Better Business Winter 2019/2020

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Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community.



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On the Cover: Regina Moran Business Director, Vodafone Photography: Paul McCarthy

Editor: Colin White Contributors: Paula Bradley, Clara Hester, Deanna O’Connor, Dean Van Nguyen Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designer: Alan McArthur Design Assitant: James Moore Production Executive: Claire Kiernan Account Director: Shane Kelly Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email 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

I was delighted to see hundreds of you at the SFA Annual Lunch in the Mansion House on 15 November. It was fantastic to speak to you, hear about your businesses and witness the vibrancy of the small business community. As 2019 has drawn to a close, this issue this issue examines the main business trends of the year. Our Sector Spotlight looks at the growth of the independent health food sector, while the HR pages provide a guide to pay discussions and effective performance management. We also offer guidance on developing a holistic business model to help small firms become sustainable and prosperous. Elsewhere in these pages you will find top tips on how to improve sales results in 2020 and we sit down with Dr Anita Sands to discuss the impact of technology and digital disruption. We are also delighted to announce the finalists of the SFA National Small Business Awards. Along the way you will come across a diverse range of businesses, whose experiences may well give you a fresh take on your own venture. 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. Ireland is a nation of small businesses. Of over 271,000 businesses in the country, 99% have less than 50 employees (small) and 92% have less than ten (micro). 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 or on Twitter @SFA_Irl.

competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118

Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association

SFA is a trading name of Ibec.


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05 16 20

Big News for Small Business News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland.

Holistic Business Aidan Harte discusses the importance of utilising a holistic approach to business.

Sector Spotlight Better Business speaks with speak with four innovative health food experts about this rapidly evolving sector.

26 30 32

Cover Story Vodafone’s Regina Moran on why smart working is essential for businesses of all sizes.

The Sands of Time Dr Anita Sands discusses the deepening impact of technology and digital disruption.

Young Trailblazers A new generation of entrepreneurs are shaking up their respective industries.

37 42 44

Leader of the Pack Joanne Hession discusses education, entrepreneurship and her desire to build authentic leadership.

Law and Order A sound legal framework is essential for the creation of a level playing field for small Irish companies.

Interview Kinzen CEO Mark Little reviews the changing nature of how we demand information.

Signal of Strength Brian Colbert explains why speed of response is key in today’s modern business landscape.

Arts and Culture Audio engineer Marc Carolan on his long relationship with the band Muse and the changing nature of music.

Travel South Africa’s vibrant mother city is hopping with culture and excitement.

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Winter 2019/2020  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Angela McGlanaghey, owner of Donegal’s Simple Simon’s health food store shares her opinions on the recent

VAT increase, page 20 // Vodafone’s Regina Moran on why smart working is essential for businesses of all sizes, page 26 // Simon Hillary on how Equine MediRecord is providing a convenient way of managing medical regulatory compliance for thoroughbred racehorses, page 32 // Kinzen CEO Mark Little reviews the changing nature of how we demand information, page 44


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News  Updates



Aalto Bio Reagents, headquartered in Dublin, has launched the first commercially available protein for the detection and diagnosis of Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) NSP2 TC83, a mosquito-borne viral pathogen. VEE can affect humans and animals alike causing flu-like symptoms and headaches in healthy humans and causing serious illness and death in the young, elderly and immunocompromised patients. This innovation will enable Aalto Bio Reagents’ customers to bring superior, differentiating diagnostic end-products to market faster, which will enable faster diagnosis, identification and treatment of these deadly viruses. This exciting launch marks the first in a series of dynamic new products coming from Aalto Bio in the emerging disease space. According to Enterprise Ireland, Ireland is one of the world’s most exciting life science hubs, fuelled by Ireland’s world-class innovation and research ecosystem.

BIG NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESS Megazyme leads the world with lactose assay kit

A team of scientists from Megazyme, headquartered in Bray, Co. Wicklow, has developed a new analytical test, K-LOLAC Enzymatic Low Lactose Assay, that offers a rapid, novel, and sequential measurement of free glucose and lactose in conventional, low-lactose and lactose-free dairy products. Lactose Intolerance is a condition that affects almost 70% of the population of the world. The global accreditation body AOAC recently asked analytical scientists around the world to propose methods for the measurement of lactose in lactose-free products. Only Professor Barry McCleary, Megazyme’s LOLAC procedure was CEO and owner, found suitable to progress to AOAC Megazyme Official Method First Action Status. This is a major step forward for Megazyme, as a key element of the method being accepted globally is AOAC validation. Megazyme has recently launched new test kits for the measurement of available carbohydrates and digestible starch to help address the global obesity and type 2 diabetes challenge.



With 110 temps working in facilities across Dublin, Three Q TEMPS was blown away yet again by the generosity of their hard-working temps, giving Three Q TEMPS an hour’s pay for Inner City Helping ‘Spare an Hour’ campaign volunteers Homeless. The annual ‘Spare an Hour’ is where Three Q TEMPS office staff and temps opt in to donate an hour of their pay to a democratically chosen charity and the company matches the donation. In 2019, ICHH was nominated because of the compassion they show to the homeless. Some of Three Q TEMPS office staff and temps were so moved by ICHH’s work, they donated multiple hours. Three Q TEMPS have shown that small can be mighty when everyone gives something to create a bigger donation as a group. If you are interested in starting your own campaign this year, Three Q TEMPS would love to hear from you. Email for a framework on how to organise your own campaign. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 5

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The 2020 Awards will take place on the 15th of May at the InterContinental Hotel, Dublin The Energia Family Business Awards showcase the best of Irish family businesses throughout the 32 counties of Ireland. The awards will celebrate everyone from small home grown businesses to established and international family run businesses.

For more information visit For all queries contact Michael O’Donoghue, Event Manager e: t: 01 432 2224

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News  Updates



In 2020, SEAI is launching a brand new energy efficiency programme to support all sizes of businesses to become more sustainable. This will include a range of audit and financial support, as well as online training and face-to-face events at which you can network and learn about sustainable energy and what it means for your business. Watch out for more information on this programme on the SEAI website (, where you can sign-up to the business newsletter and find out more about these supports as they launch in early 2020.


REVAL 2021

A revaluation of all commercial and industrial properties in the rating authority areas of Clare, Donegal, Galway, Kerry and Mayo County Councils and Galway City Council has been announced. The revaluation is part of an ongoing national programme to ensure that the rateable valuation of all commercial and industrial property in Ireland reflects the contemporary business environment. The purpose of revaluation is to bring increased transparency and more equity to the local authority rating system. Following revaluation, there is a much closer and uniform relationship between the current annual rental values of commercial properties and their commercial rates liability. The new valuations for the areas undergoing revaluation will be published in 2021 and become effective for rates purposes from 2022 onwards. Separately, a revaluation of all rateable properties in the local authority area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has also been announced. In Dún LaoghaireRathdown the new valuations will be published in 2020 and become effective for rates purposes from 2021 onwards.

“The SFA National Small Business Awards are now entering their 16th year and are a celebration of small business owners who in the past five years created over 75,000 jobs.” Sue O’Neill, Chair of the SFA Awards Judging Panel speaking at the SFA National Small Business Awards 2020 finalist announcement

“It is gratifying that the Government has listened to what the SFA and OECD have been saying about the need to improve SME and entrepreneurship policies and programmes in order to boost the number and performance of small businesses.” Sven Spollen Behrens, SFA Director speaking about the new national SME and entrepreneurship strategy

“We can talk about Brexit and other challenges day in, day out, but we are about action for our businesses, and who better to get advice on risk management from than a former Director of Global Engagement at the Obama White House.” SFA Skillnet Manager Geraldine Lavin commenting ahead of the SFA Skillnet Breakfast Briefing

CLEVAMAMA LAUNCHES BABY SINK BATH In November 2019, ClevaMama launched ClevaBath, a revolution in baby bath time, created to give peace of mind to parents by making bathing a baby so much easier and safer. Designed to sit over any standard sink, it means no heavy lifting, no bending over for parents, no bad posture and no water mess or spills – just easy and gentle bathing for your new baby. Not everyone has a bath in their home, but everyone has a sink. The ClevaBath cocoons your baby snuggly in an upright position, so they feel safe and relaxed during their bath time. Its innovative, flexible and perforated basin makes it so easy for draining the bath water after use. With removable and adjustable supports, the ClevaBath is perfect for babies from new-born up to 12 months, as well as being lightweight and collapsible for easy storage.


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Updates  News


ON-SITE REFUELING ACHIEVES ISO ACCREDITATION On-site Refueling based in Dublin, provides high-quality diesel fuel, gas oil and adblue directly to customers’ vehicle tanks and construction equipment at customers premises across Ireland. 2019 was a very productive year for On-site Refueling. Their customer base expanded dramatically, resulting in their operating fleet expanding to ten refueling trucks and their staff increasing to 14, including ten dedicated refueling specialists who collectively work around the clock to meet customers’ demands. Due to this sustained growth, the firm recently achieved ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management Systems accreditation. Further growth is predicted in 2020 to their existing customer base as they continue to supply premium fuel safely and efficiently, while reducing their customers’ carbon footprint. On-site Refueling strive to innovate with the goal of achieving a cleaner and greener Ireland.

On-site Refueling, Northwest Business Park, Dublin 15



The Central Bank of Ireland has delayed the implementation of strong customer authentication (SCA) over concerns that banks, payment service providers and merchants were unprepared for the change. The original deadline for implementing SCA was 14 September 2019, but the Central Bank of Ireland has now confirmed 31 December 2020 as the new deadline. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has also extended its deadline to end of the year. The second EU Payment Services Directive (PSD2) aims to make electronic payments safer, increase consumer protection and continue to foster innovation and competition while maintaining a level playing field for all parties. For more information on the migration to SCA, please consult your bank, payment service provider or merchant.


Big Red Barn recently introduced their new home to the market. Using modern methods of steelframe construction from fully and independently certified designs, the offsite manufacturing process significantly reduces overall construction time and costs. The house meets all ‘part L’ building regulations, designed to create an almost zero energy home. Because these modular homes are factory manufactured, they can be completed in a matter of weeks, as opposed to months and years as is the case with conventional building. The house building is not subject to on-site delays due to poor weather conditions or unavailability of contractors or specialist skilled labour. These homes have a 70% less carbon footprint than conventional buildings where waste to landfill is a major issue. They are also easier to heat and have significantly less ongoing energy bills. The homes include a two-storey dormer and a single-storey bungalow and the designs can be customised to meet the individual customer’s requirements. They are delivered as a complete turn-key solution with no other contractors required on site. All the customer has to do is purchase furniture and appliances before moving in.



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Congratulations to all finalists. We would like to congratulate all of the following companies who have succeeded as finalists in the SFA National Small Business Awards 2020. All category winners and the overall winner will be presented with their awards at the SFA Awards Gala Ceremony on March 12th 2020. FOOD AND DRINK



• • • • • •

• • • • • •

• KORE Insulation • Big Red Barn • Kells Traditional Timber Windows & Doors • Carlow Concrete • Green Angel

Baggot Street Wines Food at Fishers Kettles Country House Hotel The Tipperary Cheese Company Camerino Bakery Ice Cream Treats


BusterBox Gill Opticians Scattery Island Tours Smart Business Analytics Mattress Mick Child Paths

Big Red Barn Equine MediRecord Ice Cream Treats Terra NutriTECH Woodco Renewable Energy Zevo Health



• • • • • •

• • • • • •

Etag Fixings Ireland On-site Refueling Riverside Spa HERO Recruitment SimoTech T&I Fitouts

Carlow Concrete IMS Marketing Smarter Surfaces Adams & Butler BusterBox Big Red Barn




• • • •

• • • •

• • • • •

KORE Insulation MBSL Vivid Edge Shoe Lane Coffee


Interactions Research Guardian Safety IMS Marketing AVCOM

Vitztronics Smart Solutions Buildtech Soothing Solutions The Salt Rooms Vanguard Health Services International


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Updates  News



is featured in this quarters @SFA_Irl #BetterBusiness Magazine as one of the ‘Wise Guys’. Read Caroline’s secret to success on page 22.



Feargal O’Neill, CEO, Gamma Location Intelligence

Gamma Location Intelligence, the leading location intelligence services provider in Ireland, recently announced that it is launching its Perilfinder software platform in the UK and projects the move to generate €3m in new export revenue over the next three years. As well as additional revenue driven through direct sales and new partnerships, Gamma Location Intelligence will open a new office in Manchester in 2020 as part of its expansion. It is also planning to increase its headcount by 15 to support this growth. The organisation is also planning to invest a further €1m over the next two years on further developing its technology and has agreed a partnership with JBA Risk Management to deliver European flood data through its Perilfinder platform. This will allow the firm to roll this solution out to insurance companies across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Irish outward FDI is increasingly playing an important role in expanding the Irish business footprint. Indigenous exports have more than doubled from €11bn in 2010 to €24bn in 2018.

STEPS FOR BEING BREXIT-READY Now a deal has been struck, it is important that your business is prepared as possible for when the UK leaves the EU. If you are trading in goods to or from the UK, an Economic Operators Registration Identification (EORI) is required to be entered on a customs declaration. In the post-Brexit environment, all goods movements involving the UK will require a customs declaration. To register for an EORI number go to the Revenue Online Service. The application process is quick and extremely reliable. The Government has collaborated with Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and AIB to create €300m in loans for Irish SMEs and farmers. The scheme is to support strategic long-term investment in a post Brexit environment and will be delivered by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) .

So excited to have been given recognition in the Small Firms Association Awards as one of the Best Emerging Business 2020. Thank you @SFA_Irl looking forward to all the upcoming events.


Forget #BlackFriday and think #Greenfriday this week! Supporting local business is supporting local communities so get involved!

@guaranteed_irl @SFA_Irl #supportlocal #localsupport #briodybeds

@briodybeds We enjoyed a great afternoon of networking, entertainment and inspirational speakers at the

@SFA_IrlAnnual Lunch in the

@CEVMansionHouse last Friday. It was great hearing


talk about tools and techniques to help run a #smallbusiness. #SFALunch


How to apply: ■ Complete the Eligibility Application Form with SBCI to

learn if your business is currently eligible

■ After ensuring eligibility, bring the SBCI confirmation

to AIB, Bank of Ireland, or Ulster Bank to apply for a loan



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We’re supporting your dreams Need help to support your business? Talk to us about our small business loans. Or visit your Local Enterprise Office.

Roxana Boldizsar Owner & Tailor Roxxy Studio

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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An Roinn Gnó, Fiontar agus Nuálaíochta Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation

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Updates  News



I came to Ireland in 2003 and have learned a lot from people – my college TU Dublin, my previous employers and my customers and colleagues in business. I joined the Steering Group with a mission to give back to society and to small businesses who struggle to get training support. What did members want in terms of training? Rohit Thakral, Chair, SFA Skillnet Steering Group

Through contacting members and our Steering Group discussions we realised that they mainly needed general management, project management, as well as tips on presenting, digital marketing and sales. What were the benefits members received from training?


We sourced expert trainers and delivered courses at an affordable cost. Our member companies let us know that the training boosted their employees’ moral and gave them confidence. Some of our employees participated in the courses and we can see a clear and measurable improvement in the sales figures and closure rates achieved by our sales team. In addition, the training also impacts on the overall satisfaction rate and retention rate of employees too. What advice would you give a business that’s taking its first steps to train staff?

We highly recommend that businesses keep an eye on the SFA Skillnet website – whenever a course that resonates with your needs is discovered, match it with an employee. If you don’t see a

particular course and would like to see it up there, let us know! Were there any memorable events during the year?

Reflecting back to last year, some key events come to mind, such as the launch of SFA Skillnet in the Aviva Stadium and our Breakfast Briefing with Brett Bruen. Brett’s talk was very interesting; he spoke about how crisis communication is managed in large businesses and during US presidential campaigns and how small businesses can implement these practices. What do you feel are the greatest successes of the SFA Skillnet?

There are many, but, in my opinion, the greatest success is reaching over 100 member companies and delivering training to over 200 people during our first year alone. What are your plans for 2020 and should the SFA Skillnet secure funding?

Our funding request for 2020 and beyond is still pending with Skillnet Ireland and by the time this article is published we should have an answer from them. If we secure funding for 2020, we will focus more on management skills. If we enable the small business owner, the whole sector will start improving. Financial literacy was seen as one of the major shortcomings of SFA’s survey of small businesses, therefore this will play an important role in defining the new courses to be created by SFA Skillnet. For further information on the SFA Skillnet, call (01) 605 1695 and visit


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Year in Review  News


Our Business Connect event took place at the Aviva Stadium in February 2019 with the aim of bringing together big and small business, while highlighting opportunities to work together. ■ 15th Annual Awards Gala

The 15th Annual SFA National Small Business Awards Gala took place in the RDS and brought together the best small businesses in Ireland, where our overall winner, Blueacre Technology, was announced. ■ Smart Business Conference

The Smart Business Conference in May was all about ‘Innovate or Expire’. It explored the future of work, from smart working to dealing with a workforce that consists of five generations, while also looking at how artificial intelligence and other smart technologies are changing work and business practices. ■ Launch of 2020 Awards

In September, we launched the 16th Annual SFA National Small Business Awards with the help of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings. We are delighted to have our finalists confirmed, you can find a full list of them on page 9. ■ Annual Lunch

We ended a brilliant and informative year with our Annual Lunch that took place in the Round Room of the Mansion House on the 15 November. We had David Meade as the keynote speaker, bringing his entertaining mentalist tricks to an enraptured audience. Make sure you look at the dates we already have in the diary for 2020 and keep an eye on the full schedule of SFA events at and keep up with us on Twitter @SFA_Irl.

The SFA also held an interesting mix of smaller events throughout 2019, such as the SFA Skillnet launch, our Regional Roadshow and a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event where attendees were able to network, enhance key business skills and seek out new business opportunities.


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News  Year in Review

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY 2020 n 6 February

Business Connect, Aviva Stadium

n 12 March

SFA National Small Business Awards, RDS

n Mid-May

Funding Ambition

n Early September

Launch of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2021

n 13 November

SFA Annual Lunch, Round Room, Mansion House

n 10 December

SFA Christmas Members Evening


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Feature  Holistic Business Model

TOP TIPS FOR A HOLISTIC APPROACH Aidan Harte’s top ten tips for creating a holistically performing business: CREATE TIME FOR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT, STUDY AND THINKING Attend international trade shows and exhibitions in your industry; there is a dependable correlation between business success and management competencies. CLEARLY DEFINE (AND REGULARLY REDEFINE) THE BUSINESS YOU ARE IN What solutions and benefits can you can effectively and efficiently bring to what specific group of people. Reflect of how the needs of customers are, and will be, changing and how these needs will be best met in the future. HAVE A SIMPLE, REGULARLY UPDATED, BUSINESS PERFORMANCE OPTIMISATION PLAN that becomes the centre focus of management meetings. This should cover all sections of the holistic business model. THOROUGHLY UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPTS OF COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE AND VALUE PROPOSITION Proactively and consistently communicate clear messages to your customers and prospective customers as a business top priority. FOCUS ON THE SKILLS OF SELLING, NEGOTIATION, CLOSING THE SALE AND MANAGING THE CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP Some of the essential basics of business have been lost or downgraded in today’s world of the internet, technology and e-marketing.


harte is in the



fter 25 years in the field of SME skills development, Aidan Harte has seen the drastic effects of three economic recessions over his working life and has lived to tell the tale. Navigating these choppy waters, he has grown his own small firm into an international company now working with business development agencies and some 12,500 clients across 13 countries from Ireland to the Middle East. Over recent years the company has developed advanced systems to help firms deliver cost and time-effective training and HR solutions to their clients at home and in export markets. From very considerable experience, Aidan Harte explains that amongst the critical issues for business managers is the need to develop the skills and systems to view the business holistically.


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Holistic Business Model  Feature

He comments: “Being a small business owner manager is a lot more challenging than being a manager in a larger organisation, which usually has divisional structure and subject expertise, while the small business manager is required to have competencies across a wide range of aspects of business management.” Equally, he says, “It has been our experience that the entrepreneur or manager is usually very Aidan Harte, knowledgeable about the core Managing Director, activity of the business, but often Optimum Results lacks in critically important aspects of business management. All of which can be further compounded by the owner or manager usually being too busy with the day’s work to manage the optimisation of the business’ potential.” It is evident as an experienced entrepreneur himself that Harte is a passionate and enthusiastic individual. These are two common traits that he attributes to the majority of small business owners that he has encountered. However, where Harte believes it’s vital to develop small businesses further than the boundaries of their great ideas and passion. In this context, he developed a comprehensive holistic business model, which now forms the foundation of much of the company’s work with clients. This allows business managers and their advisors to assess current business performance, assess management competence and strategically plan for growth and development across the seven sections of the framework.


European Recognition Three of the programmes offered by Optimum Results are classified by the European Union’s Training Foundation (ETF) as ‘International Best Practice’ programmes, a standard that is incredibly difficult to achieve. The SME Management Skills Development Programme is one of the three highly regarded programmes and is one that Harte is particularly proud of. “It is very difficult to get that title,” he admits. “We have a vast amount of SME development experience working with the best in the business and we now have stateof-the-art online blended learning management system technology. That combination is very interesting when you look at the international market of emerging economies. We can now take world-class training to places that don’t currenty have the resources.”

TRAIN YOUR PEOPLE PROPERLY This is an investment and not a cost. Create a positive, pleasant and respectful workplace environment. Everyone in the business must be customerfocused and enjoy what they do and have pride in the organisation. DEVELOP KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS for everything important and have dependable, timely management information systems. Meet with a good financial advisor regularly, as annual accounts are virtually useless for SME management. HAVE GOOD SYSTEMS TO OPTIMISE PRODUCTIVITY AND DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS Minimising waste in everything, so promote your environmental good practices and build excellent relationship with suppliers. CULTIVATE CREATIVITY AMONGST YOUR TEAM and convert the good ideas into innovation that enhances your competitive advantage and profitability. Involve your staff in brainstorming sessions to solve problems and implement improvements and be familiar with the services and assistance of the State’s business development agencies. REFLECT ON YOUR EXIT STRATEGY When and how do you get out? Don’t be emotionally attached to the business; it usually doesn’t result in good decision-making. For more information, visit


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An exciting opportunity for Ireland’s large and small companies to connect. l Learn about the buying process and decision making in leading large Irish based companies l Hear how small firms have secured major customers

2020 6 February 08:00 - 14:00 Aviva Stadium

l Network and pitch your story to a range of dynamic companies

Through our SFA National Small Business Awards programme, we are also showcasing the best in Irish small business. Our awards finalists and emerging new business will exhibit along with our awards sponsors and partners.

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Build Sales Growth

 Tips

Jo Collins Managing Director, Sales Performance




Analyse where your business is coming from by examining all of your clients. By doing this exercise, you can confirm the original source of the work. The enquiry at a glance could have come from your website, but what triggered that activity? Once you understand this, you can then start to invest time and effort into these areas, which will make your marketing efforts more efficient and effective.



As business owners, we can be very focused on new business development. In my experience, there is always a great opportunity to get incremental revenue growth from your existing customers. Look at your top ten customers, what additional services or products would be complementary to what they are already buying from you. The key here is it needs to make sense and be a good fit.

Know your numbers The numbers never lie. Understand your metrics, and drill down on the detail.



We often we place a lot of understanding into why our pitch was unsuccessful, and this is important as a learning exercise. However, I think we have so much more to learn by asking what made someone choose your company or product. This information can then be used in other pitches and it will start to build a picture of what is important to potential clients.



A conversation that emotionally connects with a buyer will make a difference. Create a sales story for each industry that you serve. Carve out stories based on how you helped companies, explaining what their original situation was, what solution did you provide and what was the outcome.



80% of sales happen somewhere between the fifth and 12th touch-point. The purchasing process is getting longer, with multiple decision makers. This brings challenges for salespeople. Most salespeople give up after three to five efforts, believing the opportunity is gone – this is where sales are lost. Have a followup strategy that is focused on the customer and make sure every point of contact has value.



Regardless of the size of your team, create the time for weekly sales meetings that look at progress and challenges. It’s a time to review and plan and it holds people accountable for their sales activities. I would also suggest using this time to brainstorm challenges and allow people to contribute ideas based on their experience.

Build trust

In my experience, long-term and high-value customers will choose the salesperson that they trust. Focus on how you can build trust with potential clients. Focus on listening and support your clients’ businesses on social media.


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Sector Spotlight  Health Stores

Pioneers Sustainability IN



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independent health food sector in Ireland has come a long way over the last few decades. Health food stores have captured the attention of the mainstream and become a ubiquitous sight; today there are more than 1,000 stores across the nation, from the smallest town to our major cities. Ireland is following in the footsteps of Europe and America when it comes to taking ownership of personal health. Gone are the days of boasting about never having taken a vitamin. Today’s consumers are prepared to spend significant money on making choices in the hopes that it will have a positive impact on their health. Angela McGlanaghey, owner of Donegal’s Simple Simon’s health food store, says: “Previously, a lot of customers would leave it until they were unwell or run down to make a change, whereas these days we are seeing people take a huge interest in their health and make the necessary changes in order to lead a healthier lifestyle.”

Health Stores  Sector Spotlight

Angela McGlanaghey, owner, Simple Simon’s health food store


Established in 1979 by Jimmy and Erica Murray, The Hopsack has become one of south Dublin’s meccas for healthy living. Specialising in organic, fairly traded, ethnic and special dietary foods, the Rathmines shop is now run by the second generation of Murrays, Finn and Kate. Education is a huge thing,” says Finn. “What our mam started, and what we’ve tried to continue, is to be a hub as a resource, as opposed to a shop. It looks and breathes like a shop, but actually what drives it is a sense of community. New customers are surprised at the type of health information our staff can offer, and that seals a real bond.” Sister Kate adds: “We’re not sales driven. Our ethics are based on being a family business. We chat and communicate with our customers, which creates

a community in itself. When it comes to staffing, so many of the applications we get are from customers who know the shop and get the vibe and the morals behind it. They fit in with the ethos.” The success of this market is a tribute to the rise of healthier and more sustainable purchasing habits amongst modern consumers. It can be little wonder then that there has been such an outcry of consternation across the sector at the Government’s decision to subject a 13.5% VAT increase on previously exempt food and dietary supplements from January 2020. According to The Irish Times, 50% of us take a dietary supplement at any given time, but that has not always been the case. Alan McGrath has seen significant changes in the sector over the past three decades as he graduated from health food store owner to National Organiser for Health Stores Ireland, a group that represents independent health stores across the country. “Back in the ‘90s, the emphasis was very much on whole foods like seeds and lentils, as well SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 21

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Sector Spotlight  Health Stores

as products targeted at maintaining good health as people got older, such as fish oils,” he says. “Over the years customer interest has transformed into demanding more science-backed, high-end nutrition products.” The Government’s decision to implement 13.5% VAT on food and dietary supplements has been heavily criticised as contradicting the stated policy to promote a healthy Ireland. Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has gone so far as to say that the Government’s repeated insistence that food supplements are not food is “misinformation that flies in the face of the written law of the land”. Angela McGlanaghey is concerned about the real-world consequences this decision will have on prices. “As a small independent business we will be unable to absorb the increase, so it will affect our prices, which may discourage customers from buying the products they may really need,” she urges. “It’s really unfair to tax people who are essentially being punished for looking after their own health.” “There’s been a big disconnect between suppliers and stores, and we’re waiting for the hammer to drop with new prices,” says Finn Murray regarding the uncertainty the VAT issue has created for health store owners. “It’s an illogical decision, there’s no rationality in it,” adds Kate. “It seems like Revenue is driving this decision. We had a lot of politicians that were very supportive of our cause, but they capitulated in the end.

Enthusiasm and empathy As representative for Health Stores Ireland, Alan McGrath is obviously upset by the Government tax too, especially in light of other looming challenges like Brexit, but is not worried about the tax driving customers away thanks to the sector’s unique selling points. He comments: “Key factors for any health store would be training, enthusiasm, and empathy. Our staff from the ground up have a genuine understanding of the product and what it’s for, from snack bars to high-end scientific food supplements.” Despite products being available at a variety of outlets, such as pharmacies, supermarkets, and even online, the ubiquity of health stores across the country is a testament to the fact that consumers are not only looking for well-priced products, but also seeking out advice and guidance. They expect a level of information and even qualification that is not generally available from the label on the bottle. McGrath stipulates that this level of one-toone customer service is difficult to provide online. “It’s difficult to translate the empathy, knowledge, and care online, so people who are buying health products online are stepping away from that and taking a risk.” However, online purchasing does have a part to play for health store retailers, particularly in Ireland, where customers can be located in remote areas and may struggle to pop into a store as regularly as they need the products. “Our online store is about reaching our customers living in rural areas,” notes Angela. “We will also set up a ‘click and collect’ service for the busy customer who hasn’t got time to shop in person and may need their groceries or supplements picked up by a passing friend or relative. It’s all about giving our customers more options.” “You hear stores talking about bringing their online community offline and their offline community online,” adds Finn Murray. “Online sales is a tiny percentage [of our business], but the average spend is very high and we have a very active bunch of online customers. Our newsletter engagement is incredibly high. They may not directly buy something from that, but it’s still a really important resource as we’re moving that educational piece, which would normally be a one-to-one chat in the store, into their living room.”

Alan McGrath, National Organiser, Health Stores Ireland

One way that independent health food stores are attempting to bridge the gap between their online stores and their traditionally high level of customer service is to enter the realm of social media. Staff are able to post tips or even videos on products and engage with customers in realtime, which not only has the advantage of retaining customer loyalty, but also creates a buzz around the product. The sector is also using brand ambassadors successfully, with notable names like British athlete Paula Radcliff, Irish rugby international James Ryan and food and lifestyle blogger Roz Purcell taking up the mantle.

Sustainable approach McGrath, McGlanaghey and the Murrays all identify the sector’s long-standing record of sustainable practices as another strength that will help retain customers. “As a sector we’ve been the trailblazers,” beams Angela. “We were doing bulk and refills 20 years ago, long before it became the fashion,” adds Alan McGrath. “Stores are now setting up packaging-free ancillary shops to allow customers to collect their purchases and avoid the packaging associated with shipping and delivery.” Simple Simon’s and The Hopsack are typical of the high standard of sustainability apparent in independent health food stores. Both already offer refills on products in


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Health Stores  Sector Spotlight

an effort to cut down on single-use plastics. Angela McGlanaghey is excited about Simple Simon’s upcoming Zero-Waste Refill Station, which will facilitate customers bringing their own containers to refill on products such as herbs, spices, pasta, oats and other whole foods. As well as cutting down on plastic waste, the refill station will cut down on food waste by allowing customers to purchase only the amount they need, rather than having to buy a specific amount and throw the unused amount away. McGlanaghey has experienced a very positive response to their efforts, saying: “We have already been blown away by the support of our customers, who are as conscious as us.” Looking to climate change and how human behaviour negatively affects the planet, Finn Murray believes that serious governmental support is required in order to tackle the problem. “We need to get to a zero carbon economy in 11 years,” he says, “and you can’t do that by individual change – you can only do that with governmental change. What we’re not addressing is conscious consumerism. “We’ve been involved with a group of 50 companies in Dublin who came together to sponsor postdoctoral research around sustainable business practices and change implementation within food businesses in Ireland. And one of the things that came out of the research was that a compostable cup is actually less sustainable than many noncompostable ones. We’re not getting the education right, because there’s too many marketing messages out there, as opposed to real science.” He continues: “I think this [consumer awareness] is going to change the face of retail more than anything. This is going to be the thing that makes us look at ourselves and how we consume, because it has to. We have a zero waste commitment at The Hopsack and we’ve started to produce tortillas and crackers from our kitchen made from our juice pulp.”

Diversification Like any independent sector, the health food sector faces challenges in fragmentation arising from the niche specialisation that is at once their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. To counteract this risk, many stores have realised that there is room in their business model for a health-targeted deli. Simple Simon’s has positioned their deli to the front of their store to take advantage of Donegal’s tourist traffic. “Tourists will often

come in for a coffee or a bite to eat, then venture down into the health food store to explore some more,” informs Angela. McGrath maintains that people in the health food business are natural innovators and sees this as a key strength when it comes to building and developing the industry. He says: “The challenge is to retain a relationship with established brands and develop relationships with new brands that want to come and use our store network to reach consumers.”

Kate and Finn Murray, The Hopsack

“THE WHOLE IDEA OF PLANETARY HEALTH IS SPREADING OUT AND NUTRITION APPLIES TO THIS MASSIVELY. ALL OF THOSE MESSAGES ARE STARTING TO REGISTER WITH CONSUMERS.” However, he also believes there is a genuine concern for how health stores will weather the storm that Brexit will undoubtedly bring. “After Brexit we might see a more European-influenced style of shop and array of goods,” he predicts. “In fact, the signs are beginning to show already. I know a lot of wholesalers are negotiating with some of the big German, French, Italian and Belgium companies to bring out English-language packaging.” Of course, these concerns are not unique to the health food retailers. McGrath feels that thanks to a history of adjustment and flexibility to suit the ever-changing market his sector is likely to cope better than most. The Hopsack’s Kate Murray remains optimistic for the future. “The whole idea of planetary health is spreading out and nutrition applies to this massively,” she states. “All of those messages are starting to register with consumers. We’re seeing a lot of new energy in terms of millennial-style thinking, which is helpful for us as an industry and as humans.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 23

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Advice  Wise Guys





Director, Big Red Barn Surround yourself with positive people, not just in your team, but in your personal life too. It’s easier to work and grow a company beside these kinds of people, and if a can-do attitude is installed at the start, nothing is an issue. Written on our boardroom wall, and something we say on a daily basis, is, “At Big Red Barn, we don’t do problems, we only do solutions.” Write down your goals on the white board in the office and start a vision board – if you write it down and it’s visible, it will be much more likely to happen.


CONJOINT ANALYSIS Matthew Johnston CEO, Epic Conjoint

To give a free pilot, or not to give a free pilot? That is a dilemma most, if not all, startups and small companies selling solutions encounter. While purists would argue it should never even be countenanced, it doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game. In fact, it is possible to turn this challenging situation into a win-win for both parties. Offer the prospect the survey for free, but only on the condition they agree to pay if the pilot is deemed a success and they get value from the results. And always tie a testimonial in as a condition of the pilot.



Creative Director, Upload Media Under promise and over deliver. Being an industry expert in digital media, it’s difficult to portray the final product to a client in an email or over the phone. You must simply outline what the project will include and allow your creativity during the production stages to create something unique. Your portfolio is where you’ll gain new clients’ trust. Exceed your clients’ expectations, build a strong business relationship and make them want to work with you in the near future.”

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 road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.”



Managing Partner, Lionheart Management Consultants Adapt to change. I learned early in my career that success resides with the entrepreneurs who can adapt to the most unexpected, difficult and seemingly impossible challenges that occur every day. Knowing to find the determination to keep going in an unpredictable economy and working with people who can change in an instant, based on the circumstances in their lives, is the best skill to have. Engage your team to keep up with technology, the target market and competition.

If you are a business leader


Athleisure Niall Horgan CEO, Gym+Coffee

The advice I would have given myself 18 months ago would be different to today after a few years in business. However, one piece of wisdom that has helped me is remembering that everything is not just black and white. Just because something isn’t going exactly right, doesn’t mean it’s going wrong. Creating your own business is an emotional rollercoaster, and sometimes your ambition and passion make it difficult to step back and think rationally. Course corrections will always be needed, but as long as you know you’re moving in the right direction, you’re doing okay. Don’t panic and keep moving forward!

Will Rogers (4 November 1879 - 15 August 1935) American actor


PHOTOGRAPHY Laurence Scally Editor, True Shot Photography

It’s vital to be enthusiastic about what you do and love going to work every day. You must be passionate and believe in what you are doing – money shouldn’t be the main motivation. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. All successes have had some failures along the way, but you have to believe in yourself and learn from the mistakes. It’s important to have regular downtime so you can recharge and have the energy to focus on what’s good for your business.

and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with the small business community please email


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 Brought to you by Vodafone Business


good for



hrough cloud-based platforms, machine-to-machine services and professional ICT support, Vodafone’s myriad of mobile, broadband and networking solutions can offer firms the chance to succeed in a connected world, whatever the size of your organisation. As Business Director, Regina Moran leads a team that services all of Vodafone’s business customers across the Irish market. “It’s a very interesting role,” admits Moran. “Connectivity is at the core of everything we do – fundamentally, our purpose is to partner with customers to realise their connected ambition. We’re proud to partner with companies of all sizes so they can grow their business.” A relative newcomer to the telecommunications sector, having joined Vodafone less than two years ago, Moran has seen sizable industry shifts during this relatively short time



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Paul McCarthy

Brought to you by Vodafone Business 

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Regina Moran, Business Director, Vodafone


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 Brought to you by Vodafone Business

frame. “Vodafone was the first operator to launch 5G,” she says, “which is going to be an amazing game-changer in terms of technology and the Internet of Things as we see a whole new set of business models emerging. 5G brings ultra-fast speeds, but it’s also about low latency and very high bandwidth, and this combination will allow firms to do things we probably haven’t even fully dreamed of yet.” Vodafone has the infrastructure in place to make a huge difference to the connectivity landscape in Ireland over the coming years. The company prides itself on offering integrated, next-generation fixed and mobile solutions in addition to cloud-based platforms. One example of this is One Net Business, a solution aiming to simplify lines of communication for firms in one intelligent cloud-based system, so people can work from anywhere, at any time. It basically acts as broadband backup. “If a small firm can’t trade due to a drop in connectivity,

Conversation with SMEs – the majority of SME employees are in favour of remote, flexible or smart working practices, but only 9% of SME owners are fully embracing it. One in three (33%) employees see it as top priority in their current role, 50% in a future job and 34% likely or very likely to move job for it. A first-of-its-kind economic report commissioned by Vodafone Ireland in 2019 and written by economist Jim Power shows the creation of smart working in Ireland could prove transformative for businesses and local communities. Moran believes there has been a deepening divide between our urban and rural economies. “A big conversation has come about through our work with the SFA, and others, which informed our smart working programme and reports,” she explains. “The recent economic study shows that the creation of viable smart working opportunities in a hub, homeworking or

“THIS RELIABLE CONNECTIVITY IS REALLY IMPORTANT FOR SMALL FIRMS, AS THEY NOW HAVE THE ABILITY TO TRADE IN COUNTRIES ACROSS THE WORLD. WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED IS ACTUALLY VERY POWERFUL.” that has a hugely negative impact,” says Moran. She adds: “Our mobile network is hugely important to small firms across Ireland, and we have been independently certified as having the best network for voice, data and text. That ‘always-on’ connectivity is really important today.”

A smart solution Vodafone’s desire to start a national conversation between industry, Government and communities on how advancing smart working opportunities can benefit local economies, the environment and the wellbeing of employees and business owners has garnered significant attention recently. Smart working is defined as the combined use of technology with flexibility and agility for employees to work from home, from a hub or using a hybrid model (part-home, partoffice) enabled by connectivity. According to SME research released by Vodafone Ireland in 2018 – The Future of Business in Ireland: A

a hybrid model in Ireland’s regions could prove transformative for people, businesses and local communities. There are so many potential benefits, not only to small firms and rural communities, but also to urban communities that are getting saturated by infrastructure. Companies benefit from increased productivity as people spend less time travelling, but it also widens their talent pool considerably. Plus, employees are more likely to stay with the company, as the flexibility means a lot to people”. As part of Vodafone’s national Gigabit Hub Initiative, the company provides free connectivity to 15 digital hubs. These hubs are making significant contributions to the local economies and communities in which they operate. “It’s a national question now,” explains Moran. “There are massive economic and societal benefits from embracing smart working. These hubs are a place where small businesses congregate, and it’s amazing


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Brought to you by Vodafone Business 

to see ideation emerging and businesses flourishing outside the main cities. Overall, it is stimulating local economies and breathing life back into rural towns. “From a mental health perspective, there is the removal of isolation for remote workers, and there are also benefits for the environment from the reduction of carbon emissions that result from long commutes. Ireland has a real opportunity to make a difference. Obviously, you need the high-speed connectivity that Vodafone can provide, but it’s the community dimension that I see as another key element in making this work.” One of the obstacles for small firms in entering new markets is limited access to high-speed connectivity, which can make it difficult to compete with in bigger competitors and internationally. Vodafone’s gigabit connectivity is fundamental in broadening the enterprise and export base of Irish firms. “This reliable connectivity is really important for small firms,” declares Moran, “as they now have the ability to trade in countries across the world. What can be achieved is actually very powerful. One example is the art dealer, Morgan O’Driscoll. Based in Skibbereen and with access to gigabit connectivity, they can upload high-quality images instantly to his website and sell art worldwide from West Cork.”

An engaged workforce

Regina Moran, Business Director, Vodafone

Paul McCarthy

Technology for good is about combining a desire for societal change with technology to make a difference in the world. Vodafone supports projects that are focused on delivering public benefits through the application of technology across the areas of health and education. “We need a keep an eye on how we, as a business, are helping society,” admits Moran, “whether that’s through promoting smart working, reducing carbon emissions, or in any other way for that matter.” She adds: “There’s so many good initiatives that our employees want to engage with, and that’s as important to me as ramping up on the business front. I’m delighted that young people joining the workforce feel really engaged, especially when they feel they are making a difference in a purposeful way.” For more information about Vodafone’s technology communications solutions for small, medium and large businesses, visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 29

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Feature  Technology

Sands THE OF



is changing the world around us in unexpected ways and its transformative nature is seen through seismic shifts in the sector. Small businesses rely on technology on a daily basis and technological advances have the potential to affect these firms in positive, as well as adverse, ways. How well entrepreneurs engage with these emerging systems will depend on their willingness to adapt. Anita Sands is an international keynote speaker renowned for her insights on the growing power of technology and what this means for business, leadership and society. Her career to date has spanned a plethora of sectors: physics, public policy, academia, financial services and technology, to name but a few. Now, more than ever, the importance for Irish firms to display enterprise transformation and innovation is increasingly key, according to the former Fulbright scholar. “We’re living in an era when the pace of change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again,” she says. “The technology sector is in a state of constant change. People are always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ or the next technological trend that will prove to be a real game-changer, as opposed to a fad.” Sands believes that the technology sector has been dominated by a few key trends over recent years, namely the move to the cloud, the ubiquity of mobile, the emergence of artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the growing opportunities presented by the Internet of Things, sensors and connected devices. “I really think that there’s not a single industry or company that’s not being affected,


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Technology  Feature

in some way, by technology,” she states. “What’s been interesting this time around is the new business and operating models that technology has made possible; for instance, the way in which we’re moving to providing ‘everything as a service’. That’s a fundamental sea change. Businesses were traditionally built based on ownership, whereas now people just want access. Pricing has moved to subscription. So the impact of technology reaches far beyond what we would have once thought about.” She continues: “Obviously, technology has also opened up incredible commercial opportunities for Irish companies. It’s now possible to be a gig-worker and have clients in any part of the world and it’s also possible to market and scale your company at a cost and pace that would have been inconceivable before the advent of the internet.” As we are becoming more heavily dependent on technology, how quick does the county Louth native think Irish entrepreneurs have been in terms of dealing with emerging technologies? “My advice to leaders is to focus on the trends that are affecting your particular business,” she comments. “Context is really important when thinking about innovation and leading change. Don’t get overwhelmed by technological advancements, because what’s most important is that you understand what matters in your context and your industry. I think that’s one of the misnomers about digital disruption – that it’s all encompassing. “Have the agility, resilience and courage to venture into the unknown with the confidence that you’ll figure it out as you go. I look back now and realise that on more than one occasion, I just threw myself off the cliff and knew (or hoped!) that I’d figure out how to deploy my parachute before I hit the ground.”

Start me up Serving on as many as five technology boards, while also finding the time to invest in Irish companies, means Sands splits her time between San Francisco, New York and Dublin. “Whenever I’m speaking to a group of Irish entrepreneurs, female leaders or board directors, I never fail to be universally impressed by the level of thinking, engagement and creativity,” she enthuses. “I may be biased, but I do believe there’s

something special about the Irish blend of creative thinking, problem solving, interpersonal skills and open mindedness. I’ve spoken at events and worked with organisations all over the world and I would still put my money behind Irish talent any day of the week. We have world-class people, what we now need is to help support Irish entrepreneurs and business owners who have world-class ideas and global ambitions.” Ireland is home to cutting-edge companies working with the latest technology and has solidified its reputation

Dr Anita Sands

as a global technology hub in recent years. Sands highlights the positives behind the many multinational firms now established across the nation. “As much as there’s been some criticism of the major multinational technology players in the Irish economy in terms of the pressure they bring to the talent market, overall, their presence has done a lot to elevate Ireland’s reputation as a technologically savvy country and culture. So I hope we continue to see them invest in Ireland in the future, although, I think talent shortages, and some of the emerging digital tax initiatives being suggested by other countries, might put that under pressure in the future. “Obviously, we also need to continue to support our startup community as well, and while there’s been some improvements in the infrastructure and support ecosystem for Irish tech startups, there’s still a long way to go.”

The innovation spectrum Sands appreciates and values the nature of change and the extent to which human and cultural elements are pivotal in shaping the landscape of business. For Sands, the technology industry isn’t just building tools; it’s creating “the foundation upon which humanity will exist as a digital species”. “I’ve always been a huge advocate of diversity and inclusion, particularly in the tech sector,” she notes, “not because I think it’s a nice thing to do, or the right thing to do. I believe that the only way to deal with change, adversity and uncertainty is to have a diverse range of perspectives around the table. In my mind, diversity and inclusion are fundamental business imperatives. “The only way we can protect the long-term interest of shareholders and stakeholders is by ensuring that our industry is as diverse and inclusive as possible. I also think that for the tech sector, in particular, we don’t stand a chance of building the most innovative products, or producing the best technologies, as long as we are only harvesting the skills, talents and ideas of a subset of the population. Whenever diversity is lacking, a huge part of the innovation spectrum is missed. And when you think about the importance, reach and influence of technology today, it’s critical that the industry represents the voices and perspectives of all of humanity.”

Words of wisdom Throughout the course of her career, Sands has consistently sought out mentorship and advice and to this day is still passionate about the power of learning and in 2019, she launched the #WisdomCards series. “I had a philosophy that it was better to learn a little from a lot of people, rather than a lot from a few,” explains Sands. “So over the years I kept notes and journals and then a couple of years ago started to post them online, and the next thing I knew they started taking off. “For 2020, my goal is to continue to take my thought leadership game to the next level. I already do a lot of speaking around the world, but I’m really looking forward to now devoting a greater amount of my time to that in the hope that I can share a bit of the wisdom I’ve garnered along the way to others,” she concludes. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 31

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Entrepreneurs  A New Generation





generation ago, young people leaving school had very traditional outlooks – get a job, and if you can, get a ‘good job’, with doctor and lawyer being top of every Irish mammy’s wish list for her offspring’s future career. Since the explosion of the startup scene, there has never been a generation less inclined to get a traditional job, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to work hard: bursting with ideas, ingenuity and get-up-and-go, this group of young trailblazers are building their own empires. With startup incubators closely aligned to major universities, there has never been more supportive launchpads for young entrepreneurs with good ideas. We caught up with four people who have started successful and innovative businesses in their twenties. 32 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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A New Generation  Entrepreneurs


Jayne Ronayne started her first company during her final year in UCC. “I just went with my gut as I didn’t see much of the downside,” she recalls. “I was a student, so I was used to being broke and having to think differently!” A former president of the university’s Entrepreneurial Society, she has retained links with her alma mater, sitting on the Business Information System board, advising on industry-relevant matters to a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Her latest venture, Talivest, which she founded in 2017, provides employee analytics software to improve employee experience and


engagement, and provides employers with real-time analytics and insights. “Some companies are still stuck in the mindset of ‘assuming’ they know what’s going on in their workforce, but the reality of this is that they have no evidence to back this claim. Through Talivest, our customers get a ‘pulse’ of their workforce throughout the year, so they know if their employees are engaged, instead of an annual engagement survey, which by the time results are released the data is out-of-date.” Ronayne believes that Talivest is bringing a fresh perspective to the challenge of employee retention as the company promotes conversations around issues, highlights things that can be difficult to absorb and brings data to life. “We conduct a lot of events around topics that many leaders tend not to spend much time on, such as mental health in the workplace, why employee churn is happening and how to truly have an engaged workforce.” Ronayne’s particular passion is enabling change through technology. “The way we work has changed and the way we learn, communicate and gain energy through our workplace has changed and companies need to adapt.” One of the biggest challenges in the industry is around education. “Some companies are still in the traditional zone and are slow to change, despite it hurting them already in terms of employee churn,” she states. Getting out to clients and potential clients and having conversations is key to both educating them, and herself. She reveals that spending time with customers and understanding their needs is one of her favourite parts of the job. “I tend to spend as much time as I can meeting other leaders to understand their challenges and the market.” When it comes to the change she would like to see, she’s very clear. “Business evolves every day of the year, I believe it’s how you execute change. Of course there is a lot of discussion at the moment with the lack of funding that goes to female founders [1% of all funding goes to female founders globally]. This conversation is happening, which is positive, but we just need to see more female partners in venture funds and more female founders getting funding opportunities to truly scale.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 33

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Entrepreneurs  A New Generation

SIMON HILLARY Equine MediRecord was founded in 2017, providing a convenient way of managing medical regulatory compliance for thoroughbred racehorses. The company has since expanded its offering to provide compliance solutions for training, breeding, equestrian and standard-bred operations. Being self-employed since graduating from Trinity College in 2015, Hillary has found the experience inspirational, as he finds ways to simplify workflows to avoid spending large amounts of time inefficiently on necessary administrative work. “I looked for more ways to cut down on this overhead, and over time this obsession became a passion,” he says. “The primary focus of my projects to date has been concerned with workflow optimisation; removing inefficiencies and streamlining work practices in order to do more with the same amount of time, or automate as much of the ‘busy work’ as possible, providing customers the freedom to focus on more important organisational goals.” Their relative youth and inexperience worked both for and against the team he feels, for various reasons: “In our first year of operation, it was an uphill battle trying to convince stakeholders of the value we could offer. When you think about companies providing regulatory compliance, a startup founded by a couple



of recent college graduates hardly springs to mind as the obvious choice of provider. “Nobody wants to adopt a new technology, learn how to use it and integrate it into their workflow, only for the provider to go out of business a few months later. Similarly, convincing regulatory bodies to approve a proof-ofconcept being put forward by such a young team required patience and tenacity.” On the other hand, the novelty of both their youth and a new technology in a traditional sport did gain them some early recognition. “New product innovation and adoption is not as prevalent in the equine industry as in many others, so our story was an interesting one to read about. We were lucky enough to benefit from a lot of positive press, both inside and outside the industry, and were lauded for our success in bringing

a digital solution to market in a sector that is traditionally slow to adopt technology.” He describes the equine industry as “being somewhat sheltered from tech adoption”, but sees huge potential, particularly in the realm of spectator engagement at race meetings. “Innovation in the areas of augmented and virtual reality, as well as IoT, could provide an excellent opportunity to give race-goers unique points of view to watch races, or access to a greater range of statistics preand post-race. Why not equip each horse or jockey with a 360° camera? Live stream that feed to spectators in conjunction with statistics from wearables detailing running pace, distance to finish and split times. It might take longer to saturate the market than it has in other sporting disciplines, but the opportunities are undeniable.”


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A New Generation  Entrepreneurs

When Forbes magazine highlights you in its ’30 Under 30’ list, you know you’re doing something right. Conall Laverty, founder of Wia is now employing 12 people at his Internet of Things company, which he set up in 2016. He cites his engineer father and his own personal obsession with Lego as his inspirations: “I’m an engineer and I love building things,” he states. “Whether it’s a product, a company or even just an idea, I really enjoy finding interesting problems and more importantly, solving them.” “At Wia we work with organisations to discover, develop and deploy Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to generate new opportunities and increase process efficiency,” he explains. “We do this by providing a suite of end-to-end products and services that blend together software, hardware and connectivity to create a seamless result. Our builder platform, Wia Cloud, now has software and hardware engineers in more than 120 countries.” Like this young entrepreneur, the industry he works in is still at an early stage. “Many of the technologies that are required to make it work at scale are just maturing,” he says. “Though billions of devices have already been deployed, tens of billions more will be spread out across the world over the next five years. For me, the IoT brings a unique challenge in that there are so many different pieces of the puzzle to understand to create even the simplest of solutions.” Now, while the company is still relatively small, Laverty enjoys being hands-on in all aspects of the business. “On a typical day I could be jumping between client meetings, soldering together electronics, designing user interfaces or working on marketing campaigns. Luckily I have an amazing team who support both me and each other.” “Focus can be difficult. Whilst on one side of the coin it can be a positive to be a jack of all trades, this can also be detrimental,” he admits. Learning to grow as a leader is a key part of maturing into a management role, and he says, “Now, instead of trying to do everything myself, I put enabling the team to achieve their tasks and goals first. This is a much better and scalable methodology.” While he has so far enjoyed great success with Wia, Laverty points out that, “Turning an idea into a real-world prototype is a massive challenge for most.” He cites a recent report, which stated that around 75% of self-initiated IoT projects fail. “This is mostly due to people who are entering either the market or new product lines not having the deep domain expertise and innovation methodology,” he says. “I think we need to see more government policy changes that enable early stage companies who have an R&D focus. Right now he is fascinated by genetics and is excited for new technologies around this. “An area that I’m personally looking into is how we can bring lead time on manufacturing small batches of electronics down from months to hours,” he reveals. Watch this space.



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Entrepreneurs  A New Generation

RHONA TOGHER Rhona Togher was just 20 when she set up Restored Hearing with co-founder Eimear O’Carroll in 2009 to market a tinnitus therapy. Their company has just been awarded €2.3m in EU Horizon 2020 funding to commercialise its sound-absorbing technology globally, where it can be applied in industries ranging from automotive to aerospace. “Loud noise is a significant challenge in the construction, automotive, power generation and aerospace industries,” Togher explains. “These industries are facing increasingly stringent regulations from the EU and beyond as a result of increased noise pollution and consumer demand for quieter products. We are bringing a different perspective by creating new solutions to this problem.” Traditional sound insulation products are thick and heavy, taking up valuable space while failing to meet new regulatory standards. Restored Hearing’s SoundBounce noise-reducing material was created to present a solution to those new regulatory challenges. By way of example, Togher points out that new ‘pass-by noise regulations’ are introducing big changes to European vehicle laws: “By 2027, only 30% of today’s cars will meet the new standards. Everything on EU roads will have to become quieter in response – this is a major challenge for the industry.”

“Quiet compact solutions are essential in modern industrial design,” states Togher. The time is ripe for SoundBounce to make an impact, as she points out, “The acoustic material industry hasn’t innovated in decades. Developments have focused on incremental improvements to existing materials. Yet low frequency noise is still the main technical bottleneck. Technical advancements across a range of industries can’t be deployed because of a lack of attention to the noise pollution and damage caused. SoundBounce has the potential to become the next ubiquitous acoustic material.” At the moment the company has a core team of nine, but the EU funding will support 18 new jobs. “Funding has been a big challenge over the years. You can never have enough money when you are trying to grow your business,” says Togher. “Working in the advanced material space can be challenging for fundraising, as there is a lot of R&D involved before you get to market. Having a good network of mentors and peers has really helped us get through any challenges we have had.” Reflecting on starting a business at a young age, Togher says it has worked both for and against them at times. “Being young women in STEM wasn’t always the easiest. On the flip side, our youth also allowed us to start the business without overthinking what could go wrong. Similar to how learning to drive is more intimidating the older you get!”



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Leadership  Feature

Joanne Hession, co-founder, LIFT Ireland


here are many dangerous leadership myths: managers need to stand their ground; it’s a sign of weakness to accept fault; beware of advice from colleagues. However, aggressive verbal orders doled out by those in authority are finally being seen as unwelcome (for the most part) by today’s forward-thinking entrepreneurs. Historically, businesses have tended to promote leadership skills in those who manage teams. But it doesn't have to be this way. Respect is slowly replacing fear across workplaces as the tangible benefits of supporting leadership across all ranks of the firm become more evident.






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Feature  Leadership

A recognised leader in training and business development, Joanne Hession has enjoyed an unconventional journey on the way to becoming a specialist in leadership education. During the nineties, job prospects were thin on the ground for the UCD graduate and Hession made the decision to travel to the RwandanTanzanian border to take up a position as an Emergency Aid Worker with Concern Worldwide after the Rwandan Civil War. After returning home from this transformative experience, she decided to dive headlong into the world of business and at the age of 27 founded two businesses, The Entrepreneurs Academy, and QED – The Accreditation Experts. Today, Hession dedicates the bulk of her time to a national leadership initiative

entitled LIFT Ireland, a not-for-profit programme built on a desire to change the country for the better by transforming the way people view leadership. “I believe that the success, failure and culture of any venture or organisation rests on how that organisation is led,” declares the passionate advocate of authentic leadership. “For far too long we’ve believed that leadership is a position; that having a title makes you a leader, when it doesn’t. If you’re not leading well, the title won’t save you and people won’t follow you. Leadership is not a position; at its simplest it’s about influence.” Success requires good positive leadership at all levels, not just from the comfort of the CEO’s chair, according to Hession. “Everyone has a leadership role to play, whether that’s at the kitchen table, classroom, clubhouse or boardroom.” “We shouldn’t see leadership as a topdown, position-based thing that requires a set of hard skills – managing people, strategy development, and so on,” she urges. “Every single person can be a leader. If people are paying attention to your words and actions and are influenced by them, then you are a leader, irrespective of the position or title you hold. The more positive this influence, and the more people that want to follow you, the better the leader you are.” Trust is the foundation of good leadership and the most important role of a leader is to help others succeed.

“Excellent leaders create, inspire and build trust among their people and teams,” explains Hession. “Better humans make better leaders, and better leaders make better business. Of course, good leadership also requires competence and skills, but all too often we think a winning strategy and a sound business model are what really matter, that character is just the icing on the cake.” Hession believes that there needs to be an understanding across business that leadership and management are two separate entities that deserve varying approaches in how they are handled. “Management is about getting the right person to do the right thing in the right way at the right time,” agrees Hession. “Truly good leadership is more about individual character and the ability to influence people when you are moving direction. Great managers are not always great leaders. People are now realising that the more focus put on building each other’s leadership muscle, the stronger and more resilient the business will become.”

Dealing with stress Providing new enterprises with the training to do better, smarter and more successful business makes economic sense. Impressive leaders create strong cultures of trust and can generate a communal wish amongst staff to see the business succeed. This leads to improved engagement, higher levels of innovation and reduced turnover of staff. However, Hession warns that finding ways of dealing with stress is vital for those in business to be particularly aware of. “It is relatively easy to be successful when conditions are good and everything is going well, but great leaders create value in their organisations and are consistent in their character. The real test is how a business and its people respond in times of stress. Key characteristics of great leaders – respect, empathy, positive attitude, accountability, listening and integrity – are much more difficult to uphold when we are under pressure. “The good news is that people at any level in an organisation can develop the habits of strong leadership character. Poor leaders, on the other hand, tend to undermine the success of even the best business plans.”


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Leadership  Feature

Nationwide programme LIFT Ireland’s aim is to raise standards of leadership across Ireland – not just in business, but also across society. It does this through an eight-week peer-to-peer process of engagement with key issues around the character of a leader, such as accountability, attitude, empathy and real listening. Each of LIFT Ireland’s founding partners have made a commitment to participate in the learning process and to facilitate further discussion on the value of positive leadership. Hession, who was awarded the International Award for Equipping Others in 2019, urges Irish entrepreneurs to join LIFT Ireland and develop practical leadership skills to help build successful communication and economic growth. “Our half-day LIFT facilitator training is free to attend and everyone is welcome,” she advises. “I’ve been in leadership education for many years and LIFT Ireland has the simplest and easiest method for embedding good leadership behaviour

“THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT PEOPLE AT ANY LEVEL IN AN ORGANISATION CAN DEVELOP THE HABITS OF STRONG LEADERSHIP CHARACTER. POOR LEADERS, ON THE OTHER HAND, TEND TO UNDERMINE THE SUCCESS OF EVEN THE BEST BUSINESS PLANS.” that I’ve ever come across. What’s more, materials and training are free for those that cannot afford them and a financial contribution in line with what can be afforded is requested from others.” Looking to the future, Hession is visibly optimistic about LIFT Ireland’s prospects to nurture an ever-growing number of entrepreneurs and is proud of the work done to date. The programme is being rolled out nationwide via a volunteer facilitator network with a goal of reaching 10% of the population by 2028.

“In little over a year since our launch, already more than 50 corporate partners have joined and are embedding LIFT into their organisations, as well as Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, numerous secondary schools, Munster Rugby, Cancer Trials Ireland and many other non-profits. “I’m very goal and growth-focused and I’m excited about 2020. All of my professional energies at the moment are devoted to growing and strengthening the LIFT initiative and team.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 39

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Trading Places  Nora Khaldi






the healthcare needs of the world’s population becomes an increasingly pressing concern, biotechnology is a sector that has presented significant opportunities by using scientific methods to attain a greater understanding of how living cells produce substances. Based in Dublin, biotech pioneer Nuritas uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and DNA analyses. Since its formation in 2014, the company has been successful in the discovery of new disease-beating functional ingredients in food that have various therapeutic qualities. Founder Nora Khaldi explains in her own words what the company specialises in. “We use AI as a means to accelerate the discovery of new peptides for important diseases, such as diabetes, chronic inflammation, sarcopenia and cellular aging,” she says. “We develop both preventative medicines for consumers and pharmaceutical drugs for treatment and we have demonstrated the speed at which AI can work through our award-winning collaboration with BASF to develop PeptAIde. We moved from first partnership contract to commercial launch of a healthcare product in under two years.” Khaldi considers herself a true disruptive entrepreneur at heart. “I recognised during my research that I could make significant changes to industry by bringing new ways of thinking to areas that have been void of technology,” she explains. “By increasing the speed of discovery, we can truly disrupt the industry and reduce costs considerably. My vision and driving force has always been to improve the lives of billions of people around the globe.”

SFA Fact Did You Know? PeptAIde was launched in China during 2019 as the increasing trend of on-thego sports nutrition amongst millennials continues to rise.


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Khaldi – a mathematician with a PhD in molecular evolution and bioinformatics from Trinity and a master’s degree in mathematics from the Université Aix-Marseille in France – has found an ecosystem in Dublin that she feels very much at home in. “Dublin is a great location for a startup,” declares the Algerian-born scientist. “We are uniquely positioned in Europe with a truly international presence and Enterprise Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland have been key supporters of Nuritas from the beginning.” She adds: “Dublin has become truly international over the last 20 years and is able to attract top talent, both through the universities here and the job opportunities available. Also, as part of the EU, we have benefitted from funding from the EU Horizon 2020 project, as well as the European Investment Bank. However, in terms of the biotech scene, it is still quite limited in Dublin.” She highlights the strain on the rental market as a major obstacle to growth in the city, as this presents difficulties for employees moving to Dublin from abroad, as well as for Irish citizens. “The current model is not working,” states Khaldi. “Dublin really needs to start thinking about building upwards. Another challenge for us at Nuritas, as we’re a relatively new company, is that we also face huge competition for talent from other more established global companies based in Dublin.” In regard to ways in which the industry has changed, Khaldi points to some notable shifts over recent years. She says: “Consumers are more aware than ever. They understand science, healthiness and sustainability, and their focus is also shifting significantly towards living healthily and preventative medicine. “The pace is constantly increasing too. New discoveries are being made daily around the world and innovation is the new ‘norm’. I am also seeing a big trend towards companies entering into personalised medicine, which will be very interesting.” Khaldi’s advice for any young and aspiring

Photo: Kieran Harnett

Nora Khaldi  Trading Places

Nora Khaldi, CSO and founder, Nuritas

Irish entrepreneurs, both male and female, is to, “Believe in yourself and never give up. Surround yourself with a great team with the same vision as you. You will make mistakes, but learn from them and keep going.”

A future in science Although awareness around fostering a society in which both sexes can excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sectors, research still suggests that many young girls still don’t imagine themselves having a science-based career in the future. When asked if Ireland is doing enough to encourage girls into tech and engineering roles, Khaldi believes a more concerted push is required. “We need to stop offering different subjects to boys and girls at school level, particularly in secondary schools. I have seen a trend for all-girls schools to offer what is regarded as ‘female’ subjects, such as home economics, while boys are offered more science, engineering and maths-focused subjects. “STEM subjects need to be introduced at the earliest stages of schooling for both boys and girls. Children are using technology, such as phones, apps and games from an

early age, and it is important for them to understand how they work. I see it as the new language of our society. STEM subjects provide a solid building block for all things in life and should be taught as such. The drive for change has to come from both the parents and teachers.”

A global brand Although not completely ruling out a move away from Ireland, Khaldi is very content in her role as CSO of Nuritas and plans to continue to disrupt technology during 2020 and beyond. “My family are here in Dublin, and having completed my PhD in Trinity, postdoc in UCD and then founding Nuritas here, Dublin has a strong pull for me. “We have just opened an office in Boston and have some really exciting plans in the pipeline for the next 18 months. We are seeing some really exciting results coming out of various trials that we will be taking to the next stage in the next 12 to 18 months too. My goal is to make Nuritas a defining global brand name in both consumer and pharma markets and our plans for the next few years are aimed at taking us to that place.”


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Feature  Legal Protection

Order H &

A SOUND LEGAL FRAMEWORK IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE CREATION OF A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD FOR SMALL IRISH COMPANIES. COLIN WHITE ASKS EXPERIENCED SOLICITOR TERRY GORRY ABOUT WHAT’S MOST NEEDFUL FOR THESE FIRMS IN 2020. aving started his first business at the age of 23, Meath-based solicitor Terry Gorry’s career has been predominantly concentrated on small firms throughout Ireland. The straighttalking Gorry’s business journey has been a colourful one, encompassing 20 years in retail and a foray into property development before opening his own solicitor’s practice. Gorry begins the conversation by highlighting what he sees as a key issue for small business owners: employment law and the ramifications of unpreparedness. “Employment law in Ireland can be a minefield,” he states. “The amount of legislation, regulation and codes of practice is enormous.” Small firms need to seek out professional advice, according to the author of Employment Law In Ireland – The Essentials for Employers, Employees and HR Managers. “The ordinary business owner who is hustling and grinding simply doesn’t have the time to keep on top of employment law obligations and changes. So they should consider consulting with a HR professional or a solicitor who is familiar with employment law.” He continues: “Get legal advice early, rather than late. It might be the most astute few bob you ever spend if it helps to avoid a bigger problem later on, for example, an admission of a debt in an email where the debtor is later looking to dispute. If he has already promised payment in an open letter or email he will not be able to put forward a rational defence to the claim.”

Leasing advice With a decision on Brexit expected (at some stage) this year, Ireland’s industrial property market is a difficult one to navigate at present. Many small firms are faced with a tough decision to make in regards to purchasing a premises, or taking on a commitment to lease.

Employment Law In Ireland – The Essentials for Employers, Employees and HR Managers by Terry Gorry, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.


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Legal Protection  Feature


With many opting for the latter, Gorry believes that small firms should consider the term of the lease as a starting point. “If the lease is for less than five years, they have no entitlement to a new lease at the end of the term,” he explains. “Therefore, they could spend a lot of time and money building a business in their premises and then be held over a barrel at the end of the term.” He adds: “If the lease is for a term in excess of five years, they have a statutory entitlement to a new lease at the end of the first one. This is important if the business owner invests heavily in the premises, fitting it out, and so forth. “My advice is to try and negotiate a break clause as a safety net, because their business may be a new one and they are uncertain as to whether it will work or not. They could also try to negotiate a rent-free period at the beginning. And, finally, they need to engage a solicitor to ensure two things are checked and in order: title to the premises, and that planning is in order and suitable for their proposed use.

Social influencing

Franchising Many aspiring entrepreneurs are increasingly seeing franchising as a cost-effective way to start a business. Too many fail to investigate the costs and responsibilities and, in turn, find the experience troublesome in terms of legal protection. “It can prove to be tricky if you do not obtain legal advice, because you really need to be fully aware of what you are signing up for. You also need to remember that franchise agreements are drafted by the franchisor and they will not agree to any changes to an agreement which may be balanced in their favour. “Big franchisors are understandably anxious to protect their system, so the contract will reflect this and the small business owner needs to know what happens if there is a dispute or conflict with the franchisor.” Intellectual property (IP) management has also become a significant cog in Ireland’s economic engine. “An IP strategy should be a pivotal part of a company’s business strategy, as it includes copyright, trademarks, brands and patents, which can often be the most valuable property that a business owns,” notes Gorry. “You can never have enough information or advice if this is applicable to your business, because you may need to vigorously protect your intellectual property.”

Terry Gorry, founder, Terry Gorry & Co. Solicitors

SFA Fact Did You Know? Under the Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act now in force, employers must provide new employees with five core terms of employment within five days of starting their new role

Gorry understands more than most how starting a business is a tough assignment. He points to the rise of digital marketing tools as key in terms of his own firm’s development since he first entered the legal industry in 2009. “In the old days, it was very much based on referrals, word of mouth and networking,” he says. “This does not suit a lad who needs to grow quickly, may not have gone to the right school, has few contacts, and has ongoing obligations, such as a young family and a mortgage.” He adds: “So the likes of video marketing, blogging, and social media marketing is something I have embraced to bypass the old way of doing thing, as I deal directly with the people I wish to serve.” In short, Gorry and like-minded entrepreneurs can target specific market segments by sharing useful content that demonstrates an understanding of the issues they face. With well over 5,000 subscribers, Gorry’s YouTube channel specialises in explaining, in very plain English, the common legal issues facing people and companies in Ireland today. “Blogging and video marketing has grown my business in a way I never could have done ten or 20 years ago,” he declares. “This is basically content marketing and is based on providing value in advance to those I wish to serve. Getting clients is easy if you give people useful, no obligation information that might help them solve a problem.” With a new year upon us, Gorry is excited for what lies ahead in 2020 and asserts that he will continue to provide responsive legal services to both employers and employees. “I’ll remain a keen learner and I’ll try to grow my tribe further,” he claims. “The growth of the practice will follow if I can do those two things well. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 43

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Interview  Mark Little





ark Little wants to create daily information routines that are productive and empowering. The Dubliner’s latest venture, Kinzen, is inspired by the sense of disenchantment he felt among regular users of social media and news apps as they turn away from the endless scrolling found on platforms such as Facebook. “It’s like eating too much popcorn,” Little says colourfully. “At the end of it all, you really don’t know what you’ve done for the last 25 minutes, an hour. You’re just endlessly distracted by this content as you scroll through information.” Kinzen’s ethos is burned into the company motto – ‘take control of the news’. Its flagship development has been a news app that uses artificial intelligence and algorithms to eliminate the white noise that leads to endless scrolling, instead promoting tailored news and information. Moving on from the app, Kinzen is focused on building software solutions for publishers of information that will allow them to build experiences for those who, as Little describes, “demand a more productive or personal routine”. Little is best known for his work with RTÉ, spending most of the 2000s as the presenter of Prime Time. Following his departure from the show, he was among the group of Irish journalists that created Storyful in 2010, the first social media news agency. Storyful worked as a social media newswire and content aggregator to break the news and add context to reporting.


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Mark Little  Interview

“That was in response to the emergence of the social web and how that was completely changing media consumption, but also media production,” the 51-year-old tells me. “What I learned out of that was the way in which social media was becoming the place people were going to for daily information needs, not just news.” Storyful was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp in 2013 and Little went on to take a role at Twitter. It was during his time at the social network that he says he had an epiphany. “I began to realise that there was a tipping point coming along. We went from search engines – which was the first wave of the internet – to social platforms. I think now we’re seeing a move away from social. We’re seeing a move away from the social web to the personal web. Consumers, because of experiences like Netflix and Spotify, are starting to expect that they will have personalised experiences.” Kinzen is not just useful for users seeking a more individualised timeline; it’s useful for publishers too. The app, of course, sends readers to their content. Though in a world where more and more outlets are behind paywalls, it’s been a challenge for Kinzen to curate the news for users. That’s partially why the company is moving away from the app being central to its business model and instead helping publishers to explore new revenues. For example, Little and his team has recently been collaborating with other firms on personalised email newsletters. Ultimately, Kinzen hopes to help the suppliers of information build new daily routines for users that will allow both publisher and consumer to break free from social platforms, as well as ineffective click-based ad revenue. “What we’ve realised now is that we can actually help publishers who are making the move from being completely dependent on ad funding, which is a really bad business model for any publisher at the moment, into a new world where they’re generating direct revenue from their readers,” says Little. “What we’re seeing most of all is that there’s no simple choice between free and pay. That publishers are starting to experiment with new models, not just hard subscriptions or paywalls.” Little continues, “I think there’s multiple ways now that publishers can explore new reader revenue solutions that don’t involve a hard paywall or dependence on advertisement and that’s where we are seeing a massive opportunity for a business

Mark Little

putting false claims in front of voters has been highlighted since the election of Donald Trump as US president. American lawmakers have warned that the 2020 presidential election will be influenced by paid-for false claims. The way Little sees it, the problem isn’t the lack of curation, moderation or regulation of the platforms, it’s the way the platforms are built. “They are built on advertising. These are not information platforms; these are advertising platforms. So, the whole purpose of the algorithms and the recommendations systems and the form of personalisation that works on Facebook, is about getting you to feel some emotion so you’ll be more reliable to buy products. That’s the one thing that’s being missed in the big debate on the big tech platforms – the misinformation that we see on platforms is not an accident, it’s by design.”

“WHAT WE’RE SEEING MOST OF ALL IS THAT THERE’S NO SIMPLE CHOICE BETWEEN FREE AND PAY. THAT PUBLISHERS ARE STARTING TO EXPERIMENT WITH NEW MODELS, NOT JUST HARD SUBSCRIPTIONS OR PAYWALLS.” like ours. The research that we’ve seen is for any information provider – and I use that word as opposed to publisher because we’re helping people from a one or two person newsroom who develops a podcast, all the way up to regional or international publishers – it’s the same challenge for both of them. They have to make use of their information a daily routine for people, or they’re never going to subscribe. It’s not enough to visit a website once a week, you won’t pay for that. But if you know that information provider is vital to your morning routine, you’re way more likely to pay something, even if it’s a small amount of money in a donation or a membership.”

Fighting fake news Kinzen’s determination to help the public leave behind illegitimate news has even more weight with recent headlines surrounding Facebook. The social network’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has defended the company’s decision to not remove political advertising that contains false information from user’s news feeds. Facebook’s role in

Still, Little does believe that regulation is necessary, particularly to stop a company like Facebook gaining too much power. “There’s no way a company should be that big and that dominant on the planet today,” he says, citing Facebook’s ownership of Instagram and WhatsApp. It’s all a long way from being under the lights for Prime Time. But does Little ever see himself going in front of the camera again? “I think eventually I’ll end up going back in my retirement, whenever that is,” he says. “My first love above all is journalism. I only ever became an entrepreneur because I wanted to help the information business change in response to changing consumer needs. “I’d never be a full-time journalist again, but certainly writing about this a lot more and helping people understand it. But right now, every moment of every hour is taken up in just making Kinzen a success and hopefully taking advantage of an incredible opportunity. At the age of 51, I’m probably more excited about journalism and the future of media in general than I was at 21 and getting into the business for the first time.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 45

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SFA Policy  Entrepreneurship Strategy

The key OECD recommendations for Ireland and areas for focus in the forthcoming new strategy include: ■ Publish a unified cross-government



policy statement covering both SMEs and entrepreneurship, setting out ambitious targets and aligning all relevant policies and schemes. Implementation of the national strategy should be overseen by a new interdepartmental committee on SMEs and entrepreneurship. ■ Target a 50% increase in the number of

SMEs exporting including by driving ambition and innovation among indigenous SMEs. ■ Broaden the remit of Local Enterprise

A MAJOR OECD SME AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP POLICY REVIEW HAS BEEN LAUNCHED AS PART OF FUTURE JOBS IRELAND. In 2018, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD commissioned a comprehensive review of Ireland’s SME policy and entrepreneurship from the OECD. The focus of the review was to identify policies and strategies to improve Irish SME productivity levels, resilience and the potential for growth and internationalisation. This large-scale consultation exercise took over 18 months to complete. In October, an OECD review of SME and entrepreneurship policy in Ireland and an accompanying roadmap with priority areas for implementation was launched. The OECD’s analysis will feed into the development of the Government’s new SME and Entrepreneurship Strategy to be published by the end of 2019. This new strategy is a key part of Future Jobs Ireland, the whole-of-Government plan to prepare Irish business and workers for the future.

Offices to include scaling small businesses of between ten and 50 employees. As part of this work, introduce a simple online tool for micro and small enterprises to better match enterprise needs with the services available. ■ Increase adoption of best practice

management techniques, including in the key areas like digital and automation skills and in sales, marketing and accountancy. Also encourage a wider take-up of Skillnet Ireland programmes to develop management capabilities in Irish SMEs. ■ Achieve a step-up in financial skills

and knowledge among SMEs so they can make better use of the mix of debt and equity finance available in the Irish market. Similarly, increase the take-up of guarantee schemes to improve the financing environment for SMEs. ■ Encourage and support SME

involvement in innovation collaborations between SMEs and research institutions, as well as collaborations between SMEs, research institutions and multinationals. This will benefit everyone involved and also help SMEs to discover new technologies and improve their management practices. ■ Ramp up support for the digitalisation Pictured (l-r): Sven Spollen Beherns, SFA Director; Pat Breen TD, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection; Heather Humphreys TD, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation; and Professor Thomas M. Cooney, College of Business, TU Dublin

of SME business processes, especially through the LEO network.


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Entrepreneurship Strategy  SFA Policy

Trump's tariffs

In October, the United States began imposing a range of punitive tariffs on European goods. The US introduced the measures in response to EU subsidies for European aircraft maker Airbus. The plan will see duties of 10% on Airbus planes and 25% for agricultural products like French wine, Scottish whisky and Irish cheese, liqueurs, cordials, pork, yogurt, butter, fruit and mussels. Due to the importance of the agricultural and food sector to small businesses across every town and village in Ireland, the SFA wrote to Minister Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection asking that the Minister and his Government colleagues continue their work, through the EU and directly with the US administration, to highlight the disparity and extremely negative impact on Ireland and to urge all sides to de-escalate trade tensions and resolve this dispute immediately. This is a matter of grave concern to the small business community and especially for small producers and brand owners in the affected sectors, as it represents a serious risk to their businesses and the local economy in the counties where these small firms are based. The SFA will continue to monitor this situation and highlight the negative impacts on small businesses

■ Simplify the administrative processes for

SMEs applying for R&D tax credits to encourage more take-up. This will build on the improvements already made. ■ Support greater SME engagement in the areas

of energy and the environment, particularly in research, innovation and procurement. This will improve productivity and competitiveness, and accelerate the transition to the low-carbon economy.

THE OECD ROADMAP The OECD roadmap summarises the priority recommendations of the wider review. The recommendations are broken down into the following themes and actions: THEME 1: SME AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP POLICY FRAMEWORK Action 1 – Draft a unified SME and entrepreneurship policy strategy document Action 2 – Implement an online business diagnostic tool

■ Roll-out a new standards adoption programme

for SMEs. This should include guidelines on integrating standards in products and services together with consulting advice on adopting appropriate standards. Standards development and use can enhance productivity in SMEs, facilitate supply chain linkages and international collaborations, and enhance spill-overs from multinationals to SMEs. ■ Establish a national support framework for

local enterprise-led networks and clusters across the country to drive SME participation. This will help to spread the message around the supports and opportunities available. It will also support the professional development of managers of these networks. A new SME and Entrepreneurship Consultation Group of key stakeholders to consider the review and areas for action chaired by Minister Pat Breen will be set up. This group will include over 40 members, including representative groups, programme managers, policymakers and SMEs themselves, and will lead the drive to progress the recommendations of the OECD roadmap and their integration into actions within the Future Jobs framework.

THEME 2: INNOVATION AND R&D Action 3 – Simplify the administration procedure for R&D tax credits Action 4 – Encourage SME involvement in innovation collaborations Action 5 – Ramp up support for the digitalisation of SME business processes, especially through the LEO network THEME 3: FOSTERING ENTERPRISE-LED NETWORKS Action 6 – Create a national support framework for local enterprise-led networks THEME 4: SME INTERNATIONALISATION Action 7 – Scale up current initiatives to support SME internationalisation THEME 5: ACCESS TO FINANCE FOR SMES AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP Action 8 – Scale up current SME credit access initiatives Action 9 – Develop an action plan for financial education THEME 6: SME WORKFORCE AND MANAGERIAL SKILLS Action 10 – Introduce a tax relief for non-domiciled new hires by Irish SMEs Action 11 – Incorporate industry standards adhesion in SME management development programmes


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SFA HR  Performance Management


For 2020, staff wages are expected to increase by 2.5% to 3% and whilst there are variants for specific sectors, the subject of pay increases is currently at the forefront of conversations between small business owners and their employees. The best approach in managing pay discussions is to have a consistent, transparent and planned approach. The benefit of a formal pay review process is that it is more transparent; it reduces the risk of perceived favouritism and it can reduce grievances. The challenge to a formal pay review process is that the business must operate within its limits. It is important to consider when setting out the details of the pay review process to have a caveat whereby pay increases are reviewed, but no guarantee of a pay increase can be given. A good way of ensuring a formal pay review process is robust for retaining and motivating key staff is to set a number of criteria for the pay review process. These could include individual performance set against specific KPIs, company performance and benchmarking for comparative roles. In addition, businesses should also consider the following to ensure they can afford the pay increase: ■ Custom and practice in relation to previous pay rises ■ The last time a pay increase was given and on what basis (based on company performance,

individual performance or other factors) ■ Market conditions ■ Internal and external economic factors

Emma Crowley, SFA Executive

The next step is to conduct a benchmarking exercise on pay rates for specific roles, as well as the expected general increase for salaries. It is also worth bearing in mind regional variances in pay rates, for example salaries are higher in Dublin than in Roscommon, so it is important to factor this into any pay discussions. The Small Firms Association has pay data for a wide range of sectors that they share with members of SFA. Once your business has conducted the benchmarking exercise in line with current rates of pay, accounted for economic factors (both internally and externally) and considered if the pay rise will be based on company performance, individual performance, or a combination of both, you should be in a stronger negotiating position when it comes to the actual pay discussion. Whilst it can be awkward to talk about money for owner managers, it is important to be clear and transparent during the pay discussions. Outline to the employee the rationale as to why they are receiving the pay increase, or why they did not qualify for it. Explain how the decision was made so the employee can understand that you are being fair. The research you have gathered should assist you in this conversation. Also consider how you are going to respond to any complaints and be prepared for these in advance. Ideally, they should have some idea throughout the year if a pay increase is on the cards. Finally, it is recommended that when it comes to pay discussions, that these should be held separately from the performance review meeting.


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Performance Management  SFA HR


In modern business, it is imperative that managers and employees do not treat appraisals as a ‘tick the box’ exercise. It is an opportunity to openly discuss performance and development as well as highlight any concerns either party may have. By giving the opportunity to be heard, setting achievable objectives and identifying areas of development, these regular meetings should help motivate, direct and retain your employees. There are a few key steps businesses should take to ensure successful reviews. PREPARATION: It is essential that both parties prepare for the meeting to ensure it is useful and engaging. The review should be conducted by a direct manager understanding of the duties of the employee and the objectives that had been previously set. An appraisal meeting is an opportunity for an overall assessment of performance, achievement of objectives, and to realign their goals for the year to come. In advance of the performance meeting each employee should be asked to complete and submit a performance review form reflecting their work performance. This review should not diminish dayto-day management by employers, however, it should steer the direction of the employee. Some employees look forward to performance appraisal meetings and understand the value of a periodical review, while some employees fear this meeting and favour a prepared approach. CLEAR OBJECTIVES: A clear and concise set of objectives is crucial for an effective performance management system. To ensure clarity, both parties should agree and record a set of objectives to be met during the year. It is recommended that the objectives are ‘SMART’ (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timely). Followup meetings should be held to assess performance and ensure the employee is on track to achieving the goals. If not, then additional support and/ or training should be arranged. An employer should be open to amend an employee’s objectives during the year if their role evolves or targets are not fully attainable. The appraisal should be viewed as an opportunity to align the employee’s goals of the team with those of the overall business.

FEEDBACK: An appraisal should not be an add-on to performance management, but an intrinsic part of it. Managing performance should be an ongoing process to discuss progress and identify the behaviours that contribute to achieving high performance standards. This exchange should be open and honest, where constructive criticism is welcomed. Managers should be coached on how to conduct appraisals in an objective manner so they can confidently give feedback when the need arises to effectively deal with difficult conversations. While many feel the purpose of performance appraisals is to focus on areas that require improvement, it is equally important to praise the employee on areas of success. This positive reinforcement ensures that the employee feels valued, motivated and appreciated, and that the performance management process is considered a worthwhile exercise. TWO-WAY DISCUSSION: Both parties should use this as an opportunity to comfortably and confidently voice their views or concerns, nevertheless, important issues should be raised prior to an appraisal, and should not be suppressed until then. Many employees view an appraisal as their only chance to discuss their current role and future career prospects. AGREEMENT: The final element of a good performance appraisal meeting is agreement. Both parties must jointly reach an understanding about what is required by the employee for them to be an effective part in the success of the company, and what is required by the company in order for the employee to achieve their objectives.

To conclude, implementing the above five steps will ensure that both managers and employees conduct efficient and effective appraisals. By ensuring preparation, achievable targets are in place, frequent reciprocal feedback is given from both parties, a sense of value is instilled in the employee, commitment and performance.


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 Brought to you by Virgin Media Business





rowing your business with fast and reliable connectivity is vital for Irish firms and at Virgin Media Business we know that every company has a unique set of needs. Whatever your business does, you’ll need to communicate with your customers and colleagues. And that’s where Virgin Media Business solutions can support your business through personalised products to help you reach your goals. We caught up with renowned mentor Brian Colbert to discuss how simple, outof-the-box solutions have helped his team to train businesses, teams and individuals to develop resilience and leadership skills in both their personal and professional lives by using neuro-linguistic programming, a set of language and sensory-based interventions that can improve confidence, self-awareness and overall health.



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Brian Colbert, founder, Irish Institute of NLP

Brendan Duffy

Brought to you by Virgin Media Business 


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 Brought to you by Virgin Media Business

“SPEeD OF RESPONSE IS KING. WE LIVE IN A FAST-PACED ENVIRONMENT WHERE CUSTOMERS WANT WHAT THEY WANT NOW AND WHEN TECHNOLOGY HELPS ANSWER THOSE DEMANDS THEN BUSINESs CAN ONLY GET BETtER.” Brian Colbert You’ve forged a reputation for delivering training that is focused, practical, as well as highly enjoyable. What is a typical day like for you?

Most days involve training, coaching and planning, while also handling the day-to-day business activities and creating material for social media. Tell me about neuro linguistic programming (NLP) in terms of how it influences how we think, communicate and behave?

NLP is the study of the structure of subjective experience and so it is best experienced in a face-to-face setting rather than being read about or studied as part of an online training programme. To put it into perspective, I try to avoid using PowerPoint or printouts when training NLP, because it literally misses the point. NLP is systems-based and effective NLP is reliant on the interactivity of the delegate, the trainer and the context. And so to introduce a prepared presentation slide is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, it reduces the flexibility and scope of impact. I have spent more than 30 years perfecting my craft and I am still learning, but I find NLP incredibly powerful. When trained correctly you will experience a positive transformational impact on your life and business. The challenge is that not everyone is trained, or knows how to train, NLP. Explain how the development of NLP skills can benefit an individual’s professional life.

NLP works on the level of excellence in communication, coaching, mentoring, negotiations, sales, persuasion, brainbased leadership and systemic change and all of these things are essential for personal and professional development. You’re known for your direct, no-nonsense and easy-tofollow approach. How important are simple out-of-the-box technological solutions that mirror this approach?

I like efficiency and I love simplicity. I like things that work. I love things that work consistently and seamlessly and when it comes to technology I have experienced untold amounts of frustration, downtime and productivity loss in the past, so when your technology provider does what it says on the tin, then life becomes so much easier. 52 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Brought to you by Virgin Media Business 

And how do these products help to simplify or streamline operations?

Speed of response is king. We live in a fast-paced environment where customers want what they want now and when technology helps answer those demands then business can only get better. What would be your advice to businesses looking for an innovative approach to the more conventional models of corporate training?

Research has shown that people, especially millennials, are expressing a desire to return to workshop-based training. So, my advice is to continue doing the face-to-face trainings, but to complement it with live interactive training, as opposed to the conventional static point-andshoot type training. How important is it for you to have access to a superfast broadband bundle that’s easy to understand when delivering a client-centred approach that produces the best results?

This for me is an imperative when I am not doing face-to-face training, as everything else I am doing is online, whether that is answering emails, taking phone calls, browsing the internet, using Skype, researching, studying and training. When it works, then I can work! What are your goals for 2020 and beyond?

I want to continue to grow the business and introduce even more powerful expressions of NLP, including some brand new coaching and mentoring certifications. I’m also currently collaborating with my son to produce an exciting scientifically validated app, which will include NLP and also, more importantly, teach the user how to significantly raise their IQ. My ultimate goal continues to be to introduce tools and applications that make life simpler and to leave the world a better place for my having been in it! Brian Colbert, founder, Irish Institute of NLP

Brendan Duffy

Virgin Media Business has a range of capabilities designed for you and your business. For more information, visit


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Health  Sustainable Wellbeing

> Self-assessment




The festive season has come and gone, and the arrival of 2020 brings a spark of motivation to many people’s lives. Goals are written on a ‘New Year, New You’ list: to lose weight; quit smoking; run 10km. It’s not that these are ‘bad’ goals; it’s simply that many goals related to wellbeing are often tied to societal trends or others’ priorities, with little deep thought taking place. Research across numerous disciplines supports that knowing the ‘why’ behind your personal and professional objectives will increase your likelihood of achieving them.

Dates for your diary

26 March

The KeepWell Gala and Awards The Mansion House, Dublin

1 May

Workplace Wellbeing Day

Let’s start with a self-assessment. It can capture a long or short time frame. What has helped your wellbeing (maybe daily exercise)? What isn’t so helpful (probably daily social media engagement)? Can you pinpoint a few behaviours you would like to continue or introduce moving forward to enhance your wellbeing? Now, stop right there! What is your motivation for each behaviour? Let’s take exercise and journaling as examples. Write down ‘why’ you want to engage in these behaviours. Is it enjoyment and satisfaction? Maybe it’s the challenge of learning or developing a new skill. How about connection with others or alignment with your personal values? We all grasp the idea of having high or low motivation, but motivational quality is actually more important for following through on desired behaviours. What I have listed above are examples of ‘intrinsic’ motives. Other motives are called ‘extrinsic’, and they include compliance, pressure, expectation, ego, reward and punishment. If those are your primary drivers, it will be difficult to maintain motivation for your wellbeing goals.

> Setting a Goal

Let’s quickly work through an example in practice, such as setting a goal of running four times per week. If fun and enjoyment get you to lace up your runners, then proceed! You will likely maintain this behaviour over time, thereby reaching your exercise goal. If pressure is at play: consider a different activity; or reframe your motivation by repeating aloud that ‘running will improve my health, which is important for playing with my children as they grow’. Makes sense? Sounds easy? Well, it can be! Take these steps and uncover your motivation and pursue sustainable wellbeing in 2020 and beyond.

16 June

The KeepWell Summit 2020

Croke Park Stadium, Dublin


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DeCare Dental  Partner Profile

SUSTAINABILITY FOR A HEALTHY PLANET DAVID CASEY, WELLNESS AND HEALTH PROMOTION MANAGER AT DECARE, DISCUSSES HOW HEALTH AND WELLBEING CAN DRIVE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND LEAD TO A HEALTHY SOCIETY ON A HEALTHY PLANET. Small businesses can play a crucial role as drivers of innovation and as engines of economic growth and employment. Sustainable consumption represents a common challenge for public authorities (at all levels) and consumers, as well as small businesses. Meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations is a balancing act. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’. The SDGs, set in 2015, are intended to be achieved by the year 2030 and small workplaces have a role to play. Small businesses need to focus and measure what matters from the start to promote healthy people in a healthy society on a healthy planet. Depending on the sector and type of work, businesses should consider in planning, place shaping and land mix use, along with connectivity and accessibility. Many companies are leaning towards the promotion of green exercise with health and wellbeing agendas. Green exercise refers to physical exercise undertaken in natural environments. Physical exercise is well known to provide physical and psychological health benefits with minimal costs and resources to employers setting up a run or lunchtime walk.

Mental Health

Focus on health and wellbeing at work meets another SDG goal which includes reducing premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This is done through screenings and prevention and also through promoting mental health and wellbeing. Financial literacy education and benefits increase access to quality essential healthcare services and promote positive mental health. Fully respecting human rights is one of the most fundamental ways businesses can help to realise the SDGs – and to remove significant barriers to social inclusion and organisational development. Organisations can also help address critical mega-trends such as climate change, resource depletion, demographic shifts, migration and urbanisation, corporate governance and the low level of awareness of the SDGs in Ireland.

A Global Issue

Effects of global climate change on human health has direct effects causing death, illness, injury in heatwaves, respiratory effects, pollen, dust, floods and fires. It also has indirect effects leading to the spread of vector borne diseases, the transmission of contagious diseases, along with crop production, water and rising sea levels, which all affect society and businesses today.

David Casey, Wellness & Health Promotion Manager, DeCare Dental

We are the last generation that can fight climate change, we have a duty to act. Starting a health and wellbeing programme for your employees today not only promotes happy healthier workers but meets many of the Sustainable Development Goals set out for 2030. Ask yourself today what change can your business make for 2020 to help create Healthier people in a healthy society on a healthy planet? DeCare offer benefits, wellbeing and mental health training along with wellness programmes that help create ‘Happier Healthier Lives’. These programmes help sustain a healthy work culture that educates, motivates and empowers employees to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours. Find out more information at www. and


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Partner Profile  National Standards Authority of Ireland

CYBERSECURITY STANDARDS IN TODAY’S WORLD, WITH SO MANY INDUSTRIES NOW RELIANT ON THE INTERNET AND DIGITAL NETWORKS, MORE EMPHASIS IS BEING PLACED ON ISO STANDARDS WHICH RELATE TO TECHNOLOGY. In the context of information and communication technology (ICT), you simply can’t be too careful when it comes to information security. Protecting personal records and commercially sensitive information is critical to the smooth running of any business or enterprise. A survey released by the Irish Computer Society in October 2019 revealed that Irish companies are suffering data breaches in record numbers. Of over 250 Irish-based companies surveyed, more than half said they had experienced a data breach in the last 12 months. The report also found that one in three workers in Irish companies are not sufficiently aware of data protection issues, while some 40% of IT staff receive ‘ insufficient’ or ‘no’ data protection training. ISO/IEC 27001 is the internationally recognised standard for managing risks related to the security of

information you hold. The standard is designed to provide a framework for an organisation’s information security management system (ISMS) which includes policies and procedures relevant to how data is controlled and used. Risk management is a key part of ISO/IEC 27001, ensuring that a company understands where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Companies of all sizes need to recognise the importance of cybersecurity, while customers must have confidence in the cyber resilience of their suppliers. An ISMS should exist as a living set of documentation within an organisation for the purpose of risk management. Employees need to be able to refer to the ISMS at any time and be alerted when a change is implemented. When seeking ISO/IEC 27001 certification, the ISMS is the primary reference material used to determine your organization’s compliance.

ISO/IEC 27001 will help your organisation in managing and protecting your valuable data and information assets. By achieving certification your organisation will be able to reap numerous benefits including: COMPLIANCE • Avoid reputational damage caused by non-compliance with legislation • Promote secure exchange of information between customers and other stakeholders MARKETING AND SALES • Increase credibility when tendering for contracts • Win new business and retain existing clients • Expand into global markets COST REDUCTION • Reduce risk of suffering a data breach • Avoid fines


Stewart Hickey, Head of Business Excellence and Certification, NSAI

NSAI’s Head of Business Excellence, Stewart Hickey, says: “ISO 27001 is the perfect standard for any organisation who wants to demonstrate their commitment to information security, whatever their size, or sector. In addition to supporting compliance with regulatory and contractual obligations, it helps businesses build capacity and capability into their supply chains and expand into global markets.”

• Implement proportionate security controls STRUCTURE YOUR BUSINESS • Your business defines responsibilities • Improve management processes and risk strategy For further information on ISO/IEC 27001:2017 or any other standard, visit


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Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland  Partner Profile

A NEW APPROACH TO FINANCE THE STRATEGIC BANKING CORPORATION OF IRELAND (SBCI) ENABLES SMES TO ACCESS THE MOST COMPETITIVE FINANCE AVAILABLE AND HELPS DRIVE COMPETITION IN THE IRISH CREDIT MARKET, WRITES NICK ASHMORE. Since the organisation started its lending activity in March 2015, the SBCI has supported more than 26,000 Irish SMEs, including those involved in the agricultural sector. To date, over €1bn has been borrowed using SBCI finance. This year the SBCI has continued to supply low-cost liquidity into the SME finance market through its non-bank partners (Bibby Financial Services, Fexco and Finance Ireland) supporting financial products, such as term lending, leasing, hire purchase and invoice finance, through the provision of low-cost liquidity and guarantees. The SBCI has also extended its capabilities as a risk-sharing provider, partnering with both banks (AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank) and European institutions assisting Irish businesses seeking to expand, grow, invest for the long-term and prepare for the likely impact of Brexit. To increase the level of investments and thereby narrowing the competitiveness gap between Irish businesses and their European counterparts, the SBCI has developed two risk-sharing products with Government support. The Brexit Loan Scheme (BLS) and the Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS). The schemes are currently available in the market with the SBCI providing an 80% guarantee for loans from both. The BLS has been designed to allow eligible Irish SMEs finance the changes they may need to make as they innovate in preparing for Brexit. These may include the need to purchase additional stock, explore new markets, acquire new storage facilities, change their business model or revise their supply chain.

To date the SBCI has received almost 900 applications for eligibility and more than €46m has been allocated. The BLS is available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. The FGLS makes a fund of €300m available to eligible SMEs and the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support strategic long-term investment. This €300m scheme is the first long-term risksharing product launched into Irish SME finance market. The scheme aims to address the competitiveness gap

Nick Ashmore, CEO, Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland

that may emerge through reluctance on the part of SME owners to fund investment in their business using debt. The FGLS is particularly beneficial to the primary agricultural sector with the allocation of €120m of the fund to this sector. This accessible funding will enable farmers to invest in developing and innovating their businesses. To date the SBCI has received almost 2,000 applications for eligibility and more than €100m has been allocated. The FGLS is available through AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank. The eligibility process of both BLS and FGLS is very straightforward. SMEs can start the process by visiting the SBCI website and completing a brief form to establish their eligibility for the scheme. The SBCI will give them a quick decision – normally within 48 hours – and a unique code confirming that they are eligible for the scheme, which they then bring to their preferred finance provider to start their credit application. The SBCI commitment for 2020 is to continue developing products and onlender relationships to deliver effective and innovative financial support to Irish firms, as well as drive the competition in the credit market ensuring the efficient use of both Government and EU funding and guarantees. For more information, visit


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19/12/2019 11:28

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council  Partner Profile

IN THE DRIVING SEAT MARTIN ALLIDINE EXPLAINS WHY DÚN LAOGHAIRE-RATHDOWN COUNCIL HAS BEEN A FORERUNNER IN THE ADOPTION OF ELECTRIC VEHICLES. It’s becoming increasingly clear that electric vehicles are no longer just an idea for the future, but a practical solution for today. The cost savings in terms of fuel bills and maintenance costs are often highlighted as major selling points for embracing this technology. After the sums are tallied up, many businesses are seeing that electric vehicles offer a big opportunity. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Council (DLR) is committed to reducing emissions by 2020 in line with national targets and fleet renewal is helping some way towards achieving this. “As a Local Authority, we’re trying to provide leadership in the area of sustainabilty,” says Senior Executive Officer Martin Allidine. “We want to demonstrate to the public that we believe in doing our bit environmentally, and part of our commitment is to electrify as much of our council fleet as possible. We need to bring our emissions down below 40% by 2030. The energy of our fleet is an area that needs to be tackled as best we can and we’re focused on improving our energy efficiency over the coming years.” Investing in projects and initiatives in a direct effort to reduce reliance on private cars through the delivery of sustainable transport projects is something Allidine, and the Council as a whole, are fully behind. “We’re trying to promote the idea of supporting sustainable travel,” he explains. “We made six Nissan LEAF vehicles available for our staff. We put this in place to let employees know they didn’t need to drive to work, as there would be a vehicle available to book if and when they needed access to one.” Allidine continues: “We didn’t expect a huge take-up, but we have 140 signed up to the scheme. Those vehicles are

Pictured at the Electric Vehicle Summit in Croke Park are Martin Allidine, Marcella Murphy and Patrick Boyle.

pretty much flat-out, day in, day out, and that’s something we’ll hopefully expand further throughout 2020.” In conjunction with this initiative, the Council also wanted to promote the use of public transport. “It’s not just a straightforward push towards electric vehicles,” says Allidine, “it’s also part of a bigger picture that we’re trying to paint. Rather than just telling the public what to do, we’re trying to be forerunners in the quest for sustainability.”

Role models

DLR has consistently shown leadership by being a national test-bed for a wide range of energy innovations and the Council will continue to lead the way in public electric vehicle adoption. Furthermore, DLR has placed charging points in some notable locations in which it serves, such as LexIcon library, as well as in Cabinteely and Marlay Parks.

“This ties into a wider message that the Council is investing in and is very much to the fore of what were trying to achieve at the moment,” stresses Allidine. “The reason we’re invested in electric vehicles is because we want to demonstrate to the public, and to other businesses, that a change of mind-set is required. By giving leadership, there are significant opportunities for Irish organisations to develop infrastructure around electric driving. We’re trying to put ourselves forward as role models in showing to the public that electric vehicles are fit-for-purpose in the hope more individuals may move to more sustainable practices in their private lives.” He concludes: “People are beginning to realise there is no big fear factor around electric vehicles –these vehicles are actually fantastic cars to drive.” For more information, visit


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Euronet Ireland  Partner Profile

MAKING FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS EASY EURONET’S TINA TWOHIG EXPLAINS HOW THEIR CASH MACHINE CAN HELP CONTRIBUTE TO A COMMUNITY BY OFFERING SECURE ACCESS TO CASH FOR CARDHOLDERS, AND BY ALSO PROVIDING COMMERCIAL RETURN TO ITS PARTNERS. Euronet is a global leader in electronic transactions and payments. They facilitate payments between financial institutions, retailers, service providers and consumers. In simple terms, they provide their customers with secure solutions that make financial transactions easy and accessible. A Euronet ATM has to meet the stringent guidelines and compliance regulations set by card issuers and leading payment providers such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and China Union Pay. “This type of practice is very important to us, as it means the consumer feels safe in the knowledge that when they use a Euronet ATM, it’s compliant and secured to high standards,” explains Euronet Ireland Manager Tina Twohig. “It also helps that our ATMs can be located in an environment they can feel safe in, such as a local store.” Twohig goes into more detail about what solutions Euronet can offer small businesses. “We offer two ATM solutions: the through-the-wall ATM (TTW) is ideal for busy high street locations and the internal lobby ATM works well in high footfall locations, such as retail, campuses and hospitality venues.” She continues: “Lobby ATMs deliver increased footfall as customers come in to use the ATM, this then encourages a rise in customer count, basket spend and impulse spend. A quick check on Google using ‘merchant ATM benefits’ will highlight the key advantages. TTW ATMs deliver rental from Euronet to the proprietor of the location so that they have additional revenue in their pocket from installation date, even generating income whilst they sleep!” Quite simply, Euronet makes access to payments convenient and affordable

Tina Twohig, Manager, Euronet Ireland

for global consumers. “Euronet will not be beaten on price,” announces Twohig. “We strive to offer businesses the best commercial terms in Ireland, whilst ensuring excellent after sales service from our countrywide Relationship Management team. “Our cash machines can be installed in diverse locations from rural areas to busy high streets. We think cash accessibility, plus the option for customers to withdraw cash in a secure environment, are the main key benefits. With so many banks withdrawing from rural communities, we’re proud to support and back fill those locations so that the consumer will always have access to cash.”

Digital functionality

Whilst ATMs still offer the same cash dispense capability as they did when launched in Ireland in the early 1980s, technological advances have meant the industry has had to evolve. “New technology means Euronet can offer additional services, such as

PIN change and foreign exchange,” says the experienced country manager, “and this has resulted in a reduced cost for ATMs, allowing us to deploy in locations not previously viable, whilst the increased transaction volumes allow us to present better commercial terms to our partners.” Twohig concludes by explaining how Euronet, which is currently the largest independent ATM provider in Ireland, will continue its growth and ponders what emerging trends she sees impacting the sector. “Our goal in 2020 is to be the largest ATM provider, full-stop,” she says. “We’re also looking for opportunities to benefit the communities we service through a partnership with a National Charity Retailer – still a work in progress. “The future will definitely see more digital functionality. With our consumers in mind, we are consistently developing our ATM solutions. This includes development in contactless card withdrawals and cardless cash withdrawals via barcode scanners. As technology continues to move forward, embracing the mobile phone as part of the ATM journey will become more necessary. We are aware of the rise in digital payments and a drop in cash usage, but we believe cash will always play a major role in society.” It therefore remains important that Euronet offers consumers continued access to cash to give them multiple payment choices. And judging by Twohig’s enthusiasm, the sky is the limit for this innovative company excelling in financial payments. For more information, visit


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19/12/2019 16/12/2019 11:29 12:22 09/12/2019 18:48

Fáilte Ireland  Partner Profile

THE BREXIT REPORT FÁILTE IRELAND RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT BREXIT IS THE NUMBER ONE CONCERN FOR THE TOURISM INDUSTRY. As more than half of tourism businesses around the country are already seeing a decline in visitors from Britain and Northern Ireland, it has been a mixed year for the tourism industry and 2020 will be challenging. Fáilte Ireland recently unveiled its 2020 plans, which will focus on helping tourism businesses across the country to be Brexit-ready, while developing and supporting a tourism sector that offers strength and sustainability to our economy. As part of these plans, a new Sector Development function has been set up to build industry resilience in the face of the challenges the sector is facing. “As the National Tourism Development Authority, our role is to support the development of a ‘world-class industry’. The new Sector Development function will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry and we will be looking at the key areas of capability, capacity and quality to generate

Jenny De Saulles, Director of Sector Development, Fáilte Ireland

economic activity across the country,” explains Jenny De Saulles, Fáilte Ireland’s new Director of Sector Development. De Saulles says the key message for tourism businesses is to “prepare and diversify” and, as part of the Government’s Getting Ireland Brexit Ready programme, Fáilte Ireland will be supporting the sector with a range of practical training programmes and business supports designed to help them improve their business performance in 2020. “Additional funding for the tourism industry to deal with Brexit has allowed us to intensify our work to develop and support the tourism sector, while also enhancing Ireland’s appeal as a tourist destination,” comments De Saulles. “We will continue to focus on helping tourism businesses to assess the risks, respond to changes, improve their channel mix and diversify into other markets next year.” Fáilte Ireland runs a number of development programmes to give tourism businesses the tools they need to adapt and prepare for Brexit. These bespoke supports offer insights and expertise from top tourism specialists in the areas of international sales, Great Britain and Northern Ireland market retention and diversification into new and emerging markets, such as China, and concentrate on improving business performance and competitiveness within the Irish tourism sector. “Our Brexit Response Programme offers practical and proactive advice for businesses of all sizes and we can work with businesses on an individual, one-to-one basis to help them overcome the particular challenges that they are facing,” adds De Saulles. Susanne Reid, Head of Tourism and Events at Christ Church Cathedral in

Dublin, took part in Fáilte Ireland’s Strategic Management Programme for Hospitality and Tourism Leaders with the Irish Management Institute, which is designed to give business leaders the confidence and expertise they need to future proof their businesses. “Christ Church Cathedral is a 1,000-year-old institution and the programme helped us to rethink our business model and build a new roadmap for the visitor attraction. Through improved finance, operational and HR functions, we have been able to grow visitor numbers by 56% to over 275,000 annually and, critically, increase spending yields per visitor.” Denise Flynn, Director of Sales at Barberstown Castle in Kildare completed Fáilte Ireland’s Saleable Experience Programme. “The programme helped us to use Barberstown Castle’s 700-year history to successfully pitch a medieval banquet experience to tour operators and buyers at Meitheal 2019, Fáilte Ireland’s annual trade event. We won at least two new tour operator contracts for 2020 and are confident that we will now use the learnings to be able to secure additional business for further new experiences we are developing.” The first step for any tourism business preparing for Brexit, according to De Saulles, is to complete the Fáilte Ireland Brexit Readiness Check. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete and provides an action plan highlighting specific Fáilte Ireland supports that are most relevant to their business. To complete the Fáilte Ireland Brexit Ready Check and find out more about Fáilte Ireland’s range of business supports, visit


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Partner Profile  Microfinance Ireland

LIFEBLOOD OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES MICROFINANCE IRELAND HELPS SMALL FIRMS IN GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT WHEN APPLYING FOR FINANCE. Microfinance Ireland (MFI) the not-forprofit lender was established by the government in 2012 to provide loan finance to small businesses unable at that time to get much-needed financial support from traditional lending providers and to support job creation and retention. While the economy now bears no resemblance to that of 2012, there is always a need for an organisation like Microfinance Ireland to offer an alternative source of funding to those businesses that do not meet the standard lending criteria provided by banks and other commercial providers. MFI continues to see a growing demand for loans year on year from small businesses that need finance to set up or grow their business. MFI addresses this market gap by providing small business loans from €2,000 to €25,000 to micro-enterprises (i.e. fewer than ten full-time employees and up to €2m annual turnover) for working capital or business expansion. Garrett Stokes, CEO of Microfinance Ireland, explains: “Since the recession, small businesses can find it harder to meet the lending criteria applied by banks and can often be challenged in accessing finance for set up or business expansion due to a lack of credit history, level of existing credit facilities and/or legacy debt issues.” No matter who the lender is, there are a few basic fundamentals that should be considered when applying for finance for your business.

understand cashflow and it’s impact on the business. Without having an in-depth understanding of the financials and cashflow in particular, a business is very unlikely to succeed in the longer term. Provide sensible cashflows – consider how long will it take you to get established and even then, what is realistic turnover per day/week/month.

Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfinance Ireland

Stokes continues: “In our experience there are three key things that can really help in getting the right result with a potential lender and a positive outcome when applying for finance.” These are: • BUSINESS PLAN – A short and concise business plan is really valuable in helping you articulate your business and convince a potential lender that your business idea is viable and you are worthy of support. You should outline what your product is, who your competition is and what differentiates your business from them, and what is your route to market. • UNDERSTAND THE FINANCIALS – While many business owners feel they don’t have the necessary skills to prepare financial information, it is critical to


• HAVE A PLAN B – While every lender firstly wants to hear how the business will operate, they also need comfort that there are mitigants in place to address any issues that may arise if things don’t go according to plan. Consider what might go wrong and having a contingency plan in place will give a lender comfort that your business is sustainable. “Having a strong business plan, with realistic financial projections and thinking through some of your potential risks in advance can all help give confidence to a lender and convince them that you and your business are worthy of support,” Stokes says. By the end of October 2019, MFI has approved €33m in loans to over 2,300 borrowers, supporting over 5,400 jobs. Microfinance Ireland’s aim is to ensure that sustainable businesses receive the finance they need, support entrepreneurship and to create jobs. MFI supports small businesses that are often the lifeblood of their local communities, providing products/services and employment in their areas – without them many local communities would not prosper. If you need funding to finance your plans and your business has fewer than ten fulltime employees, please register your details on to discuss the loan options available for your business.


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Malone & Co. Accountants  Partner Profile


EXPERT MALONE & CO. WE CHAT WITH PADDY MALONE ABOUT PROVIDING GUIDANCE ON TECHNICAL PROBLEMS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES AND WHY HIS AFFECTION FOR THE LOCAL COMMUNITY SETS HIS FIRM APART. WHAT IS THE MAIN PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D OFFER? “The fundamental business problems are the same as they’ve ever been, but the speed at which we do business at has increased. It means that strategy can sometimes take a back seat, when really it shouldn’t. Accounts should be done as early in the year as possible to avoid continuing to make the same mistakes from the previous year.”

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF? “The M1 Corridor Project ( which connects Dublin and Belfast with Dundalk and Drogheda has been carefully developed by local business groups for over ten years and will bring new investment and jobs into the region. I will always point back to the fact this was the culmination of 20 years’ work on my part to develop the area to its full potential.”

Paddy Malone, Malone & Co. Accountants

Operating out of Dundalk, Malone & Co. Accountants chief Paddy Malone specialises in providing quality and reliable accounting, tax and audit services, as well as the routine VAT returns, payroll and bookkeeping services to businesses across a plethora of sectors. “We believe in finding solutions and being proactive,” says Malone. “My practice is diverse in that we spend time dealing with small local businesses, but we also have the expertise to cater to larger organisations too.” Malone is keenly aware of how small business owners are an integral part of the communities in which they operate and his pride in the local community is evident to see. “I’ve an enthusiasm for this town and region – it means an awful lot to me,” he admits. “We need to get people to realise how important the Drogheda-Dundalk- Newry axis is in relation to the economic wellbeing of the nation. I believe this region can be a powerhouse for the Irish economy over the next 20 years. It’s absolutely vital that we take some pressure off Dublin, and this region has the infrastructure already in place to absorb this relocation away from the capital.” Malone’s love of the region was partly influenced by his late father, another hugely respected figure within the local community. “My father always said, ‘Your clients’ problems are your problems’, and that really stayed with me. When somebody comes in, it’s important to listen and make sure you address the bigger problem that they have, rather than just the problem they think they have.” Malone stresses the importance for small firms to take time to think strategically about the business. “Understand your accounts, so you can recognise what’s going on in your business.” he says. “You should be planning, thinking about the long-term future. Where, initially, clients would come to us with an immediate problem, very often there is a more pressing underlying problem that needs to be addressed. We would be proactive in saying to the client, ‘This is going to be an issue,’ rather than worrying about it when it happens.” Testament to Paddy Malone’s respect within county Louth is his recent appointment as Chairman of Dundalk IT. “It’s going to be an interesting job for me over the next five years,” beams Malone. “It’s a big challenge; there’s 6,000 students and up to 600 staff, which represents a huge impact on businesses within the town and I’m proud to be a part of it.”


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Arts and Culture  Marc Carolan



music might be space-metal madness so large it promises to punch holes in the far end of the universe, but the English band rely on a man from northeast county Louth to provide the fire power. Marc Carolan is Muse’s front-of-house engineer – the man responsible for the audio at their live shows. From large-scale arenas all the way up to stadiums, these are gigs that can reasonably be described as gargantuan. Working with Muse for 19 years as the group has ratcheted up the scale of their performances, Carolan has grown too. “When I started working with them, they were in Olympiasized venues,” Carolan tells me, referencing the iconic Dublin venue. “I was along for the ride, as it were, for the whole progression into stadium and arenas worldwide.” He continues: “With Muse, they’re a fantastic act to work with – the curve balls are really good. You’re always kept on your toes. I’m always excited to see what’s coming next, what challenges are there. It keeps the cogs whirling.” Carolan began preparing for huge scale shows early on in his career. When working with local Irish artists that would occasionally earn a support slot in a large venue, he picked up what he could. But the tech is constantly improving, allowing Carolan to refine the live Muse experience. “Certainly with speaker technology and PA technology, we’re able to deliver a much more consistent product or result to much larger spaces.


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Marc Carolan

"[My goal is] if you’ve got a seat at the back of the stadium, you’re getting as good a result as somebody who is down near the front, in what people would normally assume is a more premium position. That technology is coming in the nick of time in that backlash can happen really quickly, which was evident with the Spice Girls quite recently and Fleetwood Mac. Those are definitely challenges… because it doesn’t take a lot for media to pick up on six tweets and turn it into a firestorm.” Interestingly, it’s not the audio technology that Carolan cites as the biggest change in gigging he’s seen over his career – it’s the emergence and possibilities of social media: “Up to five or six years ago, a big thing would have been headlining Glastonbury on BBC live – a huge production to reach an audience,” he says. “On the last tour, we did our own live to Facebook broadcast and we had 2 million live viewers, whereas the BBC Glastonbury broadcast you made gets 800,000, maybe a million. You think of the scale of those two operations and how much audience you can reach, things like that have certainly changed. “From my own point of view, we’ve tried from very early on to pay attention to the quality of sound in those social media feeds. We tried to bring a quality to those things early on and to maintain that quality and push it forward. We’re still waiting on Facebook to not be mono [laughs]. It’s bizarre, Facebook are at the leading edge of technology in one way and in the 1950s another way.”

Cooley and the gang Touring with Muse is a seasonal venture. When not on the road, Carolan used to work with recording artists in his studio in Herbert Place, Dublin 2. But, as creatives often are these days, he was squeezed out of the location. “We became, slowly but surely, victims of, gentrification isn’t the correct word for that part of the city,” he considers, “but the influx of tech, the rising rent, the rising rates. We, unfortunately were part of the broader thing that was happening where the more creative side not directly related to tech is pushed out.” Carolan describes the displacement as a hidden blessing. As fate would have it, he

 Arts and Culture

Marc Carolan

knew a friend who had built a studio in the Cooley Mountains, just outside of Dundalk, where Carolan is originally from. It was a modest set-up, but pooling their collective resources and talents, the pair have set up a worldclass recording enterprise that merges high-end equipment with a quiet setting, at a price that its founders wants to be affordable to clients. “We were a bit worried in the beginning that clients wouldn’t travel,” Carolan admits. “Obviously, bang in [Dublin] city centre is quite an accessible place for a lot of people. It’s kind of in parallel with a lot of artists being pushed out, that people are more fluid on where they’ll travel to. Obviously, the M1 makes things extremely easy.” Music can be a product of the surroundings it was recorded. And so Carolan’s studio offers a whole different inspiration to the artists that enter. “The new studio is in a fantastic location on the side of the Cooley Mountains, overlooking Dundalk Bay, its views are spectacular. The windows in the control room look down over that view so one can’t help but feel that that’s a lot more inspiring than a basement in Herbert Place. The feedback we’re getting from the first bunch of artists is incredible.”

Creating a spectacle Despite being moved out of Dublin by harsh realities, Carolan has actually found his profession to be resilient. Large-scale bands like Muse didn’t just survive the recession, they continued to push the live music envelope without alienating their audience. “What’s quite interesting is that during the 2008 crash, the live industry just kind of kept trucking,” says Carolan. “I think that was the first real signal of the strength of that market.” Into the future, Muse and Marc Carolan want to keep putting on memorable live shows, while being as accessible to fans as possible. “Certainly, the idea of spectacle, it’s a continuing challenge making sure that although ticket prices are perceived to be huge, the cost of putting on these shows is really high as well. It’s always finding that balance for I guess value for money – for the punter, at the end of the day, to look at it from a business point of view. That’s something Muse have always done throughout their career. They don’t hold back spending on the production and they definitely try to do their damndest to keep the ticket price as affordable as possible. That’s definitely going to be a challenge going forward – to maintain accessible ticket prices and yet deliver these spectacles.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 67

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Motoring  Electric Vehicles

greener APPROACH A



olkswagen’s electric offensive is picking up speed as the company recently launched the start of series production of the ID.3. The first car in the new generation of electric vehicles (EVs) rolled off the assembly line watched by Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel and Group CEO Dr Herbert Diess. The Volkswagen Group plans to sell some 22 million EVs worldwide by 2028, thus helping EVs make the breakthrough. The company’s Zwickau facility has a key role to play in this endeavour: for the first time, a large car manufacturing plant is being entirely converted to e-mobility, with investments running at €1.2bn and Zwickau is already scheduled to produce some 100,000 electric models next year. From 2021, up to

ID.3 MEB chassis


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Electric Vehicles  Motoring

is carbon-neutral, which means the car is delivered to customers with a carbon-neutral footprint. Green power is exclusively used in energyintensive battery cell production for the ID.3, for example. Emissions from the entire production process that are currently unavoidable are offset, among other things through investments in the Katingan Mataya Forest Protection climate project on the Indonesian island of Borneo. With the phased transformation of the Zwickau factory, Volkswagen is fully converting a large car manufacturing plant to e-mobility for the first time. Serious financial clout is behind the conversion. In the final expansion stage from 2021, six MEB models from three Group brands will be built in Zwickau. Qualification measures are preparing all 8,000 employees for EV production and working with high-voltage technology. In total, the Zwickau team will have completed some 13,000 training days by the end of 2020, thus ensuring future-proof jobs at the Zwickau plant. “The ID.3 is a high-tech car from a high-tech factory. With some 1,700 robots, driverless transport systems and fully-automated manufacturing processes, Zwickau gives a contemporary insight into the shape of forward-looking high-volume production of EVs,” Thomas Ulbrich, Volkswagen Brand Board Member for E-Mobility, commented. “Ultimately, though, it is the people who build the cars who

Ceremony with Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel

330,000 EVs will leave the assembly line each year, making the site the largest EV factory in Europe and a trailblazer in the transformation of Volkswagen’s global production network. “The ID.3 will make an important contribution to the breakthrough of e-mobility. It makes clean individual mobility accessible to millions of people and is a milestone for our company on the road to becoming climate-neutral by 2050,” Group CEO Herbert Diess said at the ceremony in Zwickau.

Carbon-neutral The ID.3 is based on Volkswagen’s Modular Electric Drive Toolkit (MEB). This is an all- electric platform that leverages to the full the opportunities offered by e-mobility. Consequently, the ID.3 has a long range, a very spacious interior and dynamic vehicle handling. The basic version is priced at under €30,000 in Germany. The ID.3 will be launched almost simultaneously on markets throughout Europe in 2020. Over 35,000 international customers have already reserved an ID.3 and paid a pre-booking deposit. The ID.3 aims to set new benchmarks in sustainability. Production

are the key to success: Our team in Saxony mastered the two-year conversion phase culminating in today’s SOP with much know-how and dedication.”

A strong cluster With its resolute entry into e-mobility, Volkswagen is hoping to make an important contribution to climate protection and thereby creating long-term perspectives for employees at its plants. “Germany must drive the change and achieve proficiency throughout the e-mobility value chain. That is why we are producing EVs and have at the same time taken the decision to develop and manufacture electric motors, as well as battery cells and systems. A strong cluster for EVs will emerge in the coming years,” Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess said. Apart from manufacturing at the Zwickau factory, the Components plants in Brunswick, Kassel, Salzgitter and Wolfsburg are also involved in ID.3 production. They manufacture key components such as the electric motors or the battery systems. The car manufacturing plants in Emden and Hanover are scheduled to begin building EVs from 2022. Moreover, the Group is also cooperating with Northvolt to set up a major battery cell factory in Salzgitter. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 69

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The Big Read  Shooting and Cutting


Survivor’s A


I am anxious. I leave a large Victorian house in Dublin and cross the road. It is freezing cold. More than it should be for this time of year. I walk parallel to a line of black iron railings and focus my eyes beyond them into a wintry park. It’s an unexceptional tracking shot. I took up residence here three weeks ago, departing London after ten years to begin the next part of my family’s journey, back in our native Ireland. We can’t afford the crazy rent for the house, but we’ve been offered places at an excellent local school and have thrown caution to the wind. The days since we arrived have been chock-a-block. Our children, Holly and Daniel, aged eleven and seven respectively, have needed to be settled in and convinced of the wisdom of a sudden move across the Irish Sea. My wife has been busy preparing for, then subsequently hosting, a live broadcast of the Irish Film and Television Awards. Deirdre O’Kane, actress, stand-up comic and television


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Shooting and Cutting  The Big Read

presenter, has a gratifying level of notoriety throughout the country. She is much in demand, and has gone away for a couple of days to record a radio play in Belfast. I am still walking beside the railings. Still anxious. Since my return, several people have told me that I don’t look my usual self. How could I look my usual self, I reason, when I’ve just packed up a London family and speedily converted it into a Dublin one, all in a matter of weeks? That’s a lot of boxes and furniture heaved into a removal lorry. Plus a long drive with a terrified English cat, who then proved determined to escape across the deck of an Irish ferry in the middle of the night. Upheavals aside, apparently I just don’t look healthy. So I am on my way to a doctor’s surgery. I leave behind the frosty park and head downhill towards the sea, where a stone pier stretches out into the bay.

“SINCE MY RETURN, SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE TOLD ME THAT I DON’T LOOK MY USUAL SELF. HOW COULD I LOOK MY USUAL SELF, I REASON, WHEN I’VE JUST PACKED UP A LONDON FAMILY AND SPEEDILY CONVERTED IT INTO A DUBLIN ONE, ALL IN A MATTER OF WEEKS?” Naturally, I tell Dr McSwiney a few select but enthralling details about my family’s international transfer. His youthful face is open and kind but discourages further small talk. I reluctantly admit to feeling exhausted and I report some unusual digestive issues that have emerged during the past couple of weeks. I helpfully suggest stress as a possible cause. The doctor starts prodding and poking. He sticks a digital thermometer into my ear. ‘You’ve got a temperature of 102. That’s high.’ He places a hand beneath my ribs. ‘And I can feel that your liver is swollen. I could prescribe you some antibiotics for a week, but I don’t think they would make any difference. I want you to go to the Accident and Emergency Department at The Hospital, without delay, and I’ll give you a letter of introduction to hand in at reception.’ I immediately feel faint, requiring a glass of water and a lie-down in my new doctor’s office. It’s nice to meet you; please accept my apologies for the fact that I’m already threatening to collapse onto your faded Persian rug. Something is wrong with the body that I have taken for granted for too long. I breathe deeply, reminding myself that I am a catastrophic thinker, and so try to stop my thoughts in mid-gloom. Everything will be fine. The CT scan shows a shadow covering half of my liver. It indicates an abnormal growth of large and worrying proportions.

Positivity Suddenly the door flies open and a doctor strides into the room. We have never met him before, although he was apparently one of the team in the colonoscopy department, so I may have glimpsed him earlier through the haze. He asks us if we would like to know what he has discovered, telling us that if he were in our situation he would want to know. He also enquires whether or not we would like to see the photographs that were taken during the procedure. Before we have time to respond, he lays the graphic images out on the bed. I look down to see ugly, black, shiny tissue dominating the frame. The doctor explains that they are pictures of my bowel cancer.

This is an abridged extract from Shooting and Cutting A Survivor’s Guide to Filmmaking and Other Diseases by Stephen Bradley, first published by Mercier Press.

I know at this moment, with a final admission to myself, that the shadow on my liver is also definitely a large cancer. All the blood drains from my head. I realise there and then that I am probably going to die. And soon. I know that, logically speaking, my whole body must be wracked by this disease. Whatever bravery my wife and I can muster will now be in the context of a final reckoning. Like me, Deirdre is extraordinarily distressed, but she is also angry with the blunt, matter-of-fact way the news has been delivered. She faces the doctor down: “I want you to say something positive before you leave. You have come into the room on a Friday evening and taken it upon yourself to tell us all this. We don’t know who you are. Now you’re just going to walk out and leave us to try to process this news. Because obviously we now know that the growth on Stephen’s liver will not be benign. I want you to say something positive to us. So that you are not just deserting us here in the darkness.” The doctor is undoubtedly taken aback by Deirdre’s show of strength, and also by her ability to insist that a negative conclusion will not be countenanced. He stutters a little and tells us the details of a case that he remembers, involving a combination of these two cancers and a patient who is still healthy, a decade after treatment. Then he beats a rapid retreat. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 71

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Travel  Cape Town




Known as South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town is a tasteful mix of cosmopolitan chic and vibrant colour, all set with the breathtaking backdrop of the city’s iconic Table Mountain. And with South Africa’s recent victory in the Rugby World Cup, the city is more energised than ever. Cape Town has so much to offer international visitors: world-class shopping, a vibrant street culture, delicious indigenous food, top-ranked golf courses and the nearby Wine Region of the Western Cape. It is also home to South Africa’s parliament and one of the strongest economies in Africa. When you add all that together, it’s easy to understand why so many companies choose Cape Town for their African headquarters. Ireland’s Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, spoke of the growing importance of South Africa for Irish businesses during her recent Trade Mission to South Africa and Kenya. “Africa is transforming into a continent of opportunity, which is why the Government is so determined to increase Ireland’s exports into the Sub-Saharan Africa region,” she commented, while also stressing that diversification into new territories was key to surviving the turmoil of Brexit. Irish companies exported an estimated €113m to South Africa during 2018 and the latest 2019 mission secured €70m in deals throughout sectors including digital technology, life sciences, fintech and education.


Cape Town and the 12 Apostels Aerial Cableway

Harvest Table Bakes


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Cape Town  Travel Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

g for Travellin Business



FLIGHTS It’s not currently possible to fly from Ireland to Cape Town International Airport directly, but several airlines like KLM, Air France, and British Airways offer a single-stopover, making the journey about 15 hours in total. Expect to pay about €650 for a return ticket during peak season, although June to August will yield more reasonable prices for South Africa’s winter season.

Cape Town Carnival


HOTEL Business travellers looking for reasonably priced accommodation can book into the Protea Hotel Cape Town North Wharf for around €150/person sharing. The hotel is tucked away in a quiet alcove within easy walking distance to the Cape Town International Convention Centre and V&A Waterfront.


St James Beach

Time to splurge The city isn’t just a hub for business, however, and there’s plenty to be gained by tapping into Cape Town’s edgy art, fashion, and design scene in the Woodstock neighbourhood. Take a trip to the Old Biscuit Mill and soak up the cool design vibe and check out stores like Karoo Moon. Wander the surrounding streets, which are littered with stores selling vintage fashion, upcycled furniture and African crafts and antiques. Or head further east to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront: a shopper’s paradise (if you’ve got somewhat deep pockets!) and an excellent place to sample the best of Cape Town in one area. Pick up some African crafts at The Watershed market then head to the V&A Food Market for a Springbok loin burger at Vagabond Kitchen, the ‘Best Ice Cream in the World’ (according to Big 7 Travel) at Unframed and a refreshing cup of native Rooibos tea at Nigiro. Take your haul out into Nobel Square, where you can people-watch and enjoy some phenomenal street performances then take a selfie with a larger than life statue of Nelson Mandela. In Cape Town, a warm welcome awaits and you’ll find the city’s relaxing vibes to be the perfect companion to any business getaway. Check out our top tips overleaf for a heavenly day of relaxing and fun in this emerging city.


TRANSPORT There are several options to get from the airport to the city: rent a car, take a metred taxi or Uber, or use the MyCiti public bus. If you’re only visiting for a short stay, taxis and Uber are the easiest. A taxi from any of the reputable taxi kiosks in the airport arrivals area to the city proper will cost just under €20.


STAYING SAFE Crime largely bypasses the 1.7 million annual tourists to the city, although petty theft and pickpocketing does happen. Walking and driving are both safe for savvy travellers who take the normal level of precautions. Visit the Cape Town Tourism website for more ideas on how to avoid crime in Cape Town:


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Travel  Cape Town



TINTSWALO ATLANTIC This five-star boutique lodge is the only hotel located within the Table Mountain National Park and also offers direct access to the beach. Less than a 30-minute drive to central Cape Town, making it the perfect place for an executive retreat. W: T: +27 11 300 8888 E:




The cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain is only a few minutes but there can be a queue, so go early. The mesmerising journey on the revolving cable car provides 360-degree views of the city. Once at the top platform you can take the 1,088m hike to the summit at Maclear’s Beacon or just hang out and play with the dussies (rock rabbits).

Possibly the only thing more vibrant than Bo-Kaap’s architecture is its cuisine. Stopping for lunch in Batavia Cafe allows you a glance behind the colourful facade of the buildings. The menu offers typical Cape Malay cuisine like Malay plum chicken or a salami sarmi.


Head back down to Cape Town’s uber-cool Woodstock neighbourhood for breakfast at The Kitchen. Thanks to Michelle Obama’s endorsement, this restaurant can have a wait, but once you taste their creamy eggs and bacon you’ll understand it’s more than just a celebrity recommendation that keeps customers coming back. 12PM | BO-KAAP

Let the noon gun salute (fired atop Signal Hill at midday since 1806) herald your arrival into one of Cape Town’s most vivacious areas, Bo-Kaap. The rainbow-coloured streets of Chiappini, Rose and Wale are some of the most heavily photographed streets on Instagram. Visit South Africa’s oldest mosque, Auwal Masjeed, then pop in to the Atlas Spice Trading Centre to give your sense of smell a special treat!


Head down to one of Cape Town’s most beautiful sandy beaches at Sea Point and take a dip in the Atlantic ocean or just stroll the promenade, a favourite Capetonian pastime.

TABLE BAY HOTEL Adjacent to the V&A Waterfront, the Table Bay Hotel is lauded for its food, especially the enormous 150-item free breakfast buffet. There are also ample conference facilities and private meeting rooms, along with a well-equipped business centre. W: T: +27 21 406 5000 E:


There’s plenty of choice thanks to Cape Town’s burgeoning food scene and booking in advance is advised. Put your glad rags on and sample the chic Shortmarket Club for a high-class meal or take a more relaxed approach at the Royale Eatery for a mouthwatering burger including a ‘taste of Africa’ ostrich burger. 10PM | DRINKS

Cap your night off with a drink at the Japanese Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar, located at the top of a 200-year old building. Plus you can always pop your head in to The Dubliner around the corner if you’re hankering after a pint of the black stuff.

AC HOTEL CAPE TOWN WATERFRONT A business hotel doesn’t have to be boring. The brand new, 188-room AC Hotel Cape Town Waterfront enjoys breathtaking views as well as easy access to the V&A Waterfront via the complimentary water taxi from the dock outside the entrance. W: cptar-ac-hotel-cape-town-waterfront T: +27 21 137 1100


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Drinks Industry  Lifestyle




ew innovations influenced by the original Irish spirit poitín, which is shrouded in a long history of mystery, are poised to make a splash in the coming years, it was announced during International Poitín Day, part of Failté Ireland’s Taste the Island initiative. Poitín is an ancient farm-based spirit first made by monks in the 6th century. It was banned in 1661 by the British Crown, driving it underground. Despite this, poitín lived on, remaining in the shadows of Irish culture, but known and consumed in every townland in Ireland. With the advent of the craft distillery revolution in Ireland, innovation has resulted in producers creating revolutionary new poitín products, inspired by the rebellious spirit that kept the product alive during its days of illegality. Mirroring the growth of craft distillers in recent years has been the emergence of an Irish drinks consumer that is increasingly inquisitive about what they try, meaning the product is gaining new followers every day. Vincent McGovern, Head of Drinks Ireland (Spirits), said: “Poitín is emerging from the shadows, with a brighter future in which it will be further recognised as one of Ireland’s iconic drinks, with quality brands and made by forward looking distilleries. “Perfect as the ideal white spirit for use as a base in cocktails, the product is steeped in history with a unique story which we think will grow in appeal to the increasingly curious drinks consumer.”




Energy supplier Naturgy has signed a new contract with Irish craft beer manufacturer, Wicklow Wolf, as it pledges to become Ireland’s most sustainable brewery. Naturgy will supply 100% renewable electricity to the brewery’s new headquarters in Newtownmountkennedy, Co. Wicklow over a twoyear period. The brewery is designed to dramatically reduce energy use, water waste, and its carbon footprint, with Wicklow Wolf aiming to reduce its energy per unit output by 10% over the next five years. Wicklow Wolf has also implemented other measures to become carbon neutral. For example, it has moved from bottles and now produces all its beer in cans, a more environmentally friendly and sustainable delivery method, which weighs less and is more easily recycled. The company, which employs 20 people, already grow some of their own hops on a three-acre plot, meaning zero air miles or transport emissions.

A COMPLETE 360 What is hoped to be a new brand and home for Irish whiskey tourism has been unveiled recently. The launch of IrishWhiskey360° has been scheduled to coincide with and support the Taste the Island campaign by Fáilte Ireland and in phase one it will focus on spotlighting 17 Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres or brand homes operated by members of Drinks Ireland. The launch of IrishWhiskey360° also supports the Government’s FoodWise 2025 strategy, which calls on industry and state agencies to work collaboratively to develop an Irish whiskey and food pairing trail as a major tourist attraction. Commenting on the launch, William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association in Drinks Ireland, said: “IrishWhiskey360° aims to make Ireland the number one destination in the world for whiskey tourism. The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy, which we published in 2016, sets out an ambitious target of 1.7 million visitors by 2025. The fantastic collaborative approach taken by distilleries, visitor centres and state agencies – which is central to IrishWhiskey360° project – will ensure we reach this target.”



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Profile  A Day in the Life

THE BRAND BUILDER AN INNOVATOR IN THE PROVISION OF OUTSOURCED MANAGEMENT SERVICES TO COMPANIES AND ASSOCIATIONS, SUE O’NEILL TALKS US THROUGH A RECENT DAY AS MANAGING DIRECTOR OF SHELLCOVE. 6AM As no two days are the same, nothing is constant in my routine except for my alarm clock. My clock is set for 6am and the day starts with daily housework and getting my 14-yearold out for the school bus at 7.15am. Then I head to the gym or go for a run. I always like to exercise early in the morning, as it gives me a great opportunity to think and avoid being stressed. 9AM I get back to the office, which is based at my home, so this morning I avoid the M50 madness. I catch up with the team, check my emails and work on various client projects at the desk. Running an association management company involves a lot of planning for clients, such as member communications, devising marketing campaigns, managing events, preparing for board meetings and managing accounts. 11AM Conference call with the Irish Medtech Association who are holding a two-day conference and awards ceremony in Galway, so there is a lot of planning to be done with managing the logistics for this event with over 30 speakers, many of whom are travelling from the abroad. The work here involves a lot of coordination between the speakers, the venue, managing AV, entertainment and speaker presentations. 1PM Grab some lunch and listen to the lunchtime news. I always like to take this hour if I can in the day to relax and recharge. 2PM Head to the RDS Concert Hall venue for a meeting with the on-site team, as we are managing the National Irish Pub Awards Gala Sue O’Neill, Awards ceremony here. This is the end of an Managing Director, eight-month programme which we manage for Shellcove both the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association. 4PM Head home and try to beat the traffic and return any phone calls en route. 6PM Catch up on the day’s news again and get some dinner. 8PM I work on a presentation for the Irish Tyre Industry Association NEC meeting tomorrow on the recent tyre safety campaign we devised and prepare notes for a tyre technician training programme we will be managing for their members. 10PM Watch Netflix for a bit before retiring – I’m currently watching The Crown! WWW.SHELLCOVE.IE


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Enhancing quality of life for all

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, County Hall, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin T: 01 2054700 E: W: @dlrcc DunLaoghaireRathdownCountyCouncil

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