oh my god, this is really great material’. Just song after song after song. And he was such a great artist to work with as well. Very generous, a real hard worker. He always treated you well and was an incredible performer. It was life changing for me as it was an incredible job. It kind of cemented my MD credentials.”
Survival of the fittest With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic shutting down almost all live music, Leonard has had a quiet year. But, still based in New York, he’s used the time wisely by working at home on new projects. His most recent work, entitled Viral Times – available in two volumes – is an ambient collection of thoughts and improvisations from Leonard’s time in self-isolation due to the pandemic. “As I’m always finishing other people’s projects, I’ve a third solo record that’s almost comical at this point because it’s been years in the making,” says Leonard. “I intend to get back to the third record at some point, but Viral Times felt like the right thing to do. I wanted to create something new and relevant to fit these times.” As for the current condition of the music industry, the veteran performer is optimistic. “There used to be a lot more gatekeepers and a little bit more survival of the fittest. Even when I released my first solo record back in the late-90s, it was unusual for someone to have an independent record. Now, it’s like everyone’s got a record and it’s so easy. In New York, there’s incredible musicians and incredible music being made. It’s a wonderful world – just be part of it, be creative. We need more art. Gerry Leonard We definitely need more art.”
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Available in SMALL,
S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E W A R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | A U T U M N 2 0 2 0
BUSINESS Recalibrate, plan and survive
BETTER BUSINESS AUTUMN 2020
BETTER BUSINESS AUTUMN 2020
Recalibrate, plan and survive
IRELAND’S INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURERS
On the road to
CURVE EMERGING BEHAVIOUR TRENDS
DAVID MCCOURT’S GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND
On the road to
CURVE EMERGING BEHAVIOUR TRENDS
DAVID MCCOURT’S GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND
HOPES FOR STABILITY WITHIN CHILDCARE INDUSTRY
THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR
IRELAND’S INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURERS
THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR
HOPES FOR STABILITY WITHIN CHILDCARE INDUSTRY
BUSINESS Recalibrate, plan and survive
BETTER BUSINESS AUTUMN 2020
IRELAND’S INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURERS
On the road to
CURVE EMERGING BEHAVIOUR TRENDS
DAVID MCCOURT’S GOAL TO REJUVENATE RURAL IRELAND
HOPES FOR STABILITY WITHIN CHILDCARE INDUSTRY
THE FORGOTTEN SECTOR
Ashville Media’s online digital publications are now available to view our website
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Motoring Ford Kuga
ELECTRIFIED THE DISTINCTIVE FORD KUGA SUV – FORD’S MOST ELECTRIFIED VEHICLE EVER – INTRODUCES SLEEK NEW EXTERIOR DESIGN WITH PREMIUM PROPORTIONS FOR IMPROVED ROOMINESS AND COMFORT.
he new Kuga Titanium, sporty Kuga ST Line and upscale Kuga Vignale are offered with an advanced range of hybrid powertrains that delivers best-in-class fuel efficiency with the range average improved by up to 28% like-for-like compared with the outgoing model. The Kuga line-up includes Kuga Plug-In Hybrid, Kuga EcoBlue Hybrid (mild hybrid) and Kuga Hybrid (full hybrid) variants, alongside Ford’s 1.5 litre EcoBlue diesel manual. The range offers even more intuitive comfort and driver assistance features, including the FordPass Connect modem that helps owners better manage their Kuga Plug-In Hybrid with new electrified vehicle features for the FordPass app. Further sophisticated technologies include a wireless charging pad and Ford’s SYNC 3 infotainment system1 supported by an eight inch central touchscreen. A premium B&O Sound System produces a high-quality audio experience, while a new industry-first, free-form, 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster with ‘true colour’ is more informative, intuitive and easier to read. New Stop & Go, Speed Sign Recognition and Lane Centring technologies help drivers negotiate a stop-start and traffic with greater confidence than ever before, while
predictive curve light and sign-based light help drivers see more clearly in the dark. Head-up display technology helps drivers to keep their eyes on the road ahead, and Active Park Assist 2 enables fully automated parking manoeuvres at the push of a button. Furthermore, increased rear legroom and luggage space can be realised using sliding second row seats, able to easily move forward or rearward up to 150mm. “The all-new Kuga is our best example yet of Ford’s humancentric design approach; developed in close collaboration with SUV customers to deliver distinctive style, unprecedented
64 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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Ford Kuga Motoring
powertrain choice, premium comfort and advanced technologies that make life easier for owners inside and outside of the car,” said Stuart Rowley, President, Ford Europe. The Kuga is based on Ford’s new global front-wheel drive flexible architecture that supports improved aerodynamics for better fuel efficiency and helps reduce Kuga’s weight versus outgoing models by up to 80kg when comparing equivalent powertrain variants. In addition, the Kuga introduces a distinctive new exterior design that is more sculpted and simplified with premium
proportions. A streamlined silhouette incorporates a longer wheelbase that creates a larger footprint on the road benefitting ride and stability; a longer bonnet; further reclined rear windshield angle; and lower roofline. The result is a more energetic, nimble and capable appearance. A tailored spectrum of choice includes differentiating executions for Kuga Vignale, ST-Line and Titanium variants, each with a unique character to reflect customers’ personalities. With contemporary and confident styling, Kuga Titanium is indicative of the high specification and quality that will be offered to customers. Highlights include a sporty front skid plate and rear diffuser, body-coloured mirrors, side cladding and door handles, LED daytime running lights and standard 17-inch, or optional 18-inch alloy wheels. The upscale Kuga Vignale conveys exclusive specification and meticulous craftsmanship through bespoke Vignale ornamentation including satin aluminium finishes for the roof rails, bumpers and rocker inserts, as well as unique, elegant front and rear bumper designs. The exterior also features signature Vignale chrome finished front mesh grille and twin tailpipes, alongside standard 19-inch alloy wheels. Windsor leather seats with an exclusive Vignale hexagon design, a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel and velour floor mats further enhance the interior. Bold Kuga ST-Line styling inspired by Ford Performance models includes body-coloured bumpers and side skirts; and a grille, front skid plate, rear diffuser and roof rails finished in black. A large rear spoiler, standard 18 inch alloy wheels, and twin sports exhausts add to the sporty character. Inside a dark headliner, exclusive ST-Line seat designs with contrasting red stitching, alloy pedals, flat-bottomed steering wheel, and ST-Line floor mats and scuff plates reflect the performance personality.
Powertrain diversity Ford is committed to offering an electrified version of every passenger vehicle it brings to market in Europe and will grow its range of electrified vehicles in Europe to 18 on sale before the end of 2021. The all-new Kuga is the first Ford vehicle to be offered with plugin hybrid, powertrain technology. The all-new Kuga Plug-In Hybrid delivers the driving range and freedom offered by a traditional combustion engine alongside the efficiency and refinement of an electric powertrain. The battery can be charged using a front fender-mounted charging port, and is automatically replenished on the move using regenerative charging technology that captures kinetic energy normally lost during braking. To fully charge the battery from external 230-volt electricity supply will take less than six hours. Drivers can choose when and how to deploy battery power using EV Auto, EV Now, EV Later and EV Charge modes. When the battery reaches its lowest state-of-charge, the Kuga automatically reverts to EV Auto mode – supplementing petrol engine power with electric motor assistance using recaptured energy for optimised fuel efficiency. All-new Kuga customers can also choose the Ford EcoBlue diesel engine with optimised power and refinement. Powertrains are supported by standard Auto Start-Stop for reduced running costs, fitted with a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission. All-new Kuga is offered in 11 colours and is available in four series: Titanium, ST-Line, ST-Line X and Vignale. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 65
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The Big Read Women and the Irish Revolution
A RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOK EDITED BY LINDA CONNOLLY EXAMINES THE DIVERSE ASPECTS OF WOMEN’S EXPERIENCES IN THE REVOLUTION AFTER THE EASTER RISING AND THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE FOUNDATION OF THE NEW STATE.
activism VIOLENCE &
‘What did the women do anyway?’ Lil Conlon felt so strongly about this statement that she decided to put on record exactly what the women of Ireland did during the Irish revolution. Conlon was a founding member of Cumann na mBan in Cork and was an active participant during the years 1914-23. Conlon took it upon herself to write the story and her book Cumann na mBan and the Women of Ireland 1913-25 was published in 1969. This was a fitting time as it was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the War of Independence, a fact that would not have been lost on Conlon. And while books had been written about women and the Irish revolution as early as 1922, they were books focusing on individuals. No one had written the story of what it was like for those women who were active, what they did, how they felt and what effect the conflict had on them. More importantly, no one had written of the experiences of those
This is an abridged extract from the preface of Women and the Irish Revolution: Feminism, Activism, Violence, first published by Irish Academic Press.
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Women and the Irish Revolution The Big Read
who were not involved, the women who witnessed the events, who experienced the revolution from a different perspective. Conlon changed that. Others followed Conlon’s lead. Historians such as Dr Margaret Mac Curtain and Dr Margaret Ward blazed a trail in bringing forth the women’s experience of the revolution. Since their pioneering work, more and more historians have followed in the footsteps of Mac Curtain and Ward, bringing to life an aspect of the Irish revolution that had been cast to one side. The task of discovering the stories of the women has been made so much easier in recent years thanks to the release of new material from archives across the country, most notably the military archives in Dublin. A whole story emerged of how the women played a crucial part in the anti-conscription campaign in 1918. Lá na mBan took place on 9 June 1918 in which the women of Ireland took a stand and signed a pledge refusing to take the place of any man in the workforce who was forcibly conscripted into the British army. Two-thirds of the women of Ireland signed the pledge – 40,000 women signed it in Dublin alone. What is so important about Lá na mBan was that it gave the women a voice. Although women over the age of 30 had won the right to vote, there was no representation for the younger women. Lá na mBan gave them that opportunity to be a part of something and was a pivotal moment for women in Ireland. That one event politicised so many, and unlike the volunteers, whose numbers reduced after the threat of conscription had passed, the opposite happened with Cumann na mBan. Branches were set up all over the country. And thankfully in 2018 this event was commemorated in places such as city hall and the mansion house in Dublin.
Courage during conflict The 1916 Easter Rising was the training ground for Cumann na mBan and the women of the Irish citizen army. When the men were imprisoned, it fell to the women to build up support. Although defeated, the rising was just a battle in a war that was only beginning, and the women were determined to play their part. And that is exactly what they did. While carrying out their regular duties of fundraising, first aid etc., during the War of Independence and later the Civil War, they went above and beyond what it was believed a woman could and should do. They were intelligence operatives, they were propagandists, Cumann na mBan they were gun runners, detained at Richmond Barracks they were scouts, they were after the 1916 Rising judges in the republican courts and much more. And all of this work was carried out without question and at great danger to their safety, both physically and mentally. But that is only one side of the story. Although there were thousands of members of Cumann na mBan, there were a lot more women who were not. What of those women whose husbands or children were involved, or those who assisted the IRA but were not a member of any organisation, and of course those who were not involved at all, the civilians? Their stories are just as important as those who participated. A new narrative Like Conlon’s work, this book is the start of something. A journey telling the story of the Irish revolution from the perspective of women; be they participants or civilians. It is a story that has been relegated to the sidelines for too long. We owe it to those who lived through those times, to ourselves and to future generations to have the women’s narrative where it belongs, beside that of their male counterparts. So to return to the statement that spurred Lil Conlon to write her book, ‘What did the women do anyway?’ Well as this book shows, they did an awful lot, more in fact than was previously known. They were revolutionaries, they were witnesses, they were victims, they were people and they are a central part of the story of the Irish revolution. The contributors and editors of this book are to be commended for their work. Lil Conlon would be proud. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 67
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BE A TOURIST IN YOUR OWN COUNTY DESPITE COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, THERE’S STILL A WORLD OF ADVENTURE TO EXPLORE AROUND THE ISLAND OF IRELAND.
eat BALLYNAHINCH CASTLE HOTEL & ESTATE Discover a treasure trove of antiquity and grandiosity in a perfect setting in Ballynahinch this autumn. Surrounded by 450 acres of forest, the hotel promises luxury, history and style in equal measure for visitors, all in the heart of picture-perfect Connemara. Food is an important element to any stay at Ballynahinch and the culinary excellence at the Owenmore restaurant will not disappoint. W: ballynahinch-castle.com E: firstname.lastname@example.org T: (095) 31006
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THE DEAN CORK Nothing was going to stop The Dean Cork from opening its doors to the public this year, and locals may have heard about the Horgan’s Quay development in construction over the last couple of months. The Dean Cork is unlike anything else in Cork: there’s Sophie’s Restaurant and its iconic brunch menu and the breathtaking rooftop views of the city skyline. Some things are worth the wait, and, equipped with six floors, 114 rooms, plush suites and a penthouse, The Dean Cork is a great shout for a staycation as the Christmas season approaches. W: deancork.ie | E: email@example.com
GETTING THE BEST GOLFING DEAL
KILKEA GOLF COURSE Kilkea Golf Course has been developed in a magnificent setting, beneath the shadows of a 12th century castle. W: kilkeacastle.ie/golf
MOUNT JULIET GOLF COURSE Both water and sand play a part in the types of challenges that have come to define this Jack Nicklaus’ course design. W: mountjuliet.ie/golf
SLIEVE DONARD RESORT AND SPA Nestling at the foot of the Mountains of Mourne, the Slieve Donard Resort and Spa stands in six acres of immaculate private grounds. This lovingly maintained Victorian hotel is now home to a fabulous spa – perfect for destressing as the days get shorter. With 180 luxurious bedrooms, many of which have stunning panoramic views over the Mountains of Mourne, you may never want to venture away from the sumptuous luxury and exquisite surroundings. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 69
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DRINKS | OPEN GATE BREWERY
Get down to the beer garden at Open Gate Brewery for exclusive experimental beers expertly concocted in The Liberties, one of Dublin’s most colourful and dynamic districts. Still operating as a functioning brewery, you’ll find a plethora of experimental pilsners and pale ales, all cheerfully poured by a team of beer specialists.
DUBLIN VEER OFF THE BEATEN PATH AND REDISCOVER THE MAGIC OF HIDDEN DUBLIN.
HIGHLIGHTS OF DUBLIN
Open Gate Brewery
WALKING | DUBLIN MOUNTAINS WAY
Due to the amount of time we’ve been spending at home, many of us are craving the fresh air of the natural environment. And county Dublin has so much to offer – so why not ramble the scenic beauty of one of the many sections of the Dublin Mountains Way and find out. ART | FRANCIS BACON’S STUDIO
CULTURE | DUBLIN DISCOVERY TRAILS
Download the free app and explore Dublin’s remarkable history one step at a time with the Dublin Discovery Trails. Invaders and bloodshed, empire and rebels, scandal, beauty and culture – if it’s colourful history you’re after, Dublin has the lot. Each will take about two hours on foot and you’ll almost hear the whispers of the past on your journey. SHOPPING | ANTIQUE QUARTER
OPEN HOUSE 2020 Watch ten extraordinary films commissioned as part of this year’s architectural festival and explore the work of some of our best architects.
Best known for his work depicting religious iconography and portraits of friends that were deemed controversial, Bacon himself was a contentious character. Although Bacon died in 1992, the studio where he worked has been preserved for visitors to admire at the Hugh Lane Gallery, which includes the contents of his original studio from South Kensington, London.
It’s all about antiques down on Francis Street in Dublin’s so-called ‘Antique Quarter’. Hidden away from the city’s shopping streets, this area is bursting with character and colour. Its relaxed atmosphere invites you to lose track of time as you explore the eclectic mixture of fine furniture and craft shops.
Francis Bacon Studio, Hugh Lane Gallery
DUBLIN BOOK FESTIVAL 2020 This annual public festival showcases the creativity and personality of the Irish publishing sector and its authors. W: dublinbookfestival.com
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Drinks Industry Lifestyle
INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: SPIRITS REPORT GROWTH
n October, Drinks Ireland launched its annual Spirits Market Report, offering an update on the industry. The report found that while the sector performed strongly in 2019, the Covid-19 crisis has significantly hit production, exports, and sales so far in 2020. The sector said that they have been significantly impacted by the closure of the hospitality sector in particular, arguing that venues should be allowed to reopen or stay open in a controlled, safe and sustainable manner where possible. While vodka remained Ireland’s most popular spirits drink, gin and Irish whiskey sales continued to grow in 2019 at home, although this growth was slower than in recent years. Drinks Ireland also highlighted other external challenges it is facing, namely Brexit and the EU and US trade disputes. With these challenges in mind, we remain hopeful that the industry can return to growth in the coming years – 2019 will be a benchmark to which the industry will aim to return to over the coming years.
WORLD STOUT DAY
BETTER BUSINESS PROVIDES THE INSIDE TRACK ON IRELAND’S DRINKS INDUSTRY.
Like the spirits industry, Ireland’s beer industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 and the closure of the hospitality sector. Despite the challenges, Drinks Ireland will be highlighting the worldrenowned Irish stout category on World Stout Day, which will take place this year on 5 November. Beer remains Ireland’s favourite drink and had a 44.6% market share in 2019. Within that category, stout is Ireland’s second favourite beer with a 29.3% market share. Jonathan McDade, Head of Beer at Drinks Ireland says: “We know that Irish stout is known and loved across the globe and is intrinsically tied to Ireland. While enjoyed by Irish consumers in pubs around the country, international visitors love to try an Irish stout during a trip here.” According to Drinks Ireland, beer exports increased in 2019 by 8.5%. The top five export markets for Irish beer last year were the United Kingdom, France, the USA, Germany and Canada.
IRISH WHISKEY WINS PROTECTED STATUS IN BELARUS
€1.17BN THE VALUE OF SPIRITS EXPORTS FROM THE ISLAND OF IRELAND IN 2019.
Irish whiskey has successfully been registered as a protected geographical indication (GI) in Belarus. GI recognition means the description ‘Irish whiskey’ can only be used on whiskey fully produced in Ireland in accordance with Irish law. Belarus is a small but emerging export market for Irish whiskey, with 21,000 cases sold last year, which was an increase of 56% on 2018. The successful application for protection in Belarus follows on from the coming-into-force recently of GI protection for Irish whiskey in each of China and Vietnam on foot of EU agreements. This registration means Irish whiskey is protected and defined in Belarus for the first time and is another milestone for the category. This means much tougher enforcement action can be taken against fake Irish whiskey products and, in turn, this will greatly benefit consumers as they can enjoy Irish whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product.
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Profile A Day in the Life
GROFORTH AND CONQUER GROFORTH FOUNDER AND CEO SARAH DALY TALKS US THROUGH A TYPICAL DAY AT THE HELM OF THE DUBLIN-BASED FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT SERVICES COMPANY. 6AM There are no two days the same, even more so since march when covid-19 entered our lives. The morning routine is the most important part of my day as it helps me prepare for the day ahead. I’m awake and up by 6am and out for a walk. 8AM I’ll grab some breakfast and then get the laptop on to clear the emails received since the previous evening. Then I’ll spend some time reviewing my to-do list created the night before. Turning on the radio in the morning can be the most challenging part of my day, but also my favourite. It’s hard listening to how Covid-19 has affected our lives, but I love hearing the good stories that are happening around the country. 9:30AM It’s time for the daily huddle with the team. We’ll discuss any issues that need resolving from the previous day, what deadlines are to be met, challenges the team is having and any Covid-19 updates that Revenue or the Government have issued. 10AM Clients expect us to be available and up-to-date at all Sarah Daly, times, so I’ll prepare and send emails founder and CEO, to any clients that may be affected GroForth by any announcements made in relation to Covid-19. The pandemic has impacted our business as much as the next. It has created an added level of stress – making sure you are on top of the information that is being delivered. 12PM The rest of day tends to pass by so quickly – with Zoom calls, phone calls, responses to urgent emails, client queries, ensuring deadlines are met, etc. All our clients and staff are abiding by the Covid-19 rules and working from home. But we are always available to our clients by phone through Zoom. 6PM I’ll try to go for a short walk to clear my head and to get a bit of fresh air before sitting down to dinner. 7:30PM I’ll usually find some time to clear emails and plan the following day’s to-do list. I understand we are going through a pandemic, but I cannot let that consume my business, so I keep my focus on my business and my personal goals every day by writing my goals out each evening – it motivates me and keeps me focused. WWW.GROFORTH.COM
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When business and research connect, anything is possible.
Knowledge Transfer Ireland is the national body responsible for helping businesses like yours to access Irish research, technology and expertise, and to benefit from it. Get in touch, and discover the possibilities.
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The official publication of the SFA (Small Firms Association)