Better Business - Autumn 2019

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S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E WA R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | A U T U M N 2 01 9

BUSINESS Medtech Maestros











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Take the Step into the Eurozone As Brexit approaches, the need for Irish companies to internationalise has never been greater. Enterprise Ireland is there to help. From strategic advice to a range of financial supports and expert local advisors in eight offices across the Eurozone, Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive five-step plan to help you make the move into new markets. Take the step into new markets with Enterprise Ireland. Visit to learn more.


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S U P P O R T I N G E N T R E P R E N E U R S | VA L U I N G S M A L L B U S I N E S S | R E WA R D I N G R I S K TA K E R S | A U T U M N 2 01 9


BUSINESS Medtech Maestros








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



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On the Cover: Bernard McCarthy, Managing Director, DHL Express Ireland Photography: Jason Clarke

Editor: Colin White Contributors: Paula Bradley, Shelly Madden, 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

The SFA office has been abuzz recently after the launch of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2020 by Awards Patron, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD. Find out more on the Awards page about our latest search for the best small business in Ireland. This autumn we sit down with Minister Michael D’Arcy on the importance of new insurance reform legislation and how it could prevent the impact of high insurance costs on small firms. Check out our feature on the importance of internationalising your business as we hear from some small businesses succeeding in this space. Elsewhere in these pages you’ll find the SFA’s response to Budget 2020, where small firms will benefit from an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, and changes to KEEP, EIIS and the R&D Tax Credit. We bring advice on how to build resilience amongst your staff and we share meditative techniques on how to build your own personal resilience. 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 246,000 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.

publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2019. All discounts, promotions and competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business.

Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association

The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118 SFA is a trading name of Ibec.


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

Pitch Perfection Voice coach Mark Downey informs how to become a confident public speaker.

Medtech Maestros How EnteraSense is helping to put Irish medtech on the international map.

18 24 28

Sector Spotlight We review what’s shaping the landscape of Ireland’s fashion retail sector.

Cover Story DHL’s Bernard McCarthy looks back on 40 years of operations in Ireland.

The Social Engineer Gerard Joyce speaks about what organisations should be doing to keep information secure.

30 36 50

Disrupt and Conquer We catch up with four leading female digital disruptors shaping the future.

Insurance Insight Minister Michael D’Arcy explains the importance of insurance reform.

Internationalisation Broadening the enterprise and export base of Irish firms is key as Brexit looms.

Arts and Culture Novelist Kealan Ryan talks literary influences, perseverance and making sacrifices for art.

The Big Read In Deep Water explores a programme that ended in the government sending out one million refunds.

Travel As both a financial hub and a fashion capital, Milan is a city brimming with style.

65 70 72


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Autumn 2019  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: From top left: DHL’s Bernard McCarthy looks back on 40 years of operations in Ireland, page 24 // We speak with Talita Holzer and three other leading female digital disruptors shaping the future, page 30 // Virgin Media’s Paula McCarthy explains the importance of a range of solutions for busy professionals, page 40 // We sit down with Kealan Ryan to discuss his latest novel and how making sacrifices has helped his art, page 65


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News  Updates


Minister of Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD addressing the SFA Smart Business Conference


Climate Action Plan launched

In June, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton TD launched the Government’s Climate Action Plan to Tackle Climate Breakdown. The Climate Action Plan sets out an ambitious course of action over the coming years to address this issue. The plan clearly identifies the nature and scale of the challenge and outlines the current state of play across key sectors including electricity, transport, built environment, industry and agriculture and charts a course towards ambitious decarbonisation targets. The plan also sets out governance arrangements, including carbon-proofing government policies, establishment of carbon budgets, a strengthened Climate Change Advisory Council and greater accountability to the Oireachtas. The SFA will support the Government to achieve the 2030 targets set out in the Climate Action Plan 2019 by working with members, Government departments and State Agencies and supporting smaller firms to reduce emissions without negatively affecting their competitiveness. For more information on the plan visit

NEW NON-DOMESTIC WATER CHARGES FROM 1 MAY 2020 In July, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities finalised its decision on Irish Water’s Non-Domestic Tariff Framework. Within the next few weeks Irish Water will be communicating with non-domestic customers to clarify this new information. It is important to note that new changes come into effect on 1 May 2020. The new business charges will apply to both business customers and mixed-use customers who use water services for both business and domestic purposes. Only water in and out costs are changing, trade effluent costs are not included in the changes. Irish Water’s analysis indicates that 83% of connections will see their annual bill decrease, stay the same, or increase by less than €250. Only 17% of connections will see their bill rise by €250 or more. To ensure your business is fully prepared for this transition, take advantage of advice on and use the Business Tariff Calculator to estimate what your new bill could be.

SIMPLI BAKED TO CREATE MORE JOBS IN TULLAMORE The Flat Bread Company trading as Simpli Baked has grown impressively since it was founded in Tullamore, Co. Offaly a decade ago. In May 2019, the company invested in a second production line to the value of €2.5m which has almost doubled capacity at its production facility and has created further employment at this Tullamore-based operation. The company produces a range of thin crust pizza bases and wheat flour tortilla wraps for the Irish, UK and European market. It is the only bakery producing flour tortillas in the country. Simpli Baked works with key customers to develop flavoured products to suit their needs. Flavours include: Thai ginger, turmeric, beetroot and multiseed, to name a few. In addition to making excellent tortilla they have developed a range of gluten-free tortilla and pizza bases that maintain the original great tastes and textures of the original. In 2017, Simpli Baked were winners of the Food and Drink category at the SFA National Small Business Awards.



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Updates  News


Declan Donnelly, Sales Manager Ireland of ATC receiving the Project of the Year award for Aungier Street Student Accommodation from Paul O’Brien, Managing Director of EWL Electric at the EIFI Awards lunch

ATC AWARDED THE COVETED PROJECT OF THE YEAR 2019 AWARD At the recent Electrical Industries Federation of Ireland Awards 2019, ATC Electrical & Mechanical was awarded the coveted ‘Project of the Year 2019’ award for work at Aungier Street Student Accommodation. Established in 1991, Dublin-based ATC is a market-leading distributor and supplier of energy efficient hygiene, heating and ventilation products to the electrical and mechanical industry in Ireland and the UK. Members working in both the electrical and construction sector are reminded that last year the Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for the construction sector was introduced. It streamlined rates of pay for workers in the construction sector and introduced benefits such as sick pay, death in service benefit, a contributory pension and a dispute resolution mechanism. Earlier this year, the pay rates for the construction sector were revised and they came into effect on 1 October. A similar SEO was introduced for the electrical contracting sector and these have been in effect since 1 September 2019.



If you are a director of a limited company in Ireland, you now have a statutory obligation to file information of the beneficial owners with the newly established Central Register of Beneficial Ownership (RBO). A beneficial owner is a natural person with a 25% or more stake in a private company, trust, or provident society, or someone with significant control. The RBO online portal was established and began accepting filings in June. The deadline to file is 22 November 2019 and after the transition period has lapsed it will be considered a breach of statutory duty not to file and there could be fines of up to €500,000. Any new limited company registered will be required to file this information within five months of incorporation. For more information visit or for professional assistance in making the beneficial ownership filing, contact Company Bureau, Ireland’s leading company formation and corporate service provider.

Niall Dorrian, CEO, Linked Finance

Linked Finance has launched a new ‘Beyond Brexit’ loan for Irish SMEs. Managing cash-flow is key to any Brexit preparation and these new 18-month loans allow businesses to access working capital of up to €300,000 in just 24 hours. This new loan is perfect for businesses who want to spread annual costs over a longer term than usual, and are just one of the ways that Linked Finance is working to support Irish SMEs as they prepare for Brexit. The platform recently announced a range of rate reductions to benefit the growing number of Irish companies who now use Linked Finance whenever they need a business loan. 6 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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News  Updates

TOP TWEETS Worth calling into if you are a small business owner, find about the SFA Awards, the SFA Skillnet, and network and check out the new @TheAlexHotel @SFA_Irl @SFASkillnet @Celtar_Advisers @LEODublinCity #Irish #business #SMEs #Training #Dublin see you there!



An Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar launches @SFA_Irl National Small Business Awards 2020. As wellness partner to the SFA DeCare are proud to introduce the first New Wellness Award for Smaller Businesses in Ireland today. #wellness #health #qualityoflife #mentalhealth #workplacewellness


We are delighted to be in the Summer 2019 edition of @SFA_Irl. Read about @TekelekGroup being selected NCH Corporation supplier of the year. #supplier #telemetry #IoT #Tekelek #AssetManagement #award #magazine #SmallFirm AssociationMagazine #tank




In September, the SFA launched the ‘Financial literacy amongst Irish micro, small and mediumsized businesses’ report, in collaboration with TU Dublin, Microfinance Ireland, SBCI and Skillnet Ireland and was conducted by iReach. The survey results highlight concern about the level of financial literacy amongst Ireland’s small business leaders. Findings from the report include: n 81% of respondents said financial literacy was

very or extremely important, but only 46% said they had good or expert knowledge of financial literacy. Respondents thought that only 19% of other Irish business owners had good knowledge;

n 51% of business owners do not read their

monthly accounts on a monthly basis;

n About a quarter of respondents do not produce

important financial reports like debtor/creditor lists and sales and expenditure reports, while 16% of respondents do not use monthly reports;

n 34% said that they use financial statements to

make business decisions and 42% said that they do not understand financial statements.

The report recommends a problem-solving approach be adopted by Government, State Agencies and the associations to address the key issues identified by small business owners. The SFA and its partners are committed to addressing this issue and will continue to work towards raising financial literacy amongst small business.


BPFI’s @Fraud SMART initiative and @SFA_Irl will be hosting a breakfast briefing on #Fraud Awareness on Tuesday 1 October. With fraud against Irish businesses on the rise, this event will offer practical advice to help prevent your company falling victim.


Perhaps best known for inventing pop-up technology over 30 years ago, Nomadic Display, one of the worldwide leaders in exhibition solution design and fulfilment, has updated its identity by rebranding. The core strength of Nomadic Display is in the supply of solutions to the exhibition industry and not solely in the development of individual products. They are now putting this focus at the core of their messaging and as such have rebranded under the new tagline, ‘Creative exhibition solutions’. From Louisburgh, Co. Mayo, Nomadic Display employ teams of creative professionals, who, using carefully designed exhibition systems, produce results that are focused on providing solutions to customers in the exhibition industry across Ireland, the UK, Germany and Spain. As we move to a low-carbon economy, Nomadic Display is making it a priority to adopt a green business environment. Their Irish manufacturing facility has been, and will continue to be, committed to adopting environmentally friendly practices in design, production and delivery of their displays. For more details on Nomadic Display visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 7

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Updates  News



New research commissioned by One4all has found that startups and SMEs are the workplace of choice for a large majority of Irish workers. Smaller firms in Ireland are perceived to be better in a number of key areas, notably in providing better opportunities for career development, making friends and having the best company culture. The research has shown that twothirds (67%) of Irish people would prefer to work for an SME (10-250 employees) or startup (less than ten employees) company. Irish workers also feel that SMEs and startups have the best office culture, with a massive 71% of respondents in agreement. The evergrowing millennial workforce is also following this trend, with close to half (46%) of those aged 18-24 preferring to work in an SME and a further 19% saying they would prefer to work in a startup. The Small Firms Association welcomes these results, which supports our own evidence in this area. Feedback from our members has consistently shown that smaller firms have a strong staff retention rate, with 90% retaining employees for three or more years. Out of that figure, 27% retain employees for ten or more years. These new findings will come as a major boost to SMEs as they look to compete with bigger companies for the best talent in Ireland’s highly competitive jobs market.

“We would encourage all members and small business owners to review how a ‘no-deal’ Brexit may impact their working capital, supply chain and your people.” Sven SpollenBehrens, SFA Director (for more information on Brexit see page 10)

“We are delighted to have David Meade, one of Europe’s most dynamic and sought-after keynote speakers join us at this year’s SFA Annual lunch on 15 November.” Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair (for more information on the SFA Annual lunch see page 35)

“Small and medium businesses make a huge contribution to the Irish economy and the SFA awards are a fabulous and timely opportunity to recognise the talent and innovation in the Irish SME sector.” Awards Patron An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD speaking at SFA National Small Business Awards 2020 launch

Ibec President Pat McCann, Chief Executive Officer, Dalata Hotel Group and Danny McCoy, Ibec CEO

PAT MCCANN BECOMES NEW IBEC PRESIDENT Pat McCann, CEO of Dalata Hotel Group, was recently announced as the new Ibec President, taking over from Paraic Curtis of TE Connectivity. Pat McCann has nearly 50 years of experience in the hotel industry, having embarked upon his career in 1969 with Ryan Hotels plc before joining Jurys Hotel Group plc in 1989. In 2000, he became Chief Executive Officer of Jurys Doyle Hotel Group plc, a position he held until 2006. Pat founded Dalata Hotel Group Ltd in 2007 and the group is listed on both the Dublin and London Stock Exchanges. Speaking of the year ahead, the new Ibec President said: “With continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit and with Budget 2020 fast-approaching, it is a crucial time for business, and the country more broadly. There are obvious challenges, but the economy remains strong and the country is well positioned to deal with them. Over the coming months and years, Ibec must continue to play a central role in driving Ireland’s prosperity. It is vital that business is at the heart of policy decision-making and makes a positive and lasting contribution.”


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Retirement Solutions from Aviva

At Aviva, we offer a straightforward range of pensions to suit your plans for the future: Choose investment options from three world-class fund managers Access to 3 multi-award wining Investment Managers, each with unique investment styles to meet different investors’ needs.

Aviva Online Our simple and smart online pensions hub means you can see the value of your pension, where it’s invested and the amount you have in each fund. Use tools like our pensions calculator and receive your policy documents online.

Flexible Contributions Our plans can accept monthly contributions from as little as €100.

First Class Service Outstanding administration and customer service capabilities, Aviva offers a leading digital platform along with a dedicated customer service team.

Competitive & transparent pricing With just one highly competitive fund charge, no policy fees and no admin fees, we offer a pension structure based on simplicity.

Talk to your Financial Broker and see

You’re safe in the hands of Aviva Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland Designated Activity Company, a private company limited by shares. Registered in Ireland No. 165970. Registered office at One Park Place, Hatch Street, Dublin 2, D02 E651. Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland Designated Activity Company, trading as Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland and Friends First, is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Tel (01) 898 7950

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Updates  News



he SFA recommends all businesses read the recently launched Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation ‘Brexit Preparedness Checklist’. The checklist identifies key actions that firms can take in advance of 31 October to help them prepare for Brexit. Visit to view the checklist. Small businesses are advised to inform themselves of all customs and excise requirements that may arise for imports/ exports between Ireland and the UK (including Northern Ireland). If there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit then Ireland and the UK (including Northern Ireland) will, from day one, be treated by each other as third countries when it comes to trade. This will lead to a significant increase in custom arrangements and declarations. Those importing or exporting goods from outside the EU should consult If you import or export goods from outside the EU,

you or your agent must complete a customs declaration. A customs declaration must be made electronically using Revenue’s Automated Entry Processing system. The SFA recommends that business decide now about who will be responsible for the customs declaration, either the business or an external customs agent. 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. To register for an EORI number, go to the Revenue Online Service. If you import or export goods into or out of the EU, you must classify those goods for customs purposes. Every product has a specific code. This classification code determines the amount of customs duty you will pay on imported goods. Visit to use TARIC to classify your goods to the appropriate code that you will need to import or export goods. If you have a specific query in relation to Brexit and customs matters, please email with the relevant details. The online resource www.prepareforbrexit. com also has lots of information and supports to help business prepare for Brexit including: A wide range of supports to help companies review and improve their financial management procedures and ensure their long-term competitiveness. Supports to help Irish companies that trade to, through or from the UK to analyse their exposure, prepare an action plan and mitigate against supply chain disruption after Brexit. Register for the Online Customs Insights Course to help understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to succeed in a post-Brexit world. Access the Quick Brexit Guide for Business to answer the many questions you may have when assessing your exposure to Brexit and determining the best course of action to mitigate your likely Brexit-related difficulties. A good idea is to register for Getting Ireland Brexit Ready, a Clear Customs free training initiative delivered through Skillnet Ireland at several training locations nationwide. To register visit For advice, businesses can contact their Local Enterprise Office and InterTradeIreland, which has a Brexit Mentor Programme and a Brexit Advisory Service respectively.


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Updates  News




“With all the confusion and distraction caused by world events such as Brexit, businesses can miss out on the opportunities in the shadows. Ask yourself if there are any opportunities you are not paying attention to. I’ve had clients who have been forced to take a path they didn’t expect, which turned out to be very profitable for their business.” Brian Smyth, Maybe International

PEER TO MANAGER JOURNEY SFA Skillnet team members Quelba Lima Dos Santos and Geraldine Lavin


“Videos are now key for engagement across all social media platforms. We’ve seen huge growth in the TikTok app; think of it like a video-based Instagram. Typically, a 30-second video is enough unless its particularly engaging content. We’ve had clients who have concerns about creating content and think they need to invest a lot of time and money to get a good video. People can create their own content by doing a short video using their smartphone and once they start to get an audience, then it’s a good time to bring in the professionals to help.”

“Moving into a supervisory position can be an exciting step. It also can be daunting. One of the most complicated issues is how the change may affect a manager’s relationships with colleagues, especially those who were previously peers and now report to you. With my clients I have found colleagues may resent their promotion or may feel they must now behave differently around the newly promoted manager, while others may challenge the manager’s authority.” Kathleen Kinsella, Kinsella Leadership Development

Aisling Hurley, TBF Digital Marketing Agency


“It’s important to spend time clarifying your business message; what do you want people to know about your business? The world is busy and noisy with lots of distractions, yet some people and organisations succeed in getting their message heard. I coach executives who realise that they only get one opportunity to create a good first impression when delivering a message, whether that be at a conference, speaking to their team or telling your business story to win sales or investment. The cost of travel (time and money) to speak to prospective customers can run into a five-figure sum, which is wasted if the message communicated on arrival is not impactful.”

To make a successful transition, Kathleen’s top tips are: n Keep a level playing field n Treat everyone equally n Remain positive n Set new boundaries with work colleagues n Use discretion and support For more on our SFA Skillnet training programmes, visit

Andrew Keogh, Aristo 12 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Public Speaking  Feature




ublic speaking has become increasingly important in today’s business environment. A good or bad pitch can be the making or breaking of any small firm, and, like any other skill, the art of public speaking needs to be honed through experience and learning. Founder of Speech & Presence Mark Downey is a leading expert in communication training and believes every single individual has the potential to engage with an audience in a confident manner, no matter how nervous that person may be. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 13

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Feature  Public Speaking

“They just need to know what work to do in order to harness that energy and focus it,” he states. He likens nervousness to a primitive energy that has gone out of control, like a river that has burst it banks, triggering our flight or freeze response. “It is experienced by us initially on a physical level,” he says. “At the moment of speaking, we are overwhelmed, our IQ has plummeted, we have lost control of speech and movements, which is frightening, traumatic. Our performance is diminished, as is our confidence. We feel disappointed at best, knowing that we are much better than this.” However, it is possible to regain control over this. “In fact, we are hardwired to overcome this primitive response,” posits Downey. “The solution starts with managing our physicality, our breath and vocal energy to power up our physical presence and then manage the type of attention we are paying. This catalyses the energy, reduces the heart rate, changes our biochemistry and allows us to speak from a powerfully present place, consistently.” Attaining a state of relaxed physical readiness key to conquering public speaking nerves. “If standing, maintain the same ready state with the energy slightly forward on the balls of your feet so that your knees are relaxed and your posture is firmly grounded,” advises Downey. “Keep breathing low and slow. The breath above all will affect your ability to remain calm and keep nervousness at bay. Get your breath low in your body and send your breath to different points of the room,” he continues. He also recommends focusing on the speaker before you to keep your mind off those nerves. “Send your breath and focus to them, listening intently, even if the topic or the speaker does not interest you. Be fully present with them and you will be more present when your turn to speak comes.”

Pitch prep Pitching can be one of the most important things you do for your business, and crucial to winning investment. Downey advises tailoring each pitch specifically. “Do a detailed study on your audience and what really matters to them. Build your pitch from this,” he explains. “Use the power of story, supported by facts to land a memorable message. Be able to express why you do what you do as well as the what and how.” His method relies on working on the spoken word, rather than using notes or a written speech as the focus. “Rather than writing your pitch on a computer, speak it aloud many times over, record your speaking and edit it from there,” he encourages. “This will ensure it has your authentic speaking patterns, you will tap into more veins of gold content-wise and it will be easier to remember.” Rehearsal, out loud, as often as possible is also key, so that if you make a mistake, you have already practised carrying on seamlessly without letting it throw you off. While our natural inclination is to have a written version of a speech for comfort, the temptation to look at it distracts us from looking at our audience and really connecting with them. Downey strongly recommends resisting that temptation, saying, “Firstly, very few of us write as we speak, so the speech risks sounding stilted, inauthentic and unprofessional.” However, he concedes that, “Having a cheat sheet, a map of the speech with just key words to prompt us if we get lost, can work very well. Once again, speaking the speech aloud many times before the day is the best way of assuring that we will remember our content.”

Meeting management For many people in business, an issue that crops up time and again is being heard in large meetings, and not getting into a panic when it is your turn to get your point across. Downey recommends managing posture and breath just as you would if you were doing a speech on stage. He also says, “Maintain eye contact, listen deeply even as you are speaking. Allow your body language to be open and expressive, gesturing gently with the whole arm rather than just with your hands.” Where possible, taking the answers to the most dreaded questions an investor or customer might ask you, and practising answering them out loud, in front of trusted friends or colleagues, can be very powerful to prepare yourself. If you don’t have an answer, it’s better to calmly state this, Downey recommends. “We do not trust someone who has ‘all the answers’, as nobody does. So, it is okay not to have an answer from time to time. We must learn to express this calmly with the option of giving the answer after the speech or meeting once we have it.” Again, he returns to the advice on physically preparing and calming yourself



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Public Speaking  Feature

Making a strong impression Mark Downey of Speech & Presence outlines his key tips for making a strong impression in a competitive marketplace:


DEVELOP YOUR PERSONAL PRESENCE: we always remember the speaker and how they made us feel.


AVOID DEATH BY POWERPOINT: prepare and rehearse your speech, pitch or presentation as outlined above and you will need minimal slides if any.


USE THE POWER OF STORY: the science on this is very clear, story can move us and data can intellectually stimulate at best. Mark Downey, Speech & Presence

to deal with any situation effectively. “For the unexpected ‘curveball’, readiness is all. If you are fully present physically and your breath is low, you can maintain your presence and hold eye contact, take a relaxed breath, absorb the shock, cancel and continue without freezing. It is the same primitive response as in the question regarding nervousness, so as you can see the answer is in priming yourself in advance, so you are always ready.”

Leading with authority When it comes to leading effectively, the way you speak to your staff can convey your power and authority, and bring them with you when introducing new ideas. “You must be able to put yourself in their shoes and speak to what matters most to them regarding the initiative and inspire them to your desired objective using a story supported by facts,” says Downey. His key advice is, “Make sure you speak to them, not at them.” He refers back to maintaining eye contact and listening deeply again in this situation, noting, “Your credibility is predicated by your authentic and confident presence and if your speaking cues don’t match your content, people may, albeit unconsciously, doubt you.”


EXPRESSING YOUR ‘WHY’: the competitive edge that will attract the right investors/clients and staff who believe what you believe.


REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE: I know we are all time poor, but a fantastically conceived speech, pitch or presentation poorly delivered is counterproductive and can leave a lasting impression that is difficult to reverse. Doing the right audiencefocused work in preparation will take less time, energy and focus than the ‘table work’ which most people spend the most time on in their preparation. Once you get in the swing of this, you gain consistent authenticity and clear, compelling communication. Your brand becomes that you are the same in a one-to-one meeting as you are in larger meetings, pitches and presentations: present, open, energised, clear, focused and authentic.


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Samll Business Profile  EnteraSense

The EnteraSense team




reland has garnered a reputation as an epicentre of excellence when it comes to the life sciences sector. Collaborative clusters in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical devices and diagnostics have been a key element behind the significant growth of a sector that directly employs 30,000 people. This has led to a significant boost in foreign direct investment and solidified Ireland’s stance as an attractive location for multinational organisations, especially as an alternative to the UK amid the ongoing turmoil caused by Brexit. But what about the indigenous health sciences firms and their

contribution to our economy? From Neurent Medical to Nuritas, homegrown startups are rising up to join the giants of the sector and put their own stamp on the nation. One such firm making waves is Galway-based EnteraSense, a medtech startup that has developed sensor technology to identify and monitor upper gastrointestinal bleeding. EnteraSense was founded in 2015 by Donal Devery, Dr Christopher Thompson and Dr Marvin Ryou. The management team includes Chief Commercial Officer Daragh Sharkey and Chief Technology Officer Chiara Di Carlo, and the company currently


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EnteraSense  Small Business Profile

employs six full-time staff members and four consultants. “The management team have significant experience in building scalable medtech companies over many years,” says Daragh Sharkey. He adds that the individual leaders have a wide variety of skill sets, each bringing something different to the table. “There is very specific engineering experience, along with regulatory, quality and also commercial experience. The experience and diverse nature of backgrounds is the most important aspect of the potential success of this project.” The technology behind EnteraSense takes the form of an ingestible capsule, which logs data as it travels through the gastrointestinal tract. An algorithm then processes this data to detect signs of bleeding, and a signal is sent via wireless transmission to an external monitor to alert medical professionals in real time. This relatively straightforward process can eliminate the need for endoscopies, which can often be uncomfortable for the patient in question. EnteraSense aims to provide a more accurate diagnosis in a more efficient manner, ultimately aiming to save time and money for both hospitals and insurance companies. So, what kind of potential does this product have? Sharkey believes there is a gap in the market for EnteraSense as it addresses a specific need. “We spent a significant amount of initial time really understanding the market and ensuring there was a need,” he explains. According to EnteraSense, the market potential for its product in Europe and the US amounts to $1.6bn. Focusing on the capsule itself, Sharkey said it allows for “a significant patient benefit and thus an economic benefit for the healthcare systems” using the technology, which he describes as “simply amazing”. He continues: “With our core technology we have multiple other applications. We always like to look at other patient-focused solutions and have two to three core ideas. Most important is that we execute on the initial product and prove that the benefit to the patient and their treatment outcomes are significantly improved by using our technology.” Investors seem to agree. Earlier this year EnteraSense raised €1m in funding from private backers, including a number of physicians. It also secured €2.5m in EU funding from the Horizon 2020

research and innovation programme, and was previously supported by NDRC and Enterprise Ireland. Referring to the EU project grant, Sharkey said the company ranked fourth out of more than 150 entries – “this further validates our technology and ability to commercialise”.

Go west When asked about the indigenous Irish health sciences scene, Sharkey sings its praises. “It is amazing. The innovative culture here is simply amazing. People and companies support each other, and the diverse skill sets available ensure there is no problem that cannot be solved. The entrepreneurial spirit here is second-tonone and to have such a significant base of large multinationals only adds to that. “Lastly, this culture was built and is being pushed by virtue of the work of the universities in Galway, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland, to name a few. Without these entities, we would not have the culture to allow and encourage people to take risks and view problems to find solutions.” Though many indigenous firms choose

offering a competitive wage to employees can sometimes be a struggle for a budding startup. Similar to how Ireland is being favoured by some over the UK, Galway is fast becoming a desirable alternative to Dublin, and Sharkey seems confident that west is best for EnteraSense. Indeed, the CCO believes the company’s Mervue base is “at the heart of the medtech community in Galway”, which he proudly labels “the best city in the world”.

2020 vision So, what’s next for EnteraSense? Sharkey confirms that the startup aims to have FDA submission before the end of 2019 and that CE certification will follow, as well as a drive for increased commercialisation and market adoption. It appears that the future is bright for this Galway firm and the Irish indigenous health sciences scene as a whole. Despite obstacles such as Brexit and a housing crisis, Ireland’s resilience is echoed in the entrepreneurial mindset of its many successful startups. “An amazing team can overcome any hurdles and, as you can imagine, when in startup phase there are problems that need

Daragh Sharkey, Chief Commercial Officer, EnteraSense

Dublin as their home, skyrocketing rents have driven individuals from the capital, meaning sourcing talent is a more arduous endeavour. For those that stay, the cost of living has made it difficult to survive, yet

to be overcome on a daily basis. We don’t view them as problems but as hurdles that we need to jump over,” explains Sharkey. “Also, as a team we have good fun, which makes everything that little bit easier.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 17

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Sector Spotlight  Fashion Retail




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Fashion Retail  Sector Spotlight


by its nature, is constantly changing. In today’s industry, one day you’re in and the next day you’re out, as Heidi Klum famously once said. This has never been truer than for today’s clothing retailers, with the threat of Brexit already sparking a slowdown of spending for many retailers. In this cut-throat climate, it is retailers who are able to tune into changing trends and offer their customers something unique that will successfully carve a niche for themselves. Indeed the world of fashion retail is almost unrecognisable from ten years ago. Online shopping has exploded and with it has come a complete change in consumer behaviours and habits. Business mentor Miriam Simon from retail and growth strategy company believes that this presents Irish retailers with greater potential than ever before. “The marketplace has become much larger in the last five to ten years with the rise of digital marketing,” she comments. “You can now shop worldwide and there is a belief that the high street has lost out to internet sales. However, this is not necessarily true as digital and online business also presents a huge

opportunity for bricks and mortar retail. The emerging consumer wants to browse online at their leisure, yet they still want to buy in-store and to see and touch the product. Hence, it’s key that retailers work to ensure that they provide both a strong online as well as strong in-store experience.” Of course, the fear of Brexit looms large in the minds of Irish independent fashion retailers. Many have realised that creating a loyal domestic customer base is the best way to minimise the damage. And Brexit isn’t the only phenomenon causing retailers to tune into the value of the homegrown market. Mary Greene, Managing Director of Divine Boutique in Maynooth, explains


Miriam Simon,

that when the financial crash hit in 2008 the fashion retail industry had to take a cold hard look at itself. Greene was able to pull through the “dark days” by proactively remodelling her business to focus on creating a first-rate in-store experience that keeps her customers coming back for more. “For me, top customer service and a positive store experience is what brings my customers back. Being in the business 14 years, we now have a huge and loyal following. Customers know that I now buy with them in mind and buy specifically for certain customers. We also recognise the fact that customers should be valued and appreciated for their support and we offer a loyalty discount service.” Wicklow-based department store Fishers of Newtownmountkennedy offers customers more than just a shopping trip. “We’ve developed a really great experience in-store with lots of reasons to visit, from the unique product range, the personal SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 19

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Sector Spotlight  Fashion Retail


Mary Greene, Divine Boutique

services of style consultation, personal shopping and alterations, while visitors can also socialise with friends in the café,” explains Managing Director Rebecca Harrison. By offering customers a variety of experiences, Fishers has been able to fortify its business. The overwhelming opinion in the sector is that it’s not enough to just sell clothes anymore; stores need to sell a unique experience. Greene is emphatic on this point, saying, “You must ensure your service or product offers something with a strong point of difference.” This has led to a rise in retailers offering unique and one-off

in-store events, some of which are for loyalty customers only. These events are designed to grab consumers attention and highlight the store’s particular avenue of specialisation. One such example is in the way Fishers highlights its commitment to sustainable fashion. The store offers events like seasonal fashion shows which showcase how to update clothing that customers may already have with small adjustments, restyling or accessories. This not only calls attention to their unique strength but also taps in to their customers’ interests, adding even more value to their product. Miriam Simon predicts that in the future these events will be even bigger. “It’s likely we’ll see more experiential or possibly ‘money can’t buy’-type retail experiences in future years where people will buy tickets to see brands they normally couldn’t access alongside great experiences they normally couldn’t see live. Think YouTubers meet best of online retail in a club-type scene with great music. A type of festival or pop-up retail.” This trend towards experiential retail fits in perfectly with the rise of social media as a powerful tool in the independent retailer’s arsenal. Offering customers something that is ‘share-worthy’ on platforms like Facebook and Instagram translates significantly into sales. Facebook has stated it understands that ‘before they purchase an item, 85% of consumers have already come into contact with the products on Facebook or Instagram’. Influencer Gary Vaynerchuck has pinpointed the importance of “removing the friction” from retail and Simon agrees, noting that social media platforms provide the ideal opportunity to make purchasing as slick, easy and enjoyable as


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Fashion Retail  Sector Spotlight

possible. “We will likely see a rise in successful independents over the coming years as the new and emerging consumer shuns multiples and mass production in favour of authentic and perceived ‘real business’,” she surmises. Greene’s social media activity perfectly illustrates Simon’s point. She uses her social media feed to interact directly with her customers by personally trying on clothing weekly. This kind of direct access to the client is advantageous in creating store loyalty and edging out bigger, more impersonal stores. When it comes to seizing the opportunity to jump on these trends, smaller retailers are more likely to have the ability to adjust their business model quickly – a strength that is particularly important in the fast-moving fashion retail industry. Businesses that keep their model as flexible as possible are reaping the rewards, according to Rebecca Harrison. “We’re lucky because as a small company we can pivot and adapt quickly. Retailers both large and small who have not evolved are being left behind, or are closing.” However, being a smaller store has its challenges and the fashion retail sector is not immune. Like most retailers in Ireland, Harrison and Greene identify commercial rates as a problem, especially after the uncertainty caused by the new valuation process. Many have also criticised the Government’s rates reform bill, saying that the bill benefits local authorities, not businesses. The burden of commercial rates in Ireland is “unsustainable”, Harrison comments. “In a retail environment where margins are small, rates valuations based on turnover seem very unfair.” Greene adds, “During the recession rates remained the same, even though all other overheads had to be reduced, and this discrepancy has never been addressed.”

Pendulum of power The high cost of retail rents is also a contributing negative factor for businesses. “Retail Rents in Ireland are still an issue,” says Simon. “Following the 2008 crash there was a huge surge in retail examinerships. And in many cases this was caused by prohibitive rent. I have met with businesses whose base rent exceeded their actual turnover. Can you imagine being bound in a long-term lease on those terms? Often examinership was the only course of action available to repudiate rents. I know that Ibec do excellent work in lobbying around this. However, I also fear those lessons haven’t been fully learned by landlords yet.” Despite these obstacles, astute independent

Rebecca Harrison, Fishers

““YOU MUST ENSURE YOUR SERVICE OR PRODUCT OFFERS SOMETHING WITH A STRONG POINT OF DIFFERENCE.” fashion retailers can be guardedly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in the Irish market. Harrison sees the trend away from fast fashion as an advantage for fashion retailers. “The pendulum is swinging back to durability in clothing,” she says, “looking at the economic value of an item and the cost per wear, not just the overall cost. Particularly important now is also the environmental impact of fast fashion. The impact of the production of the single-use clothing – just like single-use plastics – and the disposal of the same.” At the moment sustainable fashion is just beginning to garner interest, but if this trend takes off it will give a strong advantage to companies that have already built their business design around the additional costs associated with sustainable clothing and have already set up relationships with ethical producers. Armed with a loyal domestic customer base and a healthy online presence underpinned by authentic social media posts, Irish independent fashion retailers are poised to withstand the turbulence of the coming year. They may even come out on top of some of their larger competitors and scoop up some valuable market share. But no matter what happens, one thing’s for sure: the next big trend is just around the corner and retailers are going to have to keep reinventing the way they do business in order to survive. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 21

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Advice  Wise Guys




CONSTRUCTION Caroline Ashe Brady

Commercial Director, KORE Understand your customers’ needs and how you can help to make them succeed and grow. The insights gained from customers need to be shared with the entire team, because everybody has a touch-point with the customer. It is their collective effort that will deliver individual customer needs everyday. We work on the philosophy that there are only two roles in our organisation: those that sell and those that support those that sell. By building this customerfocused culture, you can react quickly to customer needs and build long-lasting relationships based on mutual trust and gains.



MD and owner, The Alternative Board Be part of an advisory board for your business and surround yourself with amazing, independent and like-minded leaders at your level who will assist in gaining new perspectives – while also helping to hold you accountable, create solutions you never dreamed possible and give you the clarity of advice that enables you to execute strategically. I have picked up thousands of business tips over the past decades by being a member of such groups, and I’ve loved it so much that I bought such a business called The Alternative Board in 2013.


TALENT SOLUTIONS Sandra Lawler Founder Director, Alternatives

Great talent was at the heart of our business idea and remains the most important factor for me in business success. So spend time from the outset getting your team right. Don’t compromise, even if you’re under budget or time pressures. Someone who fits the values of the firm is the most important factor. Then, are they passionate about your business idea? Have they the right attitude and motivation- beyond just money? Don’t hire clones of you or your team. Trust your gut, listen to your team and act on the facts as soon as you can.

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 only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”



Director and Founder, Voda-Forde Ltd 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


ANIMAL CARE Michael Murphy Co-owner, Rush Dog Grooming

Be confident in your business and believe in it. Have confidence in yourself. You’ve done the research, tested the service and created plan and the product. Your business may be like the majority of startups and progress slowly initially, or you may be extremely lucky and the phone won’t stop ringing from day one. While business is quiet, be productive and focus on getting your name out there. Social media is a remarkable tool and word travels fast, just don’t panic.

Vidal Sassoon (7 January 1928 – 9 May 2012) Hairstylist and businessman


RECRUITMENT Joseph Sullivan Founder, Finsearch Recruitment

Know what your ultimate goal is for your business before you start. Do you want to create a well-paid job for yourself? Or do you want to build a business to exit? If so, you’ll need to plan to hire people to grow it (and take over from you when you sell) and you’ll need external help or partnership. Lastly, budget for no money for six months and don’t let your focus drift on side projects. Define exactly what activity makes you money and do this as much as possible.

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


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Cover Story  40 Years of Excellence

Service OF



could call me a bit of a veteran at this stage,” says DHL Express Ireland’s Bernard McCarthy. One could call that an understatement. McCarthy, after all, has been with the company for 32 years. Having worked his way up the company ladder, he has served as Managing Director since 2002, overseeing both tremendous growth and testing challenges for the company and sector. “I’m proud of the fact that I started pretty much in a junior position, as it allowed me to work across the business resulting in an in-depth understanding of how it operates,” he beams. From humble beginnings in San Francisco, DHL is now a recognisable brand across the globe. It was 1969, the year of the Moon landing, Woodstock and the Stonewall riots, when the original DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn) started as three guys couriering

documents in a Plymouth Duster. Fifty years on DHL’s pioneering spirit has changed the way the world does business and the company has grown into the largest logistics company on the planet. At the same time as DHL celebrated its 50th anniversary internationally, the local DHL organisation in Ireland toasted 40 years of operation. Having been with the company for most of its existence, McCarthy has seen all the major changes that have occurred in the sector. “We still move parcels and shipments from one country to another, but the technology behind that, in terms of how we operate, has significantly changed,” he says. “Back in 1987, the DHL international business was dominated by large organisations that used DHL to support their business. These big companies used DHL to move documents or parcels around the world and we rarely had a delivery to a private address. Today, with the growth of ecommerce and online sales generally, a large proportion of what we


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40 Years of Excellence  Cover Story

Bernard McCarthy, Managing Director, DHL Express Ireland

Jason Clarke



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Cover Story  40 Years of Excellence do now, both inbound, in terms of importation, and outbound, in terms of export, is around the whole ecommerce space.” McCarthy continues, “Today we have many small Irish SMEs that are successfully exporting a whole range of products internationally – to the point where I struggle to get my head around it sometimes. Any company with an online sales presence has the ability to ship globally. Whereas once international express was the preserve of multinationals, there’s something very cool about the fact that you can be a startup company and have the same access to this amazing network across 220 countries as a Dell, a Microsoft or a Google. You have that same power and reach available to you. There’s something very egalitarian about it as a business opportunity for startup companies.” The way technology has evolved, particularly in online retail and ecommerce, has McCarthy happy to admit his thinking was once somewhat wide of the mark. “I had the view – and we generally in DHL had the view – that we would only really be dealing with online companies that were very much premium and sold high-value products,” he says. “We believed that was the kind of business that could justify the associated cost and would avail of our services.” Today, he’s keen to stress the importance for new businesses, regardless of the scale of their operation, to invest time in their ecommerce strategy. “What we’ve learned, not just in Ireland but I think globally, is that it’s not about the financial value of the product, it’s the value that the buyer puts on the product. So, whether it’s €10 in value or €10,000 in value, its importance to who is buying it is key. I would have erroneously thought in the past that it had to be premium, high-value. But we see businesses who are exporting products with a relatively low financial-value where customers are willing to pay for an express service because they don’t want to wait five to ten days to receive it by traditional postal services. “I’m just astounded by the sheer range of products that we ship into international markets on behalf of Irish SMEs. Everything from health care items, cosmetics, fashion, to foodstuffs, gifts, novelty items and hair extensions. And the list goes on and on.” When facing competition from less expensive options, how has DHL ensured fast end-to-end delivery that tempts customers to pay the extra costs? “In our case, it’s about having a presence in 220 countries. And it’s taken years upon years of investment to build our global infrastructure. You can see the scope and scale of our network in Ireland and this is replicated across Europe and the world. We talk about, ‘Having global presence and local expertise’. So, you need to have the global network, but you also need to have the expertise in the local markets to support that.”

New Markets The company has experienced turbulent times throughout its history – the advent of the fax machine that put the innovativeness of DHL’s workforce to the test, the terrifying neardeath experience of three DHL pilots when their aircraft was hit by a land-to-air missile over Iraq in 2003 or DHL being the only aircraft in the skies over Europe during the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud in 2010. A more current challenge to the speed of DHL’s service looms in the form of Brexit. The company, like many others, is currently doing doomsday prep in the event a deal is not struck before Britain leave the EU. McCarthy, though, is also keen to talk about the positive aspects for Irish enterprise. “I think there’s potentially a positive around the fact that companies and businesses generally are starting to look beyond the UK for market opportunities. Whatever way Brexit works out, the idea that companies have been prompted to expand their business into new markets is a really positive thing. From our own business point of view, it’s really a case of hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. We’ve had to invest in significant additional resources, particularly in the area of customs. The UK is our biggest trading partner in DHL, which isn’t a surprise. But in a scenario where the UK leaves the single market and the customs union, everything that we import and export today in ‘free circulation’ will require customs clearance in this new scenario. So, we’ve had to invest significantly to be ready for such an outcome.” Whatever way Brexit shakes out, DHL will adapt to the challenges. It’s been adapting for five decades now. For McCarthy and DHL Ireland, the importance of their longevity can be gauged by the businesses they’ve helped along the way. “DHL’s success in Ireland is a mirror of Ireland’s economic success. In that sense we’ve grown with Irish businesses. We’ve been part of their growth story and we’ve also had some tough times,” says McCarthy. “There’s something reassuring to know we’ve been through the good times and the bad times, both from an Ireland Inc. point of view, in terms of the height of the Celtic Tiger and the recession that followed. We went through a big restructure in 2009, but we’ve come through stronger than ever and our business is in rude health and continues to grow. I see the role of DHL as facilitating international trade, and it’s really gratifying to see small companies grow with us, knowing that we’ve been a part of their success. Of course, we deal with the big multinationals and they’re an important part of what we do. But there’s something special when you see a startup or a relatively new player really find their feet and grow successfully into new markets with you.”


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Preparing for Brexit  Tips

Tony Dignam MD, The Agile Executive


? l a e d o n or





Every business should develop a business plan which includes financial projections. Amend your plan based on different scenarios and see what the implications are. The scenarios you test should cover both eventualities (deal or no deal) and should cover the profit and loss impact, as well as the cashflow impact.



If some of your input materials come from the UK, what would the impact be to your business if there were duties on these? Can you find an alternative source in the EU? And if you are selling to the UK, what would happen to your sales if there were duties imposed? Can you sell more of your product within Ireland or the EU?

Alternative solutions If the impact of Brexit is higher costs or lower sales, do you need to have cost-cutting plans in place? Develop action plans so that you are ready to act quickly if Brexit happens.


Adjust your business plans to see what the impact of a slow-down in your sales markets looks like. Look to diversify your business and use the funding available to create a more robust and diverse business. Assess the impact on costs or sales value if there are significant movements in euro to sterling exchange rates. Take professional advice and protect against currency movements.



There are also processes that you will need to follow when importing from or exporting to the UK. In the short-term, this may result in delays, so you may need to temporarily increase your stock holding to ensure you have enough stock to continue trading. You may want to partner with an expert in the field.



There are many grants available to businesses to support them through the uncertain Brexit waters. These include grants and training through Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices or InterTradeIreland. Loans can also be secured through SBCI. This is a great source of finance that can help you navigate your way through Brexit.



Any crisis presents opportunities. If you are better prepared than your competitors you’ll be in a great position to take advantage of the changing landscape. Start taking action now so that your business is in a better place to survive and thrive post-Brexit. With the funding and grants highlighted above this is a great opportunity to move your business forward.

Cross-border working

If you have cross-border workers or have people who have moved to Ireland from the UK, you might want to check that they have a Irish driving licence. if they are individuals who need access to a car.


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Feature  Security and Protection





n o g r

Ja buster


ybercriminals are using ever more advanced and adaptable tools to breach user privacy as a new wave of threats are increasingly impacting small firms worldwide. Co-founder of governance, risk and compliance software firm, CalQRisk, Gerard Joyce knows that attempting to keep information confidential, accurate and available is paramount in business nowadays, but states that “many small firms are behind the curve”. He explains: “A lot of the breaches are vulnerabilities in operating systems and programmes that haven’t been patched and therefore get exploited. It’s not just an IT problem, it’s a whole organisation problem as would-be external hackers become more sophisticated.” The issue is that cyber security is everybody’s problem and unless every department is involved in discussions on the solution then no solution will be truly effective. It’s more than just keeping the bad guys out. It’s more than firewalls and intrusion detection. It’s more than just spyware and malware. It’s about protecting data integrity, making sure that the information your published reports are based on is accurate and unaltered. It’s also about availability, ensuring you and your customers can access applications and information as and when required. “It’s important to demonstrate to your customers, the regulators and potential partners that you are compliant,” stresses Joyce. “Why wouldn’t you have risk management as best practice? It makes sense to get it right first time rather than spending half of your management time fixing things that went wrong because you didn’t have good processes in place.”

An action plan Social engineering is a term increasingly bandied about in discussions regarding security and protection. In simple terms, it refers to the many non-technical methods hackers use to trick people into breaking normal security procedures or disclosing information to people who are pretending to be somebody they are not. Depending on the nature of the information you hold, to access your information hackers will exploit any vulnerability in your business. “ If you leave the door open, there’s enough evidence out there to say that you will get hacked at some stage,” comments Joyce. “It’s only a matter of time. Even if you’re a small firm, you’re still at risk.” He continues: “It’s scary how sophisticated these attacks have become. Business leaders need to put their sceptical hats back on

is where the sender of an email changes the ‘From’ address to make it look like it came from somebody else. The sender will purport to be somebody you regularly deal with and is looking for sensitive information.


is using an email to entice the recipient to click on a link or fill out a form or open an attachment. Clicking on the link could cause malware to be downloaded onto your computer.

Spear phishing

is a form of phishing, just targeted at an individual or an organisation.


is a type of phishing that is aimed at highprofile individuals. The difference is that the emailsandwebsitesare highly customised and personalised.


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Security and Protection  Feature


Gerard Joyce, CTO, CalQRisk

One step beyond The wide range of threats, vulnerabilities and resulting risks means that the solution requires a combination of preventative and mitigation measures. As you would expect, many of these have an IT component, but many are dependent on human behaviour and a sound business culture. Joyce states: “If you are to prevent the hackers from gaining unauthorised access to confidential information and data, it is imperative that all personnel who have access to sensitive information are aware of the methods and techniques that are used by modern cyber criminals.” “As human beings we are curious,” he adds. “We need to use our common sense, as there’s only so much IT can do. By involving people from across the organisation you can be more confident that the solutions will be more comprehensive


is using the telephone in an attempt to scam the victim into revealing private information that will be used for identity theft.


is where the fraudster pretends to need information in order to confirm the identity of the person he is talking to – all designed to gather key personal information.


and trust no one. And put a response plan in place. If the first time you’re sitting down to think about a plan is when you’ve been breached, it’s too late.”

Do not:

• Open emails from ‘banks’, they don’t send unsolicited emails. • Click on links in emails, instead enter trusted addresses manually in a browser and use bookmarks to access regularly visited trusted websites. • Give out personal information on the phone or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact.


• Ensure your business processes are robust and include an identity verification step before significant action is taken. • Ensure that highly frequented websites are monitored by IT, checked for malware and blocked if deemed unsafe. • Always verify the identity of unannounced visitors and never let them wander on their own. • Challenge strangers you find wandering around your premises.

Watering hole

is an attack that sees the attacker observe or learn which websites the target groupoftenvisitsand infects one or more of them with malware.


is a common method for non-authorised people to gain access to premises that require an electronic access card.

and effective. If people are involved in designing a solution to a problem they are more likely to implement it.” There are some common mistakes small firms make when it comes to the protection of data, according to the risk management expert. “Not understanding what data they are storing or processing and thus not applying the appropriate level of security is a real problem today with small firms,” he explains. “Don’t treat all data with equal level of importance and apply stricter rules and restrictions on the really sensitive data and make sure you refrain from keeping data long after it is of any use.” Looking to the future, Joyce sees a raft of emerging threats coming down the line that could prove disruptive. “The cyber criminals are getting more organised and have huge resources,” he warns. “We will see more attacks that target smartphones, as this is where we often store sensitive information, and as Internet of Things (IoT) devices are inherently insecure, I expect to read about exploits that utilised vulnerabilities in IoT devices to gain entry.”

Another method of gaining access used by social engineers and security consultants testing your defences is posing as fire or health and safety inspectors. These individuals are known as bogus inspectors.

Shoulder surfing

is when the social engineerislooking overyourshoulder as you key in an access code to enter a restricted area.


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Entrepreneurs  Female Disruptors





ech, like all that came before it, has been traditionally male-dominated, but a new breed of female disruptors are harnessing cutting-edge technologies and creating new industries and opportunities across all sectors. With the mantra of ‘If you can see it, you can be it’ often-repeated, efforts must be made to shine a light on trailblazing women in tech and to encourage school girls to study STEM subjects in order to ensure that in future generations the proportion of female founders and engineers (potentially in jobs that do not yet even exist) will be more balanced. Here, we encounter four companies with trailblazing women at the helm, pioneering new and exciting developments and solutions. Show this to your daughters, it could be them some day.


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Female Disruptors  Entrepreneurs




Former Facebook executive Nikki Lannen spotted the potential of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in gaming and took the leap to start her own company, WarDucks. Lannen is passionate about her sector, enthusing, “The gaming industry is disruptive, emerging, and revolutionising the way technology is used in constructing the games we love.” The potential of the sector is enormous, and growing all the time. To illustrate this fact, Lannen states, “In 2019, the gaming industry revenues are estimated around $152bn, which is a 10% increase from the previous year.” At the time she started the company, the mobile app games market was already saturated, with over 2 million apps on each platform (IOS and Android). Lannen took a strategic decision to take her young startup into a less saturated space, which turned out to be an incredibly wise move, giving them early mover advantage. “The VR space was a great place to prove our worth in a less crowded platform,” Lannen recalls. “We proved to be successful in the VR space as we launched six best-selling titles across multiple VR platforms, two of which were top ten on PlayStation VR.” As a female disruptor, Lannen thinks her career experience brings something new to the table: “In understanding how the gaming industry has emerged in the EMEA region, I bring a unique perspective in understanding systems, facilitating data-driven dialogue, and using those skills to make informed strategic decisions.” In a heavily male-dominated industry, she has been an early pioneer, but sees more and more women moving into the space now, as some surprising statistics show that female gamers are a large cohort of the population. Lannen says, “The gaming Industry is male-dominated, but that is changing steadily. According to a 2017 Google Play and NewZoo survey, 65% of US women ages 10-65 play mobile games. What’s more interesting is that women make up nearly half of all mobile gamers, and they tend to play more frequently and be more engaged than their male counterparts. This will undoubtedly change the face of Nikki Lannen, the gaming industry in the future.” CEO, WarDucks She adds, “The industry is changing in dynamic ways constantly, but I look forward to seeing a stronger female presence in gaming.” As a female founder, Lannen says, “I think every founder journey is different. My experience as a female founder is likely similar to what a male founder may encounter – with the chaotic but exciting nature of a tech startup. There is never a dull moment in this dynamic and exciting industry! I love it!” She pinpoints her personal professional approach as very people-focused, admitting, “With so many competing priorities as a CEO, such as strategy and business development, my primary focus is the team. Supporting our talented team is essential to maintaining a thriving work culture.” Lannen adds, “Time is always the biggest challenge. As we are growing, there are numerous competing priorities that must be addressed at the same time. It’s a constant challenge but a welcome opportunity.”


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Entrepreneurs  Female Disruptors

Deepa Mann-Kler is a true renaissance woman, both an artist and a tech trailblazer, leading Neon as well as fulfilling her role as Visiting Professor In Immersive Futures at Ulster University. Ask her what her biggest challenges are, and the answer is very telling: “Not enough time. Too much to do.” With a wide range of interests and talents, she melds together art, science, technology and business in her role as the founder of Neon, a Belfastbased wellbeing company that uses immersive technologies to improve health outcomes. “Neon has a clear vision to create software applications in virtual, augmented and mixed realities that give people choice,” says Mann-Kler. “Our values are to develop products that meet consumers’ needs and are designed in response to and alongside this need. We believe successful technology teaches people skills they can use in real life and enables people to feel human.” Throughout her multifaceted career, a common thread which links her varied interests is a passion to keep the human being at the centre of everything she does, from art and technology, to health and wellbeing. “To be open about how our personal experiences and stories impact on our professional lives,” is how she describes her approach. “I have worked across a range of sectors, including private, public, voluntary and charity, and have also been



self-employed. I have worked at all levels of organisations from non-executive, to senior leadership to more junior roles. I have lived and worked in India, France, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, England and Northern Ireland. All of this influences my perspective as a disruptive force,” Mann-Kler states. Working in a cutting-edge industry enables her to explore a new way of being creative, and of collaborating. Mann-Kler describes the immersive industry as, “Very fast-paced with new developments daily. It is exciting. It is supportive. People are willing to share what they know and work closely together.” Asked if she feels it is maledominated, Mann-Kler is neutral: “Yes and no. I work with many incredible women in this space, who are at the forefront of the most exciting developments. Nonny de la Peña is someone I have not worked with yet, but someone I admire hugely.” Overall, she has not encountered any resistance or discrimination as a result of being a female founder, but she points out that, “I am British-born of Indian heritage and have refused to be defined or boxed in by how others may perceive me.” The biggest challenges in the industry, she feels, are, “Keeping everything we do with the human being at the absolute centre. Technology has to be there to improve peoples’ lives, it should never be there as an end in itself.” Working in the healthcare space, Deepa Mann-Kler is excited by the opportunities that tech presents. “The impact that tech can have is simply incredible,” she enthuses, adding her ‘if only’ wish, “if the national health service could fast-track innovation.”


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18/10/2019 15:26

Female Disruptors  Entrepreneurs


Talita Holzer first came to Ireland from Brazil in 2014 as part of her mechanical engineering studies to attend Trinity College Dublin. WaytoB had started as a student project then, but it was not until early 2017 when it received sufficient funding that Holzer left her management consulting job in Brazil behind, and returned to Ireland to work on the startup full-time. Now employing four people, based out of the Digital Hub in Dublin, the assistive technology company produces a software solution that helps people with intellectual disabilities navigate independently. It won the Irish leg of the James Dyson Award in 2017 for its innovative offering of a smartphone and smartwatch solution with pre-programmed routes.


Holzer says, “Being truly inclusive is at the heart of everything our company does. We strive to promote diversity and inclusion, not only inside the workplace, but, in every product or service we design, and by educating others through talks and workshops whenever we get a chance to do so.” Inclusion is a subject she feels strongly about, as she continues, “You usually see more gender diversity in the Tech for Good community, but women and non-binary people are still largely under-represented. Not only that, but they’re underpaid and much more likely to leave the industry due to hostile work environments.” She continues, “I think that being a migrant woman, who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, and works directly with people with disabilities every day, I have a different perspective than most people working in technology and entrepreneurship. I see and feel the value of being truly inclusive constantly, so I feel the urge to act on it and promote it. I think that a lot of the people who claim their companies and products/ services are inclusive, are actually just going through a box-ticking exercise.” Holzer says, “I also believe it is very important to highlight women and non-binary people working in tech and entrepreneurship. For that reason, I strive to be visible in the work that I do. I volunteer my time to share my experiences to girls and young women and inspire them to pursue a career in technology.” Inspired to do more, Holzer has created an initiative called #GoingFar, which aims to support migrant women and non-binary people living in Ireland to have access to mentoring, talks, workshops and networking opportunities. “I have to recognise that I come from a privileged position. I was fluent in English when I moved to Ireland and came with a scholarship to study in Trinity College, so it was easier to make connections. Unfortunately, I see this is not the case for most migrant women,” Holzer explains. She continues, “I see so many skilled women, with much more experience than I have, and they struggle to find work in their areas. For this reason, I created the #GoingFar initiative. I feel like the Irish are so welcoming and willing to offer help, but they’re often not aware of these inequalities. #GoingFar was created to bridge that gap and connect people with experience with people who might be struggling a bit to find their way in a new country.”


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18/10/2019 13:14

Entrepreneurs  Female Disruptors


Serial entrepreneur Karina Kelly’s last start-up, MyPicDrop, led her to dream up her latest great idea, Content Llama, as she worked with clients and saw how she could better fulfil their needs with a new service. “I’m very strategic and love nothing more than assessing the landscape, spotting some opportunities, and building out a project plan to achieve something. I also love change – big change – and having to set a new course to accommodate that change or grab the new opportunities it might present,” she reveals. A classic entrepreneur, her experience spans various sectors, all driven by one overriding force: “Solving problems with new solutions.” Co-founded with former Elavon executive Joleen Looney, Content Llama simplifies the arduous task that retailers face when sourcing and formatting product content for their ecommerce platforms, providing error-free, brand content tailored to customers’ requirements. “The number one challenge is the widening gap between the demands of the fashion consumer, and the infrastructure and systems that retailers have available to meet them,” Kelly states, pointing out that over the last few years fashion trends have gone from seasonal to almost weekly, creating a demand for constantly refreshed new content to tempt online shoppers. Kelly describes the ecommerce industry as “new, growing, and the goal posts change daily”, a fact which both thrills and inspires her. “It moves at such a fast pace – we’re always responding to consumer demands.” The space that Content Llama is in is relatively new. Kelly explains, “It’s only in the last few years that online product content has become so important as a driver for success in fashion retailing. Because of that, solutions are only just being developed to help retailers streamline the process.” She hopes to see a move towards more sustainable fashion, as the current system, she says, “has resulted in more products with less shelf-life.” She’s optimistic as she can already see that “consumers seek information on where products are sourced and made”. Kelly continues: “I think this will become more important in the next few years and we can play our part by helping brands and retailers get this information to their consumers.” When it comes to the gender split in her sector, Kelly finds some predictable areas are still a little more male-dominated: “There are lots of women in ecommerce and marketing, which are the areas we play in. On the flip side, we are developing software for this industry and anytime you delve into software it becomes a male-dominated industry. So we go between the two all the time. Working with lots of females on the retailer and brand side, and then going back to a male dominated sector on product development.” On their experience as female founders she muses, “On one side, as Joleen and I are non-tech female founders building a tech product, people are instantly interested in our story. On the other hand, people can sometimes underestimate us, especially on first conversation. But we are generally okay with that as we are confident in our own ability. Sometimes it’s nice to fly under the radar.”


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18/10/2019 13:14

Round-up  Events

Meet the Buyer


David Meade

THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE SMALL BUSINESS CALENDAR IS THE SMALL FIRMS ASSOCIATION ANNUAL LUNCH, SPONSORED BY BANK OF IRELAND AND THIS YEAR IT WILL TAKE PLACE ON FRIDAY, 15 NOVEMBER IN THE ROUND ROOM THE MANSION HOUSE, DUBLIN. For any organisation with an interest in the SME market, attendance at this lunch allows you to bring your team together with your valued SME customers and clients. It also provides an opportunity to interact with hundreds of small business owners, gauge the mood of the small business community and connect with the SFA team. This year, we will be joined by motivational speaker and mentalist David Meade. David is a world-class international performer and television personality with a renowned reputation for helping organisations work more effectively. His mindreading and mentalist skills impress and baffle worldwide audiences and an entertaining keynote is guaranteed. Early booking is advised to avoid disappointment. Tables seat ten people and a number of seats can be booked individually. To book, visit

Small Firms Association, Ibec and Ervia hosted a special Meet the Buyer event on upcoming commercial opportunities with Ervia at the Gibson Hotel, Dublin on Tuesday, 17 September. Ervia is a commercial semi-state multi-utility company responsible for the operation and maintenance of Ireland’s water and wastewater assets through Irish Water and building and operating one of the most modern and safe gas networks in the world through Gas Networks Ireland. This was a tailored event to allow attendees understand how to win business with Ervia. On the day, over 160 delegates heard from Ervia about upcoming business opportunities across broad category areas. Delegates were given an overview of the business and a briefing on how the organisation procures products and services. Companies already engaged in Ervia’s supply-chain were also on hand to speak to delegates.

Panel session at the SFA, Ibec and Ervia Meet the Buyer event

BACK TO BUSINESS Aimed at business owners looking to invigorate their business goals and re-energise their teams before the end of the year, the SFA held a Back to Business event on 19 September at the Alex Hotel, Dublin. On the night guests heard from Jo Collins, founder of Sales Performance Consulting & Sales Training Services and Brian Smyth, Managing Director of Maybe International. Jo Collins drew from her 25 years’ experience in sales and sales management and shared with the audience simple tips and techniques that small business owners and their sales team can use to fulfil their sales potential. Brian Smyth of Maybe International spoke about team management and how to achieve new levels of performance, success and overall employee wellbeing. On the evening, delegates mingled with SFA National Small Business Awards 2020 sponsors and partners. We were delighted to be joined by NSAI, Permanent TSB, One4All, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland, IEDR, DeCare Dental and Skillnet Ireland. There was a great buzz around the room as delegates learned about the wide range of categories in the SFA National Small Business Awards 2020 and made the most of the opportunity to network.

To view the list of events, visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 35

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18/10/2019 13:19

Interview  Michael D’Arcy

insight AN




igh insurance premiums are crippling small firms, and overly generous award levels are an irresistible lure to fraudulent claimants. Spiralling insurance costs have contributed to the closure of SMEs, which cannot continue to operate when hit with massive premium increases. New insurance reform legislation aims to recalibrate award levels and thereby bring premium levels down to sustainable levels. The Judicial Council Act is currently moving through the Oireachtas, with some of the legislation already enacted, in order to reform how the judiciary operates in personal injury awards, and also allowing for the establishment of a personal injuries guidelines committee. This would replace the current guidelines, the Book of Quantum. Dr Neil Walker, Ibec’s Head of Infrastructure, recently commented: “The business community will continue to press for early action on drastically reducing the level of injury awards. Our preference is that this is achieved by the Judicial Council swiftly.”

SFA Fact Did You Know? Payouts for personal injuries in Ireland are on average 4.4 times higher than in England and Wales.


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Michael D’Arcy  Interview

Wexford’s Minister Michael D’Arcy was the man tasked with drafting the Bill to formulate the new insurance reform legislation. He has been working on this for almost two-anda-half years now, after taking over his role, Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for Financial Services and Insurance. Describing the major issues he first encountered, he says, “Primarily the major issue was motor insurance. There were substantial increases in relation to motor insurance. We’ve reduced by 25% since the peak, so we’re being successful in motor. We have a bigger issue in employer’s liability and public liability, mainly in the leisure sector. Leisure sectors tend to be that little bit more risky, so there are companies that are struggling with insurance quotes and then there are also companies who aren’t getting any quotations whatsoever.” He highlights a number of areas that he sees as being particularly poorly served in the current market: “The leisure and activity sector is poorly served. You practically have nobody now insuring into that area. In terms of pubs, nightclubs and hotels, premiums are becoming very, very expensive. I am specifically talking about the smaller claims; about two-thirds of the claims are under €20,000, and those claims are the ones that are doing the most damage.” When questioned on the issue of Brexit making it more difficult for firms that were relying on specialist UK-based insurers for niche sectors, Minister D’Arcy points out that many of these firms have taken action to sell insurance into the EU 27, but that Ireland’s excessively high awards are the reason they do not want to operate in this market. “The case clearly is their appetite to sell into the sector at all,” he states. “That’s unfortunately right now the issue that we’re trying to deal with.” “The Personal Injury Commission which reported this time last year under the chairmanship of then-President of the High Court, Justice Nicholas Kearns, produced an analysis, which we had independently verified by KPMG. The analysis is that our awards are 4.4 times higher than in England and Wales, so to put that in context, if you’re getting an award of €10,000 in England and Wales, it’s €44,000 here. They are too high for people who have a modest impact, not a lifechanging impact by any manner or means. What we want is to reintroduce the principle

Minister Michael D’Arcy TD

personal injury by the end of this year.” “What we want to bring is consistency to the sector,” he states, adding that this is, “a consistency that insurance companies crave.” While some may argue that insurance companies are happy to use awards levels as an excuse to inflate premiums, Minister D’Arcy doesn’t subscribe to this view: “I don’t think that is the case. Insurance companies have an obligation to be prudent. They now have pretty large, substantial investigative teams. In the past they didn’t. What we’re trying to do is reduce the awards down so the same level of pursuit won’t occur.” He sees the claims culture as something that needs to change attitudinally within

“UNTIL WE GET THE INSURANCE AWARDS AMOUNTS DOWN, WE WON’T HAVE ANY COMPETITION. WHEN WE GET THE AWARDS DOWN, I ANTICIPATE THERE WILL BE MORE PROGRESS IN THAT AREA. ” that if someone has a modest incident that they receive modest award.” Minister D‘Arcy has been in London meeting with insurance operators to try and encourage them in to the Irish market – a Sisyphean task given that our market is such an unattractive one to be in with awards as they stand at the moment. “Currently in some sectors we don’t have any competition. We don’t have anybody operating in those sectors,” D’Arcy points out. “Until we get the insurance awards amounts down, we won’t have any competition. When we get the awards down, I anticipate there will be more progress in that area.” Minister D’Arcy expects the Judicial Council to be established by the end of this calendar year. “Within that Bill is the opportunity to establish a personal injury committee. This will be one judge from each court and two others, and they will review the guidelines in relation to the amount of awards, and they will effectively revise the guidelines downwards,” he explains. “What I’m asking for – and I don’t have the authority to direct – so I’m asking that in parallel with the establishment of the Judicial Council, we establish the Personal Injury Committee within the Judicial Council, and we deal with the five primary areas of

society, for the greater economic good. “A lot of people are of the view that if you got a chunk of money from an insurance company that it’s victimless. The person paying the premium the subsequent year, their premium goes up. Or else they don’t get any premium at all. People in business, where the public are coming in through their doors, they’re not in a position to have a business unless they are insured. It isn’t a victimless crime.” In practical terms, the Government does not have any legal authority to impact insurance pricing. “That is a commercial matter for the insurance companies. It’s not any different – the Government doesn’t have the authority to put a price on a loaf of bread. The insurance product is a financial services product that people require.” The Minister admits he had previously considered a special tax on excessive insurance profits, but says, “Right now I think it would be counterproductive to put a special tax in. Really I don’t want the Government to be collecting taxes from insurance companies. I want insurance companies profitable, but I want them to operate on the basis of reducing their premium to the consumers so people can continue trading in business in a sustainable manner.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 37

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18/10/2019 13:19

Trading Places  John Warner

your Money Put

on me



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18/10/2019 13:19


online betting grows to a bigger level than ever before, with a plethora of choice for gaming enthusiasts, it’s been essential for firms to develop new groundbreaking tools and approaches to support increasingly demanding punters. As Sportsbet’s Head of Racing Delivery, John Warner works with the latest digital technologies to deliver aggregate services and front-end products to solve complex problems for both the firm and its customers. Since departing Irish shores back in early 2016, the ambitious Dubliner has been climbing the ranks at Sportsbet, now part of the global gaming giant Flutter Entertainment Group (home to big brands such as Paddy Power and Betfair, not to mention over six million customers). Warner looks back at his introduction to the industry in Ireland and his progression within the sector. “I was contracting for a number of years in Dublin and following the economic crash an opportunity came up with a company called Pocket Kings, a company delivering front-end products for Full Tilt Poker at the time. I learned a lot during my two years there, before transferring over to the Paddy Power Group, which ultimately led to a one-year project with Sportsbet in Melbourne at the time Paddy Power was merging with Betfair.” “My role here is higher in terms of leadership,” explains Warner on the role he’s currently engaged in. “I manage a number of cross-functional agile teams and my focus is on strategic thinking, while also working closely with our team to look at customer feedback and new innovations. Additionally, I also spend time verifying the performance of the products and features we’ve delivered.” Horse racing is a key area for Sportsbet and Warner has spent a considerable amount of time building full platforms with the help of his team over recent years. “We’ve just gone through a number of phases of re-platforming our front-end to keep things exciting for our customers,” he says. One such new initiative has been designed to enhance the betting experience for punters

John Warner  Trading Places

with a simplification for novice punters and extras including new betting combinations and fixed odds. “The bit we find really intriguing these days in that we’re trying to innovate in an area that hasn’t changed much in decades, where bet types have long been in place. Our latest product, Same Race Multi, is being seen as a big innovation on how we approach horse racing.” These innovations come from a profound understanding of the company’s customer base. “We’ve got a research team here that we work very closely with to find out what’s working, as well as what’s not. By gathering this information we’re constantly looking at how we fare against our competitors and whether we can do anything differently.”

Quality of life

John pictured with wife Suzanne as he picked up the 2017 Sportsbet Annual MVP award

SFA Fact Did You Know? 1.27 million punters attended a horse racing event in Ireland during 2018.

Like all major Australian cities, Melbourne is home to a large cohort of Irish business people across a multitude of sectors. The lure of the city proved too strong to resist for Warner as he embarked on a new and exciting chapter in his career after being offered a full-time contract in late 2016. When asked about how life in Australia differs from that in Dublin, he points to a contrast in office culture. “When it comes to the working etiquette, I’m definitely managing my work-life balance better than I did in Dublin. I think in Melbourne generally, and certainly within our company, team members are encouraged to spend time with their families. Sometimes I’ll get out of the office a little early, but may need to jump on calls to the offices in Dublin or Cluj in Romania in the evening to counteract the time difference.” Warner highlights some other benefits of life in Victoria. “I don’t have to deal with much traffic anymore, which is great. I cycle to work most days, which is definitely a lot more relaxing than sitting in traffic on the East-Link bridge back in Dublin! The quality of life here is similar in certain ways to back home, as Melbourne has a European feel with a great music and arts scene. So, it’s very much like Dublin in that respect, but there’s definitely more sunshine!” With the recent announcement of a proposed merger between Flutter Entertainment and Stars Group – owner of Poker Stars, Full Tilt and Sky Bet and a partner of Fox Corporation – things could become increasingly interesting for Warner as an additional four million customers come on stream. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 39

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18/10/2019 13:19

We Make It Work  Brought to you by Virgin Media Business




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18/10/2019 13:36



Paul McCarthy

As Head of Virgin Media Solutions, Paula McCarthy oversees the advertising sales unit of the company’s television offering. McCarthy describes how the ever-evolving workplace demands innovative approaches and dependable tools. “The world and the way we work has changed so much in the last 15 years, so having something that is reliable and superfast is hugely important for firms,” she comments. “I spend 80% of my time working from different locations, so I understand the importance of a highspeed broadband connection. I actually couldn’t imagine what my job would be like without having that real streamlined connectivity – a product that you just genuinely don’t have to worry about that allows businesspeople across the country to be more productive and ultimately gives people precious time back, whether it be for the next task, or to spend more time with family and friends.” “One of the biggest things for us at Virgin Media Television is how we build connections with audiences,” she adds. “And that’s really through our services and the quality content we provide: both premium Irish and the best of international content. We’re putting a big amount of investment into making sure that this content is available whenever and wherever people want to consume it.” McCarthy’s role is about building these connections between advertisers and audiences in a brand safe environment on Virgin Media Television platforms. “TV is a really exciting space to be in right now – TV content is going everywhere,” says the enthusiastic Corkonian. “But firms should be aware that there’s a big distinction between seeking out value for money options and cheap options, and at Virgin Media we always make sure our clients get the right deal with reliable products they really need to grow their business, whether it’s TV advertising or superfast broadband and bundle options.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 41

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18/10/2019 13:37

We Make It Work  Brought to you by Virgin Media Business

YMCA DUBLIN Leading the strategic direction of an organisation with 170 years of history is no easy task, but that’s exactly what Kathryn O’Mahony excels in as CEO of YMCA Dublin, a community-based charity providing services for children, young people and families. On any single day O’Mahony’s tasks include dealing with funding applications, speaking with line managers, while also mentoring and coaching staff. O’Mahony is also tasked with delivering the organisation’s five-year strategic plan’s main goal: the establishment of three new centres in Dublin. “The last ten years have been about consolidation,” says the CEO in regard to how industry has evolved since she first joined the organisation 13 years ago. “When we looked at our plan for the future, the thing that made the most sense to us was the need to build new centres in Dublin to help people to belong to healthy and connected communities.” Within the hectic nature of modern business, O’Mahony highlights the importance of a simple out-of-the-box solution to simplify and streamline operations. “I need to have access to everything when I’m on the go,” she explains, “as I’m regularly out visiting our two current sites. We all work on shared drives, so it’s especially important to have a strong broadband connection to enable us to achieve YMCA Dublin’s purpose and goals. This is of key importance for us in moving forward as an organisation.” She adds: “It ensures we’re ready to grow as an organisation and allows us the time to put the correct models in place in order to implement our strategic plan.”



Paul McCarthy

Kathryn O’Mahony 42 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Brought Brought to youtobyyou Virgin by Virgin MediaMedia Business Business  WeMake Smart It Work


FMI South African native Nicola De Beer is the ambitious businesswoman at the helm of FMI, a fast-paced and dynamic organisation specialising in independent field management with offices in Dublin and Belfast. Working with a wide variety of client partners, from smaller retail suppliers to large blue-chip industry leaders, De Beer’s role is to ensure the delivery of engaging campaigns across a multitude of channels and sectors. The Managing Director explains the importance of a streamlined package of services for simplifying services. “The speed and ease of use of the Virgin Media offering is key to us at FMI, as is its reliability,” she says. “We run a huge contact centre and our systems are all cloud-based, so we need a rocksolid internet provider we can rely on that allows us a flexibility to work from any location in Ireland. And, because we’re all constantly on the go, the fact that our clients can log-in remotely and access our system is another a vital element of the service Virgin Media offers.” Value for money is another element that De Beer sees as essential in modern business. “Our job is really to deliver a return on investment for our clients and therefore value is key. And in order to pass on that value to our clients and customers, it’s important we obtain that from our service providers so we can focus on our objective to consistently deliver results and to forge long-term partnerships with our clients.” She continues: “Our objective is to consistently deliver results and to forge long-term partnerships with our clients and Virgin Media makes it so easy for us to focus on their strategic direction.”


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18/10/2019 13:37

SFA Policy  Carbon Tax



Carbon tax EXPLAINED

Ahead of Budget 2020, in June, the SFA made a written submission to the Minister for Finance on the options for the use of revenues raised from increases in carbon tax – the Department were seeking feedback in relation to how to use the additional revenue raised as a result of an increase in the rate of carbon tax above €20 per tonne (the current rate of the carbon tax is €20 per tonne on all applicable fuels). In recent years, recommendations from the EU, OECD and the Climate Change Advisory Council among others have called for a long-term pathway which would give certainty for business decisionmakers and consumers. This would allow business and consumers to make informed investment decisions that incorporate the environmental consequences of these investments. The Climate Change Advisory Council has recommended that the rate be increased to €80 per tonne by 2030, while the Joint Oireachtas Committee are of the view that a carbon price trajectory would play an important role in the State’s response to climate change. According to the Department of Finance, should the carbon tax increase to €80 per tonne, the additional revenue raised will depend on how individuals, businesses and the economy at large react to the tax. For example, it may be expected that at higher rates of carbon tax, persons and businesses will be incentivised to switch to less carbon-intensive technologies. Other things being equal, this suggests that the additional revenue received for every €5 increase in the carbon tax rate may reduce over time. It is estimated that increasing carbon tax to €80 would add 17.2 cent per litre of petrol and 19.65 cent per litre of diesel. It would also add about €138 to the average annual gas bill and €156 to the average annual home heating oil bill. The consultation sought responses to the following question: do you agree that additional revenue raised as a result of an increase in the rate of carbon tax above €20 per tonne, should be used:

Carbon tax was introduced on a phased basis beginning in 2009. The tax is levied on suppliers of fossil fuels to Irish consumers, private individuals and businesses and covers around 50% of all economy-wide CO₂ emissions. The tax does not include other greenhouse gases like methane or nitrous oxide, nor does it apply to the emissions trading system sector, where greenhouse gas emissions are already subject to a European-wide carbon price. According to the CSO, businesses contribute 52.4% of carbon tax receipts with the remainder coming from private motorists/households. Since its introduction in 2009, carbon tax has generated revenues of over €3bn for the Exchequer. Small firms looking to cut down on energy cost or meet energy saving targets should visit for information on grants available to help organisations all over Ireland make significant savings.


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18/10/2019 13:23

Carbon Tax  SFA Policy

■ To increase the fuel allowance to compensate

those households likely to suffer from fuel poverty; ■ To enhance the current grants towards the cost of energy efficiency improvements in the homes of those most vulnerable to fuel poverty through the Better Energy Homes scheme or the SEAI Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme; ■ To fund sustainable transport, including cycling infrastructure and public transport; ■ For broad climate actions (e.g. earmarked to the Climate Action Fund or similar); ■ To return the proceeds by way of a dividend to citizens or households through the social welfare and/or tax system; ■ To be set aside to meet any fines the State is liable to pay arising from failure to meet our climate targets; ■ To act as a buffer against increasing the cost of doing business for businesses with no realistic short to medium term alternative to continued fossil fuel use and for whom fossil fuels constitute a large amount of overall business expenditures (e.g. by enhancing the Diesel Rebate Scheme); ■ To incentivise business moving away from the use of fossil fuels to more sustainable production methods; ■ By the Exchequer for general government expenditure. The SFA response outlined that small, gradual, predictable increases will give greater investment certainty to Ireland’s small firms. The SFA recommended that revenue raised from increases in carbon tax should be ringfenced to support investment in emissions reduction, energy efficiency and low to zerocarbon technologies. We advocated for a portion of the revenue to be used to support fuel poor households and vulnerable business sectors with no practical alternatives to fossil fuels. Following the consultation, in Budget 2020 the Minister for Finance announced an increase in carbon tax from €20 to €26 per tonne on auto fuels from midnight on Budget Day, other fuels are delayed until May 2020 and he also stated that the current Government is committed to increasing the price of carbon to €80 for each tonne by 2030. As we transition towards a lowcarbon economy, we have begun consulting with members and plan to further our engagement with Government departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities. In addition, we recommend all small firms to think about how they can become more sustainable in the coming months and years.

BUDGET 2020 The Small Firms Association has criticised Budget 2020 for not being ambitious enough at reversing the impacts of uncertainty amongst entrepreneurs in the context of Brexit, but welcomed the announcement of combined supports in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit to address the challenges that will be faced by some vulnerable sectors in our economy. Responding to the details announced in the Budget, SFA Director, Sven Spollen-Behrens, said: “Even in a Budget with very limited room for manoeuvre, the Government has missed an opportunity to address the many issues facing entrepreneurs, which would assist them to plan, invest and grow their businesses. “Whilst we welcome the announcement of changes to KEEP, EIIS and the increase in the R&D tax credit to 30% for micro and small firms, it is regrettable that the Government has again ignored the SFA’s call to reduce Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to 20% across the board, to make investing in a business in Ireland more attractive. Our closest neighbour, the UK, is actively enticing entrepreneurs with a more beneficial tax treatment than Ireland. Making our tax system competitive with the UK in areas such as CGT would stimulate economic activity and add to our competitiveness. “The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the selfemployed has come closer to parity with the PAYE Tax Credit with the announcement of an increase of €150 to €1,500. However, the blatant discrimination that was due to finish in Budget 2018 has still not come to an end; the SFA will continue to campaign for the gap between EITC, and the PAYE Tax Credit (€1,650) to close fully in next year’s Budget. “Small firms are the backbone of the Irish economy, supporting them helps create and sustain jobs throughout the country. It is disappointing that Budget 2020 did not recognise their importance by introducing ambitious measures to support entrepreneurship,” Spollen-Behrens concluded.


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18/10/2019 13:23

HR  Work-related Stress


According to the Economic and Social Research Institute (ERSI), job stress in Ireland has more than doubled in five years, rising from 8% in 2010 to 17% in 2015. The ERSI found that the major factors contributing to job stress were the emotional demands of the job, being under time pressure, exposure to bullying or harassment and other forms of poor treatment, and being under-rewarded in relation to work effort. The survey outcome also showed there is a no significant link between job stress and job security. The main concern was the significant jump in job stress within the five-year period and that the risks in the workplace are moving from the physical to the psychological. This report confirms the general rise in work-related stress issues. A business that takes a preventative approach to work-related stress and proactively manages the wellbeing of its employees will see improved productivity, higher staff retention and a reduction in absenteeism and presenteeism. The challenging part is knowing where to begin. To help get you started we recommend the following four steps in taking a preventative approach to work-related stress issues: n Understand and define what is work-related stress n Measure employee psychological wellbeing n Collaborate with staff for solutions n Implement a policy and procedure to manage and control work-related stress issues

Increased understanding The level of stress that individuals experience varies from person to person. One person could thrive in a busy, high-energy role, but for another individual this could cause them extreme 46 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Work-related Stress

anxiety and stress. It is useful to remember as a manager that your stress coping mechanisms may differ from those you work with. Stress that is continuous and ongoing is more likely to impact a person’s physical and/or psychological wellbeing. As we spend around 60% of our waking lives at work, stress caused by work can have a big impact on our health and wellbeing. When looking at the factors that can contribute to workrelated stress, the guidelines from the HSA cite the following as the most likely causes of this problem: ■ Poorly designed shift work ■ Poor communications or low levels of support ■ Unclear or ambiguous job role ■ Lack of control over work ■ Poor or non-existent procedures for dealing with bullying,

harassment or other interpersonal issues ■ Faulty work equipment or hazardous work environment ■ Lack of variety or dull repetitive tasks that are meaningless ■ Work overload or underload ■ Persistent and ongoing tight deadlines

 HR

MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL Taking a proactive approach to tackling workrelated stress in the workplace ensures that absenteeism and grievances will be minimised which means that productivity and employee morale will be more enhanced. Once you have gathered your information and received input from your employees, create either a policy or action plan to manage and control work-related stress issues. Providers such as DeCare can assist businesses in developing a policy and SFA Skillnet offer training in workplace wellness. When developing the policy, businesses may wish to consider including the following elements: ■ Introduction or scope –

In addition, new changes in the workplace such as changes to shift patterns, new ways of working or other substantial changes may cause work-related stress for some employees, but with careful management these can be minimised.

Collaboration Whilst it is important to understand the potential causes to workplace wellbeing, it is important to note that stress and work-related stress varies from individual to individual. It is worth considering objective and anonymous methods of measuring the overall psychological wellbeing of your workforce. An excellent method of achieving this if your business has ten or more employees is using the tool. This is a confidential free online tool developed by the HSA that helps businesses find ways to improve employee wellbeing. It helps identify and measure psychosocial risks and workplace stressors and provides online reports so that businesses can see their risk areas and it provides guidance on improving employee wellbeing. For more on this tool visit www. Other methods of measuring employee wellbeing could be via anonymous online surveys, such as SurveyMonkey or Google Docs. The SFA partnered with DeCare who have a wealth of information on employee wellbeing on our Grow, Scale, Succeed platform, which is available under our ‘Engage’ section at Once you have identified the risk areas where work-related stress is either occurring or could occur, meet with your staff to get their input on providing the solution. This collaborative approach means that both the employer and employee take responsibility for tackling work-related stress. Often staff can have some excellent solutions in providing solutions to psychosocial hazards and this collaborate approach increases employee engagement.

Who is the policy aimed at, a definition of workrelated stress or wellness in work, as well as the company’s commitment to improve work related stress in the workplace ■ Identifying signs – Line managers should be aware of and deal with signs of work-related stress ■ Reporting issues – How employees can disclose a work-related stress issue. This could also be linked to the grievance policy and the bullying/harassment policy ■ Responding to cases – The policy should outline how the company will respond to a work-related stress issue, whether this is reported by the employee or comes via a sickness certificate ■ Support systems – The policy could include supports such as an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) or provide information sessions on wellness, stress and mental health ■ Managing absences – For employees who are absent due to workrelated stress it is important that regular contact is maintained and the policy could outline the process around this, when the employee returns to work or in the case that they are unable to ever return to work ■ Review – How the company will continue to measure and review workplace wellness and workplace stressors.


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Events  SFA National Small Business Awards

Celebrating Small Business


THE SFA NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS 2020 WERE OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED BY AWARDS PATRON, AN TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR TD ON 5 SEPTEMBER. The aim of the awards is to celebrate the achievements of small business in Ireland and to recognise the vital contribution of the small business community to the Irish economy. Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, said: “Small and medium businesses make a huge contribution to the Irish economy and the SFA awards are a fabulous and timely opportunity to recognise the talent and innovation in the Irish SME sector.” Small firms (employing less than 50 people) have until 18 October 2019 to enter and there is a wide range of categories to suit all sectors – including a category for companies with under five employees and newly formed businesses. This is a great opportunity to recognise and reward the valuable contribution your employees make to your company and with plenty of categories there is something to suit all types of businesses. All entries can be made online at A full description of the criteria for each category and tips on what the judges are looking for can be found online.

2020 PRIZE PACKAGE Six companies will be chosen as finalists in each of the categories. All finalists, along with the emerging new businesses, will receive the following prize package to the value of €50,000: ● An interview/profile in a specially commissioned Irish Independent awards supplement ● Promotion in national print, broadcast and social media ● Free participation in SFA flagship Business Connect marketplace event ● A comprehensive strategic management and communications programme sponsored by Skillnet Ireland ● Five invited places to the SFA Gala Awards Ceremony CATEGORY WINNERS ● Award trophy and certificate ● One-year membership of the Small Firms Association


OVERALL WINNER ● In addition to the winner trophy, the Overall National Small Business of the Year will receive a €5,000 bursary to donate to their favourite charity. This generous prize is provided by the 2013 overall winner Megazyme International.

Pictured launching the National Small Business Awards 2020 are Sven Spollen-Behrens, Director, SFA; Awards Patron An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD; and Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA

There is a category to suit every type of business: THE CATEGORIES ARE: Manufacturing sponsored by NSAI Food and Drink sponsored by Bord Bia Services sponsored by Vodafone Outstanding Small Business sponsored by One4All Innovator of the Year sponsored by Permanent TSB Exporter of the Year sponsored by Enterprise Ireland Workplace Wellbeing sponsored by DeCare Dental Sustainable Energy sponsored by SBCI Exporter of the Year sponsored by IE Domain Registry

Keep an eye on for the finalist announcement on 28 November 2019.


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Resilience  Health

>Build meditation into your working day:

Meditative to


build your

Resilience HELEN QUINN, A TRAINED OSHO ACTIVE MEDITATION FACILITATOR AND HR ADVISOR WITH SFA, SHARES THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION SO THAT BUSINESS OWNERS CAN MAINTAIN RESILIENCE. How can an owner manager maintain their resilience as they navigate their business through ever-changing, choppy waters? There are multiple research studies that show that meditation can help reduce anxiety and stress. Regular meditation can help you build resilience, improve leadership skills and increase your emotional intelligence so that you can respond to, rather than react to, incoming challenges.

Helen Quinn, SFA Executive

One meditative technique that can be beneficial for those panic or stressinduced situations is exhaling first before inhaling. The effect of this method is that the built-up inner tension is released by the exhaling breath. This creates more space in the lungs, which allows for a deeper inhale. If you do this exhaling then inhaling technique for ten minutes or so, your entire system should relax. Another method is to set a timer for 15 minutes, close your eyes and watch your breath going in, and then going out. It is particularly beneficial in building up your meditation muscle.

> Wait 24 hours:

Business owners make multiple decisions each day that impact the business. These decisions can be rushed or made in a state of panic. One high-risk factor is the management of people, particularly with difficult issues such as disciplinaries or grievances. The combination of meditating and adopting a wait-and-see approach for at least 24 hours may have a significant impact on your business. Where you can wait 24 hours before making a major decision will provide more clarity.

> Grounding techniques:

A really good technique to do if you are giving a presentation, pitching for new business or holding a difficult meeting with an employee is to ground yourself. Place all your weight on your right leg for one minute or so, then shift your weight to the left leg and place all your weight on that side. Do each side four times and then move your body to the centre so the weight on each leg is evenly spread. Hold this position for a few minutes and continue to focus on your feet.

Any activity can become meditative. Find the right method for you and enjoy the inner calm and presence both in and out of your working day. A great resource you can avail is an app called OSHO – A Course in Mediation, which has 21 different meditations for busy people. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 49

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18/10/2019 13:22

Feature  Internationalisation

Navigating the choppy

Seas Brexit OF



we have learned anything from the past few months and years, it is that when it comes to Brexit there is no certainty. With each new day, new drafts are written up, new deals proposed and new deadlines announced. It has been more than three years since the UK referendum in which 52% of the voting population elected to leave the EU and, if anything, the state of affairs has only become more unclear. The foundation upon which Brexit balances is anything but stable, shaken daily as the revolving door of prime ministers and prime time headlines continues to spin. In light of the turbulent status quo, Irish firms simply cannot afford to take anything for granted when it comes to their export base. Though our nation has benefitted from a close relationship with the UK, recent events have frayed these ties and are forcing Irish companies to think outside the Brexit box. Ventac is one such company. The vehicle noise control firm employs 45 people and is based in Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Managing Director Darren Fortune has been with Ventac for almost 15 years, and in that time he has seen many changes, including the shift towards electrification. In this situation, a new solution was required to minimise the high-frequency noise created by electric vehicles, so Ventac got to work developing one. According to Fortune, “variants of the solution are deployed throughout Europe” as well as South Korea and North America. Entrepreneur Bernard Walsh has also felt the winds of change in recent years. He founded the Walsh Whiskey business with his wife Rosemary two decades ago, starting out with an Irish coffee blend. Thanks to an “international renaissance” in the whiskey market, the company now has nine core expressions and retails in more than 50 countries. Walsh explains: “The Irish whiskey industry has mainly evolved through huge investment, which has followed the global reawakening of consumers’ appreciation for Irish whiskey as a spirits category.”


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Internationalisation  Feature

While ever-changing landscapes are a given for any business, the challenges presented by Brexit are a little different. At Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week 2019 in September, CEO Julie Sinnamon noted some of the negative impacts that have already been felt by Irish exporters as a result of the 2016 UK referendum. A recent survey of the State agency’s client companies attending the event revealed that more than half have been affected by Brexit, with one in ten saying it has cost their businesses more than €100,000. “We have consistently said that the ‘wait and see’ approach is not an option and client companies are heeding this advice,” said Sinnamon. Fortune confirmed that Brexit has created some uncertainty for his business. “The UK market is one of Ventac’s key export markets, as it is for many small businesses in Ireland. As we don’t know how Brexit may affect the UK economy, we are planning for the outcome that there may be less demand from our UK customers.” This forms part of Ventac’s overall strategic approach to tackle any potential pitfalls that may accompany Brexit. The action plan includes a dedicated team that meets regularly and a consultant for UK customers and suppliers, with systems in place for the possibility of a no-deal scenario.

Walsh, meanwhile, told us that though the UK is one of Walsh Whiskey’s top ten markets, it is not in the top five. “This allows us, like the rest of the sector, to manage as best we can with the changes that Brexit will bring. But of course we still don’t know exactly what that will mean.”

Conquering the continent Disaster mitigation is one thing, but forward planning is another. This is why Sinnamon urges Irish firms to think with a global mindset and “accelerate their market diversification” in order to succeed, rather than just survive. Walsh understands the current dangers of over-reliance on a smaller market but believes this is true in any business


Darren Fortune, Managing Director, Ventac

climate, viewing Brexit as “something to be taken into consideration as opposed to being a factor that shapes everything”. He continues: “Being export-led makes good business sense for Irish whiskey and, naturally, leveraging the EU – the largest and nearest trading bloc of which we are members – is very important. It made sense to work with large markets that have a long-established appreciation for Irish whiskey in the EU, like France and Germany.” On Fortune’s end, a big focus has been placed on diversifying Ventac’s export market within the EU, adding that partnerships have played a key role in this. “One of the biggest obstacles for Ventac in entering new markets is, as an SME, we have limited resources, which can make it difficult to compete with local competitors. We have successfully established local strategic partnerships to help overcome this,” he explains, citing links with Turkey and France. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 51

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Feature  Internationalisation

BACK TO BASICS Danny McCoy, CEO of Ireland’s largest business membership organisation Ibec, simplifies the matter of internationalisation for small firms facing Brexit. “Basics are sometimes forgotten by people, so if the product or service is a low-margin business, then you’re going to need high volume to make the kind of rate of return that you need.” He explains that the UK once filled this gap for a large market with high activity but, in light of recent events, there is now “a compelling reason” to explore trade options in the eurozone. “Therefore, to substitute directly from Britain into a comparable market, small firms have to find large-volume markets – so within the EU that’s France, Germany, Spain, Italy.” McCoy continues: “The alternative course is, if it’s a high-margin product or service, then you don’t need the high volume so you can be much more niche – eastern Europe or the Middle East and Africa may well be prospects for small and medium enterprises that they haven’t actually considered before.” He says this is where State agencies such as Enterprise Ireland can lend a helping hand in the form of trade missions and connections with local distributors. “Otherwise, for small and medium enterprises, breaking into larger markets is going to take time and money – and very often, SMEs don’t have the luxury of either time or money.” Amid all the noise surrounding internationalisation, however, McCoy cautiones small firms not to neglect their consumer base in Ireland. Though broadening the enterprise and export base of homegrown firms has been presented as a prudent economic strategy, he believes that the Irish market itself is calling out for high-quality products and services. “Because the Irish consumers, notwithstanding all the public narrative, actually have a lot of money and actually are already spending on import substitutions which domestic firms could easily satiate.”

Bernard Walsh, founder, Walsh Whiskey

Exporter, beware Though the benefits are clear, internationalisation is not without its risks. Walsh warns that some entrepreneurs may make the mistake of spreading themselves too thin. “As small companies, it is tempting to take sales from everywhere, but it is better to be strategic and build strong demand in key markets,” he advises. “Be prepared to be a regular visitor to build your local relationships.” Fortune notes another significant stumbling block for Irish firms: disregarding issues “such as culture and foreign languages in international markets”. He says his company managed to tackle this roadblock by creating a local footprint. “Ventac has established successful offices and warehouses in Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Turkey, all of which are managed by local representatives, giving customers the comfort of dealing with local people in their native language and who have first-hand experience with local cultures.” Brexit is a gargantuan and seemingly once-in-a-lifetime obstacle to Irish firms, but one could also argue that it is only as volatile as the world of business itself. It has already tested the mettle of many an Irish businessperson, and will continue to do so, but turbulence management goes hand-in-hand with life as an entrepreneur. Battening down the hatches will be part and parcel of Brexit preparations, and Irish exporters need to be prepared for whatever outcome is thrown at them. They must be agile and willing to at least consider venturing further afield to diversify their markets in order to avoid an eggs-all-in-one-basket scenario. Now is the time to nurture global ambitions. Those who are equipped to weather all manner of storms will be the ones who benefit when the clouds clear.


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Partner Profile  Enterprise Ireland

EUROZONE OPPORTUNITIES ARE KEY TO WITHSTANDING BREXIT IRISH BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN URGED TO ACT NOW AND DIVERSIFY THEIR EXPORT MARKETS IN ORDER TO COUNTER THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF BREXIT. Enterprise Ireland has put in place a range of supports, funding and resources to make it easy for companies to step into the Eurozone in order to broaden the enterprise and export base of Irish firms and ensure that the economy holds firm when the UK leaves the European Union. Anne Lanigan, Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director for the Eurozone, said many companies are already successfully looking beyond the UK for new customers – but many more needed to follow suit. “Brexit has crystallised the need for Irish companies to diversify their export markets – but it is good business sense to do so in any case,” Lanigan said. “Just last year, client companies of Enterprise Ireland increased their exports into the Eurozone by 8%. However, it doesn’t happen overnight, it can take two to three years for a company to get traction in a new market. Enterprise Ireland’s Step Into campaign is designed to highlight how best to enter new Eurozone markets successfully and our supports assist companies as they research, identify opportunities and build relationships in these markets in order to grow exports.” The Step Into supports package brings a company which has no experience of exporting to the Eurozone, or one which is already exporting there and looking to scale their market presence, through the process of selecting, validating and researching opportunities in a new market, developing a detailed plan of what resources they will need to enter that market, and providing financial assistance to make it happen. Supports include access to the Market Research Centre, which uses the latest company, sector and country reports to identify, assess and validate opportunities in new markets. The Market Discovery Fund provides up to €150,000 to help companies develop a

Pictured at the Enter the Eurozone launch are Keelin Fagan, Head of Client Learning and Development, Enterprise Ireland; Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland; and Anne Lanigan, Regional Director, Eurozone, Enterprise Ireland

viable market entry strategy. This support can be used towards such things as market research, consultant fees, market study visits, and participation in trade fairs. Additionally, the GradStart Programme provides up to 70% of the cost of employing a graduate with language fluency to assist a company that is expanding into a new market. Enter the Eurozone is a programme – delivered by the European School of Management and Technology, Berlin – which guides senior management as they develop a market entry plan and target a first significant contract win in a Eurozone country. There is also an online training through the Excel @ Market Intelligence programme, which teaches senior executives about best-practice techniques for ethically gathering essential information and data from which they can draw insights about their market and competitors. The scale of the opportunity for

ambitious companies is immense. Enterprise Ireland clients currently send €7.9bn in exports to the UK. If they were to export the same amount per head of population to the Eurozone then that figure would rise to €38bn. Lanigan said that no matter what happens with Brexit, the UK will remain a vitally important market for Irish companies. However, there is a greater need than ever to think globally and given the ease with which business can be done in the EU, it makes sense for SMEs to start there. Lanigan added: “The next few years will prove testing for many Irish businesses. How they respond to the challenges faced by Brexit will be crucial. The Eurozone offers significant untapped opportunity in markets where the reputation of Irish products and services is high. These markets present no currency exposure, and there are no borders, customs or tariffs for Irish companies. In addition, our regulations are aligned. In effect, it is an extension of our domestic market.”


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Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland  Partner Profile

A NEW FINANCIAL FLAME IF YOU HAVE BIG PLANS FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS, THE SBCI CAN HELP YOU FUND THEM, WRITES CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER NICK ASHMORE. This year the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) has continued to extend its capabilities as a risk-sharing provider, partnering with banks, non-banks and European institutions to maximise the benefits available to small firms that need low-cost funding. This perfectly demonstrates the SBCI’s support to enable small Irish firms to access to finance at a time of uncertainty relating to Brexit and as they prepare to make the necessary investments for doing business in a post-Brexit scenario. In order to stimulate such investments and help narrow the competitiveness gap between Irish and EU firms, the SBCI, on behalf of Government, developed two risksharing products: the Brexit Loan Scheme (BLS) and the Future Growth

Loan Scheme (FGLS), both of which are currently available. The BLS has been designed to allow eligible Irish small firms to finance the changes they may need to make to prepare for Brexit. These may include the need to purchase additional stock, explore new markets, acquire new storage facilities, change their business model or revise the supply chain. The BLS offers lending of up to €1.5m – unsecured up to €500,000 – over a three-year period at a fixed rate of 4%. To date the SBCI has received more than 700 applications for eligibility and more than €40m have been allocated. The BLS is available through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank. The FGLS was designed to help address the competitiveness gap that may emerge through reluctance on Nick Ashmore, CEO, SBCI the part of SME owners to fund investment in their business using debt. This €300m scheme is the first long-term risksharing product launched into the Irish SME market. The FGLS allows small firms to invest in innovation and expand their business using low-cost and more accessible funding.

The scheme provides funding of up to €3m – unsecured up to €500,000 – over an eight to ten-year period at very competitive interest rates. Furthermore, the SBCI provides an 80% Government guarantee on these loans. To date the SBCI has received more than 1,000 applications for eligibility, with more than 180 loans already drawn. The FGLS is currently available through Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank.

Lender base

In addition to its risk-sharing activity, the SBCI continues to supply lowcost liquidity into the SME finance market through its non-bank on lenders, Bibby Financial Services, Fexco and Finance Ireland. The SBCI supports financial products from term lending, leasing, HP and invoice finance through the provision of low-cost liquidity and guarantees and plans to expand both its product range and its on lender base in the coming months. In June 2019 the SBCI announced funding support for Bibby Financial Services to launch a new trade finance product into the market, allowing small firms to buy and sell goods before needing to pay for them. This product also enables these small firms to source new suppliers more easily, which may be of significant benefit given the likely supply chain challenges which Brexit may present. A new, strategic funding company, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s goal is to ensure access to flexible funding for businesses. For more information, visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 55

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Ashville Media Group is Ireland’s largest publishing and events company. You’ve almost certainly read our magazines or attended our events. Our mission is to connect your brand with the largest audience in Ireland.

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17/10/2019 10/03/2016 12:10 26/01/2016 14:48 09:04

National Standards Authority of Ireland  Partner Profile

RISE OF THE ROBOTS NATIONAL STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF IRELAND IS HELPING TO PAVE THE WAY FOR COLLABORATIVE ROBOTICS. Have you ever wondered why industrial robots on factory floors are put in cages? Robots are obedient and do what they are asked to do. Humans, on the other hand, cannot be programmed and tend to do whatever they choose to do. On a factory floor it is more likely that a human will stray into a robot's work area, called a restricted space. The robot has not been programmed to monitor human intrusion and will continue to carry out its task without noting the presence of the human. To avoid accidents in the workplace, the robots are caged into their restricted space to protect their human co-workers from themselves. The type of cage a robot operates in is defined by an ISO standard. In recent years the humans that design robots have developed technologies, such as pressure and force limiting, which enable human co-workers to enter the robot's restricted space and operate in collaborative applications with the robots. The restricted space can be fitted with additional safety equipment like time-of-flight sensors, light curtains and pressure mats. Experimental studies are being carried out to determine what pressure and force can be impacted on humans on the various parts of the body before being characterised as pain. These experiments have proved very informative for determining the pressure and force limiting of the robots, as well as the ergonomic design of shared workspaces for collaborative application. So why are we not seeing that many examples of collaborative robotics? A few qualified examples exist in Ireland. Both the robot and mechanical process or cell in which the robot operates is required to be CE marked under the EU Machinery Directive. Currently the EU Machinery Directive and the harmonised ISO standards for robotics do not make

specific provisions for a robot and human co-worker to operate in a shared workspace. All existing examples of collaborative robotic applications have used significant resources in risk assessment, risk elimination or reduction and innovative workspace design to satisfy the requirement of the Machinery Directive and local and onsite health and safety requirements, which is proving unviable for new collaborative applications. While the engineering exists to enable collaborative applications the rulebook is yet to be written. The EU Machinery Directive makes very high-level requirements in the form of essential health and safety requirements, such as the machine must be designed and constructed so that it can be operated without putting persons at risk. The ISO standard incorporates those high-level essential requirements and details how they can be achieved. In 2017, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland set up a National Steering Committee on Collaborative Robotics with a mission to facilitate collaborative robotics in Irish manufacturing. It was identified that the ISO standards for robotics were being revised, giving the opportunity for the provisions for collaborative robotics to be included in the standard. Part one of the ISO standard applies to the industrial robot itself, whereas part two of the standard applies to the system into which it is integrated, i.e. the restricted space

and shared space. While advancements in technology are being included into the revisions, specific provisions for collaborative applications are also being included. A public comment draft of the ISO draft standard should be available for circulation by NSAI in June 2020, with a planned final publication date of Q2 2021. Directly there are almost 100 robotics experts involved in the development of the ISO standard. They include multinational robot manufacturers, startup SME robot innovators, system integrators, users of robots, research academics and psychologists. In November 2019, this group of robotic standardisers will gather in Mullingar for a week-long meeting to put the final preparations on the public comment draft standard. Irish Manufacturing and Research are hosting an outreach event at their Mullingar facility during the week where Irish industry, SMEs and multinationals together will be able to network with some of the world's most advanced robotics experts. For more information, visit SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 57

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Microfinance Ireland  Partner Profile


EXPERT MICROFINANCE IRELAND SME AND LOAN FUNDING EXPERT GARRETT STOKES OFFERS SOME INSIGHTS INTO HOW SMALL FIRMS CAN ACCESS FUNDING. WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR ANY SMALL IRISH COMPANY? Understand what problem your product or service aims to solve. Know your customers and route to market who is your competition and what differentiates you from them. Look at your pricing structure and understand the dynamics of cash-flow and the impact pricing changes can have on the business.

DOES MICROFINANCE IRELAND PROVIDE MENTORING SUPPORT? Yes, for all successful applicants we provide mentoring support. As part of the loan assessment process we will identify what skills need to be enhanced and the number of sessions required. We cover the cost of these sessions, which are provided through the Local Enterprise Office network.

Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfinance Ireland

Microfinance Ireland is a not-for-profit lender established to support small businesses and startups that are unable to get loan funding from traditional lenders. We specialise in providing business loans up to €25,000 to microenterprises for startup costs, working capital or asset purchase. We support all business sectors and operate right across Ireland – 78% of our loans are outside of Dublin. Despite the recent upturn in the economy, small businesses are still finding it difficult to borrow. At Microfinance Ireland we’re trying to measure the sustainability of businesses and our assessment of the business owner is of utmost importance. It is for this reason we meet our potential customers to talk through their credit requirements with them. An assessment of the business plan, its cash-flow and the proposed business model is essential, but if the promoter does not have the required skills, the business is unlikely to succeed. When it comes to common mistakes, failure to be able to articulate the business in a short business plan is probably the biggest error small firms make. When applying for a loan, you are attempting to convince someone that you have a good solid business or business idea, that you understand the business and are worthy of support. It’s vital to conduct the proper research into the market and examine the potential for a product or service. Particularly with startups, there is a risk of identifying a service or product for which there is no market, or there is such strong competition it would be very difficult to successfully enter the market. Of utmost importance is to provide sensible cash-flows. You must consider how long will it take you to get established and what is realistic. As part of our assessment, we will talk through these numbers with the borrower. When applying to Microfinance Ireland, register your details on our website or check the necessary documentation for an application. Alternatively, visit your Local Enterprise Office and they can provide help and guidance with your application. Once we have all requested information, we can process your application and help you navigate the process.


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Business finance specialists. Our funding solutions enable SMEs to release working capital from assets, such as machinery, stock and customer invoices. Speak to one of our business finance specialists today to find out how we can help you to thrive. Talk to us +353 (0)1 699 4260 Visit

Close Brothers | Modern Merchant Banking Close Brothers Limited (being a UK registered private limited company and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 907899), trading as (and having as registered business names) Close Brothers Asset Finance, Close Brothers Commercial Finance, Close Brothers Premium Finance Ireland, Close Brothers Motor Finance and Braemar Finance, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules. UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00195626. Directors: M. Biggs (UK), O. Corbett (UK), P. Duffy (UK), G. Howe (UK), L. Jones (UK), E. Lee (UK), B. Macaskill (UK), M. Morgan (UK), P. Prebensen (UK) and A. Sainsbury (UK). Close Brothers Invoice Finance and Close Brothers Commercial Finance are registered business names of Close Invoice Finance Limited, a UK registered private limited company (and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 908024). UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00935949. Directors: J. Brown (UK), C. McAreavey (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), M. Sooknah (UK), I. Steward (UK), D. Thomson, (UK).

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Close Brothers Commercial Finance  Partner Profile


EXPERT CLOSE BROTHERS COMMERCIAL FINANCE FINANCE EXPERT ADRIAN MADDEN EXPLAINS THE IMPORTANCE FOR SMALL FIRMS TO CONSIDER THEIR LONGTERM GOALS, AS WELL AS IMMEDIATE REQUIREMENTS. EXPLAIN WHY ASSET AND INVOICE FINANCE PRODUCTS ARE BENEFICIAL? We often hear that it’s a challenge to raise the capital needed for business investment or expansion when funds are tied up in day-to-day trading. Our funding options are designed to allow small firms and corporates to release working capital from assets and provide the flexibility they need to thrive.

IS HAVING A DEDICATED CUSTOMER MANAGER A BIG PART OF YOUR OFFERING? All our customers have a dedicated manager on day one. We pride ourselves on offering a people-led service and ensuring customers have the support they need is a key part of that. The people we work with value the reliable partnerships we’ve built with them and we want that to continue.

Adrian Madden, Head of Sales Ireland

At Close Brothers Commercial Finance, we’ve been providing funding to small firms in Ireland for more than a decade and we pride ourselves on having the on-the-ground experience to appreciate that every business is different. Our flexible approach means we work closely with businesses to help them secure the right finance solution for their unique requirements. Our invoice discounting facilities release working capital from outstanding customer invoices as soon as they are raised. This means that businesses using our facilities see a cash injection from day one, and on an ongoing basis, allowing them to be confident they will receive funds when expected, rather than chasing late payments. Similarly, our asset finance solutions help small firms manage their working capital. These solutions can be roughly split into two groups: refinance, which releases cash tied up in assets, and asset finance, which allows the cost of new assets to be spread. Both can enable the use of assets such as equipment, machinery and vehicles without limiting day-to-day trading. Our asset based lending solution enables businesses to raise higher levels of funding by combining invoice finance with funds released from other assets, such as property, plant and machinery and stock. We can even offer cash-flow loans in some circumstances. This can be an invaluable funding tool for businesses that need working capital for a strategic event or to complete an acquisition, management buy out or management buy in. Our invoice finance calculator is a useful tool on our website that allows businesses to estimate how much they could release from their outstanding customer invoices. We use your industry and annual turnover to provide an indication of how an invoice discounting solution could improve your cash-flow. Despite ongoing political uncertainty, we’re confident about the future. As part of the wider Close Brothers Group, we offer the flexibility of an independent provider, combined with the financial strength of our merchant banking parentage. It’s the best of both worlds. Our prudent business model positions us well to navigate a wide range of economic scenarios so we can continue lending and supporting our customers, whatever the future brings. Our funding options give firms of all sizes the capability to reach their potential. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 61

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Partner Profile  PostPoint

Adrian Tyrrell, National Sales Manager, PostPoint



An Post Retailer Services offers one of the most widespread network of retail agents that provide a range of services to consumers including mobile top ups, bill payments, postage stamps, National Lottery, and One4All gift cards which, as Ireland’s leading multi-store gift card, is sold exclusively through Post Offices and An Post Retailer Services agents. Our objective is to provide a wide range of services that attracts new and repeat customers for our retail partners. In addition we offer a wide range of merchant service solutions though our partnership with AIB merchant services and work with any business that requires the facility to take debit and credit card payments. 2019 saw us develop our range of options for retailers with the addition of the New Portable Verifone Terminal to our range of terminals on offer, and a host of National Lottery products to our suite of services. We also promoted the An Post business deposit service, which allows businesses to make cash lodgements through their local post office. Retailers are constantly looking for ways to drive footfall and at An Post Retailer Services we are finding that more and more businesses are adding our services to their customer offering.

Solutions and growth

We continue to develop our credit and debit card payment solutions with the introduction of portable and mobile terminals, which in addition to our EPOS and fixed line options appeal to a broader spectrum of businesses. Whether you are starting out in business or would like to switch provider, An Post Retailer Services are helping businesses get to grips with their card payments. As An Post Retailer Services National Sales Manager, I’m confident of continuing our growth over the next year. Businesses in every sector are concerned about the possible implications of Brexit and our retail partners are no exception, however we are well placed to capitalise on growing consumer sentiment by promoting our existing services and continually looking to add to our product suite.

WHAT SERVICES DO POSTPOINT OFFER IN TERMS OF ONLINE SHOPPING? In response to the massive growth in online shopping, we are very excited about our plans to introduce a parcel service for consumers through our agents utilising the strength of the An Post network. Consumers will be able to collect their online shopping from their neighbourhood shop or forecourt and even organise to return any unwanted purchases too.

WHAT CARD PAYMENTS DO YOU OFFER? Because PostPoint is part of An Post, you can trust that your payments will be processed safely, securely, and effectively. If you decide to choose PostPoint as your card payment provider, a qualified An Post Engineer will visit your site to install your terminal. Additional pin pad and terminal stand is available upon request.


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what’s on your

You’re not alone when it ComeS to CopinG

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Partner Profile  Credit Review

ACCESS TO CREDIT WITH BREXIT ON THE HORIZON, A LITANY OF ISSUES ARE SET TO INCREASE THE NEED FOR WORKING CAPITAL FOR MANY IRISH SMALL FIRMS. Brexit will impact on businesses in Ireland that import from or export to or through the UK in a number of ways – via currency movements, customs and excise duties, regulation and licensing costs and increased administration costs – all adding direct costs to doing business. But there will be indirect or hidden costs too. Most importantly, Brexit will impact on cash-flow cycles. While some businesses may have cash reserves to cover these costs, others will need to ensure they can access credit quickly if they need it. This may require setting up or strengthening credit lines with

banks or other finance providers. For example, did you know that for certain customs procedures and facilities and for transit through the UK, you must have security in place in the form of a customs guarantee, provided to Revenue by an approved provider – most commonly your bank. So if you are importing, exporting or transiting goods through the UK, make sure you are prepared and if you need a guarantee, open discussions now with your bank. A guarantee provided by a bank is a credit facility and must go through a credit approval process so it will take time. And

remember, if you are refused credit or a guarantee facility by your bank (participating banks are AIB, BOI, PTSB and Ulster), you can appeal the decision to Credit Review. Credit Review was set up to ensure viable small firms have access to credit to grow and develop. The challenges from Brexit, in whatever form it arrives, may require businesses to seek credit for working capital/cash-flow reasons. Make sure your business is prepared. Visit to find out more and request a callback, or call the helpline on 1850 211 789.

Credit where it’s due. Having trouble getting a business loan from your bank? Have your credit facilities been reduced or declined? Credit Review is here to help. Call our helpline on 1850 211 789 or visit

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Kealan Ryan

 Arts and Culture


Kealan Ryan



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Arts and Culture  Kealan Ryan


ealan Ryan never knows what’s going to happen to his characters when he sits down to write. Instead, the 40-year-old Dublin author simply allows the story to tell itself. “If something bad happens to one of the characters I often feel bad for them,” he explains over a pint of Guinness. “‘Oh God, that’s a pity,’ I might say to my wife. ‘Jesus, I kind of feel sorry for such and such…’ ‘You wrote the fucking guy. That didn’t have to happen!’ she’d answer back.” It’s that kind of Dublin wit that you can expect when you read Ryan’s debut novel The Middle Place, published earlier this year. We meet on a sunny summer’s day in Dublin city outside a bar on William Street South to discuss his book, how it came to print and, more generally, what’s on his mind. Ryan and I first met at college some 20 years ago when we studied Media and Communications together at Coláiste Dhúlaigh in Coolock and where film director Frank Berry – a recent interviewee for this very slot – was among our lecturers. We remained close friends over the years but chose different career paths – me falling into the world of publishing while Ryan was drawn to film, later going on to write, produce and act in a number of shorts before producing his first feature-length film Lift in 2016. However, there was always a book in him so it seems. The Middle Place follows the life – and death – of Chris, a man who at the age of 35 is killed in a one-punch attack while on a night out in Dublin. Chris narrates the story and takes us on a personal journey reliving his past but also closely watching over his loved ones – and his killer – from another place – ‘The Middle Place’ – following his death. It’s a compelling debut filled with themes of love, loss, revenge and redemption and bursting with the kind of honest humour that seems in short supply these days. It has a finely crafted narrative too, along with some elegantly composed prose that really bring the scenes to life, like the haunting chapter where the protagonist watches his father swim out to sea, float on his back and take comfort in the rain. I never knew Ryan to be in any way morbid, which makes me wonder whether he has

secretly harboured a fascination with the afterlife. “Even though the guy is dead, the story is more about life and love and I do think a lot about those things, about relationships,” he tells me. “It wasn’t so much about him being dead, it was probably more about him reminiscing about his life and about the people that he’s left behind. He still exists so he is still alive in some way, but it was a way to explore deeper relationships that you probably don’t think about as much while you’re alive or maybe don’t appreciate.” The book was written over a seven-year period, and that’s mostly down to it not being an entirely smooth process. Almost halfway through the original draft, Ryan lost his manuscript when his laptop crashed and died. “There was no cloud or any of that shit back then,” he laughs. Dismayed but undeterred, he revisited it in 2013 and successfully completed The Middle Place one year later. As Ryan recalls, it was only then that the real work began. “When I finished the book, I remember another writer telling me, ‘Congratulations, the book is done – now the hard part begins’.” Indeed, Ryan would spend another year in publishing purgatory, sending drafts to agents and publishing houses in the hope that someone would bite. The real turning point came when the book was shortlisted – and won – the Irish Writers Centre’s Novel Book Fair, an annual competition that offers 12 novelists the opportunity to pitch their books to industry representatives. Suddenly, this accolade gave The Middle Place credence and, within two years, a book deal was signed with Ireland’s oldest independent publishing house, Mercier Press.

Plaudits Since its release in March, the book has been winning plaudits from highly respected authors like Anthony Glavin, Muriel Bolger and Joseph O’Connor (not this reporter –

Joseph O’Connor (left) chats with Kealan Ryan (right), author of The Middle Place



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Kealan Ryan

although Ryan did have a plan to capitalise on the fact that we shared names had no one of literary stature provided a testimonial). An admirer of O’Connor’s work, Ryan was ecstatic when word came in. “I was thrilled when I heard he’d read it and then when I got the quote back from him, I was extra thrilled,” he remembers. “I never spoke with him, I never met him. It was all done through the Writers Centre and Mercier Press but that was a real high point for me.” So what of Ryan’s literary influences? The first notable one was Nick Hornby, whose style Ryan says he found himself trying to emulate when he first started writing. It resulted in him having to go back over some of his work and make changes in order to ensure he was developing his own style. But it was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey that really made Ryan put pen to paper. “I don’t know why, I had seen the film but when I read the book, I think it was that week, as soon as I finished reading it, that’s when I started writing. Whatever it did, I just wanted to write,” he says. Closer to home, Ryan says Roddy Doyle’s books have shaped his work too. “I don’t think you can be a writer from Dublin and not be influenced by him, even subconsciously,” he says. “I wasn’t thinking about Roddy Doyle but you can’t help but be influenced by him, the way he writes his dialogue.”

KEALAN RYAN ON THE EDITING PROCESS “People are always curious about how much they do and how much they influence your work. For me, they’re like coaches. If you’re a weightlifter, you’re the one who has to do the lifting but they’ll say you have to work on your quads or you have to focus more on something else. Similarly, editors are coaching you and saying you need more of this or you need less of that, but ultimately you have to do it. They’re just guiding you.”

Making Sacrifices As we are all too aware, in this day and age, artists of any kind attempting to make a living out of their craft face a massive uphill battle. As a husband and father of one, what kind of sacrifices has Ryan had to make? “For me, there is sacrifice but then every job has a sacrifice,” he explains. “If you work somewhere that you don’t like, that’s a sacrifice in itself, or ride the M50 everyday, everybody makes their choices. For me, that would be too much of a negative. I’d rather worry about my next pay cheque. And I’ve always worked for myself, whether that was selling kitchens or driving a truck. I never knew when my pay cheque was coming in and I kinda got used to that. I never liked having a boss but I don’t mind not knowing what’s around the corner.” For aspiring writers out there, Ryan offers some advice: “If you know that the work you do is good, then you have to have perseverance,” he says. “Don’t just give up. Stick at it. Eventually, it will land on the right desk.” Was there a point when he felt like giving up himself? “No. There’s times when you put it down and stop but I always thought that it would get out there and I always thought that it was good enough,” he says. “I did think that I’d have to write a second book. I thought okay, no one wants to publish this one but I’ll write a second one and I’ll have this one in the bag. Most writers don’t have their first book published. Look at the likes of Stephen King and Donal Ryan. Their second ones were published and they had another in the bag. I always thought that would be me but I gave it a last ditch effort...and I ended up getting two offers.”

 Arts and Culture

Ryan is currently juggling a number of projects across different mediums. He has just completed filming a short called The Anderson Corporation Will Change Your Life, which is part-funded by Fingal County Council. He’s also halfway through the script for a feature length film based on a true story about a Garda manhunt in the 1980s. Then there’s the novel-writing. He’s currently around one-third of the way through the first draft of his second book, a very different offering to his debut; written in third person and set in three locations around the world. “I’m writing this one a lot quicker,” says Ryan. “I’m not quite writing every day because I have other projects on but certainly every week, trying to do 1,000 words, writing a lot quicker and knowing that I’m going to go back and change a lot of it. So if I just get it down, I’m not as worried about everything being perfect the first time.” Any chance we’ll see The Middle Place on the big screen some day? “A few people have said it would make a good film,” he says. “I genuinely don’t know how I’d turn it into a film. Hopefully Lenny Abrahamson reads this and wants to buy it off me!” he jokes. “I have thought about turning it into a play a few times but turning it into a film is not something I’m looking at just yet. Who knows, maybe I’ll look at it in the future.” At least Ryan will know what happens to his onscreen characters. The Middle Place, published by Mercier Press, is available now at all good bookshops and at


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Lifestyle  Motoring

Sportback TO THE



t the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt, Audi presented the RS 7 Sportback as a wide bodied five-seater for the first time, and also showcased the performance and efficiency delivered by a mild hybrid system. The new Audi RS 7 Sportback sits low to the ground. The flared wheel arches emphasise the relentlessly sporty nature of the highperformance model from Audi Sport. The new RS 7 Sportback shares the coupé-like lines of the base model’s body, but only in four areas: the hood, the roof, the front doors and the tailgate. The RS-specific exterior design gives the grand tourer a character all of its own. The front of the new RS 7 Sportback features a broad, flat single-frame with no contrasting border. The radiator protective grille with its RS-specific three-dimensional honeycomb structure has retained its gloss black appearance. Large front air inlets and vertical fins in gloss black add to the aggressive styling, while a horizontal blade marks a distinctive downward edge to the front end.


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Motoring  Lifestyle

Audi RS 7 Sportback: Top speed: 250km/h Engine: The 4.0 TFSI CO2 emissions: 265 – 261 g/km 0 - 100km/h 3.6 seconds

The rear end’s curved trailing edge and strip of lights linking the main rear lights make it one of the characteristic defining features of the RS 7 Sportback. The RS exhaust system, with a large, chrome-coloured oval tailpipe on each side, sits beneath an RS-specific bumper with a rear diffuser and design elements in gloss black and it also comes with LED headlights fitted as standard. The Sportback will sprint from zero to 100km/h in only 3.6 seconds and the top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h. The four-litre engine produces a full-bodied and sporty V8 sound and the Audi drive select dynamic handling system allows adjustments to the loud growl of the power unit. The power produced via the standard eight-speed tiptronic transmission with optimised shift times and a new launch control function to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system. Drive forces are distributed to the front and rear axles in a 40:60 ratio via the purely mechanical centre differential. If one wheel slips, more drive torque automatically goes to the axle with the better traction. Up to 70% can flow to the front wheels and up to 85% to the back wheels.

Agility as standard Five-link front and rear axles handle the lateral and longitudinal forces independently on the new RS 7 Sportback, while the air suspension can be set to three modes and includes automatic level control. In the normal position, the body of the new RS 7 Sportback sits 20mm lower than an Audi A7 Sportback with standard suspension. At speeds above 120km/h, it will drop by

a further 10mm and offer a lift mode enabling the vehicle to be raised by 20mm if requested. A driver can determine the character of an RS 7 Sportback using the Audi drive select dynamic handling system. There are six profiles available: comfort, auto, dynamic, efficiency and the customisable RS-specific RS1 and RS2 modes, which can be enabled directly via an RS Mode button on the steering wheel. A stripped-down look with sporty accents are the key stylistic elements in the interior of the new Audi RS 7 Sportback. Much like the exterior design, the design language combines taut, sinewy surfaces with clearly defined contours. There is plenty of space for the driver and passenger, with the architecture of the interior accomplishing a seamless transition to the futuristic user interface. Special RS displays use the Audi virtual cockpit to provide details of tire pressure, torque, performance, oil temperature, boost pressure, lap times, acceleration, and g-forces. The shift light display prompts the driver to upshift when the rev limit is reached. The RS 7 Sportback will be arriving at dealerships in Ireland at the end of 2019. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 69

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The Big Read  In Deep Water




ater charges are due to come back in 2020. There will be bills for any ‘excess users’ – households who use more than 170% of the average demand. The official estimate is that only 7% of households will have to pay excess usage charges. Most of them are using large quantities of water because they have leaks in their pipes. Once those leaks are fixed, they should be in no danger of having to pay any water charges. The amount of revenue collected will be tiny – around €40m over five years. For this reason, (since-departed) Ervia Chief Executive Mike Quinn said he was not afraid that they would lead to another public backlash against Irish Water. Water protester Derek Byrne of the now-disbanded Dublin Says No group expects a future government to try to bring in water charges again. “We will rise again. I am prepared to go back to prison again. There are many more with me who will do it again. We didn’t do this for popularity, we didn’t do it for fame. We did it because we had to,” he said. John Gormley, former environment minister, said the state was playing the long game by starting with an “excess charge”. “That probably will change over a period of time so the amount you pay will grow. So it will be a gradual process, and then they’ll make another effort to introduce charges at some stage,” he said. This is what’s known as the ‘boil the frog’ strategy in politics. The temperature is slowly turned up so that the frog does not notice – and before he knows it, he is cooked. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said excess charges could lead to the return of a broader water charges regime. “Let’s see how that goes. You could see over time that threshold being reduced and maybe that’s the way we should have done water charges in the first place,” he said.

The other potential way for water charges to return, of course, is due to court action by the European Commission. The Water Framework Directive requires countries in the EU to have water charges to pay for the service. The ‘Irish exemption’ from water charges secured by the then environment minister, Noel Dempsey, in 2000 is now gone. The government could be forced to reintroduce water charges to avoid heavy fines. The European Commission has warned that the fines for being found in breach of the Water Framework Directive could amount to ‘tens of millions’. Varadkar said the Water Framework Directive could influence the return of water charges. “We may well find ourselves in breach of European law, and we’ll have to perhaps deal with that,” he said. When Alan Kelly was in the Custom House, he spoke to the EU’s Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella. The clear message he got was that Ireland was obliged to have water charges to comply


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In Deep Water

with the Water Framework Directive. “I believe the decision to suspend water charges and the way it’s now constructed to pay for water, I believe it’s outside the law. We are outside the Water Framework Directive. We will have to come into line at some stage,” he said. The European Commission declined to answer questions about whether Ireland’s water charges plan was in breach of the Water Framework Directive. But it is known to be very nervous about taking Ireland to court when it has a weak minority government and when Brexit is endangering the economy. “They are aware that this government has no capacity to do anything about the European Commission case against Ireland,” said one official who has been in contact with the Commission. “But water charges will come back.” Irish Water has been promised €8bn in funding up to 2028 to pay for new water and wastewater treatment plants, leak repairs and mega-projects like the Shannon pipeline. But John Mullins, former Bord Gáis chief executive, said it was now completely dependent again on the government for its money. Varadkar acknowledged that Irish Water’s funding would have to be reduced if there was an economic crisis. His belief remains that water charges are the best way to ensure that Irish Water has the money it needs to fix the ageing network, regardless of whether there is a recession or not. He said that with water charges gone for the foreseeable future, investment in water infrastructure is going to happen more slowly than it would have otherwise. Varadkar said he did not expect any party to promise to reintroduce water charges during the next general election campaign. “I think it is off the political agenda for the foreseeable future. You’re probably talking decades, rather than years,” he said. Irish Water is requiring meter boxes to be put in outside all new houses before it will provide a connection from the house to the water supply. However, there are still 40% of homes in the country without water meters. There are no plans to send meter installers back into the workingclass estates where they were so strongly opposed in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Varadkar sees this as a long-term project too.

 The Big Read

Michael Brennan

“THEY ARE AWARE THAT THIS GOVERNMENT HAS NO CAPACITY TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION CASE AGAINST IRELAND,” SAID ONE OFFICIAL WHO HAS BEEN IN CONTACT WITH THE COMMISSION. “BUT WATER CHARGES WILL COME BACK.” The installation of 892,000 meters was a daring move. But it was planned in a huge rush and rolled out at lightning speed. The government was gambling on the protesters being disorganised and weak. But the resistance was greater than expected. Former Irish Water executive Noel O’Keeffe said that meters were only a good idea if there were water charges. “We have the worst of both worlds. We spent nearly €500m on meters and we didn’t use them for the purpose. Meters aren’t meant to measure water, they’re meant as a charging mechanism,” he said. That just leaves the installed meters, where the black and red dials are slowly turning day after day to record how much water is being used in each home. They have brought in no money, which is what they were installed for. For now, and likely for some time to come, they will be the ultimate symbol of public money going down the drain.

This is an abridged extract from In Deep Water by Michael Brennan, first published by Mercier Press. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 71

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Travel  Milan



AS BOTH THE FINANCIAL CAPITAL OF ITALY AND ONE OF THE FASHION CAPITALS OF THE WORLD, MILAN IS A CITY BRIMMING WITH STYLE, WRITES PAULA BRADLEY. Milan is considered an alpha city, leading the world in many different areas such as art, fashion and commerce, but at its heart the city revolves around business. The city is set up to accommodate working professionals with incredible choice on elegant locations for meetings, plenty of opportunity to take a breather with a quick espresso al bar, and the ability to head straight to the bar at the end of the working day for a relaxed aperitivo. In fact, business runs in the blood in Milan. As far back as the 12th century Milan was a prosperous industrial capital, specialising in armour and wool. After World War II the city became part of the ‘Economic Miracle’, a period of prolonged economic growth that solidified Milan’s place as an industrial powerhouse of Europe. Today it is home to the Italian Stock Exchange (Borsa Italiana) and the most expensive street in Europe, Via Montenapoleone, as well as thousands

of company headquarters in sectors as diverse as automotive and book and music publishing. To accommodate this business fervour, Milan offers world-class convention centres and trade fairs on an industrial scale. The MiCo convention centre is the largest convention centre in Europe, with a capacity for 50,000 attendees and enough meeting rooms to accommodate a group of any size. Its close neighbour, FieraMilanoCity is the oldest trade fair in the city and still plays host to some of the most glamorous events like the Si Sposaitalia fashion show, but most exhibitions have relocated to its big brother FieraMilano in nearby Rho (about a 25-minute metro journey from the city centre). As one of the largest exhibition and trade complexes in the world, this enormous 400,000 square metre complex hosts an average of 30,000 exhibitors annually.


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Milan  Travel

ABOVE: Piazza del Duomo is dominated by the world’s oldest gothic cathederal, Il Duomo. BELOW LEFT: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. BELOW RIGHT: Versace Store in Milan’s fashion district, Via Montenapoleone

But it’s not all convention centres and office blocks. The city is made up of several distinct districts, each with its own particular atmosphere. From the city centre with its dominating Gothic cathedral, Il Duomo, to the chic boutique quarter of Brera and the lively canal district of the Navigli, Milan has a richness of history, art, and culture that is underpinned by the Milanese sense of elegance. No trip to the city would be complete without at least stepping a well-heeled foot in the Quadrilatero d’Oro where you’ll find flagship stores for all the major fashion houses from Armani to Gucci and Versace. Though commonly regarded as Italy’s business hub, Milan is often overlooked as a sightseeing destination, but there are plenty of gems here, such as La Scala, one of the world’s most revered opera houses, and Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece of ‘The Last Supper’. One of many historic churches, the eye-catching Romanesque Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio is home to the city’s patron, Saint Ambrose. Milan is the perfect place to entertain clients thanks to its aperitivo culture and vibrant food scene. For the best spreads, as well as the best atmosphere, opt for the Navigli or Brera districts. Wash down your nibbles with the classic Aperol Spritz or the city’s own drink, a Negroni Sbagliato, which substitutes prosecco for gin. After a long day’s networking, why not book into one of the new chic hotels in the recently rejuvenated Porta Nuovo area? Conveniently situated near Garibaldi station, this area is Milan’s ‘new’ business district, with skyscrapers like the mirrored Unicredit Tower and the iconic skyscraper-cum-hanging garden ‘Bosco Verticale’. The area is also home to the uberchic Corso Como with its boutique shopping by day and it’s vibrant bar and club scene at night.


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FLIGHTS Low-cost airlines Aer Lingus and Ryanair both run a direct 2.5-hour flight to Malpensa airport, with prices starting from under €50 return, provided you book in advance. HOTEL Milan’s recentlyredeveloped Porta Nuova district is a popular place to stay for travellers who want central but affordable accommodation. Check out the Hotel Marconi for a boutique four-star stay at reasonable rates or try Hotel Glam right across from Centrale Station with its soundproofed rooms.


TRANSPORT The best way to get from Malpensa airport to the centre of Milan is to take the Malpensa express train (€18 return). There are two lines, but the most popular is the line to Porto Garibaldi station (about 40 minutes) and Centrale station (about 50 minutes). Once in the city you can purchase a day ticket for €4.50 from any tobacconist or newsagent. The ticket offers unlimited travel around Milan’s city centre on bus, tram and metro.


MEALS Milan is famous for its risotto allo zafferano, a risotto dish made with saffron that legend tells was invented by a master glazer working on the city’s famous Duomo cathedral. For an oldschool trattoria experience with unbelievably cheap prices head to Il Brutto Anatroccolo in the Navigli district or if you want a more contemporary take on Milanese cuisine visit Ratanà in the upscale Isola district.


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18/10/2019 15:27

Travel  Milan


HOURS IN MILAN ONE DAY OFF? HERE’S HOW TO SPEND IT. Happy hour in the Bera district


Start your day in true Milanese style with a cappuccino and brioche at Pasticceria Marchesi 1824 in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The café belongs to the Prada Group and is an excellent spot for highfashion people watching. 10AM | GO TO CHURCH

to pre-book tickets online, but if you get a message saying they’re all sold out, try calling the ticket hotline (+02 9280 0360) as a certain number of tickets are reserved for callers. Finish your afternoon with a pit stop for some coffee and cake at the renowned Pasticceria Cucchi.



Wander back through the Galleria towards La Scala and take a tour of the adjoining Museo Teatrale alla Scala museum. Provided there’s no rehearsal in progress you can peep inside the legendary opera house itself. Carry on north to Milan’s chic art district of Brera and stop for a bite to eat at Bioesserì.

Jump on a metro south into the Navigli quarter, where picturesque canals are lined with bars, art galleries and boutique shopping. Start by strolling down the colourful ‘Washerwoman Alley’ (Vicolo Dei Lavandai), then cross the canal and pop into Pourquoi Moi to trawl the racks for some vintage rags. Zigzag over to Miradoli Arte Contemporanea art gallery to check out some of the city’s newest artists.

After lunch take a stroll in Milan’s grand Parco Sempione park. Enter through the impressive 15th-century Castello Sforzesco and meander your way down to the Arco della Pace, erected by Napoleon. Continue down to Santa Maria delle Grazie church, home of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous work ‘The Last Supper’. It’s best

GLAM HOTEL MILAN It doesn’t get more central than this, Glam Hotel is right opposite Milan’s Central station making it the ideal location to connect to any destination by rail, subway, or tram. All the rooms in this hotel are soundproofed, a significant asset in such a busy spot. W: T: 00 39 02 8398 4000 E:


Navigli is the perfect place to partake of the very Milanese tradition of aperitivo and there are plenty of spots to choose from. For delicious drinks accompanied by an unbeatable buffet try Manhattan Navigli. If you still have a hankering for dinner after the buffet take a trip to nearby Nebbia, which serves up traditional Lombardian dishes with seasonal twists. 11PM | NIGHTCAP

Explore the markets in Navigili

Situated near Milan’s Garibaldi Station and the financial district of Porta Nuova, Hotel VIU dominates its surroundings with a floorto-ceiling glass window adorned with a living vertical garden. The hotel boasts warm contemporary rooms, a pool and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city. W: T: +39 02 800 10910 E:

Head straight to Milan’s most famous attraction, the Duomo cathedral. Ascend to the rooftop where the innumerable gothic spires and the golden Madonnina statue are set against the awe-inspiring backdrop of the Alps.



Cap off your day in fashion at Ceresio 7’s rooftop bar with an elegant cocktail in hand as you overlook the city at night.

MAGNA PARS SUITES If chic is what you’re after, head to the boutique Magna Pars Suites in the Navigli district. This hotel is the ideal spot to explore the canal district’s art galleries and lively nightlife. Plus this hotel not only looks good, it smells good too. Literally. The hotel creates scents onsite to provide guests with a unique sensory experience. W: T: +39 02 833 8371 E:


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18/10/2019 13:26

Drinks Industry  Lifestyle




he value of spirits exports from Ireland increased by 10.2% between 2017 and 2018, from €916m to over €1bn, according to the annual Irish Spirits Market Report, released by Drinks Ireland. The report, which assesses the performance of Ireland’s domestic spirits market and the spirits export industry, found that overall sales in the home market increased by 6.6%, driven by consumer demand for Irish whiskey and gin. This sales growth comes even though overall alcohol consumption has declined in Ireland from its peak in 2001. Despite a strong performance by both gin and whiskey, vodka remains Ireland’s favourite spirits drink, accounting for 33.7% of all spirits sales, up by 4.8% between 2017 and 2018. Ireland’s world-renowned spirits, recognised for their quality, authenticity and taste around the world, continue to perform strongly in export markets. However, there are clouds on the horizon, according to Aoife Clarke, Chair of Drinks Ireland. “The current number one and number two export destinations for Ireland’s drinks products are the United States (by a significant distance) and the United Kingdom,” she stated. “Both markets will be seriously challenged in years to come because of the re-emergence of barriers to trade and uncertainty around future relationships.”




Rye River Brewing Company looks set to deliver one of its strongest years on record as the Celbridge-based brewery anticipates over 20% growth in the Irish retail market in 2019. This strong domestic performance has been fuelled by Rye River Brewing securing 21 World Beer Awards in 2019, officially making it the world’s most decorated independent craft brewery. The McGargles range of beers topped the list with nine award wins with its core range available in all major retailers across Ireland. Other award-winning Rye River brands included The Crafty Brewing Company, which is produced exclusively for Lidl and is now available in over 20 countries across Europe. From an international perspective, the outlook remains strong for Rye River Brewing as demand for quality Irish craft beer increases and their ability to grow existing export markets continues apace.

EQUALITY CHAMPIONS Diageo has been ranked as the number one business globally for gender equality in the Equileap 2019 Global Gender Equality Report and Ranking. The Equileap report is an in-depth, cross-sector analysis of gender equality in 3,519 companies in 23 developed economies, representing 98 million employees. Equileap ranks businesses based on 19 gender equality criteria, including gender balance across the workforce, the gender pay gap, paid parental leave and anti-sexual harassment policies. The ranking is evidence of the progress Diageo has made to champion diversity and inclusion both within the business and beyond. The company has rolled out a framework for progressive gender portrayal in advertising to its 1,200 marketers and advertising agencies around the world and the business has signed up to Free the Bid to increase the number of female directors on its adverts.

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18/10/2019 13:25

Profile  A Day in the Life


David Meade, mind reader, international speaker, and broadcaster

6AM As a general rule, because my works involves so much travel (I think I’ve had 23 flights over the last four weeks), there isn’t a typical day for me at the moment! But if I can, I’ll get out and take a long walk around whatever city I find myself in. It’s during those moments when you’re not sitting down in front of emails that some of the best solutions, ideas and opportunities tend to find their way to you. 9AM I’ll often need to get to an airport or be out on the road around this time. It might sound like the worst part of the job for most people, but I absolutely love travelling and being in airports – I love the idea that my office is in a different place every day of the week! One of my main challenges these days is, as all of the airlines now offer wifi, I have to avoid the temptation to dive into a YouTube spiral that starts with Nathan Carter and ends up with a raft of episodes of MythBusters! 2PM Showtime! If I was told tomorrow I could only do one thing professionally for the rest of my life, it would be guest speaking – the keynote speeches are easily the most rewarding part of my job. One day I could be speaking at Apple or Facebook, and the next with medical manufacturers. This challenges me and keeps me on my toes to make sure my material really engages each audience. I try to design all my sessions in such a way that all attendees will actually leave with some practical information, whether that’s how to be a better leader, or how to influence other employees. Overwhelmingly, most of my work focuses on the psychology of high-performing teams and how I can make organisations and individuals improve by using the science of high-performance. I realised from a young age that mindreading and psychological tools, when used effectively and ethically, are incredibly useful in the business space. I do some mindreading during keynotes to show that using these techniques can also be useful in business. 6PM I’ll go back to the hotel and catch up on some work. I’m lucky that I’ve a great team dealing with clients all across the world. This way of working can be challenging, but I have to accept that working remotely is part of the reality of what I do. 8PM To wind down I like to go for a run, depending on what city I’m in – it’s the only way to stop me wasting hours in front of Netflix back at the hotel!


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