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air. Whilst Ireland’s growth performance is still strong at almost 4 per cent, and unemployment is continuing to fall, the


challenges arising from the uncertain

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As 2016 draws to a close, change is in the

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international environment, along with







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






wage and cost pressures here at home,

07/12/2016 12:14

On the cover: Professor Barry McCleary, CEO, Megazyme Photograph: Jason Clarke

will dominate the agenda into 2017. In relation to Brexit, 48 per cent of small businesses say that the UK’s vote has already had a negative impact on them. Change is afoot for the SFA also, as AJ Noonan passes the baton to a new chairperson after four years in the role. In this edition, experts provide tips to winning government contracts, ‘silver

Editor: Joseph O’Connor Managing Editor: Mary Connaughton

entrepreneurs’ talk about taking the plunge into self-employment after the age of 50, and we explore the changes to the Knowledge Development Box that

Creative Director: Jane Matthews

will provide tax relief to innovative small companies. We put a spotlight on

Editorial Contributors: Orla Connolly,

the retail sector as the crucial Christmas period kicks off and provide advice

Conor Forrest, Fiona Kelly, John Kinsella,

on getting the most out of your end of year appraisal meetings. We take a trip

Ciara McGuone, Dean Van Nguyen

down memory lane with AJ Noonan, outgoing SFA Chairman, and we give you

Production Manager: Mary Connaughton

top tips on responsible business practices, managing stress and developing your

Production Executive: Nicole Ennis

Unique Selling Point.

Account Director: Shane Kelly Sales Director: Paul Clemenson Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email or write to Better Business, Ashville Media, Old Stone Building, Blackhall Green, Dublin 7. Tel: (01) 432 2200

This edition contains more 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. Throughout its pages you will discover the often-hidden stories of Ireland’s small businesses – the highs, the lows, the perseverance and the innovation. Ireland is a nation of small businesses. New data shows that of over 235,000 businesses in the country, 99 per cent have less than 50 employees (small) and 92 per cent have less than 10 (micro). These companies can be seen in every

All rights reserved. Every care has been

city, town and village in the country and together they provide employment to

taken to ensure that the information

half of the private sector workforce.

contained in this magazine is accurate. The publishers cannot, however, accept responsibility for errors or omissions. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2016. All discounts, promotions and competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better

The Small Firms Association has been the voice of small business for over 40 years. We are a trusted partner to over 8,500 member companies, spanning every sector and county. 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.

Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118

Patricia Callan Director, Small Firms Association


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05 12 14

No Age Limit A new generation of retirees are turning their backs on their pension pots in order to embrace entrepreneurship

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

Out to Tender Procurement experts offer advice on winning public sector contracts

Cover Story Prof Barry McCleary on taking Megazyme from a place down under to a business park in Bray

The Only Way is Up On-site training and upskilling is becoming an ever more important provision for small firms

Sector Spotlight The views of small retailers in Ireland on the back of a tumultuous year

Small Business Profile Thurles-based Ryans Cleaning is helping venues open their doors on time – at home and abroad

Passing the Baton AJ Noonan reflects on his four-year tenure as SFA Chairman

Boxing Clever A look at how small businesses can avail of the Knowledge Development Box

Trading Places An Irish digital nomad blogging his way to success

Arts/Culture Comic book artist Declan Shalvey on drawing for powerhouse companies Marvel and DC

20 24 28 32 34 38 42 62 72

A Day in the Life... of Thomas McArdle, MD of Carlingford Adventure Centre


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Winter 2016  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Prof Barry McCleary on the business of cereal science, page 20 // Áine Cuddihy, one of four senior entrepreneurs giving millenials a run for their money, page 14 // Tom Muckian of Roe River Books, one of the small retailers we check in with for our Sector Spotlight, page 28 // AJ Noonan on passing the baton of SFA chairmanship, page 34


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News  Updates



Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA


For more on AJ Noonan’s term as Chair of SFA go to our interview on page 34.

Matt Cooper, presenter, Joseph O’Connor, editor of Better Business, Colin Moffatt of GPS, the award sponsor


On December 1st, Sue O’Neill was elected by the SFA National Executive Council as the next SFA Chair for a two-year term. O’Neill is Managing Director of Shellcove Limited, an association management company which provides outsourced management services to companies and associations. Prior to this, she founded Generation in 1993, a creative agency offering advertising, design and marketing services across a broad spectrum of clients. O’Neill also advises and mentors start-up companies. O’Neill has been a member of the Small Firms Association National Council since 2004. She takes over the Chair from AJ Noonan, Managing Director of Rhonellen Developments, who held the position since 2012.

Better Business Wins Industry Award

We’re delighted to report that in its first year of competition Better Business was named Customer Magazine of the Year at the Irish Magazine Awards 2016. Presented by broadcaster and journalist Matt Cooper and held at a black tie ceremony at Dublin City Hall on December 1st, the event celebrates the talent in Ireland’s professional publishing industry. The awards recognise and reward genuine excellence amongst editors, designers, publishing teams and brands that are performing at the very top of their game. The judges decided that Better Business was the worthy winner of Customer Magazine of the Year award for using experienced writers who can make business stories both interesting and accessible; making the people behind small businesses the focus of the magazine; providing expert opinion on issues facing small firms in Ireland; and using contemporary design with high quality imagery to make the publication stand out from other business titles. The team behind Better Business looks forward to bringing you much of the same and more in 2017!

TIMELY INITIATIVE LAUNCHED A new initiative which allows artisan producers and start-up companies to rent kitchen space on an hourly basis has been launched in IT Tallaght. The idea of Kitchen Time is to make use of underused HSE-approved kitchen space across communities in South Dublin County, including Tallaght and Clondalkin. Speaking at the launch, Mayor of South Dublin County Council Guss O’Connell said: “This initiative will have a positive impact on start-up enterprises, and it is hoped that it would offer great opportunities to clients of the Food Academy and other would-be producers in the county.” For more information visit


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Updates  News

IRISH SMALL FIRMS WAIT LONGEST TO BE PAID Ireland’s small businesses are waiting the longest for payment from customers, according to new research. The Global Business Monitor report from Bibby Financial Services surveyed business owners in the USA, Germany, UK, Poland, Hong Kong and Ireland and found that Irish small businesses wait an average of 38 days for payment. Findings reveal that business in Ireland wait longer than any other country surveyed and almost two weeks longer than their counterparts in the US Almost half (45 per cent) of small businesses in Ireland are paid after 30 days, and over one in ten (17 per cent) are waiting twice as long – up to 61 days and over – for payment. Bernard O’Hare, Managing Director of Bibby Financial Services Ireland said: “Late payment from customers is a significant issue for Irish small businesses. Lengthy payment times are having a negative multiplier effect on the economy, impacting supply chains and preventing businesses from growing.”
















From November 23rd to 25th, entrepreneurs and small business owners from across Europe gathered with business representative organisations and policy makers from EU, national, regional and local levels for the fifth EU SME Assembly. The idea behind the Assembly is to bring stakeholders in the SME community together to discuss how to make SME policy work on the ground and the theme for this year’s gathering was ‘Helping Europe’s entrepreneurs to reach new heights’. The agenda included sessions on entrepreneurship education, international ecosystems, family business, crowdfunding, social enterprise. A whole afternoon was also dedicated to an open space discussion, where delegates had the opportunity to propose topics and take ownership of a breakout session with other interested participants. This saw issues such as business transfers, business failure, SME expectations of professional services, exporting and many other topics introduced and debated. The winners of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards were also announced in a gala ceremony, with a special mention for UCC’s IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme. Next year’s assembly will be held in Estonia in November 2017.


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News  Updates

BREXIT TOP TWEETS There’ll be 2 types of worker in future - 1. People who tell computers what to do 2. People who are told what to do by computers #isawards

Small Firms Association @SFA_Irl



Poplar Linens Trading Company in Westport recently undertook the challenge of creating the world’s largest tea towel as part of a fundraising drive in aid of Mayo Roscommon Hospice Palliative Care Services. Poplar Linens commissioned one of its factories to produce the tea towel, which measured 15 metres by 10.5 metres. Based on the Guinness World Record tea towel, Poplar Linens also developed a recipe version of the tea towel for sale as a fundraiser. The towels are available in local retail outlets for €4. Profits from each sale go to supporting local palliative care services in the Mayo-Roscommon area.

We’ve included @SFA_Irl in “The 16 Best Online Resources to Start a Business in Ireland”

O’Mahony Donnelly @omahonydonnelly What an exciting day we had! It has been great to have the @SFA_Irl here @CEVMansionHouse today for their annual lunch :)

Mansion House Venue @CEVMansionHouse German sme policy quoted as a model for Irish SMEs Michael Martin #sfalunch

PJ Timmins @PJTimmins



Understanding all aspects of managing a business is essential to its success, and mentoring support can be a valuable aid in gaining this knowledge. That’s according to Garrett Stokes, CEO of Microfinance Ireland. Stokes was showcasing the benefits of Microfinance Ireland’s new mentoring service to businesses both new and established in advance of European Microfinance Day, which took place on October 20th 2016. The Microfinance Ireland mentoring service, delivered through the Local Enterprise Offices, is aimed at both start-up and expanding businesses that employ fewer than ten people. Microfinance Ireland, set up four years ago as a government funded, not-for-profit lender to help get more people starting businesses, has already helped to support, sustain and create more than 2,300 jobs. For further details go to

Just tipped over 6000 followers! Thank you all

Small Firms Association @SFA_Irl

The SFA keeps members informed with up-to-date, small biz specific publications, guidelines and newsletters to stay ahead of the competition

Small Firms Association @SFA_Irl


BREXIT A SERIOUS THREAT TO FOOD BUSINESSES Love Irish Food and the SFA have called on consumers to consider the food and drinks they buy this Christmas, warning that Brexit could pose a serious threat to indigenous Irish food businesses that play a vital role in providing employment and supporting local economies. Both organisations also anticipate a much greater presence of imported brands and private label food products as the currency value of Sterling continues to weaken in the lead up to Brexit. Such a development, according to Love Irish Food and SFA, risks hampering local economies and could lead to potential job losses throughout the country in the food and drink manufacturing sector, especially in the run up to Christmas. Noting that the scale and importance of the sector should not be underestimated, Love Irish Food and SFA said 230,000 jobs are linked to food and drink manufacturing in Ireland, 52,000 of which are direct jobs in the sector. Both organisations also noted that the food and drinks manufacturing sector was a strong contributor to employment and household income in rural areas, with 78 per cent being outside Dublin and regionally dispersed. For more on the challenges facing the retail sector as a result of Brexit see our sectoral spotlight feature on page 28


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Updates  News


Brian Finnn of RTÉ’s Morning Ireland interviews Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA Ireland, Patricia Callan, Director, SFA and Marie Hunt, Head of Research, CBRE at the the PwC Budget 17 Breakfast Briefing.

MINISTER COMMENDS WORK OF IASIO Minister for Justice & Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD has commended the work of the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) for providing access to training, education and employment for thousands of ex-offenders. Minister Fitzgerald was speaking at the launch of the IASIO Biennial Report earlier this year. The IASIO is an independent company formed by CEO Paddy Richardson in January 2012. With a team of 36 highly experienced staff, it is a national community based organisation for adult offenders in the criminal justice system, with a specific focus on alternatives to both offending and re-imprisonment. The IASIO offers employers a pool of dedicated potential employees from which to choose. Every candidate referred to IASIO is assigned to a local Training and Employment Officer (TEO), who is a qualified career guidance officer and psychometric assessor. The TEO carries out a skills and interests inventory and works closely with the candidate to prepare them for appropriate access to education, training and employment placement. Through working intensively with the TEO, the candidate has the opportunity to demonstrate that he/she is committed, job ready, job specific, and eager to begin a new life. The objective of the IASIO is to make communities safer by offering ex-offenders alternatives to criminal activity, ultimately, through employment. The TEO also offers employers and candidates ongoing support following appropriate employment placement.

ALMOST HALF OF IRISH COMPANIES DON’T HAVE IOT STRATEGY Forty per cent of Irish businesses will increase their Internet of Things deployment in 2017, according to a new survey by data company Equinix. The study found that while almost threequarters (74 per cent) recognise that IoT will play a role in their business in the next five years, many are yet to implement a specific IoT strategy. Almost half (47 per cent) of companies admitted that they don’t have a specific IoT strategy and don’t expect to implement one in next five years. However, an additional 28 per cent of companies don’t currently have an IoT strategy but do plan to implement one by 2021. Currently, 33 per cent of Irish enterprises deploy IoT technology within their business. Leading the way are retail (67 per cent), education (60 per cent) and healthcare (50 per cent). Asked about the benefits that IoT can bring, more than half (55 per cent) of Irish enterprises listed operational efficiency as the greatest benefit, while 37 per cent cited a reduction in maintenance and operations costs. A further 31 per cent believe it helps businesses become more competitive. Of companies that use IoT, they report an average boost in productivity of seven hours per week per employee.

For more information contact the IASIO on 01 8662706, email or visit


Carlingford Adventure Centre, Ireland’s largest outdoor adventure centre has received a TripAdvisor® Certificate of Excellence. The achievement celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year. Commenting on the news, Ciara Cunningham, Marketing Manager at Carlingford Adventure Centre, said: “Our team works very hard to deliver a memorable experience to all our guests, from children on a school tour to 40th birthday parties to corporate team building events. We thank everyone who has taken the time to review us, we are delighted.” For an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at Carlingford Adventure Centre check out our A Day in the Life feature on page 72.

Maurice Mortell, Managing Director of Ireland and Emerging Markets, Equinix


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Discover what’s possible

Funding to move your business up a gear In a challenging commercial world, business funding can make all the difference. InterTradeIreland is a powerful resource for business growth, supporting local businesses to identify and develop all-island trade and innovation opportunities. Join over 32,000 businesses that have accessed InterTradeIreland’s funding support, business intelligence and meaningful contacts. Find out more about the extraordinary possibilities that exist right here on your doorstep. It could be the most powerful business move you ever make.


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Updates  News



DUALTRON CELEBRATES 25 YEARS IN BUSINESS Dualtron, a cash handling and cashless catering and vending systems company, is celebrating 25 years in business. In October 2016, to mark the milestone, the company held an exhibition with its suppliers in the Spencer Hotel in Dublin and will be organising a number of roadshow events around the country in the coming months. Dualtron, which was a finalist in the SFA National Business Awards in 2012 and 2015, will also be launching a new website soon so keep an eye on a company who’s future is bright as it looks to hire additional staff, management and external board advisors to help it on its development path.

Most websites don’t travel well. While accessible to anyone in the world, the message often misses their mark overseas. This means your business or organisation isn’t effectively connecting with 95+ per cent of your potential audience. Our global communications experts have developed new strategies to internationalise your online presence. Here are a few simple steps you can start with: DON’T TRANSLATE

He Said

We talk about the same product, service, or idea in very different ways across countries. Your website needs to describe your work in a relevant context, not just say the same thing in a different language. Speed is often emphasised in the United States. Elsewhere being fast equates to poor quality. American companies usually provide too little information online. Foreign companies too much.

SHe Said


“Issues affecting the border with Northern Ireland and businesses who operate close to the border must be given the attention and sensitivity that they deserve.”

SFA Director Patricia Callan

voices the concerns of small businesses at the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit.

“In terms of Brexit, the current message we are sending as a country is ‘relocate to Ireland and pay more tax!’ – not a winning formula.”

SFA Outgoing Chair AJ Noonan

on the urgency needed for an overhaul of our taxation system.

“If each adult spent just €20 extra in small businesses this Christmas, this would amount to an injection of over €70 million for small Irish firms and would have a huge, positive impact on local jobs.”

SFA Assistant Director Linda Barry

urging consumers to shop locally this Christmas.

A modern, creative website doesn’t tell you a lot about the company. Foreigners generally want to know exactly who you are, what you do, and why they should reach across the globe to buy your products or services. This is a case where literal language and laying on a series of detailed images that showcase your company works better than a sleek design. MAKE IT PERSONAL

Getting in touch with someone in a foreign country is intimidating enough without making it impersonal. Get rid of your generic email address ( Ensure your potential clients can write to a person. It helps if you share a bit about them – but suggest leaving out the pet stories and sports preferences.


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News  Updates


Gráinne Dwyer, CEO, Ludgate Hub


Liam McMunn, Central Bank, Ciara Higgins, Eastway Global Forwarding, Mairéad Portley, Syncreon and Chris Quinlan, Dublin Bus collecting their certificates at the NSAI offices

Minister says Cert will be Crucial in Post-Brexit Era

The Minister of State with responsibility for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen is advising Irish businesses to operate to the highest quality standards and to consider certification to international standards, in order to remain competitive in a post-Brexit era. Minister Breen’s comments came as 30 organisations from the private, public and small business sectors gathered at NSAI (National Standards Authority of Ireland) offices in Dublin on November 8th for a special ceremony marking their achievement in becoming certified to world class standards. All of the organisations that achieved certification were independently audited by NSAI inspectors in order to ensure they complied with the standards. They join a group of over 3,000 organisations which are currently NSAI certified to a variety of internationally recognised standards such as quality management systems, environmental management systems and occupational health and safety.


The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen has been awarded second place in the future-proof and quality of service category at the European Broadband Awards 2016 in Brussels. The European Broadband Awards, which took place in Brussels in November were established by the European Commission to recognise outstanding broadband internet projects all over Europe and to highlight the successful establishment of broadband infrastructure. Officially opened in July this year, the Ludgate Digital Hub is the first rural hub to receive a massive 1GB connectivity provided by Vodafone as the town is connected to SIRO’s 100 per cent fibre-optic broadband network. This has turned Skibbereen into a ‘1 Gigabit town’. In total, 66 projects from all over Europe were selected as finalists across five categories focusing on innovative models of financing, cost reduction, affordability, competition and future-proof and quality of service. Speaking after the awards ceremony, Gráinne Dwyer, CEO of the Ludgate Hub, said: “I was delighted to be in Brussels to represent all the fantastic people who have worked so hard to get the Ludgate Hub up and running. We hope this win will be inspirational for rural Ireland. We’re working hard in Skibbereen to create a blueprint for the ‘1 Gigabit town’ that other rural towns around Ireland and Europe can follow.”


A new €12 million life science network to assist Irish and Welsh businesses to innovate has been announced by Paschal Donohoe TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and Welsh Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford. Celtic Advanced Life Science Innovation Network (CALIN) is a collaborative programme led by Swansea University’s Medical School funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme. CALIN aims to engage and assist over 240 small and medium-sized companies throughout Ireland and Wales by offering open access to a unique strategic international partnership involving six world leading higher educational institutions along with global healthcare companies Unilever and GE Healthcare. The six higher educational institutions are University College Dublin, National University of Ireland Galway, Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork in Ireland and Bangor University, Cardiff University and Swansea University in Wales. CALIN’s aim is to drive smart sustainable growth in advanced life sciences in both Ireland and Wales, by undertaking a large number of collaborative R&D projects, and through these generating new jobs and attracting investors into the cross-border regions. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 11

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Feature  Procurement



TENDER As barometers go, the Amazon bookstore paints a fairly damning picture of the complicated and often intimidating world of public procurement. Throw those two words into the portal’s search engine and you’ll be met with links to dozens upon dozens of rather serious looking tomes which deal with the subject – with titles suggesting help on everything from coping with EU procurement law to definitive guides for beginners. A quick internet search is the safe option for sense checking the state of procurement. The bolder – but arguably more insightful – choice is to utter the words ‘public procurement’ to an Irish small business, where you’re most likely to hear a tale or two of ire and frustration. Speak to most procurement experts and they’ll tell you that small firms often only have themselves to blame when it comes to missing out on tenders. According to Peter Brennan, owner of Bid Management Services, which helps private firms to produce bid documents and advises public bodies on public procurement, many companies struggle to ensure that the bid they submit is compelling or competitively priced. “A lack of knowledge about the public procurement process, insufficient attention to detail, and poor bidding techniques are the main reasons for a high failure rate,” he says. “Bidders often do not pay sufficient attention to the published award criteria and lose marks as a result. Others commonly do not use the feedback provided by debriefings to address weaknesses in their

Donnacha Phelan, Director, Keystone Procurement

bids. Other small firms are merely spooked by the idea of tendering.” Over €8 billion is spent by the Irish Government every year on goods and services provided by business. But a sizeable chunk of that procurement pie is being missed by the jaws of Irish firms, as a result of a failure to grasp procurement basics. Figures show that 1 in 10 Irish public sector contracts in Ireland is awarded to companies outside the jurisdiction. The EU average is around 1 in 30. Donnacha Phelan, one of the cofounders and director of Keystone Procurement, current provider of the InterTradeIreland Go2Tender training programmes, is straight-forward in his advice to any small firm seeking help on how to be more successful when bidding for a Government contract: develop relationships and establish a reputation


in the specific organisations you wish to target. He says: “Bids are for further down the line. Before submitting a bid or a quote, there are three things small businesses should do first: ensure the buyers in the organisations they are targeting are aware of their company and what it does; ensure there is something different about how the company does its business that matters to a public sector buyer; and have something interesting to say about the sector and why their product/service provides value for money in a way that other companies do not – ensure this can be backed up.” While interest in public contracts is typically high, Phelan says that buyers in Ireland are often left frustrated by the poor quality of bids they recieve. He attributes this to a lack of care by bidders to properly read and understand what the buyer wants. Any firm seeking to get in on the public procurement act would do well to make the website of the Office of Government Procurement their first port of call. The site provides details of all the Government contracts currently live in Ireland. There’s also a suite of downloads and articles offering advice to small firms on all things procurement. The Government sought to bring some clarity to the Irish procurement market earlier this year with the publication of its latest Public Service Spend and Tendering Analysis Report. The report was launched by Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for


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Procurement  Interview

SFA FACT Expert Advice We asked procurement experts, if they were Taoiseach for one day, what one change they would make to ensure public procurement was fairer for small firms?

public procurement, who said: “Public procurement is a major opportunity for small firms. The reason we produced the report was to provide businesses with a better understanding of where current and future opportunities lie. “In terms of small firm access to government business, the report highlighted that, in the majority of spend areas, the typical tender value is less than €100,000. Furthermore, it showed that the majority (55 per cent) of the State’s expenditure is with small firms. Indeed, small firms had the greater share of spend in 11 of the 16 procurement spend categories,” he added. Keystone’s Phelan says that the Government has done a good job of

providing value-for-money training programmes for small firms. However, he admits a frustration at the fact that many firms have not woken up to the need to hone their bidding skills. “Small firms are experts at what they do, but do not have the resources for marketing and brand development that major corporations have at their disposal,” explains Phelan. “Big brands invest a lot of money in convincing buyers they are worth more than they often are. Small firms need to have the courage to write their own scripts and fight back. Public buyers are there to be convinced and there are large opportunities available for small firms that commit to getting this internal clarity.”

“The easy suggestion is to ensure all contract awards are published: not just the winners but the winning contract value too. This already happens in other EU countries like in Portugal and Estonia (to name just two). Publishing this information, and indicating if the winners are small firms would provide clarity to small firms on their ability to access the public sector market.” Donnacha Phelan, Keystone Procurement “I would reserve all tenders for routine supplies and services under €135,000 to Irish registered small firms only.” Peter Brennan, Bid Management Services


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08/12/2016 09:46

Feature  Senior Entrepreneurs

Age NO




t seems like most days in Ireland we hear of a young, fresh faced and ambitious entrepreneur introducing another edgy start-up to the world. These business men and women are a vital part of what keeps our society advancing. Their innovation, drive and passion are undoubtedly valuable commodities but the question begs, when do these characteristics meet their expiration date? At what point does innovation stale and a good idea turn bad? While the start-up business is very much considered a young person’s game, there is a wave of senior entrepreneurs making a mark, establishing successful companies across a wide range of sectors. And the

stats back it up. According to Ireland Smart Ageing Exchange (ISAX), in the past two decades the number of businesses started by people aged 55-64 has risen by over 50 per cent and senior entrepreneurs are statistically twice as likely to launch high-growth enterprises. After long and successful careers in their respective fields, some find themselves retired, others redundant, and while the majority of people consider this period of their life a restful reward for their years of hard work, so-called ‘silver entrepreneurs’ shun the idea of slowing down and instead build a new career using their previously untapped entrepreneurial spirit.


At 51 years old, Peter Doyle, a financial controller for Kerry Ingredients, was suddenly made redundant. It was this circumstance that led to him, along with four of his colleagues who were in the same position, to establish a brave new start-up called Key Ingredients. “We had a choice really of retiring or going back to work,” he explains. “But because we were given the benefit of the redundancy package, we were able to take on the risk of setting up our own business.” Since then, Doyle’s risk has paid off and today Key Ingredients is a profitable supplier of quality herbs, spices and seasoning blends across Ireland, the UK, USA and Canada. Like most start-ups the biggest challenge for Doyle was securing appropriate funding. While Doyle and his partners had the added benefit of their redundancy packages, initial start-up costs remained high with little profit. “We had the benefit of the redundancy and we were able to afford to pay ourselves low salaries, which a lot of start-ups do,” he says. Doyle credits his ability to pay himself a wage at all to the fact that his children were fully grown and less financially dependent on him, which he considers a significant advantage of being an older entrepreneur. “When you’re younger, if you had six kids in their nappies you probably couldn’t do it. For certain people in their fifties, if they are made redundant like we were, the timing of it can be quite appropriate to set up your own business.” This, along with years of experience working in the sector, is a major factor in the success of Key Ingredients today. In terms of advice to other senior entrepreneurs, Doyle recommends organisations such as ISAX and Local Enterprise Offices as good starting points for building a business and securing funding. “If you’re in a very small startup but you can get a grant of €20,000, it’s fantastic. There’s a very good scheme available whereby around 30 per cent of the grant has to be repaid back over three years and then they use that 30 per cent to lend to someone else.”


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Senior Entrepreneurs  Feature

Peter Doyle



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08/12/2016 09:48

Feature  Senior Entrepreneurs


Cathy Whitty is the founder of Spelt for Health, the baked goods company known for incorporating spelt flour into traditional breads and cakes. At 66 years old, Whitty’s new career came about after she experienced a severe anaphylactic shock one day while eating a slice of cake. Discovering she had developed a sudden intolerance to wheat, Whitty, an avid baker, adapted her skills by incorporating spelt flour into her homemade recipes. After a successful start and some hard graft which culminated in her supplying ‘ready to make’ recipes to retailers nationwide such as Dunnes Stores, Tesco and SuperValu, alongside exporting to Hong Kong, Dubai and the US, Whitty has turned her baking hobby into a thriving enterprise. “I actually thought that I’d just be doing a bit of baking for the local shop or maybe I’d bake for friends or family but I never ever thought this would happen,” she says. For Whitty, one unmistakable advantage of being a silver entrepreneur is the wide network of professional connections she’s amassed through her life. She says: “You definitely have the experience of life behind you and you probably have a wider circle of acquaintances and contacts.” She also notes that, because older entrepreneurs have less demands on their time, they can fully focus on their start-up. “Definitely being older and not having children was a benefit. I see my own children who have small children, it’s very hard to juggle between home and small children whereas I had the free time.” Whitty adds that not having financial dependents often allows senior entrepreneurs to make bolder but necessary business moves. “The older you get the more you think, ‘why not?’” One piece of advice Whitty passes on to would-be senior entrepreneurs is to use local resources and take part in initiatives such as the Start your Own Business course at Local Enterprise Offices that helped her map out an early business plan for Spelt for Health. She advises: “Have a chat with them and do a Start Your Own Business course. You’ll meet a lot of like-minded people there and you’ll gain valuable experience from them.”





John Brophy spent 21 years 3 months and two days working with AIB and a further 12 years at Fujitsu. Not that he was counting. As his 50th birthday approached, the recession hit and Brophy soon parted ways with his former employer. This push towards total independence was the catalyst that fuelled Brophy to start his own company, Carrig Solutions, which specialises in corporate IT solutions. “I guess a lot of the companies I had worked with, and they were big companies, I found trying to get anything new and anything different done was next nigh to impossible. I just wanted to try and run things my own way. So that was a lot of the motivation,” he explains. Thanks to his lifetime experience working within the IT sector, Brophy had the ability to offer clients a lifetime of knowledge and first hand experience. Yet, even though he considers this experience a valuable factor in his success, Brophy states that age won’t determine whether a business plan will be successful. “At the end of the day you can’t replace experience,” he says. “But I don’t think age matters in many ways. I mean you either run a business properly or you don’t.” As a mentor and speaker with ISAX, Brophy advises wouldbe entrepreneurs not to consider their mature status as a negative factor for their business. Equally he warns against relying too heavily on the trust that comes attached with age, in order to sell a business or product. “Fine, set up a business but don’t play on the senior market and don’t play on the fact that you’re senior, business is business. Nobody is going to make any exceptions. Frankly, nobody is going to buy from you just because you’re a particular age, whether that age is young or old. They’re going to buy from you if you’ve the right product and the right service on the market.” Above all, Brophy states that senior entrepreneurs need to be flexible with time, resources and even job titles. “A lot of people starting off at that level of age 50+ are thinking, ‘I’ll call the cleaner, I’ll call the marketing people or I’ll call the accountant.’ Sorry, when you’re running your own business you are all of them!” Without this flexibility, Brophy states that failure is inevitable for any entrepreneur. Now, aged 56, this silver entrepreneur is adamant that there is no immediate end in sight for either him or Carrig Solutions. He jokingly claims, “I’m too young to retire and too poor to quit!”

When 60-year old primary school teacher Áine Cuddihy retired in 2010 she had no intention of starting a new enterprise. However, the recession coupled with the unfortunate decline of the family B&B business meant Cuddihy found herself under extreme financial pressures. “There is this myth out there that everybody like me who sets up a business, they do it as a hobby, they do it because they have loads of money and they just want to spend it somewhere,” she explains. “I did it out of necessity. I did it as a result of the recession. I did it because I had to earn a living and my pension wasn’t good enough.” Cuddihy always harboured a passion for baking but with an empty nest at home she found that most of her large cakes ended up in the bin. This waste of quality product sparked the idea for Cuddihy’s fresh new business venture. Catering to other empty nesters, Cuddihy began making mini cakes, just big enough for two and named her enterprise, The Minicake Company. Forming the idea for the business proved to be the easy part as Cuddihy discovered that her age made securing finance for The Mini Cake Company a significant challenge. “I couldn’t go to a bank at my age and get money,” she says. “So I had to literally let the business fund the business.” Since then, the company has expanded substantially with the core of Cuddihy’s business focused on the wedding industry. Within this sector, Cuddihy notes, her age is an asset, especially when reassuring a client about the quality of her products and her own personal reliability. “My age actually really helped me because I found that people really trusted me,” she says. “ I give a fair price for my product and I’m also very conscious of giving a very good product. So many of my brides come to me and say ‘God, you’re just like my mammy!’” Looking to the future, Cuddihy would like to grow The Minicake Company even further by hiring staff, where she can use her skills as a teacher to educate trainees in both baking and business practice. She speaks with an enthusiasm which suggests she has a promising future ahead. “I have great plans, this business is not just going to be wedding cakes. I intend to grow a lot more.”


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08/12/2016 09:48

Senior Entrepreneurs  Feature Cathy Whitty

John Brophy

Áine Cuddihy


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08/12/2016 09:49

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07/12/2016 10:46

How To ...  Tips

Jennifer Casey, CSR Adviser, Business in the Community Ireland

e l b i s n o p s e er









INVEST TIME Investing a small amount of time in assessing, developing and communicating your responsible business practices (CSR) can pay off in the long term. You can increase your company’s competitiveness and strengthen company culture by putting a focus on your responsible business practices in one or more of the following areas: environmental management; community engagement; your marketplace of customers, suppliers and other stakeholders; your employees and workplace practices.

KNOW YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN Do you know the impact the products and services that you buy or sell have? Are your customers asking about your supply chain? Here are a few things you can start doing: sign up to the code to pay suppliers on time; support local suppliers where you can – it pays dividends in customer service; assess and improve engagement with your customers and how you handle complaints.


BE SUSTAINABLE Being sustainable makes sense for the planet and for your profits. There are many ways you can make improvements, such as: know what you are using – measure your energy, waste, water, travel and transport; choose what is most significant to your business operations; set targets to reduce them; get support from agencies such as, www.seai. ie, and www.; monitor these and continuously review.

TAPPING INTO TALENT You may be competing to recruit and retain the best employees, and finding it difficult to keep up. But smaller firms can compete with larger ones by doing the following: consider what training can develop the competence of all your staff; engage with employees on the business strategy and improvement plans – they have the best insight in their area of work; consider offering flexible working hours to create a family friendly workplace; check out what SFA supports are available.

SUPPORT LOCAL There are many reasons why businesses support their local communities. These range from personal reasons to a wish to build better relationships in the community to supporting employees. There are many things that you can do, such as: supporting a good cause in your local community through fundraising activities; providing work placements to students or disadvantaged groups; providing pro-bono support; participating in one of BITC’s business action programmes.

COMMUNICATE YOUR CSR Have you considered sharing your responsible activities with your network of customers? By focusing on one or two big impact items you can begin to form a simple message and improve business outcomes. You could start step-by-step by: communicating internally, which can result in a sense of pride; publishing highlights of your CSR on your website; include a summary of your activities in tenders or customer communications; create your sustainability report (for an example see www.responsiblebusiness. ie/sustainability-reports).

Prioritise actions.

You can’t do it all at once! Pick something that is important to your business. A bite-sized approach allows you to be focused and responsive to changes. If you want to get started, check out www. or email


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08/12/2016 09:51

Business  Cover Story



BETTER BUSINESS SPOKE TO PROF BARRY MCCLEARY, FOUNDER AND CEO OF MEGAZYME, ABOUT TAKING HIS R&D FIRM FROM A HOME GARAGE IN SYDNEY INTO A GLOBAL CEREAL SCIENCE RESEARCH FACILITY BASED OUT OF BRAY. Megazyme examines carbohydrates, like starches and fibres, in foods that we consume as well as the ones contained in animal feed. “For instance, if you feed a lot of wheat to chickens, it has a particular carbohydrate that basically gums up the animal and reduces the amount of food it can eat, and reduces the conversion of the food into body weight,” says McCleary in a distinct Australian accent. “By adding a little bit of enzyme, it breaks down this carbohydrate and has a major effect on feed digestion and conversion.” Megazyme doesn’t supply these industrial enzymes, rather it develops and

supplies the methods used to measure them. The company started out in Sydney, Australia back in 1988, after McCleary spotted an opportunity in the market. He had been working as a research scientist with the State Department of Agriculture and all his research showed that testing methods being used by cereal scientists were outdated and hadn’t been upgraded in 30 or 40 years. He resigned from his civil servant role and set up Megazyme with his then wife at the side of their house, which is where the company developed for the next eight years. The reason for coming to Ireland was

Photo: Jason Clarke

Analytical reagents, enzymes and assay kits; it can all be a bit technical when understanding what it is that Megazyme does and has been doing at its Bray offices and labs since 1996. Luckily, founder and CEO of the company, Prof Barry McCleary, breaks it down for us. “We develop test kits or simple methods to accurately measure carbohydrates and enzymes that affect cereal quality and the quality of the foods that come from cereals. That could be the quality of wheat going into bread, barley being processed into malt and beer and various cereals going into animal feed.”


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08/12/2016 09:58

Cover Story  Business



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Business  Cover Story partly personal (McCleary’s wife was Irish) but partly down to all that the country had to offer. “I can tell you the things that you hear from everybody else,” says McCleary. “One of the key reasons for coming over was that we were going to be a lot closer to our major markets which are the US, the UK and the rest of Europe, which meant we were on the same time frame. It’s a lot easier to visit the customers and to get to conferences and trade shows.” As with much of the Foreign Direct Investment in Ireland, the low corporate tax rate proved to be a significant draw. “It was around 33 per cent in Australia at the time I left,” recalls McCleary. “The other thing is that the R&D credits are great here. Because we are a research company and around 15 per cent of our gross turnover is from research and development, it gives us great tax credits.” Big Clients Megazyme has come a long way since its location at the side of McCleary’s Sydney home and its test kits now go into the measurement of cereal quality, food quality, fermentation products, dairy and wine and are used by household names such as Kelloggs, Kerry Foods and Unilever; as well as big corporations like Novozymes, the major Danish enzyme manufacturer, and DuPont; along with some of the world’s biggest analytical companies like Eurofins and Covance. McCleary gives us some indication of the scale of these companies. “We had a

SFA FACT Did you know? In 2013, Megazyme won overall prize at SFA’s National Small Business Awards. Since then, the company donates a €5,000 bursary to the overall award winner each year to give to a charity of their choice. “We have a very strong CSR policy in the company,” says McCleary. “We commit 2 per cent of our gross turnover to justice projects worldwide. We just think that we’re very lucky to be successful and growing, and it’s important to give something back.”


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08/12/2016 10:00

Cover Story  Business

“IT’S INTERESTING THAT SMALL COUNTRIES LIKE IRELAND AND AUSTRALIA BOTH PUNCH ABOVE THEIR WEIGHT IN R&D. ATTENDING CONFERENCES OR TRADE SHOWS IN THE STATES, FOR INSTANCE, WOULD SHOW THAT WE’RE DOING THINGS THAT YOU THOUGHT WOULD HAVE BEEN DONE THERE ALREADY.” meeting recently with Eurofins,” he says. “They have up to 300 analytical facilities worldwide with 30,000 employees. They’re a big customer of ours. We provide test kits to measure dietary fibre and starches. We also sell a lot of test kits into the wine industry – we have developed around 40 different tests for wine quality. Australia, for instance, would be a very big market for us, along with Chile and France more recently, while Italy and Spain are growing markets too.” These expanding markets are having a positive effect on the company’s bottom line. Average growth at Megazyme for 2015 and 2016 has been 12 per cent per annum. “Sometimes we find that one year is particularly good and the next year is a consolidating one. But the average for those two years is 12 per cent, which is about what we have had over the past eight to ten years.” Next year might be a different proposition however. That’s if some of the doomsday commentary around Brexit is to be believed. Nonetheless, businesses are worried. In the autumn/winter SFA business sentiment survey, Brexit and the sterling exchange rate were cited by members as the biggest risk factor for business over the coming year. Given that Megazyme is in the business of exporting, has there been any signs of a Brexit ripple effect so far? “It’s hard to know because a lot of our products are novel products,” says McCleary. “It’s not a matter of if they don’t buy it from us, they can buy it from someone else. It’s a matter of whether or not they’re willing to pay the extra 20 per cent because of the drop of value in sterling. So far there hasn’t been any major impact. I hope it stays that way but time will tell.” For now, Megazyme is focused on growth. At present, the company – which has a staff of 50, of which 30 are scientists – is building a new 10,000 square foot facility

in Bray, the last block of land available at the IDA Business Park. Due for completion in February 2017, it will act as a research and training laboratory which will enable Megazyme to train clients on site in how to correctly use the company’s testing methods. “Some of the methods are quite complex,” says McCleary. “We have made videos and these are on our website but we still feel there is an advantage to bringing in people and training them so that they then become apostles if you like. The bottom line is if someone buys a kit from you and they don’t get it to work, they’re never going to buy another one so it’s in our interest that they know exactly how to use the method and what the limitations and challenges are.” Megazyme has new products in the pipeline too. The company recently released new kits for measurement of enzymes involved in biomass breakdown. It is also waiting on the green light from the American Association of Cereal Chemists on its new method for dietary fibre. “A large part of our business is associated with analytical methods related to dietary fibre measurement so it’s very important for us to be seen to be leading the field,” says McCleary. “We’re delighted about the new method and we’re delighted that the evaluation went well so we’re now just waiting to get the nod that it has been accepted.” In terms of the R&D sector in Ireland, although McCleary admits to operating within a bit of a bubble due to the extensive travel involved in his role, he sees the industry here as being in a healthy state. From meeting people in other countries, he has seen evidence that the quality of science in Ireland is as good as anywhere else in the world. “It’s interesting that small countries like Ireland and Australia both punch above their weight in R&D,” he says. “Attending conferences or trade shows in the States, for instance, would show that

we’re doing things that you thought would have been done there already. In terms of the people I have met and dealt with, I’d say research in Ireland is alive and well.” When it comes to funding for the sector here, McCleary admits to not being in the know, and for good reason. “We don’t look to granting bodies for money at all; through the low corporate tax and the R&D credits, we get all the support we need.” While funding might not be a problem for Megazyme, one issue McCleary does view as a challenge facing the sector – both here and worldwide – is the issue of intellectual property (IP) rights when it comes to partnering with universities. Lately, there has been a steady rise in the number of start-ups that grow out of university-sourced innovations. Hence, several universities have started incorporating policies around ownership and rights for joint collaborations with businesses. “In most cases the university wants to own the IP,” says McCleary. “We are a research company so we develop a lot of IP ourselves. At this stage we are developing all our own IP. It would be beneficial if we could link with universities for R&D, however you wouldn’t be likely to do that if at the end you had no ownership of the IP. Why would you invest the time and energy? A look at that policy and somehow negotiating a middle ground would help greatly.” Loving The Job McCleary might just be around to see such policy change, as he has no plans to retire in the near future. He had a taste of that when he took a couple of months off last summer to travel and became eager to get back to his lab. “I love it,” he declares. “I absolutely love what I do. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that I’m getting older, as we all are. You just find that the batteries run out by around mid-afternoon or you’re at least moving at half the pace you’d like to be moving.” He does, however, see a future where he’ll share his time between Ireland, his adopted homeland, and his native Australia. “It’s a shame that Sydney and Dublin couldn’t be further away unless they were on another planet,” he says. “I have family there and it’s a fair old trek back. But I will probably spend more time in Australia in the future. I’ve always thought that I wouldn’t mind having an apartment there to go back to for three months of winter and catch the summer there. But that’s when I slow down and I haven’t quite slowed down yet.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 23

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08/12/2016 10:00

Feature  Upskilling



The upskilling of employees has long been seen as a challenge for small business owners. Ireland as a whole is currently experiencing a gaping skills shortage when compared to our European counterparts with only 6.2 per cent of employed persons here participating in lifelong learning. That’s compared with a European average of 11.4 per cent, according to a 2015 SFA survey. Now as the small business sector moves from recovery into growth this skills shortage needs to be addressed in order to keep Irish businesses and the wider economy competitive. When it comes to the benefits for businesses, upskilling can provide the obvious advantage of having more highly trained staff at a company’s disposal; staff who are also up to date on current industry trends. Additionally, upskilling employees can create a strong talent base within a company, generating an environment of innovation and advanced productivity. While small business owners recognise the rewards of filling skills gaps within their company, a number of barriers to engaging in such training are cited, among those are financial cost, time spent away from daily operations and a lack of awareness of the training services available. Tony Donohoe, Head of Education and Social Policy at Ibec, believes business owners should view the


initial cost of upskilling as an investment in the growth of their business, one which will garner significant returns. “Training is an investment,” he declares. “Developing a staff member’s skills or helping them train to gain new ones helps the business grow and keeps it competitive amid industry change. The starting point is convincing owner/ managers of the value of investing in their own training and that of their senior team.”

The Facilitator

Among the organisations enabling small businesses to access training and upskilling services is Skillnets, a Government initiative that facilitates training provision for member companies. In 2015 alone, It supported more than 13,000 companies and facilitated training for 48,000 employees and jobseekers. “We believe that training and upskilling are key elements in keeping Irish companies competitive,” explains Paul Healy, CEO, Skillnets. “While we don’t directly provide services in the areas of training and upskilling, we fund groups of companies in the same region/sector, and with similar training needs, through our more than 60 training networks across the country that deliver subsidised training to Irish businesses.” Skillnets provides both formal and informal training in a variety of


AS SMALL BUSINESSES EMERGE FROM SURVIVAL MODE AND LOOK TO GROW AND STAY COMPETITIVE, ON-SITE TRAINING AND UPSKILLING IS BECOMING AN EVER MORE IMPORTANT PROVISION. sectors including animation, business, construction, gaming, ICT, legal, radio, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. Along with these industries, the organisation identifies emerging skills trends and adapts courses accordingly. “Our Future Skills Needs Programme (FSNP) is designed to address emerging skills needs, and we have a track record in developing innovative new courses, including a series of bespoke qualifications in software development, medical technologies and aviation finance,” says Healy. Skillnets has recently launched its new Skillnets Statement of Strategy 2016-2019, which will see the organisation focus on three strategic goals that take into consideration its funding, national policy concerning the importance of developing skills and talent, the needs of enterprise and the economic context. “Training effectiveness, impact and relevance will be core to our activities,” says Healy. “We will promote continuous improvement in the learning experiences offered to small businesses and will be a model for training excellence in an enterprise context.” State agencies and Local Enterprise Offices also work alongside organisations like Skillnets to provide a broad range of programmes with a particular focus on areas such as leadership and management skills. Aside from the initial cost of training, another factor which prevents small companies from engaging in the upskilling of staff revolves around the difficulty of identifying which skills are in short supply in the first place. For a small business with


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08/12/2016 10:01

Upskilling  Feature

ABOVE: Minister Richard Bruton (centre) launches Skillnets Statement of Strategy 2016-2019 with Brendan McGinty, Skillnets’ Chairman, Andrew Kavanagh, CEO, Kavaleer, Geoff Dooley, XLVets Skillnets and Paul Healy, CEO, Skillnets FROM RIGHT: Tony Donohoe, Head of Education and Social Policy, Ibec; Paul Healy, CEO, Skillnets

“THE PROCESS CAN ALSO KEEP STAFF LOYAL – IT REINFORCES AN EMPLOYEE’S SENSE OF THEIR VALUE TO THE WORKPLACE. AND AN ENGAGED EMPLOYEE IS LESS LIKELY TO LEAVE.” a tight profit margin and limited resources, Healy suggests joining one of the Skillnets training networks in order to recognise which skills are in demand within your sector. “Most of our networks are free to join and offer an opportunity for small and medium businesses to grow their business network, to tackle skills shortages and to feed into the training options on offer, and highlight those which are required,” he says. Once skills gaps have been identified, Dominic Gibson, Digital Marketing Manager at Tracey Solicitors, a small business which has witnessed significant growth thanks to upskilling, recommends that employers ensure the company and employees’ goals are one in the same. “Once you have your vision and you know the steps you need to take, you need to look towards your best asset – your employees,” he says. “Work individually with each employee, know what they want and infuse that with the company’s vision.” While upskilling offers plenty of advantages to employers – such as how it can negate the need to hire additional staff to fill specific roles – it also has its benefits

for employees. Sentiment among staff who have participated in training or upskilling is typically positive, with many reporting a greater appreciation and satisfaction in the workplace. “More and more, training is being perceived as a constant cycle of evolution, renewal and empowerment,” says Tony Donohoe of Ibec. “The process can also keep staff loyal – it reinforces an employee’s sense of their value to the workplace. And an engaged employee is less likely to leave.” This was certainly the case for Tracey Solicitors, a company that testifies to having a much more connected workforce as a result of its upskilling endeavours, including management development training undertaken with Skillnets. Aisling Hogan, Solicitor at Tracey Solicitors, says: “Upskilling has led to an enthusiastic and empowered workforce that generate ideas for process improvement, new business ideas which benefit the business and the clients. Most importantly it helps maintain the knowledge sharing/uplifting/ empowered culture that we have today.” Sounds like a win-win for both parties.

SFA FACT Battling Brexit with Skills Skillnets has said that meeting the future skills needs of Irish small businesses and responding to the challenges and opportunities of Brexit will be key priorities for the agency in the coming years. Speaking in November 2016 at the launch of Skillnets’ Statement of Strategy 2016-2019, Chairman Brendan McGinty said: “The UK as a trading partner is particularly important to the SME sector. Brexit will undoubtedly present challenges to business owners but its impact can be moderated by specific training interventions that enhance productivity, that build the capacity to enter new markets, and that boost management competence overall.”


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08/12/2016 10:02

Advice  Wise Guys




Consultancy Geraldine Lavin Director, 3rdi


For me, business revolves around building and maintaining strong relationships. There is truth in the saying “people buy from people”, whether that’s buying into your business vision or buying your products and services. I’m a big believer in helping people, even if there is no obvious business benefit – it can be as simple as inviting someone to an event or sending them on information you think they will find useful. Anything that helps build your connection builds your relationship and the rewards will come from that.

How do we define success?

Events Tristan Wheeler Managing Director, Shoot Booth

For Shoot Booth, as a niche events supplier with a very specific set of photo booth services, it was important for us to establish what we do in the market. It’s important to know your worth, getting into a race to the bottom on pricing will compromise your business in the long run. Where necessary don’t be afraid to educate your clients on your services and how they differ from a proposed competitor. You can very easily be compared with another company like for like on paper when in reality the disparities can be huge.


Brewing Gráinne Walsh

Managing Director, Metalman Brewing

Being able to juggle multiple priorities is crucial when you’re running your own business. Production problems will never wait for a convenient time to occur (usually the opposite!) and everything else won’t just wait in the wings while broken things get fixed, so it’s important to be able to spread yourself across several things simultaneously without losing focus on the big picture. Quick decision making and great staff make it a lot easier!

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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08/12/2016 10:03

Wise Guys  Advice

“Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” Coco Chanel


Payments Jim Deignan

Managing Director, Payzone

In Payzone, we constantly focus on creating solutions that make consumers’ lives easier. Whether it is the introduction of enhanced features for ParkingTag or adding additional functionality to our 8,000 nationwide retailers, we try to put the customer at the heart of everything we do. Innovation is not always about dreaming of the next technology boom but more often about understanding the detail of what is in front of you and using this to drive your future expansion.

If you are a business leader


Travel James McManus Managing Director, Earth’s Edge

While working in the Himalayas 12 years ago, I learned of an ancient Sanskrit verse called ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ which loosely translates to ‘the Guest is the God’. It has always stuck with me and a mantra I constantly refer to in business. Customer centricity is essential in the travel industry and is key to repeat and referral business.

Coco Chanel

(August 19th, 1883 – January 10th, 1971) was a French fashion designer and businesswoman famous for her timeless designs, trademark suits and little black dresses.


Analytics Geraldine Magnier Director, Idiro Analytics

Due to their size, small businesses typically cannot hide behind large corporate branding. So delivery of genuine quality is a must. At Idiro this quality has stemmed from creating a strong company culture. A deliberately designed culture is integral to the health of the business and one achieved via a focus on soft HR application. In turn, managing within is easier. But the primary win is that our customers experience a team willing to go beyond the call of duty.

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


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08/12/2016 10:03

Sector Spotlight  Retail



retail FOR



actors such as increased competition, the softening of consumer demand, the growing popularity of online shopping and Brexit have all contributed to a more challenging environment for retailers in Ireland this year. Most notably, it has been small retailers operating in the border counties that have been hit hardest by the Brexit-associated weakness in sterling, which is driving some shoppers north of the border. “As the year has gone on, the general consumer sentiment has diminished and certainly retail sales have weakened over the last couple of months,” says Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland at Ibec. According to the group’s latest quarterly monitor, the value of retail sales in Ireland grew by 1.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2016 compared with the same period last year. Despite this, it was the slowest rate of growth recorded this year and comes on the back of other indices pointing to a slowdown in consumer demand. While the picture painted for retailers is not the most positive one, 2016 did begin with a strong sense of optimism, something highlighted by Eoin McCambridge of McCambridge’s, a fine wine and foods outlet in Galway. “Given that we’re based in Galway it has been a great year for tourism and that was thanks to sterling and the dollar being so strong and Ireland being seen as a safe place to visit. I would have been quite positive at the start of this year but I’m not sure now. I’m getting

more and more concerned about 2017 as the year goes on.” One standout trend for small retailers in 2016 has been a substantial increase in the volume of sales but a slower growth in terms of value. “What that tells us is that there’s quite a lot of discounting going on out there and there’s high levels of competition between retailers in order to attract footfall,” explains Burke. Then there’s Brexit. The surprise result back in June has already brought about new challenges for retailers such as currency fluctuation, but it also has the potential to create further impediments to trade such as taxes on imports and exports or even a hard border between North and South. Burke says: “Down the line, we’re looking at the potential reintroduction of tariffs and the complications that brings. This means that any retailers that source products in the UK may find that in the future it will be a little bit more complicated and logistically difficult in terms of moving products between the two islands.” Tom Muckian, owner and operator of Roe River Books, a small bookshop located in the border town of Dundalk, believes that Brexit isn’t an immediate concern for the small business community. “The thing with Brexit is that it hasn’t happened yet,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk, there’s a lot of speculation and, as with most things in life, the reality of any given situation is often never as bad as it’s made out to be because there’s an element of sensationalism about it.”


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08/12/2016 10:04

Retail  Sector Spotlight

For retailers like Muckian, the deciding factor for Brexit’s true impact hinges on whether or not a hard border is introduced and how rigidly it would be controlled. “From a retail point of view, we probably won’t be as badly affected. If someone has to go North and take their passport with them and go through customs, people may not bother,” he says. Muckian does note, however, that if access through the border remains hassle-free, shoppers in the region will be inclined to favour competitive pricing across the border, a sentiment echoed by Burke at Retail Ireland. “The weakening of sterling has presented a new challenge for retailers, small and big alike, in the sense that now there is the potential of a return to the cross border issue,” he says. “We could potentially see people going back across the border to do their shopping. That’s especially concerning for those retailers who may be in the vicinity of the border.” It’s an added pressure for retailers that are already preparing for a rise in the minimum wage which comes into effect in January. Muckian, however, is not overly fazed by the currency fluctuation currently being witnessed, stating that it’s a challenge that has faced businesses at the border in previous years, and not something that has only emerged since the announcement of Brexit. “Sterling difference is something that goes up and down all the time and I would have seen it, even as it is now, maybe going back three or four years ago. Back then there was no talk of Brexit so there wasn’t as much of an issue

made of it.” Muckian surmises that it is the uncertainty and fear among consumers and business owners that will most likely see sterling remain in decline for some time. Small retailers as a whole face further challenges as consumers continue to take their shopping online. Online retailers and shipping companies have made shopping from home more convenient and affordable than ever with consumers now able to source products from all over the world at relatively little expense. Burke outlines the challenge it poses: “The emergence of the online platform over the last couple of years has made it easier for Irish consumers to purchase products from retailers that aren’t based here in Ireland and that’s added a new dimension to the sector. What is of concern is that very few Irish businesses have really built up their e-commerce platform.” According to Burke, this is due in large part to a general reluctance to invest in a proper website, choosing to focus on delivering value in store instead.


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08/12/2016 10:04

Sector Spotlight  Retail

Photo: Cristian Găitan

LEFT: Tom Muckian, owner and operator, Roe River Books BELOW: Thomas Burke, Director, Retail Ireland

Due to the popularity of online shopping most independent and small businesses now find themselves not only competing with each other but also in direct competition with their own suppliers. While in the past companies would have relied on smaller stores to sell their products, now customers are bypassing this link in the chain by buying directly from the supplier online. As a result, some suppliers are no longer seeking small retailers to stock their brands, instead favouring larger central stores or direct online retail. For a small business like Roe River Books this is less of a concern as its core trade is typically dependent on destination shoppers. These are the consumers who travel to independent stores like Muckian’s for a specific product they can’t source elsewhere, even online. Muckian believes that the ability to offer unique or specialised products allows small business owners to compete with the online market. “If you go to a small independent retailer, be it a clothes shop, a shoe shop or a book shop like my own, you’re seeing different products that you wouldn’t necessarily see in a chain store,” he says. “People come to us because of quirky ranges and slightly different products that we offer.” From a consumer point of view, 2016 has offered a particularly competitive market whereby high quality products have become available at affordable prices. While this is causing retailers to be squeezed by consumers demanding price reductions to reflect the sterling devaluation, it is also bringing in more customers, something recognised by Blooming Baskets, a Dublin-based company specialising exclusively in designer hanging baskets of flowers. The retailer has experienced an increase in demand and turnover during 2016. “Our outlook for 2017 is very optimistic and we are hopeful that we will enjoy a repeat of the new sales which came our way in 2016,” says proprietor Catriona Byrne. “I believe that the biggest issue facing


SFA FACT Did you know? Figures from the Central Bank show that consumer spending grew at its slowest rate for 17 months in October 2016 while e-commerce spending jumped 15 per cent.

small business and the retail industry is meeting this demand for increased services and products whilst we maintain standards and profit margins.” Current trends also reveal a change in how consumers view brand loyalty in recent years. While previously consumers would have remained loyal to their preferred store, recent research suggests they are now willing to review multiple retail outlets before purchasing a product. According to Burke, this trend can have a positive impact for the small retailer. “The days of consumer loyalty and customer loyalty to a brand or to a specific retailer are starting to wane. But on the flipside of that we have seen consumers begin to shop in various locations now. So where they might have traditionally done their grocery shopping in one big grocery shop each week, the data and research now suggests that they’re doing three to four visits a week, at a minimum, to a variety of different types of shops.” Despite the somewhat apprehensive outlook of retailers in Ireland, Burke maintains that small businesses within the sector will continue to successfully navigate new challenges. “By their nature they’re pretty adaptable, they’re quick to move and quick to react to what consumers want,” he says. “That’s certainly a positive for them.” For the moment small retail businesses, particularly those in border counties, will continue to face challenges and uncertainties. But most will not go down without a fight. Many small retailers are slowly transitioning into part-online businesses through the use of trading online voucher schemes and by receiving additional training to help them embrace e-commerce. Nonetheless, more support from Government will be needed and business owners like Muckian are calling for further action to help their cause. “I’d like to see more done with practical, hands-on help for small businesses rather than all this broad brushstroke stuff, which looks great on election manifestos and brings a couple of hundred jobs to Dublin, but by inference kills a couple of jobs in small towns and villages around the country.”


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08/12/2016 10:05

“When the app hit 50,000 users, we knew we had to think bigger... By entering new markets we’ve trebled customer subscriptions”


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Discover how Europe can help you reach new customers. Being in Europe opens your business up to millions of new customers. The Enterprise Europe Network can help you find the contacts, financing and advice you need to successfully market your products or services throughout the European Union. Want to know more? Find the Enterprise Europe Network in Ireland at We’ll help you open your business to Europe.


Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

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07/12/2016 10:47

Small Business Profile  Ryans Cleaning



THE QUEEN’S JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS AT HYDE PARK IN LONDON MAY HAVE SEEMED A LONG WAY FROM TIPPERARY FOR RYANS CLEANING BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP THE THURLES COMPANY FROM HAVING HIGH AMBITIONS. Have you ever been to a concert and witnessed the swarm of cleaners that descend upon the venue seconds after an act closes? Well there’s big business in it, and Thurles-based company Ryans Cleaning is undoubtedly one of the leaders in the field. The family-run business was established back in 1985 by Pat Ryan and his wife Philomena, and during much of its infancy, its primary focus was to provide a professional cleaning service to the business community in Co Tipperary. But that all changed in the early ‘90s with the emergence of the Féile music festival in Semple Stadium, Thurles. Ryans Cleaning was approached to put together a team of cleaners for the festival’s second year in 1991. It would prove to be a significant contract and one which would pivot the

business to focus on large events and open valuable connections within the industry. “It’s from Féile that Pat made his initial contacts with the likes of MCD so it played a large part in how the business expanded,” explains General Manager Elaine Ryan, who, despite her surname, is no relation to Pat. “He then went from the likes of Féile to providing cleaning services for the Slane concerts and then he moved into racecourses in Ireland. The live music industry is small enough so he was able to move into the indoor festivals such as the 3 Arena in Dublin and the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.” Ryans Cleaning now counts the likes of Croke Park Stadium, Dublin Zoo and the 3 Arena among its major clientsin Ireland, generally venues that require a quick turnaround in terms of a full-scale cleaning

SFA FACT Did you know?

Ryans Cleaning offices in Thurles

Ryans Cleaning is clearly setting the standard in the cleaning industry. It was the first company in Europe to have the four ISO certifications of ISO 901, ISO 1401, ISO 1801 and the event specific ISO 2121. The company is also a finalist in the Sustainable Energy category in the SFA National Small Business Awards 2017.

service – something that the company prides itself on being able to deliver. “Anyone can clean the place once they have enough time,” says Ryan, “but it’s when you need to have a quick turnaround, that’s where the challenge lies. That’s something that Pat is very proud of. Before our time at these venues, the gates would often have to be pushed out an hour later than initially planned because the event arena wasn’t clean enough to be opened. But that has not once happened in the length of time that Ryans Cleaning has been in operation. That’s something that Pat is absolutely stringent on – it will not be the fault of the cleaners if the gates don’t open on time.” Branching Out It’s this dedication and attention to service that finally took Ryans Cleaning across the water to the UK, with Telford’s V Festival in 2005 proving to be the foot in the door to a very lucrative market. The UK side of the business saw growth year on year and through its work with event organisers Live Nation, Ryans Cleaning won a spate of contracts including the Download and Latitude festivals, culminating in the company becoming the official cleaners for a number of side events around the London Olympics in 2012. That same year the company was also chosen to be the sole cleaning provider for the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations in Hyde Park – no mean feat for a small business based in Thurles. Today, Ryans Cleaning has a UK office


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08/12/2016 10:06

Ryans Cleaning  Small Business Profile

“ANYONE CAN CLEAN THE PLACE ONCE THEY HAVE ENOUGH TIME BUT IT’S WHEN YOU NEED TO HAVE A QUICK TURNAROUND, THAT’S WHERE THE CHALLENGE LIES.” based in Birmingham and the UK market now accounts for 50 per cent of the company’s business. So Ryan and co must surely be watching developments on Brexit with bated breath. “It is the big unknown. While we all accept that there will be some sort of agreement in place, we are exposed as a lot of our work is UK-based,” says Ryan. “In saying that, we have staff that we send over as well so the fear is that there would be uncertainty there regards travel arrangements and what measures would need to be put in place and whether that could all get done in time for the next event season, which I’m sure it can be, but there is a level of uncertainty there.” In terms of staff numbers, Ryans Cleaning has a core team of around 45 people but additional temporary staff bump up the numbers during peak periods. The company estimates that turnover for 2016 will be up 16 per cent on last year for the Irish side of the busines with a 6 per cent increase on the UK front. So things are looking up for the company, and while Brexit might be the obvious barrier to business growth, Ryan cites stricter environmental measures and the issue of workers’ pay as two other challenges facing businesses operating in the cleaning industry. She says event organisers often don’t understand the costs involved in complying with high environmental standards – they’ll pay all the money in the world to advertise their green credentials, but will question

Pat and Philomena Ryan, founders of Ryans Cleaning being awarded all four standards for the company

the cost, for example, of bringing a bailer onsite to separate waste. Ryan believes it’s all about educating their customers about what’s involved in living up to their promise of being green. And then there’s the issue of wages. Ryan is calling on the Government to ensure all cleaning operators are complying with the Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) signed into effect in 2015. “You have the challenge of the minimum wage but you also have an agreement in place – an ERO – for the cleaning industry, which sets a higher rate than the minimum wage for cleaners. We could do with some support from the Government in enforcing compliance across the industry so that you’re not competing with another firm which is not complying with the rules.” Looking to the new year and beyond, Ryans Cleaning has its eyes on futher expansion in the UK, particularly on stadium events given that it has proven its ability to operate at Croke Park, the third largest stadium in Europe. There’s also plans to win more contracts at racecourses there. “Pat has been doing the racecourses

Patrick Ryan, Chief Operations Officer and Elaine Ryan, General Manager

for donkey’s years,” says Ryan. “That’s really his bread and butter. He does them all; Galway racecourse, Limerick racecourse, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, Leopardstown, Tipperary, Limerick; it’s what we know so we’ll pursue that sector in the UK.” Brexit? It looks like they haven’t been told about it in Thurles.


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08/12/2016 10:06

Interview  AJ Noonan



AS AJ NOONAN HANDS OVER SFA CHAIRMANSHIP TO HIS SUCCESSOR, HE TELLS FIONA KELLY ABOUT THE MOOD AMONG SMALL BUSINESSES IN IRELAND AND REFLECTS ON HIS FOUR-YEAR TENURE. “It’s good when you hear Government using your phrase back to you.” The phrase which outgoing SFA Chairman, AJ Noonan, is referring to, and which became his mantra during his term in office is: “We need to stop discrimination against small business.” He describes the recognition of the obstacles facing small businesses as one of the more “intangible successes” which he has achieved during his four-year tenure. When Noonan was first elected back in 2012, the business climate in the country

was particularly difficult. “It was a very different Ireland. It was all about cuts, it wasn’t about growth, the troika were in town, there was very little funding for business,” he recalls. Although the country has seen substantial economic recovery, he believes that business owners still face a unique set of challenges. “While there has been some recognition of the contribution business makes to the economy, it is still by no means enough. There is no reward in Ireland for wealth creators and risk takers compared with other countries throughout the OECD.” Having travelled the country extensively during his period in office, Noonan questions the extent to which SFA members are feeling the recovery. “It’s regionalised, it’s geared towards export-orientated companies, there are a lot of small businesses in this country, particularly in rural Ireland, that are still struggling greatly within the domestic economy and there is nothing there for them and there was nothing in the budget for them except platitudes.” As he departed office on December 1st, Noonan identified funding as an issue which will continue to top the agenda. “The years before I took office were characterised by a kind of irrational exuberance when it came to lending

which moved, after the crash, to a mood of completely irrational fear of lending. The pendulum now is moving towards a more even place but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is need for more competition in the banking and finance sector.” Noonan lists the establishment of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) as one of the key policy wins for the SFA in recent years. “It is something which we had been calling for and it was a great initiative by Government,” Noonan remarks, adding that it has done much to ensure that Irish businesses have access to long-term funding. Another scheme that the SFA had some input into establishing was the Employment & Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS), which replaced the Business Expansion Scheme (BES) and which allows individual investors to obtain tax relief on investments. One area of policy which Noonan believes is in need of radical overhaul is the procurement process for Government tenders. “They have created these monoliths of contracts which small businesses can’t tender for. It’s a big, big issue for small businesses in rural communities where you have two or three factories that supply all the local wealth, pay all the local wages on a Friday.


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08/12/2016 10:07

AJ Noonan  Interview

AJ Noonan with Dr Con Power, FCCA and retired Economic Affairs Director, Ibec

Smaller companies are being priced out of the market by pricing policies which are driven by cost but which don’t take the bigger picture into account. Other countries throughout Europe are very careful to protect their business community while ours just isn’t.” Hailing from the west of Ireland, Noonan has seen first-hand how rural communities have been decimated by job losses as a result of local companies


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08/12/2016 10:07

Interview  AJ Noonan

losing contracts to multinationals. “These are businesses which have supplied anything from the chairs in your local school to multi-million euro printing contracts. There has been no cost benefit analysis of the real cost to the economy for the pennies that have been saved by letting those contracts go overseas. It comes down to knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing.” The regional imbalance is also of concern to Noonan who cites that 40 per cent of economic activity in this country is based in Dublin. “It’s one of the highest in the Western world, it’s not sustainable.” He believes that investment in a motorway infrastructure which would link all of our cities to each other and facilitate the creation of a number of hubs in the cities outside Dublin is essential. “We need a better infrastructure to allow the country to grow. There are huge opportunities if we allow ourselves to take them but there is a real lack of ambition within Government,” according to Noonan. He is particularly critical of the left-leaning members of the current Dáil. “They’re not interested in being in Government, they’re not interested in solutions, they’re interested in badgering on, saying ‘tax the wealthy’, instead of doing it the absolute opposite way and saying, ‘look, we want to reward the wealth creators and then more taxation will come in to fund their projects’. It’s not Einstein stuff, when you reduce capital taxation, the revenues increase,” he insists. Ireland’s ability to attract inward investment also concerns Noonan who suggests that if we hope to attract investors to Ireland, particularly in the post-Brexit environment, we need to think about a lot more than our corporation tax rates. “Executives are looking at factors like housing and schooling and the overall culture of a place and, while we might win on some of those fronts, if we can’t get our own kids into schools and if we don’t have enough houses for our own people and have no particular strategy on how to build and how to fund houses, then they’re not going to come,” he asserts. On a more upbeat note, the Mayo

SFA FACT Did you know? AJ’s real name is Aeneas Joseph Noonan. Aeneas was the mythical hero of Troy and Rome, son of the goddess Aphrodite and Anch.

man is able to list a number of practical changes at policy level which the SFA has been instrumental in bringing about. These include the reduction in capital tax; changes to the EIIS - “It has been made less cumbersome although it is still a cumbersome beast”; and progress which has been made on the credit guarantee scheme. The Government’s commitment to the introduction of an employee share scheme in the next budget is a further measure which Noonan cites as an example of an incentive which can allow the country to retain tax revenues while attracting new industries. He is also largely positive about the Action Plan for Jobs initiative which, he believes, put an emphasis on creating jobs and making a coordinated attempt to remove bottle-necks and other obstacles hindering job creation. He credits the then Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and


Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, as being the driving force behind the programme. He is notably less positive, however, about the decision to relocate the Local Enterprise Offices: “The County Enterprise Boards might have needed revamping and modernising but they didn’t need to be moved out into County Council offices. It changes the dynamic, there’s nothing wrong with Country Council offices but they are a seat of administration, a seat of bureaucracy and a seat of government, they’re not a seat of enterprise.” Regarding the association for whom he has been the representative voice for the past four years, Noonan admits to having huge admiration for the 8,500 SFA member companies: “Many of our members have been in business for more than 20 years, so they know how to keep going in good times and bad.” The introduction of a new constitution that dealt primarily with governance issues, developed a five-year strategic plan and, according to Noonan, “brought us into the 21st century” was another task which he successfully completed. Although he says that it was a privilege to play such a prominent role in representing the small business community during such a period of economic and social change, he is ready to move on. “It’s time to hand over the baton. A fresh voice and a fresh approach is needed. We have a fantastic council that represents all facets of Irish life and Irish business and my successor can carry on working with them.” Having cut his teeth in a representative capacity as President of the DIT Students Union in Rathmines, he completely dismisses the prospect of a future career in politics. Although he spent the early years of his career working in recruitment, Noonan has been self-employed now for 26 years and heads up a small team on his own. “Partners are for dancing!” is his quipped response to a query about whether he works alone or in partnership. His company, Rhonellen Developments Ltd, specialises in the student accommodation and nursing home sector and, like anyone in the property market, in recent years, it has been more about survival than growth. “I’m looking forward to building the business over the coming years,” he says. Will there be a void in his life now that he has stepped down as SFA Chairman? “If there is,” he replies, “it will quickly be filled with work, a bit of golf, a bit of craic and more time spent with my wife and two children.”


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08/12/2016 10:08

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07/12/2016 10:49 05/09/2016 09:51

Feature  Knowledge Development Box


It’s just over two years since Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced, in what was his fourth Budget speech, the abolition of the controversial ‘Double Irish’ structure. The decision to ditch the Double Irish tax loophole had been well flagged and followed a period of increased pressure on Ireland, predominantly from the European Commission. The Double Irish technique effectively allowed multinationals to route money earned outside the US, through Irishregistered entities, to offshore tax havens. The changes announced by Noonan in October 2014 meant that the Double Irish was cut off to new companies who established in Ireland from January 2015 onwards. Companies already here, who were already using the structure, were told they had until the end of 2020 to phase it out. Losing the Double Irish was viewed by many as a potential threat to Ireland’s ability to keep enticing lucrative FDI to these shores. But Minister Noonan wasn’t

about to admit defeat and talked about the ending of the Double Irish as part of a revamped corporate taxation regime. The cornerstone of this new arrangement, Noonan said, would be the establishment of the Knowledge Development Box (KDB), a new system which would encourage companies to locate research in Ireland by offering them a lower tax rate on the commercialisation of this research. Based heavily on the UK Patent Box, which had been introduced a year previous, the KDB was introduced for companies under the Finance Act 2015 for accounting periods commencing on or after January 1st 2016. A company that qualifies for the KDB is entitled to a deduction equal to 50 per cent of its qualifying profits from the computation of profits in its specified trade. What this means in practice is that the profits arising from patents, copyrighted software or IP equivalent to a patentable invention are taxed at 6.25 per cent as opposed to the usual 12.5 per cent.

What’s in it for Small Firms?

In October this year, Minister Mitchell O’Connor announced the publication of a bill that will make it easier for small firms to avail of the Knowledge Development Box. The scheme, through the publication of a bill entitled Knowledge Development Box (Certification of Inventions) Bill 2016, is to be made available to small firms through a certification process, which will be overseen by the Patents Office. Under the new scheme, the Patents Office will be the body certifying applications for inventions under the new certification scheme to check that they meet the criteria of being novel, useful and non-obvious. It is hoped that the Bill will be passed by the end of 2016. The pitch from Minister Mitchell O’Connor is that the scheme will serve to significantly boost Irish innovation and investment in research and development. “The aim of the Bill is to boost and encourage Irish-based innovation. Developing new innovative products is high risk and can often take time to develop. This scheme will allow a company or a start-up re-invest in their business as they will be able to retain a greater proportion of their earnings. This is something that can


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08/12/2016 10:09

Knowledge Development Box  Feature

specifically drive innovation in the Irish small business sector.” She continues: “I see this scheme as assisting those companies that wish to scale-up. We have many terrific companies developing innovative products but are sometimes bought out before they develop their full potential. This scheme will assist companies achieve scale. Innovation is at the heart of our economic recovery and growth, and when this legislation is enacted we will have in place a Knowledge Development Box to suit the needs of all enterprises, large and small.”

Global R&D Credentials

An attractive R&D tax environment is an important requirement for Ireland if it is to continue to be a location that companies want to base themselves in and scale up. Ireland’s innovation credentials received a boost recently with the latest KPMG Innovation Monitor, a study carried out

each autumn which assesses the attitudes of over 200 Irish businesses to innovation, identifying that the majority (70 per cent) of Irish businesses believe Ireland is innovation friendly. According to Damien Flanagan, Director at KPMG: “At a time when businesses face rapid change and disruption, nurturing innovation has never been more important. While 70 per cent of the businesses who participated in our research consider Ireland to be innovation friendly, only one third believe that there is effective interaction between the various funding regimes, non-finance supports, collaborative opportunities, access to key talent and so on. The most significant influence on their decision to innovate is the availability of funding, while access to qualified in-house personnel and the availability of the R&D Tax Credit is also very important.” However, the KPMG study also found that the majority (57 per cent) of Irish businesses were not aware of the Knowledge

Development Box. Flanagan noted that once the Knowledge Development Box had been explained to respondents, the majority viewed it as attractive. “We know from our research that 60 per cent of companies with patents or copyrighted software (the type of assets which qualify for the KDB) intend to, or are already, generating income from these assets. These are the companies that the KDB is designed for – it would be a shame if they missed out on claiming the KDB because of a lack of awareness,” added Flanagan. The KPMG report provides a useful insight into where Ireland’s R&D offering could be improved. Interestingly, companies indicated they would like to see more grants and incentives being made available. There is also a need for easier access to funding particularly for entrepreneurs, start-ups and smaller companies. Respondents also noted the need for better communication about incentives and supports for Irish companies,


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Feature  Knowledge Development Box

KDB An Example Company A, a small Irish indigenous business • Incurred €500,000 on its own R&D activity relating to the development of a qualifying asset • No outsourced R&D • Net profits of €1m relating to the qualifying asset • The amount of qualifying profit available for the KDB tax rate would be: €500,000 ÷ €500,000 x €1m = €1m • Therefore, the full €1m is available for the reduced KDB rate. • The corporation tax payable in this instance would be €62,500, versus €125,000 without the KDB.

with many reporting difficulties accessing information, understanding application procedures and obtaining feedback.

Accessing Supports

R&D is a crucial part to any business with designs on growth. Trouble is, it’s typically expensive and that can present a major challenge for small companies. Whether you’re planning to undertake R&D for the first time or looking to take an existing project to the next level, there are plenty of Government supports available to help small firms. Enterprise Ireland offers a number of R&D supports to companies. These include a Technical Feasibility Study grant, which is aimed at supporting a company in the development of a detailed R&D plan. The grant is available to firms with more than 10 employees who are manufacturing or operating a service in Ireland. Enterprise Ireland will provide up to 50 per cent of eligible expenditures to a maximum grant of up to €35,000. The grant covers looking at solutions available in the third level sector, prototype development and an analysis of the commercial feasibility of the project. Applications for the grant can be made at any stage during the year through the agency’s online application system. Enterprise Ireland has also developed the Innovation Voucher initiative, which

aims to build links between Ireland’s third level institutions and small businesses. Innovation vouchers worth €5,000 are made available to assist a company or companies to explore a business opportunity or problem with a registered knowledge provider. For firms looking to diversify their product offering, the Research, Development & Innovation (RD&I) Fund is worth a look. Through this fund, small firms can be funded up to 45 per cent of expenditures of R&D projects, up to a maximum of €650,000. The bigger pot of cash on offer is a result of more ambitious requirements. According to EI: “Projects must be non-routine and represent a ‘stepup’ for the company in terms of the level of RD&I capability.” The fund can be used to: establish an R&D budget; establish an R&D team with high level skills; develop quality facilities for R&D; or to develop good quality R&D management systems and procedures. Another Enterprise Ireland offering is the Enterprise Ireland R&D Fund: Small Projects. The Small Projects fund, offering up to €150,000, was set up to support companies undertaking R&D for the first time or companies progressing R&D activity in the business. The fund is geared towards businesses looking to: establish or increase R&D activity; develop a connection between R&D and the overall business objectives; establish or increase the R&D capability of a company; or establish or develop quality R&D management systems and procedures. Applications are considered on a monthly basis and the maximum grant rates for all companies that apply for the fund is up to 50 per cent of the total cost of the project. Grant rates are determined by the size of the company. Údarás na Gaeltachta also offers a grant to assist businesses developing innovative products and services. The grant covers a range of costs, including R&D salaries, directly related additional overheads, the cost of capital assets for the duration of the research project, costs of contractual research, technical knowledge and patents bought or licensed from outside sources and other operating expenses. The application form and more information on the scheme is available on the Údarás website. Local Enterprise Offices offer Feasibility Study Grants. The grant of up to €15,000 covers assistance with innovation including specific consultancy requirements, hiring of expertise from third level colleges’ private specialists, design and prototype development. All the information you need is available on the LEO website.


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08/12/2016 10:09



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07/12/2016 10:35 26/01/2016 09:04

Interview  Trading Places



FROM ONE TRAVEL BLOG TO SEVERAL HUNDRED WEBSITES, JOHNNY WARD HAS BUILT STEP4WARD MEDIA FROM THE GROUND, SHARING LIFE ON THE ROAD WITH THOUSANDS OF ONLINE FOLLOWERS. CONOR FORREST CAUGHT UP WITH THE BUSY BLOGGER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BUSINESS AND HIS PLAN TO VISIT EVERY COUNTRY ON THE PLANET. Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, is a schedule that most of us must contend with, whether by choice or through necessity. There are some, however, who have rejected that notion, leaving behind the traditional working world to follow their dreams. Take blogger and entrepreneur Johnny Ward, for example. Ward’s desire to travel the world was sparked at a young age – growing up in a single parent family without much money in Co Down, he recalls being jealous of his more affluent classmates jetting off for the

Johnny with armed forces in Mogadishu, Somailia

continent or the US, while he remained at home. His chance came when he left university, where he had studied finance, completing his last exam on a Thursday afternoon and boarding a plane the next morning at 9am for the US, where he funded his sightseeing by working as a counsellor in a special needs camp. When he returned to Belfast, the travel bug had well and truly blossomed. Boosting his bank balance once more by taking part in medical research, he got himself a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) qualification

and booked a one-way flight to Thailand in 2007, spending the next two years jumping from pillar to post in Thailand and Korea, teaching English, using his savings to do some travel, and then returning to the English schools when his coffers ran low.

Building a Brand Ward’s travels in Asia continued until 2009, when he began to wonder if he should settle down and get a ‘real job’. Rather than move back to Ireland, his itchy feet took him to Australia, where he found a well paid job doing business to business sales. He was undoubtedly successful, earning $20,000 commission in the space of one month, but he wasn’t happy. However, the burgeoning blogosphere was about to offer some muchneeded inspiration, sending his life on a tangent he might never have imagined. Ward had heard about several travel bloggers making decent incomes from advertising on their travel blogs. Having read several of the more popular blogs, which he dismissed as “generic rubbish”, he figured that his own travel experiences over the years were interesting enough to share with the world, and started his own blog, One Step 4Ward. Within one year he was making enough money from one


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Trading Places  Interview

Around the World in 197 countries When we spoke, Ward had just received some good news – from ‘banging my head against a brick wall for six months’, that day he got the go ahead to travel to Yemen. That might be an unusual and unattractive destination for most travellers, but visiting Yemen brought him one step closer to visiting every country in the world (197 according to the United Nations), a dream he hopes to realise this year when he visits the last country on the list, Norway – a more relaxing atmosphere to celebrate his achievement with family and friends.

Johnny Ward, Founder of Step4Ward Media, hanging out in Central Asia

“I JUST THINK PEOPLE NEED TO GET ONLINE. I FEEL LIKE IT’S SUCH A REDUNDANT MINDSET TO QUANTIFY PEOPLE’S OUTPUT BY THE AMOUNT OF HOURS THEY PHYSICALLY SPEND IN AN OFFICE; IT’S SUCH AN ANTIQUATED BELIEF.” blog to never teach English again. More importantly, it gave him the freedom to follow his own path and drive his own success. “I just think people need to get online. I feel like it’s such a redundant mindset to quantify people’s output by the amount of hours they physically spend in an office; it’s such an antiquated belief,” he explains. “The output should be the actual output, it shouldn’t be based upon the salary you get paid, the amount of hours that you spend in the office, or having to commute to work. I feel like in 50 years people are going to joke about the fact that people had to do that, it’s ridiculous.”

By 2011, Ward was making $1,000-2,000 a month from just one website, rising to five figures as the months ticked by, while working five or ten hours a week. For some, that would be enough to retire from the working world and coast from country to country, or at least sit in their pyjamas all day playing PlayStation without worrying about the bills. Not so for Ward. One website barely scratched the surface of his ambition – he wanted more. Six months after moving back to Thailand, he began to wonder how much he could make from two, ten or 50 websites, and he began to expand, growing his stable to more than 250 websites, and developing what is now

Step4Ward Media, which aims to help businesses understand the digital world. Ward’s life is undoubtedly an attractive one – he talks about short work weeks, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, swimming with sharks, attending the World Cup final, and buying an apartment in Bangkok. He’s constantly encouraging others to follow his lead, whether through the regular interviews he’s asked to do or though his blog. His sister has also started a blog and is planning an extended trip to Thailand – Ward’s adoptive home and base for three or four months of the year – with her family, and Ward his looking forward to helping her make the same break that he did. “The first thing that people need to do, if they want to be free, they really need to get out of that mindset where we attribute success in the workplace by grinding out the hours. If you were to say to your family and your friends ‘I don’t really like my job, I’m going to spend the next 40 years of my life fighting to get to the top of the pyramid’ – bearing in mind that it is a pyramid, there’s only room at the top for X amount of people – people would think that’s completely sane to do that!” says Ward. “Whereas if you were to tell someone ‘Listen, I read about this Irish guy online, and he seems to have got it figured out a bit better, I’m going to go and spend two or three years risking it all and see if I can actually live a life that I want to live. But people would think you’re mental to try that, but you’re completely sane to spend 40 years doing the opposite! Madness. And anyway, if you fail you’ll have brilliant fun at least.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 43

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Business Books  Extract


TAKEN FROM THE BOOK TIMELESS PRINCIPLES OF EXCEPTIONAL BUSINESS: SHARED WISDOM FROM 25 YEARS OF TAB, RAY BRUN, A CALIFORNIA-BASED FACILITATOR AND COACH WITH THE ALTERNATIVE BOARD, EXAMINES THE IMPORTANCE OF DIFFERENTIATING YOUR OFFERING IN BUSINESS. I recently heard a story about a woman in Florida who discovered palmetto bugs – which are sort of like cockroaches – crawling out of her drain one morning. She immediately Googled an exterminator who quickly came, got rid of the pests, and left a reasonably priced bill for services rendered. Unfortunately, the bugs returned a few weeks later, but she couldn’t remember the name of the exterminator she used. But it didn’t really matter, did it? After all, one exterminator is the same as the next, right? So she searched Google again and called someone else. The new exterminator came out, sprayed all the drains and left a fair bill for his service. But this time there was one difference. After the exterminator left, the woman discovered a red rose on her countertop alongside a note thanking her for her business. Should the woman experience another bug problem, do you think she will call the second exterminator? You bet she will. Even more importantly, she will likely tell her friends and family about the red rose she received. She may even write a review online about her experience. In turn, the exterminator will gain new customers directly by referrals from this impressed

customer. In business there is no more cost-effective way to acquire a customer than through a referral. The second exterminator may or may not have been more competent at his job than the first, but he certainly differentiated himself from others in his field. At TAB, the red rose story is a well-known example of why it is important for business owners to find creative, yet meaningful, ways to differentiate themselves and their products from their competitors in the eye of their customer.

SFA FACT Did you know? The Alternative Board (TAB) is a global business advisory organisation that helps forwardthinking business owners grow their businesses, increase profitability and improve their lives by leveraging local business advisory boards, private business coaching and proprietary strategic services.

The Importance of Differenentiation

When you differentiate yourself, people remember you. When they remember you, they spread the word about your business to their network and the world. One cautionary note: A red rose is not a substitute for a great product or service. At its most basic level, any sound business must have a strong product or service offering and it must have talented, committed people working in the organisation. The red rose is an additional twist on the service that makes the business special and memorable. Today’s competitive business environment has made differentiation more important than ever, especially with the impact of the internet. Tim Alman, owner of Sierra Western Home Loans in Walnut Creek, California and TAB member for 13 years, understands high-touch in a high-tech world. Every day, homeowners mess around with their biggest asset and perform complex transactions while relying on the internet and phone. However, Tim is a master of the challenging lending process and still makes house calls for all his clients’ financial ailments (his red rose). Tim asks, “How can you deliver the best solution without genuinely understanding the real purpose of each client’s loan and the unique benefits to them for the many options applicable? You must sit at their kitchen table and experience the emotions of both spouses as you learn what they really want, and as you explain their options. Only then can you find their perfect loan.”


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Extract Business Books

Creating a Unique Selling Proposition

When running any successful business, it’s important to clearly differentiate the business in the eyes of potential customers and continually focus on the uniqueness of a company’s services or products. This is called a Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, and is the most basic element of every successful company’s message. Your “red rose” is encapsulated in your USP. A well-defined USP constructs a memorable message of these unique qualities and very clearly answers “Why should I do business with you instead of one of your many direct competitors?” Many business owners tie their USP to “good customer service.” Unfortunately, there is nothing unique about good customer service, since all of your competitors probably feel they offer good customer service too. A good product and good customer service are integral to acquiring and retaining your customers. However, a wellwritten USP defines how your potential customers choose you over a competitor. If you cannot clearly define the uniqueness of your product or service and create some enthusiasm for customers to buy it, you probably don’t have the basic foundation for a successful company. A great example of a familiar USP is, “Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less. Guaranteed.” Dominos significantly changed the pizza delivery market with the implementation of this USP, and they

didn’t even promise that the pizza would taste good. My other favorite: “Positively, absolutely, delivered the next morning by 10:30 am.” Federal Express literally created the market for overnight document delivery and became so good at delivering on their service that the word FedEx has morphed into our daily lexicon as a generic term for all overnight document deliveries. One of the fastest ways to go out of business is to attempt to market a product or service that few consumers want, need, or understand. When developing your USP, focus on factors that are most important to the buyers and end users of your product or service – especially the ones that are not easily duplicated by competitors. Be sure to develop adequate marketing assets to communicate your USP, including media advertising, direct mail, internet marketing, packaging and sales personnel. The simple test of determining whether you’ve developed an effective USP is whether it sells for you. If it sells your products or services, then you know your USP is meaningfully different. This is an extract taken from Timeless Principles of Exceptional Business: Shared Wisdom from 25 Years of TAB, reprinted with permission from The Alternative Board.

SFA FACT Key Insights Differentiation of your product or service in the marketplace is important to the long-term success of your business. The business environment is crowded with competition. Having a strong Unique Selling Proposition will help you rise to the top with your target customers. So, what is your red rose?

Differentiating your product or service has become increasingly important in an ever more competitive business environment. Differentiation starts with developing your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Define your USP with a memorable message of your offering’s unique qualities. The USP must answer the question “Why should I do business with you instead of one of your many direct competitors?”


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HR  Appraisals


In order for appraisals to be effective, it is important that managers and employees do not view them as nothing more than a tick the box exercise. Performance appraisals are an opportunity for employees and their line managers to openly discuss their performance and development, as well as the support they may need in their role. Although this may (and should) be carried out continually throughout the year, the structured approach of a formal review ensures that the meeting remains focused on performance and that there is full engagement from both managers and employees. Below are some guidelines to ensure that your business is making the most of appraisal meetings to improve individual and company performance.


It is essential that both parties prepare for the meeting to ensure that it is a useful and engaging conversation. Managers should be aware of the duties that the employee performs and the objectives that were set in the previous appraisal meeting. Importantly, there should be no surprises for the employee during the review. Some managers may wait until an appraisal to bring up areas of concern regarding an employee’s performance. However, this should be avoided and any issues should be addressed at the time they occur rather than allowing these mistakes to be continually repeated. An appraisal meeting is an opportunity for

Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive

an overall assessment of performance over the previous year and to focus on future performance. It is not a replacement for day-to-day management. As part of any good management strategy, an employee should receive regular feedback from their manager in order to support and raise performance standards.


From the outset of any effective performance management system is a set of clear objectives. If the employee does not know what is expected of them how can this ever be achieved? Managers and employees should agree and record a set of objectives that are to be met during the year. It is recommended that the objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, accurate, realistic and timed). The follow up meetings should be held to check in with the employee and assess how they are performing and if they are on track to achieve what they have set out to do. If not, then additional support and/or training should be offered to assist the employee. An employer should never

be reluctant to change objectives during the year if the employee’s role evolves or changes. Objectives are not set in stone and are meant to assist not hinder the development of the business. The yearly employee performance plan should be viewed as a working document that can be changed in line with the needs of the business.


The quality of the feedback given and how this is communicated by the manager is of utmost importance. The manager should provide information to employees on their performance and progress and what’s required of them in order to continue to perform well in the future. The exchange should be an open and honest discussion where constructive feedback is also given to the employee on areas that require improvement and what they require in order to do this. Managers should be trained in order to confidently give feedback and how to handle difficult conversations. However, as well as focusing on areas that require improvement, it is equally important to focus on areas that have been done well. This positive reinforcement ensures that the employee feels valued and does not leave the meeting feeling demotivated and underappreciated.


The appraisal meeting is an opportunity for both the manager and employee to discuss performance and how things have


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Appraisals  HR

been done to date. The manager should allow the employee to share their views and bring forward any difficulties that may be impacting their performance. It must be remembered that in a busy workplace, the appraisal meeting may be the only real opportunity where the employee gets to sit down with their manager to discuss their role. The manager should use this opportunity to check in with the employee and assess how they are finding the role and to discuss future career plans.


The final element of a good performance appraisal meeting is agreement. Both the manager and the employee should jointly reach an understanding about what needs to be done to improve and sustain performance generally and overcome any issues raised in the course of the discussion. The manager should follow up with the employee to ensure that anything implemented as a result of the meeting is working effectively and meets the requirements.

SFA members can get further information and advice on this issue by contacting Ciara McGuone on 01 6051668 or

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To conclude, implementing these five steps will ensure that both managers and employees are getting the most from appraisal meetings. However, in order to improve performance standards, it is essential that feedback is given frequently by the manager as this ensures that changes to business processes are understood and implemented as quickly as possible. The appraisal meeting should be viewed by a company as a means of collating and reviewing the feedback given during the year in order to assess overall performance.


08/12/2016 10:15

SFA Policy  Public Sector Pay



THE SFA WILL CONTINUE TO ASSERT THE NEED TO MAINTAIN A CENTRALISED PUBLIC SECTOR PAY AGREEMENT FOR STABILITY AND COMPETITIVENESS. Recent weeks have seen significant pressure coming from trade unions, in both the public and private sectors, for pay increases. Public Sector

The SFA has indicated both to the Government and in the media the absolute necessity of maintaining a centralised public sector pay agreement. This feature of our


industrial relations landscape is important in terms of stability and competitiveness – two factors that are vital for the State as well as businesses. If this is allowed to fail, it will lead to a free-for-all and leapfrogging by public sector unions, resulting in industrial mayhem and a depletion of the resources available for vital services. As we have seen, it also puts

How would you characterise the current business environment? n Improving 50%

(down from 66% in May)

n Staying the same 32%

significant pressure on private sector wage expectations. Private Sector

The SFA considers the call by the private sector unions of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for an across-the-board 4 per cent pay increase to be both opportunist and devoid of any rational basis. Surveys of small businesses show that only 60 per cent are in a position to give any pay increases over the coming year and the increases that are given will be in the region of 2 per cent. Enterprise-level bargaining continues to be the most appropriate way for the private sector to set pay, reflecting firm level productivity and market conditions.

How would you describe your business at present? n Growing 52% n Maintaining 39% n Declining 9%

n Disimproving 18%

(up from 3% in May)


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Public Sector Pay  SFA Policy

of small firms will take on staff next year


Policy Response

It is in everyone’s interest to have a more coordinated approach to pay determination and competing demands for public resources. The economy has clearly improved faster than envisaged, but newer uncertainties have also arisen; not least the dangers that Brexit poses for our economy. Bringing forward centralised public sector pay talks may make sense given the changed industrial relations context, but the EU fiscal rules still do not allow for the full restoration of public sector pay as being sought. The Public Sector Pay Commission needs to be swift in its recommendations, which must take into account important factors such as job security and pension entitlements in the public sector relative to the private sector. Government must also look at the specific cost of living issues that are driving pay demands in both the public and private sector, such as housing and childcare. At a headline level, there is currently no inflation in the economy so these issues should be tackled with strong, targeted policy interventions, rather than using a blunt and expensive instrument. Accelerating pay across the board will only ratchet these costs up further. Finally, to reiterate, the SFA has been categoric that there should be no commitment to a full restoration of public sector pay even if there is an earlier than planned engagement on the Lansdowne Road Agreement. The SFA’s position is that any discussions which take place must be reflective of the totality of the country’s economic circumstances, and while greatly improved, we still face unpredictable external challenges.

From a policy perspective, 2016 got off to a slow start. With the general election in February giving no clear outcome, Government formation talks lasted until May, with all legislative initiatives stalled in the meantime. Still, as we look back on the year that was, there was no shortage of significant policy decisions from a small firm perspective.

The high points for small business n Pro-business Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to full equalisation of tax treatment between self-employed and employees by 2018 and has a clear focus on training and upskilling, tackling the high cost of childcare and other important areas. n A social welfare safety net for the self-employed is now firmly on the policy agenda. Initial announcements amount to tinkering around the edges but give scope for further lobbying pressure. n Second tranche of Earned Income Tax Credit for the selfemployed introduced in Budget 2017. This brought ownermanagers closer to equal treatment with their employees. SFA will continue to push for full equalisation next year, along with abolition of USC surcharge. n Other welcome measures announced in Budget 2017 included retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality sector, reaffirmed commitment to the 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate and investment in childcare, housing and education.

The low points for small business n The Brexit vote is certainly a negative for small business, with 41 per cent of SFA members reporting that it has already had a negative impact on their business and 68 per cent expecting a negative impact over the next six months. The SFA has been consulted closely by Government when considering its response, so we hope to hear some announcements shortly about support mechanisms for small businesses. n On balance, Budget 2017 failed to deliver for small business and was certainly not Brexit-proof as the Government claimed. n Capital gains tax entrepreneurial rate reduction to 10 per cent welcome but no change in the lifetime limit of €1 million, which severely restricts its effectiveness. n Employee share option scheme pushed out to Budget 2018 – a missed opportunity to make Ireland a destination for top talent.

What do you see as the biggest risk factor for your business over the coming year?

What do you see as the biggest opportunity for you business over the coming year?

n #1 Brexit/Sterling

n #1 Domestic economic

n #2 Wage inflation

n #2 Specific sectoral

exchange rate

n #3 Domestic economic




n #3 Exporting opportunities

Most important thing that Government could change that would boost your business? n #1 Reduce tax payable by

enterpreneurs and owner managers

n #2 Make public contracts more

accessible to small firms

n #3 Reduce tax on workers


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08/12/2016 10:16

Events  Roundup

Patricia Callan, SFA Director; Mark Cunningham, MD of Business Banking, Bank of Ireland; Micheál Martin TD, Leader of Fianna Fáil

BUSINESS LUNCH SMALL BUSINESSES WERE OUT IN FORCE FOR THE SFA ANNUAL LUNCH 2016. In the beautiful setting of the Mansion House in Dublin, hundreds of small business people gathered for the SFA Annual Lunch on November 18th. The mood was convivial as stalwarts and first-timers alike gathered to celebrate their business achievements over the past year and make new contacts for 2017. Small business owner-managers and employees were joined by politicians, senior Government officials, diplomats and journalists, along with the Guest of Honour for the event, Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin TD. In his final speech as Chairman of the Small Firms Association, AJ Noonan made it clear that small businesses face a number of serious threats, including the fallout from Brexit, pay claims and industrial unrest and slippage in Ireland’s competitiveness with the UK and elsewhere. Deputy Micheál Martin sounded a warning note in his address, stating that the challenges posed by Brexit, fragile public finances and an escalating series of pay demands may pose a threat that is even bigger than the recession we have recently come through. He shared his ambition to have a comprehensive and accountable national strategy for small business, stating: “We have to move beyond the warm words and give a clear commitment to helping SMEs. This means not just the policies of one department, but through all of Government and the state sector as a whole. If we want to secure economic success then small businesses can’t be an afterthought, they have to be permanently on the agenda.” Mark Cunningham, MD of Business Banking for Bank of

AJ Noonan, then-SFA Chairman, delivering his address

Shane Hickey, Louise O’Dowda and Dan McKeon from Venture Financial Recruitment

Ireland, spoke on behalf of Bank of Ireland, the event sponsor. He congratulated AJ Noonan on his achievements as SFA Chairman and announced a new partnership between Bank of Ireland and WebPort Global. For many, the festivities continued well into the hours of darkness, confirming the SFA Annual Lunch as the kick-off of the festive party season.


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Roundup  Events

SFA WEBINARS – EXPERT PRESENTATIONS DELIVERED TO YOU AT YOUR DESK Every month the SFA delivers a 30-minute webinar for members on a topic of relevance for small businesses. During 2016, over 500 members tuned into our webinars, covering the following topics:

Round Room, Mansion House

• Recruitment and selection • Discipline and dismissal • Paternity leave • Workplace bullying • Managing the Christmas period • Government supports for business • R&D Tax Credit • Business model innovation • Companies Act 2014 • Data analytics for small business The webinars are delivered by the SFA executive team and by a number of

expert guest speakers. The succinct webinars are made up of a 20-minute presentation followed by a 10-minute Q&A session enabling attendees to interact with the presenter and then follow up directly with the SFA after the session for further advice if required. If you cannot tune into the session live, the webinars are available to play back on our website in your own time. Members find the webinars an efficient way to learn, convenient in that they can be accessed from anywhere, and find the technology easy to use. If there is an area of interest for your business that you would like to see covered in a webinar format in 2017 please contact

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY Business Bytes seminar - Sales: Pipeline management and closing techniques

How do you evaluate whether a sales meeting went well? When is the right time to ask for the business? These questions and more will be answered by our expert sales trainer. • When: January 11th, 5:30pm • Where: Bank of Ireland, Montrose • Details: Small business showcase

Meet best-in-class small businesses, learn about their products and participate in a variety of workshops throughout the day. • When: February 1st, all day • Where: RDS • Details: Alan Wiseman, Topform and Darren Fortune, Ventac


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Events  SFA Awards

Finalists Announced


SERVICES CATEGORY FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by Three:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Patricia Callan, SFA Director pictured at the official launch of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2017

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 sector to Irish industry. Thirty-five companies have been selected as finalists, from 13 different counties, across eight categories. MANUFACTURING CATEGORY FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by Energia: Briody Bedding - Meath JPK Fencing Systems - Galway Kelly’s of Newport Artisan Butchers - Mayo Keogh’s Crisps - Dublin Simpli Baked - Offaly Ventac - Kildare FOOD & DRINK CATEGORY FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by Bord Bia: Goodness Grains Gluten Free Bakery - Longford Kelly’s of Newport Artisan Butchers - Mayo Keogh’s Crisps - Dublin Simpli Baked - Offaly The Foods of Athenry - Galway Wexford Home Preserves - Wexford

Adams & Butler - Dublin Catering Disposables - Dublin Dualtron - Dublin KPC International - Cork The Gaiety School of Acting - Dublin Vibes and Scribes - Cork OUTSTANDING SMALL BUSINESS FINALISTS (up to five employees) Sponsored by AIB: Big Red Barn - Mayo Bike Park Ireland - Tipperary Coyle Group - Dublin EireChrom - Munster Sweetspot Sourcing - Kildare INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by Enterprise Ireland: Aalto Bio Reagents - Dublin Bizimply - Dublin Emydex Technology - Dublin Herdwatch - Tipperary Sea Change - Kildare Ventac - Wicklow SUSTAINABLE ENERGY FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland: JPK Fencing Systems - Galway Kelly’s of Newport Artisan Butchers - Mayo Killary Adventure Company - Galway Oriel Marine Extracts - Louth Ryans Cleaning - Tipperary


The number of counties represented by companies shortlisted in the finals of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2017

SMALL BUSINESS EXPORTER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS (up to 50 employees) Sponsored by DHL Express: Adams & Butler - Dublin Aalto Bio Reagents - Dublin Emydex Technology - Dublin KPC International - Cork Prodigy Learning - Dublin Ventac - Wicklow EMERGING NEW BUSINESSES (up to 50 employees and under 2 years in business) Sponsored by IE Domain Registry: Ann Marie’s Dressing Room - Cork CLIRINX - Dublin CyberSmarties - Limerick Epic Ireland - Dublin SalesOptimize - Dublin The awards prize package for ALL finalists includes an exhibition stand at the SFA National Small Business Showcase in the RDS in February 2017, a strategic management masterclass weekend, as well as broad-ranging national and local media coverage, valued at €50,000.


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08/12/2016 10:19

SFA Feature  Business Advice


HUGH KENNY, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF COATEK, SHARES SOME TIPS ON HOW TO CREATE A PRODUCTIVE WORKSPACE. Workplace productivity depends on many factors – company processes, employee skills and management capacity to name but a few. Small firms agonise over each of these, trying to optimise them to give their businesses a competitive edge. They often overlook one crucial factor, however – their physical environment. Getting this right will make you and your staff more comfortable, less frustrated and ultimately more productive! Follow these three tips to create a better workspace…and even make savings on your energy bills.


Light and Heat

For many offices, the sun’s glare and excessive heat can be a problem – but nobody wants to keep blinds closed all day, especially during the summer

months. Think about applying a film to your windows to take away the glare on those computer screens and create a more ambient temperature throughout the office. The latest solutions will still allow the maximum amount of natural light to enter the room and won’t compromise your view outside. These films come in a range of colours so we are sure to find one that will blend in with the architecture of your building. Anti Fade/UV Protection Film is totally transparent, and blocking 99 per cent of UV Rays, is used heavily in shops, museums, libraries and anywhere that valuable goods are in direct contact with the sun’s harmful rays.



In an increasingly volatile and insecure

Hugh Kenny, Managing Director, Coatek

world, security has become of paramount importance to companies. Risk of terrorism, break-ins or simple wanton vandalism are now on the increase and this is where security film can be of significant benefit. Our anti-shatter security film is a real deterrent against break-ins and acts of vandalism or violence, and is now one of our biggest selling products. It hugely reduces the risk of glass shattering and, in the unlikely event of breakage, it will prevent shards of glass from flying, helping to keep your staff and valuables safe.



Don’t underestimate the power of a good old office refresh! Whether you are sprucing up your current premises or you have moved into a new office, put some thought into how you want it to look – whether you are hosting clients and customers or just creating a positive environment for your staff. We can incorporate company branding and logos or use any one of thousands of film designs for glass partitions and wall graphics. This will also provide privacy between open plan offices and give a whole new feel to your workplace. Coatek specialises in the supply and installation of high grade glass coatings and window film, as well as every type of manifestation and wall and glazing graphics. We pride ourselves on our ability to do a swift and efficient job, minimising any disruption to our clients’ working schedules. Coatek operates a nationwide consultancy design, fitting and installation service. We are first choice to architects, developers, interior designers, shop fitters, quantity surveyors and facility management companies on commercial, industrial, domestic, retail and manufacturing projects. We have offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Wexford so we can reach all our clients, existing and prospective, at short notice. More than ever companies are looking for the most efficient ways of improving their staff ’s work surroundings and reducing energy costs. By choosing from our vast product range we can easily help achieve this without costing the earth. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 53

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At Priority Placements we pride ourselves on our service for both clients and candidates and we’ve been excelling at it for 18 years! Our Accountancy and Finance division is led by Shane Collins ACA QFA, who has advised clients and candidates from Graduate level through to Executive Finance level. If you would like to discuss the 2017 Finance Jobs Market or receive advice on your next move, please feel free to contact Shane and his team.

T: 01 699 1470 E: W:

my gift to the world Together, we can continue to create a future that is fair for everyone. And make a world without poverty our legacy. For more information contact OXFAM Ireland Tel: (01) 672 7662 Email: Oxfam Ireland is a member of Oxfam International, a world-wide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty. Charitable co. limited by guarantee. Reg. No. 284292, CHY5988

Untitled-5 1

07/12/2016 10:58

Commercial Profile


In a challenging commercial world, business energy makes all the difference. InterTradeIreland can help provide your business with that energy, through a strong mix of funding support, business intelligence and meaningful contacts. Over 32,000 businesses have been supported by InterTradeIreland to date to identify and develop all-island trade and innovation opportunities. In light of the recent Brexit referendum decision, a key objective for InterTradeIreland is to ensure that cross-border trade continues to grow and SME benefits are exploited. Cross-border trade in goods and services on the island of Ireland has grown exponentially over the past 20 years and now stands at circa £5 billion or €6bn equivalent. Over this period cross-border trade has proven to be robust, recovering strongly from other shocks such as the banking crisis. One of the main challenges facing businesses currently though is access to funding. Sourcing specialist advice and knowledge or finding the right person with the right skills for their business can be a challenge. InterTradeIreland supports SMEs financially in these areas, assisting not only with funding, but also with specialist expertise and vital introductions.

Innovation Supports

Businesses that are innovating and doing things differently are more likely to grow.

Rethinking your products and services can greatly change your commercial path, but innovation and product development requires specialist skills, from within your company and from external supports. InterTradeIreland’s FUSION Programme can facilitate the technology transfer and provide financial support for the specialist expertise your business needs. Funding of up to €37,000 for 12 month projects and up to €52,800 for 18 month projects is available.

Cross-Border Export Supports

Whether your business trades in Northern Ireland or Ireland, you should know the full extent of the opportunities that exist right here on your doorstep, and that it is possible to build an export business without ever leaving the island! InterTradeIreland offers varying levels of support, from €1,200 up to €18,750, depending on the stage of your business through our Elevate and Acumen programmes and through our Trade Accelerator Vouchers.

Access to Finance

If you are an early stage company InterTradeIreland can help you become more ‘ investor ready’. We have a range of equity and venture capital advisory services and links to key business angel networks on the island.


Margaret Hearty, Director of Programmes and Business Services, InterTradeIreland

If you are an established business looking to grow, then our Funding for Growth Advisory Services and expertise can help guide you to the most appropriate form of finance for your business stage.

Contact Us

InterTradeIreland has an open door and a dedicated team with extensive skills and contacts to assist small businesses on either side of the border. Perhaps the fact that many of the companies we have helped act as business ambassadors for InterTradeIreland says a lot about our commitment to businesses across the island. So for funding to move your business up a gear visit; it could be the most powerful business move you ever make.


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08/12/2016 10:29

Commercial Profile

THE VALUE OF REWARDS WHAT BETTER WAY TO SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR A HEALTHY, FRUITFUL 2017 THAN TO REWARD STAFF MEMBERS AT THE END OF THE YEAR? The run-up to Christmas is a hectic time of year for many businesses, with targets looming and a frantic rush across all departments to get things wrapped up before the break. It’s easy to forget, in the midst of it all, that your colleagues are working harder than ever. Expressing your gratitude throughout the year is vital, but it is in the month of December that a thoughtful gift will be most appreciated by your staff. The tangible business benefits to rewarding your staff are a popular topic of research. For example, One4all’s employee rewards research has found that 53 per cent of employees will remain loyal if they are regularly

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thanked. Weigh that against the cost of replacing members of staff (between 30-50 per cent of that person’s annual salary, even higher if they are senior), and the immediate return is evident. Furthermore, research shows that a 10 per cent increase in trust in management is equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in pay. In short, what better way to set your business up for a healthy, fruitful 2017 than to reward each and every member of your staff, and send them away at Christmas with a smile on their faces? You can reward your staff with up to €500 in One4all Gift Cards this Christmas completely tax-free under the

Government’s Benefit In Kind scheme. One4all Gift Cards are a perfect choice as they can be spent in over 8,000 outlets nationwide, including Argos, Brown Thomas, Debenhams, Boots and TK Maxx, plus new retailers including Penneys, Littlewoods Ireland and participating SuperValu outlets. One4all Rewards offer free packing and delivery for businesses, and can also create a customised card design for your business to make your gift truly unique. One4all Gift Cards are sold in post offices and PostPoint outlets nationwide, online at and through their corporate sales team on 01 870 8181.

25/10/2016 10:45

08/12/2016 10:28

Commercial Profile




Could you tell me about how the Taxsaver scheme with Iarnród Éireann Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann works and how long it has been in operation?

How can employers assist employees in receiving a Taxsaver ticket? Registering for the Taxsaver scheme is easy, employers can simply log on to, complete a quick online registration form and set up for the scheme. We offer guidance, assistance and advice for employers through our dedicated Taxsaver email and phone helpline and we can also arrange to visit companies and talk directly with staff, highlighting the benefits of the scheme, making them aware of the most economical way of travelling to work.

The Taxsaver scheme was introduced in 1999 by the Government as an incentive to encourage the use of public transport. The scheme has seen huge growth with over 6,000 companies now purchasing monthly and annual tickets for their employees. Employers can purchase Taxsaver tickets on behalf of the employees; the cost of the ticket is then deducted from the employee’s gross salary, saving them from paying tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge or benefit-in-kind on this amount. It is an easy-to-use, innovative, practical and green initiative encouraging people to utilise clean modern and reliable public transport whilst leaving the car at home.


How do employees benefit from the scheme?

Employees can avail of a monthly or annual ticket through the scheme. The cost of the ticket is deducted from the employee’s gross salary, giving them a fantastic saving of up to 52 per cent off the cost of their commute to work! Employees can see exactly how much they can save by using the savings calculator on our website. Another great benefit of the scheme is the convenience of having a monthly or annual ticket delivered to your office, no more queuing at the station or looking for change on a Monday morning.


What types of companies are availing of the service?


How do employers benefit from the scheme?

The Taxsaver scheme is a win-win for the employer and commuter. The employee makes fantastic savings of up to 52 per cent off the cost of their ticket whilst the employer can also save up to 10.75 per cent through PRSI savings, as the employee’s gross income is reduced. It’s an employee perk that doesn’t cost you money. No more parking problems and the staff will love you!

The Taxsaver scheme is open and available to all companies from small firms to large multinationals. Our online registration and ordering process is quick and easy and our friendly and knowledgeable staff can guide new companies through the process with ease. We provide a complete information and support service to help you introduce the Taxsaver scheme in your company, including detailed information on all aspects of the programme, from ticket types to photo requirements. Employers and employees are welcome to contact our Taxsaver team on 1850 211 777 or visit our website www. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 57

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08/12/2016 10:29

Commercial Profile


TOP: Alison Cowzer, East Coast Bakehouse; Bernie Kinsella,; Colette Fitzpatrick, Newstalk; Patricia Callan, SFA; Fiona Heffernan, Head of Post Media, An Post Following on from last year’s sold out conferences in Dublin and Cork, the 2016 An Post Grow My Business interactive conferences took place in Croke Park Stadium on Tuesday October 18th and in the Clarion Hotel, Cork on Thursday October 20th. This time around the stellar line up of influential speakers focused on ‘Turning Ideas into Income’. The panel of leading expert speakers also explored the challenges facing small to medium business owners and how they could identify and capitalise on exciting opportunities. The packed agenda included Stephen Ryan, RedFM who kicked off

proceedings with his presentation on creating remarkable brand awareness in the digital age and a case study on his recent campaign. Bernie Kinsella of worldBOX told her story of how she survived the recession with her idea of ‘fishing where the fish are’ plus the launch of her now hugely successful Patricia Callan from the Small Firms Association spoke on Brexit and the potential hazards ahead for businesses in Ireland. She also discussed how Irish business can continue to grow in the face of these significant changes and highlighted many of the Government supports that are available.

Additionally, the SFA facilitated an interactive speed networking session which took place at both the Grow My Business Conferences in Croke Park and the Clarion Hotel, Cork. An engaging idea generation session from seasoned international speaker Gary Brown, Chairman of advertising agency Target McConnells, got the conference buzzing with ideas and initiatives and live case studies with attendees. The Grow My Business Conference concluded with one of Ireland’s most successful business people and Dragon’s Den star Alison Cowzer from the recently launched East Coast Bakehouse. Cowzer provided an insight into how innovation and hard work, home grown products and services can break through on both a local and a global scale. A Q&A session with a lively audience was also hosted by TV3/ Newstalk presenter Colette Fitzpatrick. Attendees at this year’s conference also had an opportunity to meet the conference speakers after the event for one-to-one business advice in the newly launched Business Clinics. Fiona Heffernan, Head of Post Media at An Post, said the conference helped business owners maximise the potential for what 2017 has to bring: “An Post is delighted to provide the forum where over 400 businesses in Dublin and Cork can share ideas with a view to maximising the potential of what lies ahead over the next 12 months.” Twitter saw the conference hashtag #growmybusiness trending in the number one spot. Conference participants actively tweeted as five of Ireland’s top business and marketing experts divulged their innovative techniques to help entrepreneurs capitalise on every facet of their business. For more information about the Grow My Business conference series contact or visit


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08/12/2016 10:27

Sean Gallagher  Interview


The future success of a business is often dependent on a few key people. A key person is any ‘key’ employee, director or consultant on whom the business depends for its continued success or existence. They have contacts, a reputation and goodwill built up with clients. What impact would the death of a key person/shareholder have on the business? A bank could call in any outstanding loans due to concerns about the business cash flow. If a shareholder had made a director’s loan to the business and then subsequently died, if no repayments had been made against the loan by the business, the full amount would then be due and payable to the family of the deceased shareholder. The family may look for repayment of the loan to help meet financial difficulties. How would a business repay these loans? Life assurance for a key person/ shareholder can cater for the above situations by putting life cover (and/or specified serious illness cover) in place on the life of all key people/relevant shareholders, so that the business can continue successfully if the keyperson/ shareholder dies or suffers a specified serious illness.

Life Assurance for Limited Companies

Assuming an active shareholder, who has played a large part in building up a firm, dies and their spouse inherits their share of the business. What impact could this have on the business and the existing shareholders? If the spouse wishes to sell their share to the remaining shareholders, to realise the market value of the shares in the business and stabilise their family’s financial position, the remaining shareholders may not have the capital required to buy back these

Ed Rafferty, New Ireland Assurance

Taking Care of Business

shares and may be forced to take out personal loans to retain ownership. Alternatively, the spouse may want to play an active role in the business leading to a new shareholder dynamic of skills, opinions and experience, which can lead to conflict and loss of business.

The financial and legal impact on a business resulting from the absence or loss of a key business stakeholder can be managed by planning to protect your business with the help of a financial broker or advisor.

What are the advantages of putting a shareholder’s life assurance arrangement in place? Life assurance for a limited company can benefit both the remaining shareholders of the company and the deceased shareholder’s next of kin. The proceeds of the life assurance policy provide a capital lump sum enabling the remaining shareholders to buy back the share of the business from the deceased’s next of kin. It also puts a legal agreement in place to regulate the purchase of the share in the business from the deceased’s next of kin.

Terms and conditions apply. A Government levy (currently 1 per cent) applies to premiums paid to a life assurance policy. Protection benefits are subject to underwriting and acceptance by New Ireland Assurance. New Ireland Assurance Company plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland and a member of Bank of Ireland Group. All opinions and estimates constitute best judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change without notice.


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08/12/2016 10:30

Lifestyle  Motoring



Naming a car is a difficult process. Most of the good ones are taken – Mustang, Charger, Phantom, Veyron; all strong names that evoke power, precision and a fantastic drive, though perhaps the immense Rolls-Royce Phantom doesn’t quite fit the dictionary definition. The Hyundai Excel failed to exceed expectations, and the Chevrolet Cavalier didn’t generate any images of swashbuckling motoring. When you see the Mercedes Sprinter, you don’t immediately think of Usain Bolt hurtling along the tarmac – perhaps the Mercedes Marathon might have been a little more suitable, if not quite as appealing to the marketing department. The ŠKODA Superb, however, is actually rather superb. My most recent outing in the Superb

was in the Combi version, taking what is already a big car and turning it into a van in disguise. My first impression was of a distinct premium feeling – it’s a fantastic looking car, the materials in the cabin have a quality feel, and the seats provide the perfect mix of support and comfort. There’s even a little mood lighting – a soft blue strip of lighting which runs through the four doors, meeting in the centre of the dashboard. It doesn’t actually do anything, but it’s a nice touch. There’s also quite a few handy gadgets – heated seats, voice control, navigation and a reversing camera. You also quickly become aware that this is a car designed to make life on the road a little easier. When you pull down the visor and open the vanity mirror, a little


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08/12/2016 10:21

Motoring  Lifestyle

light comes on. An ice scraper is hiding behind the filler cap. The rear seats can be folded forward by pulling a switch by the boot door, increasing the impressive amount of space from 660 litres to 1,950 litres. There’s even a proper spare wheel in the boot, which seems to be a rarity these days. Other options include a removable LED torch in the boot, a fully foldable front passenger seat and a retractable hitch. You can also store three seating positions in the driver seat memory, just in case somebody comes along and messes up your finely tuned system. On the forecourt you’ll have a choice of engines from the 1.4 petrol version to the 2.0 diesel 4x4. My test model came with a 120hp 1.6TDi which was quite nimble on the road. I did find a bit of lag from

the six-speed gearbox in first, but you’re cruising in second and above. With a somewhat light foot I managed to average 5.7l/100km (49mpg) over the course of a week, though if you really pay attention you should hit 4.7l/100km (60mpg) without too much trouble. In my experience, the latest Superb Combi is as close to the perfect car as I’ve seen in my few short years of motoring reviews, with the exception perhaps of the Audi A8 and the R8, though those belong in quite different classes. My only quibble relates to the ignition – there’s no lighting surround and so it can be a little difficult to find the slot when it’s dark. That’s all I’ve got. Even with that (very) small issue, it’s one that I would buy myself in a heartbeat.

ŠKODA Superb Combi 1.6TDI 6 speed manual Power: 120hp 0-100km/h: 11.1 seconds Max speed: 204 km/h CO2 emissions: 108g/km Annual tax: €190 Price: €35,150


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08/12/2016 10:22

Arts  Culture



Superhero comic books are classic Americana. Pulp fiction to be stacked next to jukeboxes, blue jeans and white picket fences as nostalgic all-American imagery. For a few cents, twentieth-century kids were exposed to a bright kaleidoscope of art and writing. The characters brought to life on those paneled pages might just live forever. Today, the costumed men and women of comics are among the most profitable commercial properties in the world. The studio production line cranking out big budget movies and TV shows seems

endless, pulling in the kind of audience that dwarfs the readership of the material that started the whole thing. Comic books are still around, though. You can pick them up in the specialist stores you’ve probably walked by and glanced at curiously. For years there’s been the big two companies. Between them, DC and Marvel are behind almost every major superhero you can think of. Every artist who picked up Spider-Man comics as a kid dreams of working on their books. For artist Declan Shalvey, it was a dream realised. The Clare native has drawn everyone from Batman

and Deadpool, to The Punisher and Venom, sketching out his own distinct corner of the industry. Growing up in the Irish mid-west in the ‘90s, it wasn’t easy to pick up the books. Shalvey’s local library had some Asterix and Tintin, old comics that came from France and Belgium. But without a dedicated comic book store, the monthly American superhero stuff was hard to get a hold of. Thankfully, a local newsagent went to a lot of effort to get in one of the most popular superhero titles for Shalvey. “Once I got my hands on my first proper American X-Men comic,” he says, “I knew this is what I wanted to do.” The X-Men were created in the 1960s for Marvel Comics by Stan Lee, the New Yorker and movie cameo stalwart who also dreamed up characters like the Fantastic Four, Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron-Man and Daredevil. Most of Lee’s stories took place in an alternative version of his home city – a world where costumed capers are the


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Culture  Arts




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norm and the Baxter Building and Stark Tower Complex punctuate the skyline. Shalvey, a budding artist, might have been absorbing these tales on the opposite side of the Atlantic, but he wanted a gateway into the universe. “I didn’t really know anything about limits,” he says. “When I was a kid I had no idea if it was realistic or not to do it as a job, I just knew I wanted to do it. As I got older, I heard of colleges that taught comics in America and read interviews with artists and informed myself. Clearly this was an actual job for some people; I wanted to be one of those people, I just didn’t know how I could make that happen.” Encouraged by the success of Northern Irishman Garth Ennis, one of the creators of Preacher, which is now a TV show, Shalvey made his debut on British comic Hero Killers in 2006. He then worked on a number of Irish comics – including the popular Freak Show series – before picking up work with, not just Marvel and DC, but Image Comics, the creatives-led organisation behind titles like Invincible, Saga and The Walking Dead. He continues to draw different books regularly, engaging with the work not just because of the visual aesthetic of the characters, but also their

personality and story. “Something can look really cool but if there’s no connection to the character it can feel hollow, but then again, a really nuanced story can be dull as hell to draw and comics are a visual medium,” Shalvey says. “A healthy mix of both delivers the best comics in my opinion. “For example, I didn’t have much affinity for Deadpool but when I was offered the book at Marvel, I thought that at least he’d be cool to draw. The story itself was actually quite dark and emotional, and that made it a lot more rewarding experience. As an artist, you want to draw cool stuff. As a storyteller, you want to move the reader, be it in an entertaining way or an emotional way.” Having previously worked primarily as an artist-for-hire, Shalvey is currently blazing his own path. After working on Moon Knight with some of the industry’s biggest names – writer Warren Ellis and colourist Jordie Bellaire – he and the team wanted to create a whole new title. The result was Injection, a post-apocalyptic tale published by Image that’s pitched as “science fiction, tales of horror, strange crime fiction, techno-thriller, and ghost story all at the same time”.


“It was definitely a difficult plunge to take, as I had been working consistently for Marvel for about four years at that point,” admits Shalvey. “Warren, Jordie and I had just done Moon Knight at Marvel and that, for me, was a creative highlight so the opportunity to continue that collaboration and actually have a property I own... it was an impossible offer to turn down. Still scary though, I had gotten used to the security of regular gigs. It was worth it though, taking on Injection is the smartest move I ever made.” While reviews have been strong, Injection will probably remain a niche title in a niche industry. That is, unless, it somehow makes it to the screen. Shalvey is not against the idea, but admits it’s “frustrating that most people don’t assign [a comic] value unless it’s been made into a film. Realistically, whatever makes it to film is rarely as good as the source material.” For now, Shalvey and the Americanborn Bellaire (who earlier this year got engaged to each other) are happy running the Dublin-based Red Cube Studio, which represents their collective work on Batman, Deadpool and Doctor Strange, while also working on creator-owned projects like Injection, Pretty Deadly and Nowhere Men. The duo also run apprenticeship programmes to encourage younger creatives on how to operate their craft of choice and advice on how to succeed in the comic industry. Even with the extra responsibilities though, Shalvey still belongs in front of the drawing board. “Drawing is 100 per cent of the job, but the more successful I’ve gotten at it, the harder it is to keep track of correspondence, promotion and scheduling, not to mention the time spent on instructing and evaluating apprentices. All that has definitely cut into the drawing part, but we do all we can to meet our deadlines… I’ve got to keep drawing though. I get grumpier and grumpier the longer away I am from the drawing board.”

SFA FACT Did you know? In 2009 the Walt Disney empire purchased the superheroes stable Marvel Entertainment for $4bn in a deal that united names such as Mickey Mouse with characters including Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk.


Arts  Culture


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07/12/2016 10:57

Resilience  Health


BREAK THE STIGMA Most forms of stress that we suffer from are caused by stressors that gradually push us beyond our capacity to cope comfortably. While stress may result from different aspects of life, it is important that we adequately manage work-related stress. Richard Burke is founder and MD of Resilience Matters, a company that teaches businesses and people about managing organisational stress. It was initially called ‘Stress Matters’ but due to the stigma associated with the word ‘stress’ he struggled to attract clients. That all changed when he made use of the word ‘resilience’.

FACE THE FEAR The big barrier for people dealing with stress and anxiety in organisations is fear and the worst thing to do, according to Burke, from an employer or employee’s point of view is to ignore the signs. He advises employees to ask themselves the following questions: Are there increasing and conflicting demands on your time? How much control do you have over the way you do your job? How much support do you have from your colleagues and line manager? How well are you getting on with your co-workers? Has your role changed? How is that change managed in your department? “It is in the answers to these questions that you will identify the organisation’s contribution to the stress in your job,” says Burke. It is then up to the employer to put an action plan in place or seek advice from an organisation like Resilience Matters or SFA to address any issues that exist. W:

MANAGE YOUR RESPONSE Some of the common issues in the workplace that bring on additional stress arise from people mixing up bullying with ‘banter’, not knowing how to cope with ‘difficult’ people, and not knowing how to say ‘no’. According to Burke, there are many pitfalls for businesses resulting from a failure to tackle stress among employees, which include absenteeism, low productivity, bad morale, poor attitudes, disputes, poor team effort and eventually being sued for not having measures in place to identify stressors. “Everyone gets stressed,” he says, “both the managers of organisations and the people on the shop floor, people are just people, it doesn’t matter what they do for a living – you need to be able to manage your own personal stress response.”


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08/12/2016 10:24

Travel  Dubai

Dubai Marina

The Atlantis Resort at La Palm


BUSINESS DUBAI DUBAI’S PRIME LOCATION AT THE CROSSROADS OF EUROPE, ASIA AND AFRICA, ALONG WITH ITS FIRST RATE ICT HUB AND ATTRACTIVE TAX INCENTIVES, HAS MADE IT THE BUSINESS HUB OF THE MIDDLE EAST. In recent years Dubai has garnered the attention of major multinationals such as Microsoft, Mastercard and JCDecaux as the Government takes measures to attract foreign investment into the Emirates. Having created free trade zones for individual corporate sectors, incentives such as special tax, customs and import regimes have brought big business to Dubai. One trade zone, the Dubai International Financial Centre, is particularly attractive, offering 100 per cent company ownership, a

40-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits and no restrictions on capital or profit flows. Dubai isn’t renowned for being pedestrian friendly so once you’ve landed at the pristine Dubai International Airport, you’ll more than likely be using the Dubai metro or the reliable taxi services to arrive at your destination. You won’t have to worry about being ripped off by unscrupulous drivers as there is next to no crime in Dubai – a result of the draconian measures taken against

In Souks of Dubai

those that who step on the wrong side of the law. For those keen for a luxury stay, the metropolitan Ritz Carlton is situated just a short 20 minute car ride away. Towering among the skyscrapers that dot the busy Dubai skyline, the Ritz Carlton is styled as a downtown hotspot of culture and nightlife, complete with its very own rotating art collection. The 341 contemporary styled rooms and suites hold decadent furnishing and boast ceiling to floor windows, the perfect spot to recline and watch the moving lights of the metropolis below. If you’ve been tasked with holding a conference or event during your trip, the DIFC Conference Centre is centrally located and just a 10 minute walk from the Ritz Carlton. The venue itself, which is 433 square metres in total, has a capacity for 450 delegates. The conference facilities can accommodate 350 people at a cocktail


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Dubai  Travel

g for Travellin Business


Waterpark of Atlantis the Palm hotel, Dubai


FLIGHTS: Early morning Dublin to Dubai flights are typically less expensive and will allow you to get a headstart on the day.


CHECKING IN: Checking in late can be an advantage. If your hotel has run out of standard rooms by the time you arrive, you could get awarded a free upgrade.

Rooftop pool at the Ritz Carlton

reception, 180 for a theatre-style conference and 220 delegates for a classroom style conference. The East and West Wing areas are also available to book for smaller events, exhibitions and receptions for 50-75 guests and with an entire sector dedicated to conference service, first class utilities are guaranteed. When dinner time calls, Dubai will definitely deliver. Catch Dubai, located inside the luxurious Fairmont Dubai Hotel, will expose you to the ideal combination of rustic charm and worldly influences, while encapsulating the easy going vibes of the restaurant’s New York roots. The generously spaced booths not only lend to the comfort of the relaxed atmosphere, but are ideal for large business groups that require discretion to discuss business. Seafood is central to the culinary culture in Catch and the eclectic sharing-style dishes encourage gastronomic experimentation and adventurism among

the well-heeled clientele. When business has concluded and you’re on the hunt for a drinks spot with style, Q’s is the place to be. Located in the Palazzo Versace Hotel, this bar is the creation of legendary music composer and 27 time Grammy winner, Quincy Jones. Having worked with the likes of Sinatra, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson, the musical offering at Q’s is, as you can imagine, second to none. Styled with mahogany tables and leather covered lounge chairs, with the staging area being the obvious focus of the room, Q’s is reminiscent of an old time jazz bar only found in movies. If you are planning a trip to Dubai soon, multi-award winning drummer, composer and producer Ollie Howell will be the official artist in residence until February. The jazz club atmosphere is completed by an offering of classically styled cocktails to match the vintage ambiance.


CAR RENTAL: Car rental rates in Dubai are seasonal and much more expensive in winter. However, if you’ve been a customer for six months or more you could be entitled to free upgrades.


DINING: Escape the malls and restaurants and take yourself to Old Dubai where you’ll get authentic and inexpensive Dubai feasts.


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Travel  Dubai





Al Qasr, meaning “The Palace”, doesn’t fail to live up to its name, offering guests the finest in Arabian luxury. Designed in the style of a Sheikh’s summer residence, the hotel replicates traditional royal architecture, coupled with luxurious modernity throughout. W: T: 1800 760183 E:


Known as Dubai’s most majestic creation, the stunning 828 metres of the lofty Burj Khalifa must be seen to be fully appreciated. A falcon’s eye view will allow you to explore the city like never before and gaze upon Dubai landmarks from the towering observation bay above.


Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort courtyard


Souks (or markets) are the hidden gems of Dubai and a tempting reason to travel with an empty suitcase. Whether your weakness is for perfume, spices or even gold, there’s a souk for you. If you’re on the hunt for a genuine bespoke scent or rare collection of jewellery, the souks are a must visit.


Leave the city behind and travel out to Dubai’s original tourist attraction, the desert. Most desert tours include dunes drives, sand skiing and falcon displays. Afterwards, retreat to a bedouin-style camp to enjoy campfire entertainment, such as belly dancing, henna tattooing and star gazing.


The historical neighbourhood of Al Fahidi is one of the rare locations in Dubai not dominated by skyscrapers. The village itself is considered one of the oldest heritage sites in the Emirates, dating back to the early 1800s and is stocked with an array of scaled back museums, craft shops, cultural exhibits, courtyard cafés and art galleries.


If you want an occasion where you can dress to impress, catch a show at the newly opened Dubai Opera House. With a host of productions like Les Misérables, Mary Poppins, The Nutcracker on Ice and West Side Story, you won’t regret whisking yourself away for a night at the opera.

XVA HOTEL Located in the heart of the Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, each of the elegant rooms are styled to showcase the architectural and cultural motifs of the region. With tranquil courtyards, stunning art exhibitions and exclusive rooftop access, XVA Hotel is a calming reprieve from city life. W: T: +9714 3535383 E:

KEMPINSKI HOTEL MALL Home of the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort, Kempinski Hotel features ski chalets as rooms, meaning you can look out onto the very real icy slopes below before stepping out into the tropical sunshine. W: T: +971 4 341 0000 E: reservations.malloftheemerites Dubai Opera House


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il l i a m Fo o dTE


OVER 30 years clinical experience One of the first and longest established clinics specialising in food intolerence testing and treatment

What Is Food Intolerance? Food Intolerance begins when the digestive system is no longer able to process specific foods as they pass down the digestive tract. Such undigested foods quickly sour and start to ferment within the stomach and intestines. All of the common symptoms of bloating, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome etc., are the result of these sour, fermenting foods interacting with the vast colonies of bacteria which normally reside within the digestive tract. The objective of this test is to find the particular foods which are not digesting properly. Removing these foods from your diet resolves the problem.

Symptoms of Food Intolerance  Bloating  Reflux  Indigestion

 Irritable bowel  Lack of energy  Inflammation

WHY TREAT SYMPTOMS? TREAT THE CAUSE! Fitzwilliam FoodTEST Clifton House, Lower Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2

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Tel: 01-4733790

08/12/2016 12:29

Profile  A Day in the Life


7.30AM I arrive at the office and start by checking emails and catching up on anything that I didn’t get to the previous day. I head to our senior staff meeting at 8.15am where we discuss the day ahead, any special events or guests and anything that affects the operation of the centre. While all this is going on the groups staying with us are having breakfast and getting ready. 8.45AM The instructors are briefed on the day’s activities by a senior instructor while I can be found at reception assisting with the coordination of the groups and getting them out the door. Being at reception means I can get asked anything from getting change for the sweet machines to handing out a key! 9.00AM The office staff arrives and starts to look after the phones and emails. Once all the groups are out on activities I take a minute to grab a cup of coffee. Then it is back to the office. My days vary dramatically; one day I might never leave the office while another day I could be walking through our forest assessing the zip lines for ZIPTOPIA or just having a walk through the Laser Combat area. We have our weekly staff meeting with our sales team to discuss sales and business development and to air any issues that we might have. 11.00AM A TV crew arrives to film at SKYPARK, our obstacle zip line adventure park. I go down to meet them and introduce myself. I drive them up, show them around and leave them in the capable hands of my staff. Meanwhile, I am constantly reviewing our activities to assess whether we can improve in any way. I work on sourcing new equipment and new activities and setting up meetings with suppliers. 1.00PM Time for a well-deserved lunch, and I meet my wife Sharon – who owns Unique, a fashion boutique in the village – in one of the lovely coffee shops for a quick bite. 2.00PM We are currently developing a mobile app for the adventure centre so I meet with an app developer to discuss the process. This is followed by a meeting with a web design company to take a look at our new website mock-up and talk through the logistics of the site’s layout. 3.30PM I follow up on emails with our agents for English language programmes – this is where we incorporate outdoor activities into structured English language lessons. After that I plan the evening events for groups in the building. 5:45PM We hold an instructor debriefing session with the staff to discuss the day’s events. After that it’s all about trying to make it back before my two boys, Tom and Max, head to bed.


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07/12/2016 10:05

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