JANUARY 2013 Price £2.30 (23.75)
IF I COULD READ YOUR MIND... Mentalist David Meade on the art of persuasion
LEADERS IN BUSINESS Who will set the ECONOMIC agenda in 2013? SPONSORED BY
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Whatâ€™s inside... 18
26 Volume 25 No.1
features 14 - Aer Lingus Viscount Awards Launch 18 - David Meade
110 - BDO Round Table
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
22 - Economists 24 - John Simpson 26 - Sammy Wilson 28 - City of Culture 30 - Osborne King 31 - Manufacturing & Retail 32 - Enterprise & Pensions 34 - Tourism 38 - Business Associations
LEADERS IN BUSINESS 44 - Simon Hamilton 46 - Shane Logan 48 - Colin Williams 50 - Paul Terrington 52 - Mark McCusker 54 - Ann McGregor 56 - John McMullan 58 - Shona McCarthy 60 - Paul Millar 62 - Neil Gibson
ONES TO WATCH 94 - Andrew Woods 95 - Dan Loughlin 96 - Paul Stewart 97 - Graham Robinson 98 - Aaron Russell 100 - Tom Robinson 101 - Peter McCaul 102 - Jonathan Guest 104 - Gabriel Bradley 105 - Patrick Devine
116 - Analysis 119 - Tughans
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Farmvet Systems Moneymore
“ We created cutting-edge veterinary software for farmers.” Farmvet Systems created its groundbreaking software system, VetIMPRESS, to make farms more profitable. The constantly evolving, online resource allows farmers and vets to collect and share information about the animals in their care, reducing losses and maximising turnover. The Moneymore company contacted Invest Northern Ireland for help with research and development. Farmvet CEO, George Brownlee explains: “Invest NI’s R&D support enabled us to analyse our product, check it was what people wanted and then develop it. They helped us unpack what was just an idea and turn it into a business that could produce enough revenue to be sustainable. We were able to move much more quickly, do much more and uncover other opportunities.”
Farmvet Systems is one of the many local companies that have accessed the support available under Invest NI’s Boosting Business campaign and have taken positive action to succeed in these difficult times. “I would definitely recommend the R&D process to anybody who has an idea. Within Invest NI there are people who really understand particular areas and can help you move your business forward. They really helped us reduce the time and cost of getting from idea to final product.” Why not join the 12,000 who have already looked to Boosting Business for advice under its five key themes: jobs, skills, exports, technology and research and development.
Find out how Invest NI can help you boost your business:
Call 0800 181 4422 Text BOOST to 78886 Visit boostingbusinessni.com 100834 INI BB Farmvet FP-Ulst Business.indd 1
Let’s not raise the white flag I
t is unfortunate that 2013 has begun with Northern Ireland leading national and international news bulletins for all the wrong reasons. Our investment and tourist bodies had to work incredibly hard to get the province featured in the global media during 2012 when we had so much great stuff to shout about. But bad news will always be of more interest to news organisations than good and it took only a few images of masked men throwing petrol bombs at the police and storming City Hall for much of that positive work to be undone. It would be ill advised to dismiss the anger felt by sections of our community over the reduction in the number of days on which the union flag flies. We should not want any part of society to feel disenfranchised. But it seems clear the protests have been hi-jacked by those with ulterior motives, and
nothing can excuse the attacks that have been perpetrated on homes, businesses and police officers. Business leaders have been consistent in their calls for the violence to stop, but their message that the rioting is damaging the economy largely fell on deaf ears. Unless politicians, the police and community groups can work together to reach a lasting solution with those intent on protesting, then we risk losing investment from overseas and tourists going elsewhere. We’ve tried not to focus too much on the union flag dispute in our Leaders in Business issue in which we interview some of those likely to shape the economic agenda in 2013. However, you’ll see some of those writing outlook articles reference the disproportionate effect that the actions of a small number of people could have on the chances of a prosperous year. Those in retail and hospitality in particular
have been directly impacted by lost business as people stayed away over the holidays, but the loss of confidence has filtered down across the economy. We know much of what is happening is localised, but the international perception that it is a widespread problem will undoubtedly be damaging. One thing we can be sure of it is that the business community here will not raise a white flag and give up in the face of the latest trouble. Our businesses have proved themselves to be resilient in the past and will do so again. Let’s hope over the coming months the focus of the world will be back on all that’s good about the new Northern Ireland.
Editor: Symon Ross Manager: Sonia Armstrong Deputy Manager: Sylvie Brando Advertising Executive: Stuart Hackney Art Editor: Stuart Gray Production Manager: Catherine Mercer Cover Photography: Richard Trainor Publisher: James & Gladys Greer
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SUPPORTING SMES:The integral role played by SMEs in the growth of the local economy has been recognised by the University of Ulster’s Business School, which has launched a dedicated Centre for SME Development. Headed up by Professor Pauric McGowan and with endorsement from the Northern Ireland branches of CBI, IoD, FSB and the Chamber of Commerce, the new Centre aims to help SMEs achieve business goals through programmes to boost business performance and by facilitating leadership and management development. Professor Marie McHugh, Dean of the Ulster Business School, said: “SMEs make up almost 95% of businesses in Northern Ireland.The performance of these companies is crucial to the performance of the local economy as a whole in terms of output, value added, productivity, innovation and employment.” Representatives from the four main business organisations helped Prof. McGowan and Prof. McHugh launch the new SME centre.
JANUARY 2013 7
A DIAMOND DEAL Diamond Corrugated in Derry has won a £3m contract from Chain Reaction Cycles, the world’s largest online bike store, to supply a full packaging service over the next three years. The contract will involve Diamond Corrugated continuing to supply a full range of packaging for Chain Reaction Cycles’ products and providing an inventory management service to enable the company to ship products to customers world-wide. ZESTY MERGER UTV Media plc has announced that its two digital marketing agencies, Simply Zesty and Tibus Digital, are merging to form one of Ireland’s largest digital agencies, trading as Simply Zesty, with operations in Dublin, Belfast and London. Nigel Robbins, Group Commercial Director of UTV Media said the two agencies had been working closely together in the last year to assist an increasing number of clients whose marketing strategies require a strong digital presence. INDIA BUSINESS WIN Full Circle, the Belfast-based management consultancy, has secured its first business in India following an Invest NI trade mission. Full Circle, which employs 16 people, offers a range of market research, sales, strategy planning and development services to a range of global customers. The new contract will see Full Circle work with a major precision engineering company in Mumbai to help it develop business in the UK and other parts of Europe.
Planning for Rose Energy plant rejected
nvironment Minister Alex Attwood has blocked a controversial power plant planned for the shores of Lough Neagh, but granted planning permission for several other high profile projects. The Rose Energy proposal was for construction of a large scale £100m Energy from Waste facility to incinerate chicken litter in Glenavy in Co. Antrim. The Communities Against the Lough Neagh Incinerator group commended the minister for taking a “brave decision” and congratulated the people of Glenavy for the perseverance in the face of overwhelming commercial interests. CALNI President Danny Moore (pictured) said: “Not only is it a brave decision from Minister Attwood but it is the correct one. This is on record as the most controversial planning application in Northern Ireland with almost 7,000 letters of objection against it – the highest number of objections ever submitted against a planning application in Northern Ireland. Objections have also been made by prominent local employers such as Randox Laboratories in Crumlin.” Rose Energy chairman Tony O’Neill, said it was hugely disappointed by the decision: “We have spent over six years researching and developing our proposals, working with planning and environmental experts to ensure that this planning application was robust and thorough,” he said. “We will take some time to review the departmental report in relation to our planning application; however the implications for the agri-food industry are considerable. Understandably, until a solution is found, the growth of the poultry industry in Northern Ireland could be further restricted.” Among the other Article 31 planning applications the Minister approved was one by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society to move the Balmoral Show to new showgrounds to be developed at the Maze. He also granted full planning permission for the first police, prison and fire officer training facility in Northern Ireland to be built on a site at Desertcreat Road, near Cookstown. Attwood also announced decisions on five major retail applications in Derry, turning down four but granting approval for a retail store on the site of the current Homebase at Crescent Link.
CONVENIENT CONTRACT Warrenpoint-based Deli Lites Ireland has won a £1m export contract for its range of food products. The contract with Applegreen, a leading supplier of convenience foods to forecourt operators in the Republic of Ireland, will see Deli Lites supply Applegreen with an extensive range of gourmet sandwiches and tortilla wraps on a daily basis. HILL IN AUSTRALIA Hill Engineering in Newry has won its first business in Australia for its leading-edge TEFRA quick coupler. The company, a specialist in the design and manufacture of earth moving attachments for the quarrying, mining and construction industry, has secured business in excess of £300,000 following an extensive marketing drive in key Australian centres such as Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne.
8 JANUARY 2013
PLACE YOUR ORDER: Bombardier Aerospace has announced a series of orders which will provide a boost to its Belfast operation.The company received an order for 40 CRJ900 NextGen regional jets from Delta Air Lines, with options for 30 more. It also received a firm order for seven CRJ700 jets from an unnamed customer in China. Orders have also been received from airBaltic for 10 new CS300 airlines and from another customer in the Americas for 12 CS100 airliners. Combined, the firm orders are worth more than $3bn. Bombardier Belfast has a significant role in the design and manufacture of the complete centre fuselage, nacelles and wing components for these jets.
PROJECT RUNWAY: Belfast International Airport has awarded the contract for the resurfacing of its main runway to local construction firm Whitemountain Quarries.The project will be carried out between March and May of this year but, as the work will take place overnight, there will be no impact on normal airport activities. Other work will also be carried out during the contract period including modifications and upgrades to airfield ground lighting, drainage and airfield boundary and stand markings. Belfast International Airport Managing Director, John Doran, said: â€œIn this our 50th anniversary year, this investment is a clear statement of our commitment to the local economy and the people who use our airport.â€? Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy joined Mr Doran and Whitemountain managing director Mark Kelly to announce the deal.
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MBO AT VION Dutch-based food producer Vion has reached an agreement for a management buyout of its UK pork operations in a deal which will secure 4,000 jobs. Vion has a large pork processing operation in Cookstown. The buyout has been, led by Seamus Carr, the managing director of Vion’s Pork Business Unit, backed by UK private equity firm Endless. FIRST DERIVATIVES DEAL Newry-based software and consulting provider First Derivatives has signed what it said is the most significant deal in its 16-year history. The firm’s Delta Stream product has been selected as the basis of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) multi-market surveillance system for an initial four-year term. Working with investment banks, brokers, hedge funds and exchanges across the world, the company said the deal represents “a major step forward”. CHINA BREAKTHROUGH Asphalt Burner Services in Castledawson has won its first business in China for innovative quarrying and road construction machinery. The company, which has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland in developing and marketing its state-of-the-art equipment, has secured four contracts totalling £300,000. It will supply Vulcan burners to three leading construction contractors near Shanghai for infrastructure projects.
Flag protests have ‘hurt the economy’
usiness leaders have warned that street protests over the flying of the Union flag at Belfast City Hall will put investors and tourists off coming to Northern Ireland as well as hurting local businesses. CBI Northern Ireland said it was already aware of potential investors from overseas who had been courted for years coming to the province, only to quickly turn tail when they saw what was happening on the ground. Nigel Smyth (pictured), CBI Northern Ireland Director said: “The violence and disruptive actions of those involved in the street protests is having a detrimental impact on local businesses, as well as damaging prospective tourism and investment for the year ahead. There is now a very real risk of job losses as the very livelihood of the business owners and staff in the communities affected is threatened. We are already aware of investors who have lost interest in Northern Ireland because of these disruptions. “2013 has the potential to be a great year in Northern Ireland with the World Fire & Police Games, UK City of Culture in Derry and the G8 Summit already scheduled to take place. The eyes of the world are now on Northern Ireland, and we have grave concerns about the damage these violent protests are doing in our communities, the negative images being portrayed around the world and the impact this will have on deterring visitors from attending these events.” NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said the disruption had already hurt traders in Belfast City Centre and East Belfast, where jobs and private sector investment are much needed. “Given that 2013 is a vital year for Northern Ireland to attract more Foreign Direct Investment and Tourism, scenes of rioting being sent across the world by the many international media is doing real damage to the reputation of Northern Ireland,” he said. “The bottom line in all of this is that political stability and greater progress on the Shared Future agenda are essential for sustained economic development.”
PAVING THE WAY Portglenone-based Gibson Paving Limited has secured almost £800,000 worth of new business in Great Britain as a result of its export sales drive. The Co Antrim firm, established over 25 years ago, provides brick and granite paving solutions to private and commercial sector customers including Felixstowe Port in Suffolk. Gibson Paving has focused on developing new commercial opportunities in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. NEW IT JOBS Belfast-based IT software and services company Equiniti ICS is creating 45 jobs with the support of Invest Northern Ireland’s Job Fund. The new jobs are part of an overall expansion plan that will see the company’s HR and payroll division target the public sector. Equiniti ICS currently employs 270 staff in Belfast. The company is aiming for a 30 per cent increase in revenues over the next two years.
10 JANUARY 2013
IN THE CHAIR: Business organisation CBI Northern Ireland has named Colin Walsh, chairman of Andor Technology chairman and CEO of Crescent Capital, as its new deputy chairman. He will succeed Ian Coulter as chairman of the organisation in January 2014. Walsh said of his appointment: “I am delighted to be given this opportunity to represent the business community in Northern Ireland. Our economic success will be determined by trade and investment. We need to nurture the private sector, remove the barriers to investment, and help build a more confident and internationally focused economy.”
CHARGED UP: Belfast-based Action Renewables has been awarded management of a €3.4m EU project that aims to help transform the transport and energy behaviour of millions of Europeans.The ‘BATTERIE’ project will focus on providing answers to pressing transportation issues such as: the future impact of rising fuel costs and fuel shortages; and identifying how smart technologies and alternative fuel use can rise to meet future needs. Led by Action Renewables and assisted by South West College, the Better Accessible Transport to Encourage Robust Intermodal Enterprise project will look at innovative ways to integrate alternative fuels and smart technology into international air, road, rail and sea transport networks. Pictured at the launch are DRD Minister Danny Kennedy; Environment Minister Alex Attwood; and Action Renewables Deputy Director Terry Waugh.
TRANSFORMING BUSINESS INTERIORS
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Entrepreneurs ‘need more role models’
he island of Ireland needs more entrepreneurs to act as role models to the next generation if it is to successfully grow an export economy. That was the view of former Irish Presidential candidate and entrepreneur Sean Gallagher, speaking to Ulster Business at an event staged by MLN to launch its upcoming Management Month. “To get more export companies we need more start-up companies, so we have to encourage entrepreneurship right from school,” he said. “The first thing we need to do is make entrepreneurship more attractive by giving young people role models and by making business something that is not seen as being contaminated and negative or purely profit driven, but where people are creating jobs and providing services.” Well known for his stint on the RTE version of Dragon’s Den, Gallagher was co-founder and CEO of Ireland’s largest home technology company, Smarthomes. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur he was assistant CEO with the County Enterprise Boards, specialising in running training programmes for those setting up new businesses. He believes those who are running businesses in the current economic climate deserve to be applauded for the benefits the jobs they have created bring to society. “I think entrepreneurs are heroes. Most entrepreneurs that I know make a living, they don’t make a fortune. But they are doing what they love and what they are passionate about. We need more role models like them,” he said. Gallagher believes everyone coming through university should be taught business skills and those who find themselves out of work encouraged to change their mindset to focus on the skills they have, not the role they previously did.
“We need to encourage a lot of people who have been made redundant or who are facing redundancy not to see themselves as an unemployed architect or an unemployed banker but as someone who is more than their job. They have to go back to basics to see how they can apply their skills somewhere else in the marketplace where there is demand,” he said. “I say to a lot of young people, don’t think about the jobs that are out there at the moment. In ten years you will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet. When I was growing up there was no internet or mobile phones and whole industries have been built around those technologies.” To read a longer version of this interview go to www.ulsterbusiness.com
2013 ‘the year of 4G’ says Barclay Communications
ast year Barclay Communications’ predicted that, “the future of technology is mobile”, and over the last 12 months technology has made massive leaps towards this vision. The UK now has its first 4G network, it hosted the first truly mobile Olympics and experienced another soar in tablet computer sales. We’re also exceeding other major nations’ smartphone penetration and, for the first time, we’re leading the mobile and tablet data download charts. Among his forecasts for 2013, Britt Megahey (pictured), Managing Director of Barclay Communications has picked 4G as the top tech issue for the year. Later this month the UK’s 4G spectrums will finally be auctioned off and by the second quarter of 2013 the mobile networks will be launching an array of new 4G tariffs to compete with EE. Britt also believes mobile will continue to influence business apps, websites and working practices, noting that mobile apps have been revolutionising how businesses operate over the last couple of years and at the dawn of the 4G he predicts this trend will continue to grow. The Barclay Communications boss is also tipping a continuation of the explosion in tablets. He comments that in 2012 lighter, cheaper and more portable seven inch tablets successfully entered the market. Before the end of the year Apple estimates it will ship around 10 million iPad Minis and the Google Nexus 7 reached nearly one million sales per month, he said. “We believe these cost effective tablets will be snapped up by businesses this year and play a big role in achieving Gartner’s prediction that the 13 million tablets sold in 2012 for business use will more than triple by 2016,” said Britt. Although Android and Apple currently rule the Smartphone market, Barclay believes the Windows Phone, with its advanced security features, builtin Microsoft Office compatibility and seamless synchronisation with Windows 8 PCs and tablets, will be a strong lure for businesses in 2013 and future years. Britt is also expecting a comeback from Blackberry, with its makers RIM set to launch the completely redesigned and much awaited Blackberry 10 at the end of the month.
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CREATIVE INVESTMENT: Local architect Jim Rooney and his son Christopher, a final year Business & Law student at UCD, have been awarded funding that they hope will allow them to realise their vision to develop innovative disaster relief housing.The father and son duo pooled their architectural and business skills to develop a new easy-toassemble and sustainable housing solution called the Hexi-House©. With a recent award of Creative Industries Innovation Funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and DCAL they are now positioned to develop the concept over the coming months.The hexagonal shaped disaster relief shelter, designed to accommodate a family of five for a period of three to five years, is made from sustainable materials. It is a low cost, easy to assemble kit house with a roof that is capable of capturing rain water and a floor that will be raised off the ground to ensure the living area is kept dry at all times. Pictured are Jim, Christopher and David McConnell from the Arts Council.
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in association with
2013 Viscount Awards are ready to launch Ulster Business outlines what the judges are looking for in the awards, which highlight innovation in business between GB and Northern Ireland.
igh-flying local companies are now being invited to take part in the 5th Aer Lingus Viscount Awards. Backed for the second year in a row by Ulster Business magazine the awards seek to honour Northern Ireland’s best business operation across a wide spectrum of specialist areas. From the inception of the Viscount Awards five years ago the emphasis of the competition has always been on recognising those businesses who are generating enduring and lucrative economic ties between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The structure of the competition for 2013 will include seven separate categories. Nominations have been invited under the following headings: Company of the Year (small, medium and large business categories), Entrepreneur of the Year, Most Innovative Company, Best Exporter of the Year, and the Aer Lingus Viscount Award for Overall Excellence. Valerie Abbott, the recently appointed Northern Ireland Commercial Manager for Aer Lingus, said the continued expansion of the Viscount Awards underlined the commitment of the airline to enhancing its ties with all sections of the local business community. Ms. Abbott pointed out that the opening of the new direct service from George Best Belfast City Airport to London Gatwick was further confirmation of the airline’s commitment to helping build the local economy.
?? SEPTEMBER 2012
“The Gatwick route will complement the already well established Aer Lingus direct service to Heathrow, providing an additional link into the heart of the UK’s economic powerhouse. “The importance to local business of the continued development of the strongest possible airline travel ties cannot be over emphasised. “Our expanded London service now allows even greater access for the business network across Northern Ireland to the South East region of England and further afield,” she said. “We in Aer Lingus are acutely aware of the positive benefits attached to networking accessibility. “That is why we regard the Viscount Awards as the perfect incentive platform for local companies to showcase their expertise and skills. “Every organisation that actually enters the competition will come under the scrutiny of an eight strong group of judges, all of whom are experts in their own sphere of business life, including myself; Symon Ross, Editor, Ulster Business; Tracey Meharg, Invest NI’s Executive Director, Business Solutions; Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce; Gary McDonald, Business Editor, Irish News; Alan Taylor, Managing Partner, Arthur Cox; Adrienne McGill, Business Editor, News Letter and Roseann Kelly, CEO Women in Business.” It was however stressed by the airline’s Northern Ireland representative that regardless
Aer Lingus Commercial Manager Valerie Abbott and Ulster Business editor Symon Ross direct companies to enter the Viscount Awards.
of the individual categories one key theme the judges would be looking for would be an innovative approach to the development of business opportunities. “We particularly want to receive entries from those firms and organisations that have been able to access new markets on the back of an innovative approach. “Obviously if that principle of innovation has been successful in generating new or additional export markets then even better. “Aer Lingus as a company has never been afraid to take on competitive challenges. We recognise the benefits of an export-propelled economy.
“The importance of encouraging that approach in all areas of Northern Ireland business is one that we will support in every way possible,” Ms. Abbott explained. One of those sitting on the judging panel will be Alan Taylor, Managing Partner at Arthur Cox. “The strength of the Viscount Awards is that it’s remit is not restrictive in terms of the companies it wants to encourage to take part.
“The Awards are designed to be as inclusive as possible. “They represent a golden opportunity for all firms to highlight their successes over 2012 and not just those already established as the major generators of economic wealth in Northern Ireland. “The Viscount Awards ensure that across the small, medium and large sized business sector those companies involved in innovative projects
will receive the recognition they deserve. “In these challenging economic times every incentive has to be provided for organisations and their staff to display crucial entrepreneurial skills,” Mr. Taylor said. The Awards Lunch will take place on the 23rd of April 2013 in the prestigious surroundings of the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London, which itself has a long and illustrious transportation history.
Entries to the awards can be completed online through a simple form that can be found at: viscountawards.ulsterbusiness.com
SEPTEMBER 2012 ??
Nothing ventured, nothing gained Ever wanted to present a more convincing argument or pitch? Ever wished you could be more persuasive in professional and personal relationships? In his first article for Ulster Business, David Meade explores how simple and reliable scientific techniques can be used to influence investors and stakeholders to think or act in the way that youâ€™d like. 18 JANUARY 2013
t some point in all of our careers, we’ve wished we could be more persuasive. The ability to steer a conversation or pitch in one’s chosen direction, and subsequently close a deal, is the holy grail of communication. Whether you’re going after an elusive sale in a dry spell, seeking ‘buy-in’ or support for an internal project, or trying to encourage a colleague to see your point of view, researchers have identified a wide array of techniques that can be used to increase the power of your persuasion punch. Skills like these have never been more useful than when going after investment. The role of the Venture Capitalist as an investment model has never been more economically important. As an agent for growth, they allow both parties to grow and innovate through synergies in their financial and human assets. In spite of the projections of growth that many had been banking on, the UK economy’s relative stagnation through 2012 served to increase investor’s risk aversion, with the value of investment from private equity and venture capital sources in 2012 marginally down on 2011. So whether you’re in the market for an investor, or just trying to get your message heard, when it comes to persuading others you can’t afford to miss a trick. The science of successfully persuading others to think, act, or behave in a certain manner has gained considerable pace in the last twenty years. Led by Arizona State University’s Robert Cialdini, there now exists a burgeoning library of proven and tested methods to improve your likelihood of getting results in the boardroom (or even at home!). Following over thirty years of work researchers have identified at least four key factors that, when exploited, will have a dramatic impact on your ability to persuade: Reciprocation, consistency, and social proofing. But how can they be used? Reciprocation When it comes to raising funds, few sectors are under as much pressure as those that comprise the charitable sector. We’ve all arrived home to a doormat full of requests for one off contributions, or even regular monthly donations from the most deserving causes. One might presume that the images of the vulnerable individuals being supported by the organisations would catalyse a contribution, or that evidence of the great strides they’re making in changing lives would be enough to bolster their coffers. The actual results are much less impressive. Research shows that when charities use direct mail to canvass for donations, they receive
money from less than one fifth of the recipients. Surprisingly, though, when the envelope includes a free gift – perhaps a pen, bookmark, or daffodil – donations double to nearly 40%. Put simply, when we unexpectedly give our clients or prospects something that is of value to them, they feel an incredibly strong obligation to reward us. The key, though, is that the ‘gift’ is unexpected, and unconnected to any perception of an ulterior commercial motive. Consistency Restaurant tables are like bananas. They perish. If a table sits empty, it cannot be ‘stockpiled’ and sold again at an indeterminate date in the future. Restaurant tables, airline seats, and hotel rooms all suffer from this ‘fruit-like’ perishability; every empty seat, table, and bedroom equals unrecoverable yield. In the late 1990’s, the owner of a Chicago restaurant was faced with a problem that was costing him hundreds of dollars in profit every single day. Customers new and old would make telephone reservations, and more often that not fail to arrive at the restaurant. Tables were being reserved and kept for customers that were not arriving, and ‘walk-in’ customers were being turned away needlessly. Tables were perishing before his very eyes and his bottom line. By way of a solution, researchers recommended the owner instructed his receptionist to alter a couple of words in her telephone conversation with those making reservations. The simple change reduced the number of ‘no-shows’ by a staggering 66%. How? The receptionist merely modified her request from “Please call if you have to change your plans” to “Will you please call if you have to change your plans?” At that point, she politely paused and waited for a response. The wait was pivotal because it induced customers to fill the pause with a public commitment. And public commitments, even seemingly minor ones, have a staggering impact on one’s likelihood to follow through with their actions. So the next time you want to be assured the opportunity to have a follow up meeting with a potential lead or investor, don’t rely on a follow up email, seize the moment and ask directly for a follow up meeting. Or, if there’s someone in the office who continually misses deadlines, a tersely worded email might seem like an appropriate action, when in actual fact simply seeking a public assurance of timeliness at a team meeting could be 70% more effective. Social Proofing Like it or not, we are herd animals. We see the crowd move or behave in one way, and we find it virtually impossible to not drift in that direction. As human beings, we all tend
to believe that we are unpredictable in this regard. Our penchant for believing that we are unpredictable is, however, one of our most predictable qualities. As part of an experiment, a man stopped on a busy pavement in Manhattan and gazed straight up in the air for one minute, at nothing in particular. Designed to see what effect this activity would have on pedestrians, researchers found that most didn’t notice the curious behavior and around 5% joined the man in looking upwards. The experiment was then modified and repeated. For the second try, larger groups of pedestrians were ‘in-on-it’, crowding together to look at the sky. When five people rather than one looked up at nothing the percentage of pedestrians who followed suit jumped to nearly 20%. Larger groups of stooged up-lookers generated an even stronger result: an initial gang of 15 led 40% of passersby to join in, nearly stopping all pedestrian traffic within just one minute. Similarly, a separate piece of research reported on a fund-raiser who presented residents with a printed list of neighbours who had donated to a good cause dramatically increased the frequency of contributions; the longer the list, the bigger the donation received, even if the list is faked. We must always, therefore, go out of our way to inform investors or prospects when our product is the largest-selling or fastest-growing of its kind, because believing that hoardes of people are flocking to buy your product makes it instantly and dramatically more attractive.
About David David is a researcher and lecturer in international business with one of Ireland’s leading Universities, whose personal interests have always focused on aspects of popular psychology, consumer behaviour, and choice. He’s driven by a passion for understanding how and why we think the way we do. David has become a sought after international speaker and corporate advisor in the USA and Europe with a reputation for an innovative style that forces audiences to think critically about the challenges around them. In this series of articles for Ulster Business, he’ll cultivate a wide range of cutting edge research in management and leadership to help you achieve peak performance. Find out more about David’s work on www.davidmeade.co.uk and follow him on twitter @davidmeadelive
JANUARY 2013 19
A pathological entrepreneur Amanda Poole visited the offices of PathXL at the Northern Ireland Science Park, in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter, to catch up with CEO Des Speed, one of Ulster’s most successful entrepreneurs.
athXL is a global pioneer in web-based solutions for digital pathology, providing software for education, research and clinical sectors worldwide. To date the small team of 25 at PathXL, originally a spin out from Queen’s University, has worked mainly with UK clients, like John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, Royal Liverpool University Hospital, and Guys’ & St Thomas Hospitals, but plans are under way to grow its international client list. With over 25 years senior management experience, Des Speed is perfectly placed to drive that growth. “For us the opportunity to do more in cancer research is a big theme going forward,” Des said. “We are probably the strongest in the world at digital pathology education. “That’s a great base, but research is where you can make a much bigger impact, so that is a big focus for us,” he added. “To be recognised as world leaders in our niche within digital pathology in the research sector internationally is the next big goal.” After studying mathematics at Queen’s University, Des (55) from Belfast, worked for Shorts, ICL, Harland and Wolff, and then NIE Business Systems, running its IT division. He took 405 people out of NIE, still within the Viridian Group to form Sx3 and then from 1999 built up Lagan Technologies until it was sold to Kana at the end of 2010 following a period of rapid expansion. “After I came out of that I wanted to do something in health care technology of some sort,” Des said. “I got really intrigued by the potential difference that technology can make in this area. “The idea of making a significant difference and growing a good commercial business is very motivating.” Des told Ulster Business that having a clear vision is important to him and that he is a big believer in the power of teams and empowering people then to fulfil themselves. “There is a great satisfaction in seeing people develop, so it’s not just about the figures, the money, the business, but about individual people,” he said.
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Des Speed (left) with PathXL founder Professor Peter Hamilton
“It’s a cliche, but at the end of the day, every company is the sum of its people, the culture that’s built.” Des said frustration with “big company cultures” was part of his motivation for becoming an entrepreneur and at Path XL he tries to help create a culture that is comfortable. A typical day for him starts at 6.30am and he tries not to arrange meetings before 8.00am. His role also involves frequent travel to Dublin, England, Scotland, Europe and the US. “It’s pretty non stop,” he said. “I don’t count the number of hours, but it’s full on. “Having time at the start of the day helps me feel in control before I get stuck into it. “Likewise at the end of the day, having enough things wrapped up brings a sense of closure.” Des says being in control means he feels pressure rather than stress and as he is running a small company competing with typically much bigger companies, everybody pitches in and does more than their core job description.
He says having a passion for his work is important and offered this advice to budding entrepreneurs. “It’s not a cosy sort of existence, so wanting to achieve, to create, to build things, in some way I think is a really important attribute,” he said. “Not being too swung by the highs and lows but charting a middle course in terms of temperament is important otherwise you can be up and down in terms of mood as the latest events occur, either positive or negative. “Being prepared to take considered risks is also a key thing, because you can’t grow a business from small roots to something significant without taking some risks of some sort along the way.” And of being recognised as one of our leading entrepreneurs the PathXL CEO is modest and practical. “If you’re on a pedestal its awfully easy to fall off,” he said. “You’re only as good as you’re last quarter.” To find out more about PathXL visit www.pathxl.com
Outlook for 2013
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Are there any reasons to b Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist NI, Ulster Bank What issue will dominate global and local economic debate in 2013? The main challenges facing all economies are external and fiscal. Politics will come to the fore in mitigating against adverse economic outcomes in both the US and in the Eurozone. The Italian and German elections will be key events that will either help or hinder efforts at further Eurozone fiscal integration. Before then, Spain is expected to request a full bailout. This will spur the ECB into action, with Mario Draghi set to become the most prominent central banker or policymaker in 2013. Is there a trend that could come to the fore in 2013? Every major economy has had a financial crisis at one time or another except China. The Chinese banking system will experience a banking or financial crisis sooner or later. While it may not happen for some time yet there will be more talk of it in 2013. What do you view as the area of most concern? A surprise negative shock – political or economic – hitting an already weak global economy. This will impact on trade with and investment into Northern Ireland. The biggest concern is the eurozone and how this will impact on Northern Ireland’s two most important economies, the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Are there any indicators that give you cause for optimism? With major events like the City of Culture and the World Police and Fire Games, tourist numbers will rise in 2013. The real economy, particularly businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors, stand to benefit considerably from this, and so too does Northern Ireland’s brand image. Also, some of Northern Ireland’s flagship exporters such as Bombardier have received record orders. Will we be in better shape by end of the year than we are now? The economy faces a long slow road to recovery that will last several years and is linked to a work-out of the debt legacy. In 12 months time we are a year further on in that journey. However, for most households and businesses it will not feel markedly different from now. Initially, the recovery could be termed a ‘spreadsheet recovery’. This means that some of the key economic statistics will see improvement. The real recovery, in terms of consumer confidence, consumer spending, and employment opportunities, will lag behind the recovery of the GDP figures.
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Peter Hutchinson, Centre for Economic Empowerment Coordinator, NICVA What issue will dominate global and local economic debate in 2013? Globally, the wisdom of fiscal austerity amid continuing depressed demand and anaemic growth. Locally, the search for a Plan B if corporation tax is not devolved. NICVA’s Centre for Economic Empowerment will contribute to this search by commissioning a review of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s fiscal powers. Is there a trend that is not really on the radar yet that could come to the fore in 2013? The long-term trend of rising inequality is beginning to attract scrutiny. Interesting arguments are emerging that suggest excessive inequality undermines demand, encourages speculative bubbles and was central to causing the recession. I expect this issue to gain political traction in 2013. What do you view as the area of most concern for the economy as we start a new year? The lack of employment opportunity. Many people are working fewer hours than they want to, meaning reduced disposable income, diminished demand for goods and services, and ultimately less growth. The lack of jobs is also contributing to a ‘brain drain’ as our people leave in search of work, while welfare reform will leave many of those unable to find full-time employment – and their families – in hardship. Are there any indicators of figures out there that give you cause for optimism? Recent figures show a significant increase in exports by small businesses – this was mainly driven by increased sales to the Republic of Ireland. Helping our small and medium sized businesses, which make up the majority of our economy, to increase their exports to Europe and the rest of the world will be very important for rebalancing our economy and creating jobs. In economic terms, will we be in better shape by end of the year than we are now? Obviously projections for the year ahead give little cause for optimism. Hopefully however we will at least be in better shape in terms of our economic debate. The depth and prolonged nature of the global crisis shows that a fresh approach is required, moving away from short-termism, vested interests and limited regard for the greater economic and social good.
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
o be cheerful this year? Angela McGowan, Chief Economist, Danske Bank
Alan Bridle, UK Economist, Bank of Ireland UK
What will dominate the global and local economic debate in 2013? Continued monetary policy intervention will play a key role in the global recovery this year. With new Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney starting in July, we could see some changes to the UK’s monetary policy approach. Some noteworthy comments were made by Mr Carney in early December which would suggest that we cannot rule out that the Bank of England might veer towards a target for the level of nominal GDP (NGDP) in 2013. In the case of the UK and indeed in many other countries, the level of NGDP has dropped well below the pre-2008 trend. One option for the Bank of England is of course that it could introduce NGDP level targeting as an operational tool, but another, more radical, option might simply be that the UK government would change the legislation to transform the Bank’s mandate from inflation targeting to NGDP level targeting. While we don’t know how exactly UK monetary policy will play out in the second half of 2013, we can be sure of one thing – the level of economic policy debate around this issue will rise significantly during the year.
What issue will dominate global and local economic debate in 2013? The global financial environment is likely to remain fragile in 2013, with debt levels in advanced economies still at elevated levels. Further balance sheet repair will be a recurring theme in 2013 and for a few years to come, suppressing economic growth rates. Locally, the labour market remains our biggest challenge – in contrast to the UK, unemployment is still rising and private sector net job creation is weak. Other 2013 regional-specific issues include the legacy of property-related indebtedness, the sensitivity to austerity measures and the constraints to an export-led recovery.
Is there a trend that’s not on the radar that could come to the fore this year? Northern Ireland’s fortunes are inextricably intertwined with the performance of the UK and Europe. The challenges for us locally in terms of rebalancing and rebuilding our economy will remain the same in 2013. As a regional economy, monetary policy is entirely beyond our control and our taxation options remain limited. In 2013 local policy makers will relentlessly pursue our economic goals and objectives as set out in the NI Economic Strategy. What do you view as the area of most concern? Our biggest economic risk as we enter 2013 is political unrest. Without political stability and rule of law, investors, tourists and local entrepreneurs may turn their attention and trade to more stable regions. Will we be better off by the end of 2013 than we are now? Our central forecast is for a moderate global recovery in 2013 which will be largely driven by the US and emerging markets. The main drag on growth will come from Europe and unfortunately the UK will also underperform. We expect the European debt crisis to ‘scale down’ but it will not disappear.
Is there a trend that could come to the fore in 2013? For the UK, the risks of a sovereign downgrade and loss of the coveted AAA credit rating have increased materially as the Chancellor’s debtreduction timetable has slipped by at least another year into 2017/18. The fallout may be more political and symbolic but UK asset and money markets would not be completely insensitive. There are also some “pipeline” inflationary pressures from food and energy that have yet to fully manifest themselves in the key indices. What do you view as the area of most concern? Although immediate concerns have eased, a disorderly outcome to the euro-area debt crisis remains the key potential stress scenario for 2013. The period before and after the German elections could be critical. Are there any indicators that give you cause for optimism? Most macro statistics continue to disappoint. However, housing affordability is greatly improved, FDI volumes seem resilient in the circumstances and global food demand is strong which should play to a sector where we have a comparative advantage. Local businesses with solid balance sheets, good leadership and external sales strategies are always a source of encouragement. While early days, I also think the Funding for Lending Scheme will gain some traction in 2013, potentially boosting the availability of mortgage finance in particular. Will we be in better shape by end of the year than we are now? Our baseline projections anticipate only very marginal GDP expansion in 2013, if we can avoid external “shocks”. At a macro level, 2013 may feel much the same as 2012 with those businesses wholly reliant on domestic demand remaining particularly challenged.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
The ambitions for wider devolution John Simpson takes a closer look at recent proposals put forward in Wales and Scotland concerning the devolution of additional powers and asks whether any of the measures would benefit Northern Ireland.
he Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly are both taking ambitious steps to create more flexibility in the model of devolution that is delegated to their administration. The Scottish Parliament has already been extensively involved in the Scotland Bill (now an Act) which paves the way for tax changes and changes in the delegation of some taxes from 2016. If the vote for Scottish independence is passed, then the increased flexibility for a range of taxes will, of course, become an even more radical framework. However, even if Scotland remains within the UK, likely changes have been identified. Interestingly, a parallel debate has been taking place in the Welsh Assembly and a similar range of changes to the devolution of taxation has been researched by a special Commission (the Silk Commission). By comparison with Scotland and Wales, the debate about greater devolution of taxation powers in Northern Ireland has been much narrower and has focused singularly only on the merits and implications of the devolution of corporation tax. For both Scotland and Wales there are proposals which might allow: • permission to vary the rates of personal income tax. • devolution of taxes on land and buildings transactions. • devolution of taxes on the disposal of waste to landfill. • each Government to supplement their capital budgets with extra borrowed funds. Other debated proposals include the devolution of air passenger duty, initially on long-haul flights, and the devolution of the aggregates levy. The prospective changes for both administrations would be based on two principles. First, the redistributive effect of the current UK-wide system, via the Barnett formula would be retained, but with significant modification. Second, the devolved Governments would move from a system where their chief responsibility was the allocation of approved expenditure to a system where a significant amount of revenue was determined by the devolved Government, which would then have to make decisions on sources of revenue to balance against expenditure plans. In the reports by the Calman Commission in Scotland and the Silk Commission in Wales, there has been a broad ranging review of other possible sources of tax devolution. In neither case is there a strong preference to seek discretion in VAT or national insurance.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
There is uncertainty about the merits of devolving corporation tax. The Welsh Commission offers the ambiguity of saying that it does not recommend that corporation tax be devolved and then adds “unless it is devolved in Scotland and Northern Ireland, in which case devolution would also need to be offered to Wales.” The current Scottish Government envisages that with a full range of tax powers it “could reduce corporate taxation” and also “harmonise the tax and benefit systems to create a fairer and simpler regime.” In the headline reviews of proposals for Scotland and Wales there is little emphasis on the effect of changed taxation as a major incentive to strengthen the local economies. Implicitly, there is a stronger motivation to use variations as an instrument of social policy. In terms of effective discretionary decisions, there are three aspects of the devolution debate that may have implications for each of the devolved Governments. There are (i) the merits of variations in tax rates for the big revenue earners such as income tax or corporation tax, (ii) the permitted supplement to capital spending through a specific agreement to allow devolved Governments to borrow, and (iii) the implications for the adjustment processes for amendments to the Barnett formula to compensate for the transfer of some significant revenue raising authority to each Government. On income tax arrangements, the core proposals for Scotland and Wales are that a designated part of income tax collected should be directly assigned to each Government. With basic income tax rates currently at 20p in the £, 10p would be assigned and the rest would go to the Treasury. Then, each Government might decide whether its share should be increased or decreased by altering the income tax rate up or down from 10p. In principle, this flexibility would either allow the Government to finance more costly Government services or to reduce some services to offset an income tax reduction. If the devolved Government altered its rate of income tax, that would not affect the adjusted transfers under the Barnett formula. On recent evidence, Ministers in the devolved Governments may be reluctant to use this type of instrument. Northern Ireland stands apart from the others in the willingness to seek devolution of corporation tax and to meet the cost (if there is an acceptable agreement) through a reduced Barnett allocation. Each of the devolved Governments now wishes to supplement its capital budget by being permitted, by Treasury, to borrow funds either from the National Loans Fund – an arm of the Treasury – or in the market. Stormont is
“The most difficult and complex aspect of changing the devolution arrangements lies in the search for an agreed mechanism to adapt the Barnett formula.” ahead of the others with an annual permitted £200m borrowing limit. This is about 20% of the annual capital budget. Critically and controversially, the Treasury has been reluctant, so far, to allow other forms of borrowing to supplement this total. From 2015-16 Scotland, under a new feature, will be allowed to borrow up to 10% of its capital budget. Proportionately this is lower than the Northern Ireland arrangement. A similar arrangement for Wales has been agreed in principle but the scale and mechanism is still under discussion. The Treasury seems to expect the added cost of permitted borrowing to be a charge on delegated revenues so that the Governments will realise the need to use this power sparingly. The most difficult and complex aspect of changing the devolution arrangements lies in the search for an agreed mechanism to adapt the Barnett formula to the changed circumstances. This is a serious problem for Northern Ireland if corporation tax is devolved. It will be a serious issue in each area if there is a significant shift in direct revenue raising ability which must be taken out of the Barnett formula. The problem is relatively easy in the first year of a change: the assigned or devolved revenue can be deducted from Barnett. However, the adjustments in the following years are potentially complex. If the devolved revenue is raised or lowered as a result of devolved decision
making, then the Barnett allocation stands as a separate calculation. The formula to adjust the Barnett allocations when there is significant delegated responsibility (as with corporation tax) has already proved to be contentious between Stormont and the Treasury. Stormont Ministers have argued for a formula that asks for a smaller deduction in Barnett to take account of secondary effects on the economy of any growth in the economy as a result of the changed company tax rates. The Treasury have been reluctant to endorse this. The Welsh have examined four options, none of which allows for secondary effects. The Treasury, dealing with Stormont Ministers, will be ready to quote from the detailed ideas from Wales about how to adjust the Barnett block grant to take account of the consequences of UK-wide decisions or inflation adjustments. The preferred option, from the advice in Wales, is for an annual proportionate reduction in the Barnett block grant. The grant would be reduced by the appropriate initial deduction and would then change annually as a proportion of the grant before the change in tax devolution. Northern Ireland has been asking for a simpler form of corporation tax devolution but is asking for a generous formula in calculating the cost in terms of deductions from the Barnett formula. These issues are now part of a much wider UK debate for decision making in 2013.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
The access to finance conundrum The Executive is acutely aware that bank lending remains constrained and businesses urgently need access to finance, writes Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.
he availability of finance is a key strategic issue for the Northern Ireland economy where a lack of bank lending has been cited as one of the factors inhibiting our recovery. The problems are huge. The collapse of some global financial institutions led to government bailouts that in turn have led to sovereign debt problems and a threat to the euro. International action and action by national governments has had a focus on both making financial systems safer and on rebuilding and recapitalising banks so that lending can flow again. The journey to recovery has been difficult and our local position, where the structure of our local banking system has close links to the problems in Ireland, has meant our feeling the issues more severely than other parts of the UK. But I do now feel that we can begin to be more optimistic about the future on this issue. The Enterprise Minister and I have just completed a series of meetings with all of our local banks and I recently met with the National Asset Management Agency’s (NAMA) Northern Ireland Advisory Committee. I am in no doubt that significant progress has been made. Without exception all of our banks have healthy capital and liquidity positions and hence they do have money to lend to good projects. But they also suggested that a lack of demand is a particular problem. I have no doubt that a lack of confidence is a major issue given the economic climate, but our recovery depends on businesses taking bold steps to hit the ‘go button’ on the investment projects or business opportunities they have. I know that the cost and conditions of credit are factors here. While I have been pressing the banks on this, we need to recognise the costs will unfortunately be higher than pre-financial crisis. And where stability and security are now
paramount, we also need to accept that more scrutiny will be required – though achieving the right balance here is crucial. Mortgages associated with impaired property loans are also restricting otherwise viable businesses in accessing finance. The banks themselves recognised that and committed to looking at ways in which lending could be made available as part of a wider financial and business response to this. I have also been stressing with the Treasury how important it is that national initiatives to improve liquidity are effective in this part of the UK. I had a very serious concern that this hadn’t been the case in the past. Thankfully, the new Funding for Lending Scheme introduced by the Government appears to be receiving a positive response with its design being viewed favourably by the banks – Ulster Bank, Barclays and Santander are already participating. I am particularly pleased at the progress that
“Banking has been a matter of huge concern for me for SOME three years NOW. Slowly but surely we are making progress.” 26 JANUARY 2013
NAMA has made in managing its portfolio of loans and associated assets. Our first worry was that they would carefully manage these assets and play a positive and constructive part in the local property market. The NAMA Chairman has always assured me that their strategy is to sell assets in a phased and orderly manner, and that they would neither engage in a firesale nor hoard assets. They have delivered on this. NAMA have also made it clear to me and want it to be widely known that they have the ability to lend to both debtors and potential investors to develop assets. In the last year they have already made £100m of lending available to Northern Ireland debtors to develop their assets. The Agency also made vendor finance available to help investors seeking to acquire property locally. Banking has been a matter of huge concern for me for some three years now. Slowly but surely we are making progress. The DETI Minister and I will continue to work with and to press the banks and the Government to take all steps necessary to ensure our banking system is stable, secure and is making lending available at affordable terms. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has also offered to assist where possible and we will shortly be meeting with her on this. It is my hope and those of the Executive that we will now see banks playing a more constructive role in our local economy going forward.
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Putting Derry on By Philip Gilliland, President of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce
erry-Londonderry has an opportunity like no other in 2013. It will be the UK’s first ever City of Culture. It has a calendar of cultural events that will be unrivalled outside, perhaps, London or Dublin, with some events that even the capital cities cannot match. Lonely Planet has designated Derry as one of the four ‘must see’ global city destinations of 2013. We have never before had so many visitors in one year as will come during the City of Culture celebrations. We can now be confident that 2013 will be a great year. Our challenge is to ensure the highest standards of excellence throughout the year and also to cement a legacy that makes City of Culture more than just a one-off wonderful party. The overarching objective for the City of Culture is in making Derry a must-go-to city for talented people – whether they want to study, live, work or start a business.
Jobs the priority for construction sector By Gordon Best, director of QPANI
he priority for the construction industry in 2013 has to be JOBS, JOBS, JOBS. The employment and economic multiplier benefits that investment in infrastructure can bring to the local economy are well documented. Construction provides 28.5 jobs per £1m of output. The Chancellors Autumn statement gave some cause for optimism with an additional £5bn for infrastructure of which the Northern Ireland share is some £132m. However, the overall picture for construction markets in GB, where many Northern Ireland suppliers and contractors are depending on for work, is one of falling activity. The CPA predicting a 1.9% and 1.3% reduction in new and all construction work in 2013 while Experian are being more pessimistic with projections of reductions of 3.4% and 2.4% respectively. Our historic main supply market of the Irish Republic construction sector shows no sign of recovery. A number of areas give reasons for optimism though namely the massive growth potential of the food/ agri sector on the island of Ireland and the subsequent infrastructure it will require to facilitate that growth. The growing renewable energy sector both on land and at sea will demand huge quantities of aggregates and concrete, the continuing demand for social and affordable homes and the urgent need for maintenance of our roads network, schools and health estates will help sustain what will be a smaller but more sustainable materials supply industry. The QPANI, CEF, FMB, and other Construction Industry Group (CIG) member organisations are now being listened to at the very highest level through our participation in the All Party Group on Construction at Stormont. What other Industry grouping can attract interest that gets six Executive Ministers around the table at one time, twice in one year? Although the Executive are listening, in 2013 we need: • Urgent changes to the planning system to speed up planning and delivery of important economic and job creating projects. • Urgent action by Government Construction and large private sector clients to stop sub-economic tendering and improve cash flow into the construction industry supply chain. • Continued pressure placed on banks to improve credit availability. • The end to the “not in my back yard” mentality of many in Northern Ireland. • Urgent action to increase the use of private finance in infrastructure investment as is currently happening in other regions of the UK. • Urgent reappraisal of the Green New Deal that we continue to believe offers good opportunities to leverage new jobs, reduce energy costs, and improve the comfort of homes. We look forward to continuing our important work in 2013 and the years ahead with construction colleagues, our MLAs and policy makers.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
the map for the right reasons As part of achieving this, the business community under the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce is working closely with Derry City Council and government departments to create an animated city centre. It is essential that we have a city centre that is both vibrant and viable. That means creating and retaining a mix of good shops and entertaining attractions, for the day time and to sustain a healthy night time economy. A great start has been achieved, with a range of excellent new cafes and restaurants opening. Streets that had been blighted by retail closures are again seeing new commercial activity. Northern Ireland’s Executive deserves praise for helping to kick-start this process with investment of around £100m in preparation for City of Culture year. Recent investments have included the Peace Bridge, the Ebrington Barracks public space, the Vital Venue that accommodates 4,000 people and new riverside paths. In the coming months, the rail line between Belfast and Derry – described by Michael Palin as “one of the great railway journeys” – will reopen. So, too, will the refurbished Guildhall. Culturally, 2013 will be fabulous. For the first time, the
FleadhCheoilnahEireann will take place in the North, and it will also be the first time it is held in a city. That will be a great party and a wonderful celebration of Irish culture – and is expected to attract about a third of a million visitors. Other highlights will include the Turner Prize exhibition and at the end of the year the Lumiere will show off the city in a literally different light. For businesses, one objective is to marry together the cultural ambitions with the right commercial outcomes. That means making a profit from our welcomed visitors, but it also means bringing together cultural activities with entrepreneurship to produce viable businesses of the future. The prime example is the Chamber’s CultureTECH, which is a week of digital entertainment that helps showcase and support local new technology enterprises. City of Culture will be a success. It will be the basis for making Derry a go-to city for the long term, as a tourism destination, to live in, to run a business in and as a proper university city in which to study in. We recognise this is a substantial agenda – but nothing less than achieving it is acceptable to the city’s business community.
Tide begins to turn for local pub industry Colin Neill, chief executive, Pubs of Ulster
t has been well documented that the last few years have been some of the toughest for the pub trade in Northern Ireland and the question for many people is, can pubs survive another tough year? The answer is undoubtedly yes, they can. Whilst the year ahead will certainly bring new challenges, publicans themselves are optimistic about the future and encouragingly, most are determined to survive the current recession. We are seeing more pubs taking an innovative approach to marketing in a bid to drive footfall. As a result, products such as coffee and food, which have traditionally been marketed as a secondary offering, are taking on a more significant role. The year ahead will also offer the industry new opportunities to boost trade. Just like 2012, 2013 is set to be a big year for Northern Ireland with City Of Culture in Derry/Londonderry and the World Police and Fire Games in August. Both are major events that present the industry with an opportunity to capitalise on the increase in visitor numbers. However, pubs cannot go it alone and like many other business sectors, they need the support of government to ensure that they have the right conditions to thrive.
Central to Pubs of Ulster’s lobby in 2013 will be the need for modernisation of licensing laws in Northern Ireland. We have seen how the current system does not meet the needs of a modern and vibrant society, not to mention how
it has stunted the growth of an industry that wants to position itself alongside the rest of the UK, and indeed Europe. With this in mind, we are eagerly awaiting the outcome of the liquor licensing consultation, which was launched in July 2012 by Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, to see if proposals put forward on issues such as drinking up time and trading hours over Easter, will be taken forward. The availability of incredibly cheap alcohol, especially in the large supermarkets, is another area of concern for the industry in the year ahead. While Health Minister, Edwin Poots had vowed to introduce minimum pricing by 2013, Pubs of Ulster will continue to drive the issue to ensure that it stays on the political agenda. With Scotland and England taking further steps to introduce minimum pricing, we hope that Northern Ireland can gain momentum. We will also look at ways to support the business needs of our local pubs. Pubs of Ulster has already lobbied extensively to make sure that the licensed trade benefit from the rate relief scheme, and we will continue to fight for a reduction in VAT for the hospitality industry, as well as an end the duty escalator, in a bid to support the industry during these tough economic times.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Challenges ahead for commercial property in 2013 By Gavin Clarke, Director, Osborne King
he recession continued to affect the commercial property market as the dearth of bank finance, further insolvencies, reduced business activity and a squeeze on consumer spending conspired to drive values downward across all sectors. RETAIL In the retail sector, the notable headline was vacancy rates reaching 20% placing Northern Ireland at the top of this particular league table. There was some positive activity with a number of high street and retail park tenants seeking units. Pets at Home, DFS, H&M, Blue Inc, Trespass, Internationale and Costa Coffee continued on the expansion trail along with discounters, Poundland, Home Bargains, Poundworld and Poundstretcher. Conversely, demand from fashion retailers and the food store sector declined with the exception of convenience food stores. 2013 will be another challenging year for the sector and we envisage demand being on a par with 2012. We also expect that the out of town sector will continue to perform better than the high street due to lower vacancy levels and improved demand. OFFICE Demand within the office market remains relatively consistent with a raft of transactions concluded during 2012. The key issue for 2013 concerns the future pipeline of Grade A buildings with no new schemes proposed in the short-
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medium term. This will have a direct impact on any benefits accruing from any potential reduction in corporation tax. As supply levels dwindle, this is likely to produce some rental growth for landlords with tenants competing for remaining Grade A space. Significant lettings during 2012 involved Pharmalink Consulting, Cyber Source, Devenish, AXA, A&L Goodbody, Allen & Overy, The British Council and Grant Thornton acquiring city centre office space amounting to over 80,000 sq ft cumulatively. INVESTMENT The investment market featured improved activity levels in 2012 with prime investment properties transacted in on and off-market deals. These included the acquisition of Castlecourt Shopping Centre by Hermes (£135m) and Sainsbury’s, Londonderry (£18m) by LaSalle Investment Management, Faustina Retail Park, Londonderry (£17.5m) by Metric/USS and Tesco food stores in Lisburn (£30m) and Limavady (£6.25m) by CBRE Global Investors. We expect this level of activity to hold or even increase and are aware of a number of significant deals due to come to the market early in 2013. The buyers are primarily UK-based institutions and property companies seeking prime investment opportunities chiefly within the retail sector. AUCTION Property prices are at a five-year low, which is
good news for cash-rich buyers and investors with finance in place. Our auctions during 2012 resulted in an average success rate of 90% largely due to competitive pricing and our policy of publishing a maximum reserve figure. With strong end-of-year results from the London auction houses, we anticipate that 2013 will prove to be a fertile year for selling and buying property by auction. Our first auction of the year, scheduled for the 22nd of March, will allow both vendors and buyers to close sales prior to the financial year-end. AND FINALLY…. Although the commercial property market faces many challenges in 2013, demand still exists across all sectors. Activity will focus on prime locations and quality properties with the secondary property market remaining the most exposed. It is difficult to predict any significant upturn in development pipelines even though it is clear that there will be demand for space. This year will be one of further consolidation as landlords concentrate on minimising voids and tenants maintain their strong negotiating position. Overall, we anticipate that the key performers during 2013 will be the office and investment sectors with the latter potentially experiencing significant activity. Gavin Clarke can be contacted at gavin.clarke@ osborneking.com
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Signs of hope for NI manufacturers
By Bryan Gray, CEO of MNI
he year has certainly got off to a good start for manufacturers with many positive factors for home and world markets. The latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers index shows UK manufacturing returning to growth in December for the first time since September 2011. Largely driven by increased demand on the home UK market, when taken together with the growth in manufacturing south of the border, the hope for local manufacturers is that this will increase stability and provide a sound base for exports. China too has returned to growth while a major increase in output from Indian firms shows positive indicators for those markets. All of these signs, while providing positive news, must be weighed against the underlying long term decrease in employment in manufacturing. If we are to take advantage of any recovery in the world economy, politicians both local and national need to address some of the key issues which have a major impact on the competitiveness of manufacturers here. Despite the introductions of the Single Electricity Market, Northern Ireland now has the second highest cost for commercial electricity in Europe. Proposals for ever more climate change taxes, together with the still unquantified cost of meeting our renewable targets, will seriously compound that situation. Energy is of course the third largest cost faced by manufacturers after raw materials and labour. It not only has a major impact on the ability of every local company to compete, but must be a key factor in attracting new investment to the Province. Now is the time for some radical thinking to reduce our energy costs in the long term â€“ this must be a cornerstone of any programme to rebalance our economy. The other significant area hampering growth which remains to be addressed, is access to finance locally. National schemes such as Project Merlin have passed Northern Ireland by, and the latest announcement by Business Secretary Vince Cable once again omits any reference to the peculiar mix of local banks we have here. One of the many impacts on local companies is that R&D expenditure here is around half of the national average â€“ the lack of new product development now will surely have an impact in coming years. We badly need undertakings from our local banks on business lending, and account taken of our local circumstances when national funding schemes are being developed. Northern Ireland companies enjoy a skilled and efficient workforce, together with management who have proved themselves to be both innovative and resilient. Itâ€™s high time that local politicians played their part and helped make conditions right for the recovery.
Retail revival in 2013? 2
By Glyn Roberts, CEO of NIIRTA
012 was a difficult year for retail and sadly for many retailers the year had a difficult end with the on-going Union flag protests. It was a year which saw many big names in retail collapse and another 1,000 small shops close their doors which resulted in Northern Ireland having not just the highest shop vacancy rate in the UK (one in five shops vacant) but actually twice the national average. The recession, bad out of town retail planning decisions, online shopping and a lack of a co-ordinated approach are among the main causes of this depressing statistic. While a grim year for the sector, 2012 did see the Executive delivering on a number of key areas such as the Empty Premises Rate Relief, extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and freezing of car park charges until 2015. While none of these initiatives could be considered silver bullets, they do provide some support to struggling traders. For retail, 2013 should not be about focusing on the problems facing the sector, but the solutions. In our Town Centre First report we outline over 50 solutions to tackling the challenges facing our retail sector and our town and city centres. Top of the list is a comprehensive Shop Vacancy Strategy, which will address the problem of the many vacant shops in our town centres. We believe that this strategy should include the creation of Retail Incubator Units to support the next generation of retail entrepreneurs, local council led retail development strategies for town centres and greater support for more pop up shops. 2013 must also be the year in which we see Northern Ireland catching up with the rest of the UK in relation to the creation of local Enterprise Zones and indeed the devolving of Corporation Tax. In order to better co-ordinate lobbying on issues facing our retail sector and town centres, NIIRTA is working with colleagues in local Chambers of Commerce and other business groups to organise a new Town Centre Alliance. The Town Centre Alliance, while not formally constituted, has already met with the First and deputy First Ministers and presented to the Executive Sub Group on the Economy late last year. For Retail to thrive, the biggest change needed is actually from the sector and the need to embrace online, social media and smart phone technology like never before. 2013 really has to be the year of change for retail.
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OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Developing the next generation of entrepreneurs By Carol Fitzsimons, CEO of Young Enterprise NI
e all recognise the need to rebalance the economy in Northern Ireland and grow our private sector, but a cultural shift is needed to make this a reality. It is time to harness the entrepreneurial potential of young people in our schools. In 2012, Laura Marshall of Markethill High School became part of Generation Innovation – a joint initiative between NISP Connect and Young Enterprise. Generation Innovation is a physical and online network for Northern Ireland’s most innovative and entrepreneurial students. Aged 15, she told the IOD Annual Lunch about her ambitions as the IOD Young Enterprise Young Entrepreneur of the Future. Having set up her own company as part of the Young Enterprise Company programme whilst still at school, and gone on to attend an International Entrepreneurship conference in Canada, she clearly articulated the ambition to set up her own business in the future. She confidently told the audience of over 200 senior business people that Northern Ireland “has an abundance of rough diamonds – our young people – and together you have the potential to harvest, cut and polish them, building their knowledge, skills and understanding, to shine and glow in education and business locally, nationally and on the global stage”. So how do we harness and support the ambition of these young people? Young Enterprise work with over 100,000 young people like Laura each year in our local schools, and see many who are inspired to make their own future, and set up their own businesses. The interest is there. They need the support and encouragement of this generation of business people – through mentoring, access to finance, and creating a culture that encourages entrepreneurship, rather than discouraging the taking of risk. Young people are bombarded with a lot of negative media about the current state of the economy – high youth unemployment, the lack of skills faced by employers, the lack of opportunity. Perhaps in 2013 we need to give them something more to aspire to. We have an obligation to encourage and support their ambition to succeed. There are new industries in Northern Ireland, and our young people need to understand the opportunities that the knowledge economy can provide for them. There are, and will be, opportunities for them to succeed, but they need direction on training for the growth sectors, and support in starting up their own businesses and creating wider employment. It is up to all of us to encourage, develop and support this ambition.
Pensions – a new headache for employers By John Moore, Director of Hays in Northern Ireland
ensions auto-enrolment should be one of the big issues topping the in-tray for management professionals in 2013. Workplace pensions are changing. New legislation was introduced in October 2012 which makes it compulsory for employers to enrol eligible workers into either a workplace pension scheme or a National Employment Savings Trust (NEST). Only a few jobholders and the self-employed fall outside the remit of the legislation. Employers are then required to make contributions on behalf of employees (who must also contribute). Fortunately, businesses aren’t being asked to meet the full costs of the new rules in the near term. There is a graduated phasing in of the minimum level of contribution from both employee and employer which runs from now up to 2018. Depending upon the ‘staging date’, this will become a key issue for many employers and employees in Northern Ireland from 2013. Given the administrative, systems and payroll adjustments employers need to make, firms should begin the year by taking advice and giving careful consideration to developing their own auto-enrolment plan. But already some companies are falling behind. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) the number of employees enrolled in workplace pensions could increase up to 80%, but only half of employers have taken steps to ensure their pension arrangements meet the needs of the business and employees. There will be many questions, particularly for organisations using temporary/contract workers. The organisation responsible for paying tax and employers’ NI contributions to HMRC on behalf of a worker is generally responsible for auto-enrolment, which therefore has implications for organisations who work with recruitment agencies. For example, if the individual is paid through an agency, the agency is responsible for providing a pension savings scheme, communications to all workers and assessment and calculation of contributions where appropriate. This means organisations using agency workers should enter into early discussions with their recruitment partner. All organisations must get up to speed at this early stage in order to avoid issues down the line.
32 JANUARY 2013
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Another exciting year for tourism? Northern Ireland Tourist Board Chief Executive, Alan Clarke takes a look at the prospects for tourism in 2013.
013 is already shaping up to be a hugely exciting period with the G8 summit, the World Police and Fire Games and UK City of Culture all on the tourism calendar. The sustained level of marketing and promotion that we generated through the “ni2012 Our Time, Our Place campaign”, together with the realisation of significant capital investment throughout 2012, moved us to a whole new level in terms of profile, economic impact and self-belief as the spotlight shone on Northern Ireland for all the right reasons. While 2012 has been an excellent launch pad, the tourism industry is at a critical stage, poised for growth, but dependant, like so many other industries in Northern Ireland, on peace and stability. We remain on course to work to change perceptions and build on the great goodwill and curiosity about our place that has been built up around the world. 2013 offers a great opportunity to reinforce the clear message we have been sending out this year: Northern Ireland is confidently moving on. The announcement that the G8 summit of world leaders will be held in Fermanagh in June next year is yet another huge step forward for tourism. In the context of Derry~Londonderry’s City of Culture year and just ahead of the World Police and Fire Games in August 2013, the spotlight on the G8 Summit can only help us build on the successes of the ni2012 campaign. It will take some time before we can completely measure what the campaign has meant in terms of economic impact. But one of the biggest positive indicators so far this year is that despite a drop in domestic visitor numbers we have increased the average domestic
visitor spend per night by a long way (from £34 to £52, or 37%), which is one of our key aims. We’ve given our domestic audiences a lot more things to see and do in 2012 and reasons to spend their money here at home – and we’ve done it during the wettest June and July on record when people across the UK were seeking out sunnier climes. Hotel occupancy figures are also very positive. In September there was a 76% occupancy rate, an increase of 8% over the same period last year. In August it was 81% – the highest rate on record. From January to August there was an overall increase of 7%, a performance that appears to
“The tourism industry is at a critical stage, poised for growth, but dependant, like so many other industries in Northern Ireland, on peace and stability.” 34 JANUARY 2013
have been driven by out of state visitors. Within the GB and overseas visitors’ figures North America also performed strongly from January to September and there is some evidence that the decline in GB visitors is slowing. This is encouraging, but this year was not only about spend and numbers. Our Time, Our Place was also celebratory. It was designed to promote pride in Northern Ireland and change perceptions as much as drive visitor numbers to generate economic impact. Survey data from the Tier 1 events in the programme is recording elevated senses of civic pride among those who attended and very high levels of satisfaction from visitors. This data is heartening. It shows Northern Ireland has real appeal as a destination for tourists and shows that the bar has been raised on excitement, spectacle, entertainment and the feel-good factor. 2012 was the year the Northern Ireland tourism industry came of age and I believe the Our Time, Our Place campaign has delivered a solid platform for further growth. I have never seen the industry as united on the need to harness our immense potential as a tourism destination. In 2013 and beyond we look forward to doing just that.
Allianz Sharon McTaggart A4 Ad NewAdr PQ1.pdf
SMEs encouraged to embrace open innovation
irms that engage in innovation are three times as successful as those that do not according to the latest research report published by InterTradeIreland. The cross-border study ‘Leveraging the Innovation Ecosystem for Business Advantage’ covers the innovation experiences of 1,100 firms on the island of Ireland and points to the significance of organisations outside the firm that can act as catalysts for innovation. Together these organisations form a wider community – an innovation ecosystem – that firms can leverage for business advantage. “First and foremost the study confirms the fact that innovation is the bedrock of sustained growth. Putting it bluntly we need to get more businesses innovating” says Aidan Gough, Strategy and Policy Director at InterTradeIreland. Crucially, less than half of innovating firms use external resources and supports to assist their innovation activity showing that the ‘ecosystem’ is being used narrowly at best with most valued relationships being those within value chain partners i.e. customers and suppliers. This is particularly true of small firms who were less likely to have an open approach to innovation and use external resources than larger ones. “Failing to leverage the full scope of the ecosystem is putting firms at a competitive disadvantage” says Gough. “An open innovation system working across this island can offer SMEs the potential to source and connect with a wider variety of relevant expertise than is InterTradeIreland Innovation Ecosystem
currently available as well as opening up international opportunities”, Gough adds. The report portrays an all-island innovation ecosystem that has all the constituent parts – innovation support agencies, financial services organisations, business service organisations, etc, required to enable an innovation-led economy albeit with different degrees of effectiveness. However, it‘s also clear that improvements can be made in the performance of the overall ecosystem. Just under a fifth of innovative firms work with cross-border partners with these relationships focused heavily on clients and suppliers. Collaboration is generally much less widespread for other partners. “The innovation ecosystem envisaged by InterTradeIreland will provide for better use of existing resources by putting the firm at the centre of the process. Clearly more has to be done to improve connectivity between the firm, particularly the SME and the other
agents in the ecosystem. But there is also a need to address clear deficiencies within firms’ culture and capability to manage the innovation process to best advantage. “Our aim is to have the island of Ireland recognised internationally as a centre of innovation excellence and to achieve this we have to create an island-wide innovation ecosystem. This will be a well connected, open system of innovation that drives collaboration here and further afield.” InterTradeIreland Support “The InterTradeIreland FUSION and INNOVA programmes facilitate innovation related cross-border connections between third level educational institutes, skilled graduates and other companies.” FUSION fosters cross-border partnerships between a business, academic expert and skilled graduate completing an innovative project which will improve the competitiveness of a firm. “Through FUSION InterTradeIreland is investing £8.8 million in 135 cross-border projects by 2015 providing firms with up to £44,250 each to develop new products, processes or services. “More than 400 companies have already participated in the programme, benefitting on average from over £1m worth of sales, efficiency savings or investments in the three years following the project.” The InterTradeIreland INNOVA programme helps firms form technology partnerships with companies with complimentary expertise. Aidan added: “Funding worth up to €300,000 per partnership can be claimed to accelerate new product, process or service development. In addition, companies benefit from pooling their expertise and resources with another firm to take their innovations to market faster than if they were working alone. “We aim for the island of Ireland to be recognised as a centre of innovation excellence and creating this open innovation ecosystem will go some way to making this happen. We would encourage all local SMEs and micro-enterprises to contact us to see how we can help you improve your innovative capabilities and ultimately improve business performance.”
For information on InterTradeIreland’s innovation supports for SMEs in Northern Ireland please visit intertradeireland.com/unlock or to obtain a copy of the latest research ‘Leveraging the Innovation Ecosystem for Business Advantage: A Cross-Border Study’ visit intertradeireland.com/researchandpublications/
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
Business groups assess Ian Coulter, Chairman of CBI Northern Ireland
will to show strong leadership.
Corporation tax aside, what one thing would most help our businesses to thrive in the current economic climate? All political parties giving absolute priority to growing the private sector by making Northern Ireland the most competitive regulatory environment in Europe. We need to make it quicker and easier for businesses to operate and implement decisions. This won’t impact our block grant; the only cost is the political
What is your biggest concern about the Northern Ireland economy? The legacy of the property boom and bust will continue to have a sustained impact on the NI economy on a number of fronts. What gives you most cause for optimism about the future? Securing a lower Corporation tax for Northern Ireland – this will strengthen our hand when it comes to competing for coveted Foreign Direct Investment, helping our indigenous companies grow and creating the necessary jobs for our young people. We must not lose this debate. What specific issues will your organisation be focusing on in 2013? Delivering on the recommendations CBI set out in June 2012 Getting Growth Finance Going report. Secondly, building on the work of DETI in respect of the costs of doing business in Northern Ireland with a specific focus on energy and also securing our derogation to the carbon floor price before the tax is due to be implemented on 1 April 2013. Thirdly, improving public procurement. Our procurement task is to work constructively with the Central Procurement Directorate to deliver improvements to the procurement process; and to deliver on the mentoring and interchange programmes to be established with the Department of the Environment’s planning service. From what your members are telling you, do you think we’ll be better off in wider economic terms by the end of 2013 than we are now? Yes. We must focus on the positives. Great Britain, and many other economies that we import into will hopefully be entering into a period of sustained, albeit modest, growth. There will also be a better pipeline of government capital expenditure projects that should help our construction sector. The opportunities at home with the UK City of Culture, the G8 summit and the World Police & Fire Games will also generate revenues and opportunities in the local market.
38 JANUARY 2013
Roger Pollen, Head of External Affairs at FSB Northern Ireland What would most help our businesses to thrive in the current economic climate? In a word, the single most important measure to improve the economy is confidence. The lack of it is negatively impacting on retail spending, house sales, business investment, bank lending and job creation. It is intangible and illusive, so it is hard to stimulate but until it returns the local economy will continue to struggle. What is your biggest concern about the NI economy? The biggest concern as we leave 2012 is that political uncertainty and economic malaise will lead to stagnation. That combination would continue to depress confidence, it would mean that opportunities would be missed and it would see the demise of more businesses. Much of it is beyond the control of individuals but, where politicians can intervene to improve things, they have a responsibility to do so. What gives you most cause for optimism about the future? The success of many of our businesses, especially in innovation, exporting, and sheer resilience is real cause for optimism. Many companies have sought new markets for goods and services alike, winning business south of the border, in GB and on the wider international scene. The spirit that underlies this success will not be dampened and should deliver further growth and opportunities for the year ahead. What specific issues will your organisation focus on in 2013? The key focuses for the FSB in 2013 will be on reform of employment law; the need for real improvement in both public procurement and prompt payment of invoices by the public sector, responding to the new EU directive on prompt payment; and access to finance for SMEs and the need to improve relationships between small businesses and banks. Do you think we’ll be better off in economic terms by the end of 2013 than we are now? Against a disappointing end to 2012, the FSB’s Small Business Confidence survey of the Northern Ireland membership shows that there is little optimism about prospects of an upturn for the local economy for the first quarter of 2013. Realism tinged with the natural optimism of Northern Ireland’s business owners produces cautious hopes that we will be better placed in twelve months than we are at present.
OUTLOOK FOR 2013
the prospects for 2013 Mervyn McCall, Chairman of IoD Northern Ireland Corporation tax aside, what one thing would most help our businesses to thrive in the current economic climate? A thriving private sector needs confidence in the future and, if our private sector is to grow, then businesses need to know they can access a variety of funding sources – at the right price. Firms with viable business plans must be able to find the funding to deliver those plans, enter export markets or increase R&D. What is your biggest concern about the NI economy? Failure to tackle the imbalance between the public and private/social enterprise sectors will exacerbate the unsustainability of our public finances. The Executive should make some long overdue, hard decisions, such as moving more service delivery into the private and social enterprise sectors. If we act on the ones that will help the economy, this will create confidence to change the current cautious approach to investment by some larger firms. What gives you most cause for optimism about the future? There are still many companies competing successfully in the world economy, growing exports, turnover and jobs even in the dire economic climate. If our politicians and public servants can get behind the efforts of the private and social enterprise sectors, we can bring benefits for the whole community including employment for our talented workforce. What specific issues will IoD be focusing on in 2013? We will support leaders to become even more market savvy, outward looking and adventurous in seeking growth opportunities, using the knowledge and experience of the IoD membership and our free services, particularly for first time exporters. We’ll lobby for a business-friendly environment that minimises barriers to growth, for example, access to finance, the planning and procurement processes, and encourages investment, such as devolution of corporation tax varying powers. Do you think we’ll be better off by the end of 2013 than we are now? It will be another difficult year. Further contraction is likely in the construction and retail sectors and growth will continue to be led by a relatively small number of firms. The state of the Eurozone and US economies will inevitably influence the rate of recovery in GB and Ireland. Political leaders must focus on making Northern Ireland a better place to do business and business leaders must invest in growth into new markets.
Mark Nodder, President of the NI Chamber of Commerce Corporation tax aside, what one thing would most help our businesses to thrive in the current economic climate? It is essential that all enterprises, small and large, look beyond Northern Ireland to broaden their horizons. Northern Ireland has only 1,500 manufacturing businesses active in export yet there are clearly opportunities to take on new business and compete globally. This is something that my firm Wrightbus has succeeded at in recent years with successes in Singapore and a breakthrough order for 50 double decker bus kits to add to the 450 buses already in service in Hong Kong. What is your biggest concern about the NI economy? Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce works closely with Belfast Visitor & Convention Bureau to promote Northern Ireland to business tourists and Invest NI to support inward investment. We have also developed the Danske Bank Export First programme to support potential exporters. To ensure that we achieve our goals, we need to portray a positive image internationally and a stable community is key. What gives you most cause for optimism about the future? I am an optimist, hopefully not naive, and know that confidence breeds confidence. I believe that recovery will come and that Northern Ireland will to embrace opportunities in the global economy. What specific issues will your organisation be focusing on in 2013? In 2013 Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce will be building on the links that we have developed with the International Chambers of Commerce organisation to support our members to export. We will continue to lobby Government to ensure that we have the conditions that support business growth and I would heartily recommend a lean attitude to Government. This involves asking difficult questions about the purpose of regulations, reducing bureaucracy and eliminating red tape, speeding up processes and decision making. Do you think we’ll be better off by the end of 2013 than we are now? The Chamber/BDO Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 of 2012 provided encouraging results for Northern Ireland with most of the key indicators showing an improvement. This was especially the case in the domestic balances for both manufacturing and services. Also more businesses now feel their profitability will increase during 2013. The improvement in the confidence indicators was also good to see.
JANUARY 2013 39
Neal Lucas meets... Neal Lucas, Managing Director of the leading Executive Search company Neal Lucas Recruitment, meets CEO of Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Ltd, Robert Cooper. One of Northern Irelandâ€™s most iconic brands, the company has had to reinvent itself in recent years. What markets do you operate in and what is your position in those markets at the moment? We operate in a number of markets: offshore renewables; offshore oil and gas; design engineering; ship construction, repair and conversion. We have built a very successful reputation for H&W in the renewables energy sector where we design and manufacture large foundations for turbines as well as entire transformer platforms. We have also successfully re-entered the offshore oil and gas market. What process do you use for strategy formulation? Weâ€™re fortunate to have a strong management team who are experienced and dedicated to the company and we have a process of open dialogue and discussion. I see my role as helping the inherent talent and knowledge within the company collaborate and act collectively to create a coherent plan and shape the actions that turn the intention into reality. What are the major inhibitors to your strategy? Our ability to develop and grow the business has been limited by the resources that the Company is capable of generating itself. We have invested carefully to recognise the potential of each market sector and it is extremely important in volatile markets that we do not over-extend ourselves. How do you communicate the strategy to employees and other stakeholders? Regular open communication is vital not only
with our shareholders through formal Board meetings, but also with our employees. This includes a formal quarterly internal newsletter that details our position and targets, plus ongoing communication in an informal setting. We have excellent relationships with our employee representatives who we meet regularly and value their input. I also regularly walk all areas of the yard and welcome involvement and input from all employees. What attributes of your own leadership have been important in delivering the strategy? I suppose the key attribute is an ability to target the bigger strategic issues whilst also ensuring that ongoing day to day issues continue to be dealt with. We have been through some very tough times and managed to bring the company into a stable and profitable position through the involvement of everyone in the company. My role is looking at the bigger picture while also keeping a close eye on the detail. A clear vision of where we want to be and what we want to achieve is vital to the direction and development of the company. How do you manage risk in the organisation? There are various types of risk including corporate, commercial and physical risk in the carrying out of our activities. We take our responsibilities on all very seriously and treat them in a similar manner. Risk is addressed in a structured manner that facilitates assessment, quantification, mitigation and ultimately management of the risk in a planned manner.
Is there anything you would like to change about business in Northern Ireland? A large element of our activity is for customers outside of Northern Ireland. The external perception of Northern Ireland therefore is extremely important and the stability that we have had over the past number of years has been beneficial in attracting customers and it is vital that this continues. It is also important that the politicians and Government departments work together in supporting local companies and local content. What personal traits do you feel have helped you get to where you are today? Tenacity, stubbornness, sense of humour, the will to succeed; belief in the team at H&W and drinking lots of coffee.
Name: Robert J Cooper Title: Chief Executive Officer Company: Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Ltd. Established: 1861 No. of Employees: 160 core (with temporaries peaking at 1,400 in 2012). Previous Jobs: Finance Director prior to becoming CEO. Proudest Moment in Career: Returning H&W to stability and ongoing profitability.
www.neallucasrecruitment.com â€“ Neal can be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter (@NealLucasRec)
Leaders in Business
LEADERS IN BUSINESS FOREWARD
The need for leadership Now, more than ever, those driving Northern Ireland’s businesses need to show strong leadership, writes Gerry Mallon, Head of Danske Bank UK and Ireland.
012 proved to be another challenging year for businesses in Northern Ireland, with ongoing tough economic conditions and, later in the year, political unrest rendering trading conditions difficult for many companies right across the country. Despite this turbulent environment we at Danske Bank have seen first-hand many excellent business success stories throughout the year – many of which are highlighted in this special edition of Ulster Business. The one common thread in almost all of these successes – regardless of the scale, sector or location of the business – is great leadership. The American business author Peter Drucker once said “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes” and in this Leaders in Business report, the results speak for themselves. But results don’t just happen. They are underpinned by solid business decisions; by careful strategic planning and brave risk taking; by energy and enthusiasm; by hard work and commitment. They will almost certainly have been supported by some element of innovation,
R&D or export – three of the key drivers for economic growth in Northern Ireland – and will only have come after many failed attempts or knock backs. Many of these will be true to each and every one of the Leaders in Business featured in this publication. But regardless of how they achieve such excellent results, each of them will possess the key qualities that enables them not just to manage in their businesses, but to lead them to success. At Danske Bank we recognise the absolute importance of good leadership, with the success of any great business standing or falling on the strength of its leadership team. With this in mind, at the beginning of last year we announced our new senior leadership team, made up of the best professionals the banking industry has to offer. This investment in the best leaders stood us in good stead throughout the many challenges and opportunities of 2012 – not least our major rebrand from Northern Bank to Danske Bank in the latter part of the year. The need for good leadership in business has never been more important. Whether you
are an indigenous SME or a large corporate organisation, exceptional leadership will drive your business to success. We all know that, as well as many great opportunities, there are some serious challenges facing businesses in Northern Ireland in 2013. It is the responsibility of our leaders in business to balance awareness of these conditions with a strategic plan to ensure that their companies are primed and ready to seize opportunities as and when they arise. It is very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day operational matters that are involved in running a business, but the real value generated by good leadership is about being able to rise above that and set a course that will generate future returns. Congratulations to all of the Leaders in Business featured in this special report.
Gerry Mallon is Head of Danske Bank UK and Ireland; Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Council of the University of Ulster; and a Member of the NI Economic Advisory Group and a board member of Business in the Community.
JANUARY 2013 43
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Simon Hamilton The Strangford MLA will be the man holding the purse strings at Stormont when he takes over the key role of Finance Minister later this year at a time when Westminster is likely to make further cuts.
imon Hamilton says he is not planning to replicate the style of his current boss Sammy Wilson when he succeeds him as Minister of Finance and Personnel. Hamilton is presently Assembly Private Secretary to the outspoken Mr Wilson and having been notified two years ago that he would replace him, has had plenty of time to prepare for the post. While the Strangford MLA is likely to tread a similar policy line as his DUP colleague, it seems clear we’ll notice a difference. “I’ve known Sammy for a long time and get on well with him. But there’s only one Sammy so I’m not even going to try to emulate his style. Working alongside him as his Assembly Secretary I am having an input into his decisions already so there is a clearly a commonality of approach on big issues. People won’t see a massive change in approach to policy, just maybe a difference in style,” he said. “It should be as seamless a transition as you can get, although I am mindful that no matter how much preparation you do, when that day comes that the buck stops with you, it will be a bit of a shock,” he added. Hamilton walks around Stormont with the confident air of someone who both knows his political environment well and has long been identified as a rising star by his party. Politically active since his days at Queen’s University, he was first elected as an MLA in 2007 and gained a variety of experience to prepare him for the Ministerial position, sitting on the Assembly’s Finance & Personnel, Enterprise, Trade & Investment and Environment committees, as well as chairing the Social Development committee. “I didn’t want to run the risk of being pigeon holed into one area of expertise. However, I was put on the Finance committee from day one, and it didn’t take me long to realise it was the one I was going to enjoy. It’s not for everyone, it is technical and it’s not as immediately relevant to constituency work as maybe health or education would be, but it’s very important,” he said. Hamilton started his career in the private sector in the audit department of PwC and, while he doesn’t over-egg this experience, he
believes it has proved beneficial. “I got an understanding then of how diverse the economy is in Northern Ireland and also how dependent we are on the public sector for employment. I got to see that there are a lot of people who are passionate about what they do and in many cases are world class at what they do,” he said. “I got a feel for why certain businesses were doing well, why some were contracting. I meet a lot of businesses through my constituency work or here at Stormont and I don’t understand everything they are doing. But the skill I learned is that you need to listen and then do what you can to help.” The role of Finance Minister has traditionally been seen as being primarily focused on protecting the block grant that Northern Ireland gets from Westminster. Hamilton doesn’t fully agree with that perception, but says there is a need to focus more on the outcomes of what is done with that money. “Governments and administrations generally are often guilty of just allocating a chunk of cash for this and a chunk of cash for that, and being more interested in the inputs than the outcomes and following that money through the system to see if you’re getting value for money and the outcome you intended at the start,” he said. “It is a cultural thing about how government works. Sometimes we are averse to doing new things and innovating because of the fear it won’t have the desired outcome.” The onus, at times of economic difficulty, is on the devolved government to make sure it is delivering for the people who elected it, he adds. “The Assembly’s first term was about survival. That isn’t good enough in a second
term, or third or fourth term. We are here to deliver services for the people who put us here and like any business or household if you pay something in you expect a return. If you’re awash with cash as we were a few years ago then you don’t have the same concern about value for money and the performance or outcomes. Out of the crisis there’s an opportunity to ask what are we spending the money on and what are the outcomes we’re getting from that. It is a cultural shift,” said the MLA. Hamilton expects the UK government’s austerity measures to stretch to 2018, which will have clear impacts on public spending here. This will mean Government here has to think differently and could mean a greater role for partnerships with the private and third sectors. “You’ve got two choices in these circumstances. Either you do less with less or more with less. That’s easy to say and hard to do,” he said. “I don’t think we should be shy about saying we don’t have all the answers here. There’s a lot going on elsewhere in the British Isles and Europe where governments have faced the same problems we are facing but have used it as an opportunity to innovate. There’s sometimes a feeling that the words innovation and government don’t go together, but if you look around the world there are good examples of governments doing things differently to deliver the public services the public expect,” he added. “We look at the size of the public sector as a weakness in Northern Ireland, and there’s no doubt we’d like the private sector to be bigger, but with so much money having gone into the public sector there are skills and attributes and potential in the public sector that we haven’t tapped into.”
“Out of the crisis there’s an opportunity to ask what are we spending money on and what are the outcomes we’re getting from that.” JANUARY 2013 45
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Shane Logan The CEO of Ulster Rugby says that current success for the professional team is just one strand of a long term plan to make Ulster a world class rugby region both on and off the field.
hane Logan is a rugby man through and through. As CEO of Ulster Rugby he has responsibility for the game at all levels in the province, from grassroots right up to the professional team currently flying high in the RaboDirect PRO 12 and Heineken Cup. While he watches all home games and travels regularly with the elite squad, you’re just as likely to find him attending junior and schools rugby games on the weekend, and there’s no sense that he sees the latter as a chore. He explains that the development of the game from mini-rugby upwards is part of the long term strategy to increase participation in rugby and improve the standard of players coming through. “For the professional game to succeed is an enormous team effort. We have to produce production lines of the best players and coaches and that starts at primary school. Unless we have enough people in primary school and up through the system who are enthused about rugby and excellently coached, we don’t have a high performing senior Ulster team,” he said. Logan has a wealth of commercial experience gained a wide range of industry sectors. His first senior position was as General Manager of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, which was followed by his appointment as the Head of Coca-Cola for Central Russia and a spell as chief executive of the Royal National Institute of the Blind. He has had a lifelong interest in rugby, having coached in his hometown club of Bangor and played for clubs in three different continents. Logan joined Ulster Rugby in early 2010 and immediately set out ambitious goals of making Ulster a force in world rugby. Despite two strong seasons over the previous decade – which included the famous European
Cup win in 1999 and a league win in 2006 – the team had failed to perform consistently. “When I came in we drew our first game and lost the next five. Then I had to put up season ticket prices by between 30% and 40% to make us competitive and allow us to field the strength of team we needed. The first priority was to get the team performing and then to look at how we did things commercially,” he said. Part of Ulster Rugby’s plan is the £14.7m redevelopment of the Ravenhill Rugby Grounds, which got underway at the end of last year and will be completed by the summer of 2014. The new stands will see capacity rise from just over 11,000 to 18,000, making it capable of hosting a RaboDirect PRO12 final or a Heineken Cup quarter final. “In the long term we want to be world class. We’re maybe a bit ahead of where we thought we would be on most fronts, the stadium included, but compared to where we need to be strategically we’re still short,” said Logan. “The professional team has now moved from 20th in Europe to eighth, so it still has a way to go but is improving. The clubs and schools game is growing, maybe not as quickly as we’d like, but it is growing. And the commercial revenues are encouraging. Our sponsorships are all up, we’re starting to sell out our games – this year probably half.” The new stadium gives Ulster the potential to double its revenues from ticket sales, sponsorship and spend per head, while it is also in discussions with potential sponsors over a lucrative long term naming rights deal for the ground. But the CEO notes that, like any other business, the product has to be right before people will pay for it. “If our product isn’t excellent, people won’t want to watch it or sponsor it. So my biggest job is to ensure the professional team performs and
“This isn’t a job or a business, this is a cause. I believe that rugby has the ability to bring a lot of good.”
performs in the long term,” he said. “Too many people focus on the money first. The money will follow an excellent product.” That said, Ravenhill has already become a hub for business people, with 20 boxes, 400 premium seats on long term deals and its own business club for sponsors. Demand is already outstripping supply, something the new stadium will address. “We want Ravenhill to be a place where decision makers in the private and public sector will be able to come to relax, to bring visitors, and to have a cracking experience that promotes business. We think that over half the top 100 companies in Northern Ireland are represented here in attendance and we want to try to grow that,” said Logan. All this expected commercial success will allow Ulster Rugby to invest in growing the game at all levels. “Ulster is nine counties with a population of roughly two million people and we want spread rugby right across Ulster so it is a really strong rugby region. We want to work on the principle of one rugby pyramid where the clubs, schools and professional team are all working together as one. Having a top quality stadium people will want to come to, where people can come to watch the players train and meet them as part of school, is a key part of that,” said Logan. The CEO estimates it could take “10 or 15 years” for Ulster to get where it wants to be in terms of that pool of players coming through to the high performance level. Among the other rugby regions he thinks are “doing a lot right” he lists rivals Leinster and Munster, Leicester and Northampton in England, and several French clubs. What drives Logan to make Ulster better than them is his passion for the game. “This isn’t a job or a business, this is a cause. I believe that rugby has the ability to bring a lot of good, to give people great entertainment, to inspire and bring the best out of players. It has values I believe in. There is a place for everybody in the game from all abilities, all sexes, all backgrounds. There is respect for the opposition, respect for the referee, respect for the rules,” he said. “What drives me is the cause of rugby, I think it can do a lot of good.”
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LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Colin Williams The man largely responsible for reinvigorating the children’s television production sector in Northern Ireland will be spending 2013 working on a new animated series called Driftwood Bay.
y winning the Deloitte Fast 50 Rising Star award for the second year running in 2012, production company Sixteen South proved its credentials as a fast-growing Northern Ireland business. What was already apparent from its successes in the world of children’s television was that the team behind that business is one of the most innovative to come out of our creative scene for some time. Colin Williams, the Creative Director and founder of Sixteen South, initially set the company up in 2007 as a side project to his post-production company Inferno after seeing an advert to pitch to Sesame Workshop in New York to produce a local version of their iconic show Sesame Street. After success with what became Sesame Tree his team developed Big City Park, which was shot on location in Ormeau Park and aired on CBeebies. It followed that by bringing production of established show Big and Small to Northern Ireland and most recently produced 52 episodes of another puppet show, Pajanimals, in partnership with The Jim Henson Company for US network Sprout. In a departure from its success with puppets, 2013 will mostly be spent producing Driftwood Bay, a mixed-media animated show about Lily, a five year old who lives in a beach hut on the shore with her Dad. The concept of the show is that every day, the sea washes up a curious new treasure, which sparks Lily’s imagination about what might be happening across the way on Driftwood Bay. The show’s design features characters, sets and landscapes that have been created from real things that have been found washed up on the beach. It is a project for which the company owns 100% of the IP and which Colin is clearly immersed in as production of a planned 52 show series gets underway. “Driftwood Bay will be a series about making your own fun and adventures from the things that you find. It’s about using your imagination and creativity to inspire an adventure or tell a story,” he said. “It has an organic feel. We wanted to create a show with the potential to air in every country across the world.” The show came to life when children’s artist
Joanne Carmichael began to create characters from things that she found washed up on the beach outside her cottage on the Scottish Island of Arran. Colin liked the concept so much he decided the programme would be funded by advanced sales, rather than as co-production with a broadcaster. It was a brave move, but so far the show has been sold to 20 broadcasters around the world. That statistic is all the more remarkable as those sales have been made on the basis of a two minute trailer for the show and presentations by Colin. Normally broadcasters don’t commit before seeing a couple of episodes. Colin further elaborates that there are 25 countries with a couple of broadcasters each who will pay a fee for a show, perhaps 60 in total. Those broadcasters who buy content usually have three slots a year and 2,000 people pitching to them. “It has been picked up by pretty much all of the big players, which is amazing because it is very hard to get into their schedules. They only commission a handful of new shows each year,” said Colin. “It is really competitive so it is insane to have got 20 of them on board.” Those broadcasters include the likes of RTE, ABC, Nickleodeon and Sprout. Merchandising and publishing deals are also being discussed and a high profile worldwide distributor is set to be announced later this month. “It was very risky because there were lots of times when we thought it could fall apart and we could lose something that has the potential to be so magical,” said Colin. “The finance side is a head-wreck, but it is better than giving a broadcaster editorial control.” Every aspect of Driftwood Bay has been carefully thought through. The music is described as “modern acoustic folk” which takes
its inspiration from Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling.” In keeping with the other shows SixteenSouth has produced for pre-schoolders, the show will encourage children to be creative, to use their imagination and to develop their observation skills, as well as showing the importance of their communities. Colin said it will deal with real themes, with a focus on how children navigate life and how they feel about things. “We want to make an interesting show but also one with some depth and heart,” he said. “And I hope it will break some of the stereotypes by showing that every little girl doesn’t have to be a princess. There will be no pink! Lily will be a real little girl. She will have sand under her finger nails.” The realness extends to the voicing of the main character, with most English speaking countries which have bought the show agreeing to keep the voiceover provided by a young Belfast actress for Lily. Colin has also chosen to keep the animation work here in Northern Ireland, when it might have been easier to outsource it to countries like Singapore or India. Over 60 people were employed for a year on Sixteen South’s last production and its founder expects around 30 will be employed on Driftwood Bay. He said that while there are some good animators here, there are not enough and Sixteen South will be looking to help grow and develop the talent pool. “We will bring in local guys at a lower level and they will learn from the top guys who have worked on big shows like Peppa Pig, Little Princess and Thomas the Tank Engine,” he said. If you don’t know those names, you haven’t got children!
“It has been picked up by pretty much all of the big players, which is amazing because it is very hard to get into their schedules.” JANUARY 2013 49
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Paul Terrington The Northern Ireland Regional Leader of PwC and IoD deputy chair believes more locally based companies must start exporting if the province is to stop lagging the rest of the UK.
rofessional services firm PwC’s Northern Ireland practice is a perfect example of a company that has taken its own advice. Having previously relied on local clients in the public and private sectors for the bulk of its business, the firm recognised this strategy would yield only limited growth opportunities. So, five years ago it began to focus on winning work from emerging global and multinational companies and built a strategy around expanding its consulting activities towards a series of export-focused overseas solution services. “It is my responsibility to grow this business to be a dominant provider of professional services in the market but not to be constrained by geography,” said the firm’s Regional Leader, Paul Terrington. “We have 750 people here and hire about 100 graduates a year. Were we to focus only on Northern Ireland we wouldn’t be that size.” PwC is the world’s largest professional services firm with over 160,000 staff in more than 150 countries. Terrington says there is no conflict between the consulting and research work that PwC’s Belfast solution centres undertake for clients in other regions and the service it offers clients in Northern Ireland. “We aim to bring the best of PwC to our local clients by connecting them to our global network. The expertise gained by our consultants in other markets is available to clients in Northern Ireland, which enhances the value of what we can do here,” he said. Terrington has been at PwC for 25 years this year and has been in the Regional chair job – essentially the CEO role within the partnership – for 18 months. He has extensive consulting and corporate
finance experience and is the leader of PwC’s People and Change practice, as well as sitting on the firm’s national Consulting Leadership Team. He continues to be involved in client facing work, particularly large scale organisational change projects. Terrington believes the ability to instigate change is more relevant than ever in the current economic environment. “If a business cannot maintain momentum, then it quickly starts going backwards,” he said. “Often to jump past the point where growth stalls, businesses have to reinvent themselves and bring in new skills and operating models.” PwC’s forecasts see Northern Ireland’s economy returning to growth in 2013, but continuing to lag behind all the other UK regions. Terrington has been vocal about the need for government to make large scale infrastructure projects “shovel ready” and says it has a key role to play in developing skills, improving planning and promoting Northern Ireland from a brand perspective. But he strongly believes that any recovery in the economy has to be driven by an increase in exports by private sector companies. “There’s still a lot of work to be done around exports. More Northern Ireland-based companies need to get themselves organised, and with the belief and mind-set and ambition to export – and by export I mean more than just to GB and the Republic of Ireland,” he said. “You can look around and find brilliant examples of Northern Irish companies that have ambition and belief and confidence. Businesses have to have that ambition. I can’t see how the private sector will have an impact on the overall economy without a greater desire to export to growing, attractive markets,” he added.
“The propensity to export drives a whole set of ways of thinking into your business, including how innovative you are.”
“The propensity to export drives a whole set of ways of thinking into your business, including how innovative you are in different areas... It is not just about having an R&D department.” PwC is a major recruiter in Northern Ireland, and in bringing global PwC projects to Belfast, Terrington says he often finds himself using the same arguments about access to skills used by Invest NI. The firm has announced plans to hire another 150 staff this year, but has also admitted that it is looking further afield to find them. “It remains challenging. We have not at this point reached the stage where it has been a business impediment to us. We’ve been able to realise our needs with good calibre people. But you can see pressures on that – the more people you want the harder it gets,” he said. “But again we are not geographically constrained. We are accessing graduates who are from here and want to live here, but perhaps went to university outside of Northern Ireland.” While bolstering the graduate side of the workforce is important, the PwC boss also believes more needs to be done to improve leadership and governance skills in Northern Ireland. In particular he would like to see more importance placed on building up a strong pool of experienced non-executive directors. “I think there is a real role for non-execs in all sizes of business. People that have experience and can inject the confidence to think about things differently into a business,” he said. “There is still a good array of underexploited talent around. We don’t have some of the drivers that bring non-execs to the fore – a strong private equity market or many plcs. But there are a lot of good people around who can make a difference to businesses and have talent to bring if they could get involved.” It is a topic which he expects to pick up on when, subject to election, he succeeds Mervyn McCall as chairman of the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland, later this year. “People are members of the IoD as individual directors so it is about the talent and development of business leaders,” he said. “It is about how businesses are made better through the leadership and governance those leaders bring to bear.”
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LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Mark McCusker Growing demand for its English language learning software is helping TextHelp Systems expand into an increasing number of new markets, according to its CEO.
hat Mark McCusker is traveling to Guadalajara in Mexico the day after I speak with him is a fitting example of how international the business which he leads has become. Antrim-based TextHelp Systems has appeared in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 for 12 consecutive years and won numerous accolades for its continued growth and development. It most recently made headlines after formally agreeing a partnership with the China Education Alliance, a provider of online education and onsite training during the high profile Government trade mission to the country. That partnership is indicative of the increasing importance the company is putting on demand from emerging markets for the technology it has developed to help people who have difficulty reading and writing in English. Texthelp began in 1996 with very few employees working on a small range of basic software programmes to help people overcome communication issues. It has been at the forefront of assistive software development, designing products such as Read&Write Gold. Its goal has always been to enable children and adults with dyslexia and learning difficulties to learn to read, write, study and communicate independently. While that goal continues to hold true, McCusker says the business is looking at other avenues to maintain its growth. “Currently the majority of our revenues come from countries where English is the first language. So we’re strong in the UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,” he said. “But a couple of years ago we realised the potential of those markets was going to be limited for economic reasons, because the markets we target are in education, funded by the Government. “So we’ve looked more at markets where English is not the first language, the English
acquisition market, which could be anyone learning English. We’re mainly going after people who have some competency in English, maybe two or three years’ experience, and are perhaps in the workplace and having to read or write emails in English,” he explained. Potential growth markets for its Read&Write Tutor solution, which TextHelp is currently researching or already has partnerships in place, include China, Brazil, India, South Korea and the large indigenous Hispanic population in the US. Partnerships are necessary to help provide an efficient technical support capability in the user’s own language. “There are growth opportunities but we have to find ways of doing it economically. It has to be a viable opportunity,” said Mark. The firm’s products are based around a “solid set of technology components” that are configured for each market. “For example, a dyslexic student will tend to spell phonetically and so will someone who is learning English so we have a phonetic spell checker that is a common component that applies to both markets,” he said. The father of two joined TextHelp in September 1998 and while he did not found the company he is very much its driving force. He says he is happy to travel the globe on the company’s behalf, and finds he gets itchy feet is he hasn’t been overseas for a month. TextHelp has US sales offices in Woburn, Massachusetts, and an ever expanding dealer channel that covers the UK, Republic of Ireland and Australia. But all development is done in-house in Antrim, and that is something the CEO does not see changing. “I think we have one of the best development environments in the world, certainly within our traditional sector. Technically there’s almost nothing we can’t do,” he said. “The challenge is executing in the marketplace. There is no shortage of
“We are working on a plan currently that would allow us to double the revenue in about four years’ time.”
opportunities you’ve just got to pick the right one. Just because you’re technically superior doesn’t mean you’re the best.” TextHelp has partnered with large educational publishers such as Pearson, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Discovery Education to bring its Lexiflow and SpeechStream technology to millions of students in America and partnered with big tech firms like Microsoft and Apple to ensure products are compatible with their hardware. However, McCusker thinks keeping up with the rapidly changing shape of the consumer technology space caused by the arrival of tablets and smartphones, will require all of the company’s technical expertise. “One of the challenges for a company like ours is keeping ourselves fresh and keeping ourselves working in all the environments. Over the next few years we see more and more challenges to the traditional QWERTY keyboard from the likes of touchscreens and Siri,” he said. “Restricted budgets in schools have also resulted in pupils bringing in their own devices. That represents a huge challenge for the industry. It used to be that you could anticipate what was going to appear in the classroom, but now you can’t. So you have to develop software that keeps you agile.” McCusker remains upbeat about the direction the company is going in. It has maintained profitability over several years and is in a good position in terms of debt. “That gives us the flexibility to take more risks than perhaps a lot of other companies could do,” he said. “We are working on a plan currently that would allow us to double the revenue in about four years’ time. Once that plan is complete we’ll be starting another recruitment round.” “In the long term our traditional markets are not going to go away, but in these next couple of years it might be tough to grow market share significantly. Particularly North America, the shape of that market is going to change as BYOD takes hold,” he added. “We expect our growth to be flattish for the next few years and then go back to increase in about two years’ time. We expect to maintain our margin and keep generating cash.”
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LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Ann McGregor The CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce has won many plaudits over the last few years, but feels there’s a lot more the business organisation can do to help boost the local economy.
t says a lot about Ann McGregor that she’d rather talk about an award won by her team at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce than the MBE she received last year. She was thrilled to be awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in recognition of her service to Small Business Development and Enterprise, an award that bridges her current role and her former position as CEO of Enterprise NI. But Limavady-born Ann is equally proud of her organisation being named Chamber of the Year by the British Chambers of Commerce, beating 53 others from around the UK to the title. The win should come as no surprise given that, since Ann’s arrival in 2008, the Chamber has seen membership grow by 138% and member retention rise to 85%. “I run this place like a business,” said Ann. “Previously this place would have been run as a nice to be in club where you’d do something for your members but there was no clear customer focus. “When myself and Bro McFerran (as President) came in, we did a business assessment and what you had was a brand that was strong, but behind it there wasn’t a customer service mentality and there wasn’t a strategy for growth. It had been coasting for quite a while,” she added. “We had got very involved in delivering government programmes and not really delivering services to our members, so we went back to basics. We put in place a three year plan to double membership and get a member retention level of 80%, but also to deliver a quality service.” It seems clear the objectives have been
achieved with paid membership rising to 1,200 from 410 when she started and turnover increasing from £0.5m to £1m, none of which comes from government programmes. Staff have become involved in making improvements to strategy, systems and processes and the Chamber also has aboard of high profile business leaders who expect KPI reports to accurately track progress. In line with its new image the business organisation will move to new premises early this year. “I would say that any business organisation should be run like a business, because you’re dealing with people who operate that way. We’ve now got the respect of our members because they can see what we’re doing,” said Ann. The Chamber CEO began her career in the private sector working in production/materials management with Roche Manufacturing, Schering Plough and Bird’s General Foods before moving into local economic development with the Local Enterprise Agency network, specialising in small business development and support. That experience has served her well in her current role for an organisation that has many short term and long term initiatives in the pipeline. “I was in production management in my early days, so I know how to get something done. I know how to deliver on a project,” added Ann. However, she believes little has changed in Northern Ireland since her Enterprise NI days, when the focus was on addressing low levels of business start-ups and low export levels – a state of affairs she believes reflects the low levels of confidence in the economy at present. The Chamber last year launched its successful
“I was in production management in my early days, so I know how to get something done. I know how to deliver on a project.”
Export First initiative, which aimed to give companies keen on exporting a chance to hear from those who already did – such as Wrightbus and Andor Technology. Now, on the back of NICC’s experience bidding to bring the World Chambers’ Congress to Northern Ireland, it plans to focus in 2013 on the internationalisation of the Northern Ireland Chamber, while also continuing the rebranded Danske Bank Export First programme. “We’re focusing on growing export but also this year we have joined the international chambers of commerce network, and although we didn’t succeed in our bid to host the global congress, 52 chamber presidents all over the world know who we are. What we want to do in this next stage of development is help our members to grow exports through those connections in the Chamber network,” said Ann. “The numbers show there are only 1,500 companies actively exporting in Northern Ireland. We really need to get more of them doing that.” Proving its commitment the Chamber is hoping to pull off an international export conference in Northern Ireland this September although it remains at the planning stage. The CEO notes that the main challenge for many Northern Ireland businesses is that they are small and don’t have the resources to research export markets, with many businesses having no employees at all. Among the Chamber’s membership only 15% have over 250 employees, and 30% have less than nine staff. While there was some talk that Invest NI thought the Export First programme was stepping on its toes, Ann doesn’t believe this is the case and hopes the Chamber will be able to work more closely with Invest NI on exports under some kind of formalised relationship. “There is a continuum of support for small businesses here but not a lot of people know how to access it. There’s still a sense of mystery around it. We want to be one of the organisations helping businesses navigate the system,” said Ann. “Our role, as I see it, is to help businesses do business and to grow their business.”
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John McMullan The CEO of Bryson Charitable Group is aiming for continued growth in 2013 and expects social enterprises to play an increasingly important role in the economy across the UK and Ireland.
ention a business with a turnover of close to £35m and a workforce of nearly 700 and you might think we are talking about one of Northern Ireland’s elite corporates rather than a social enterprise. But Bryson Charitable Group is no ordinary social enterprise. It grew turnover by 12% to £34.4m last year and increased employment to over 660 staff across its seven business units. Though Bryson Recycling is perhaps the most familiar part of the group it focuses on a range of socially important activities, including social care, energy advice, training young people for employment, water sport activities, caring for the elderly and supporting ethnic minorities. It delivers 25,700 services each day across Northern Ireland and into Donegal, providing direct care to over 4,200 people; half a million homes have benefited from its recycling services; it has increased energy efficiency for 115,000 households and 34% of young people found employment through its programmes. Bryson recently won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development – a first for a Northern Ireland organisation. “We’re using a business model to scale up our social impact. You have to do that profitably to make yourself sustainable. Without a profit you’ve nothing to reinvest in the work. The difference with a social enterprise like Bryson is the profit never goes anywhere, it goes back into our work,” said CEO John McMullan. Some 94p in every pound spent by the charity is invested into the services it provides and development of those services. “The modern organisation is still driven, as a charity ought to be, by its objective to address poverty in Northern Ireland. It now just does it a different way,” added John. He puts much of Bryson’s recent success down to the organisation’s ability to be flexible and adaptable to keep up with the times and deliver social impact efficiently and profitably. Bryson House has a long history in Northern Ireland, having first been founded in 1906 as a charitable institution, before changing its name to Bryson Group in 2006. John has been at Bryson for 29 years. He arrived on a training programme after being made redundant from roles at Tyrone Crystal
and Michelin, subsequently gaining an MBA part-time at the University of Ulster. The organisation has similarly invested in a lot of its other employees as their careers have developed, with half of its Executive team first coming to Bryson on programmes to help the long term unemployed. “It tells you there is a lot of talent out there if you can find a way to support it and unlock it,” said John. “The feedback we get about the commitment of our guys is really really positive. The reality of an organisation of our size is that if it isn’t populated with good people it doesn’t work.” Bryson has grown its business by being cost competitive and John sees scope for further expansion. The organisation already works in Donegal and is now looking at whether some of its services might work cost effectively in other parts of the UK. “We are now putting in place a five to seven year growth strategy and we’re trying to identify where the opportunities are. The big challenge in that will be funding the investment. We are willing to borrow if we need to or invest from our own resources. In depends on how capital intense the areas are,” he said. The areas in which John expects growth are the ones where there is growing demand for its services – namely in the support of older people to keep them out of residential care, helping tackle youth unemployment and addressing fuel poverty caused by rising energy prices. “One of our huge problems is youth unemployment – we’ve got to find programmes for work that enable the people who are not going to go into the high end jobs to experience work, not worklessness. The clever guys and girls will get on, but we can’t forget this other group
because the social consequences of doing that are frightening,” he said. Where Bryson shines is in thinking smarter about how it delivers services to ensure added social and economic impacts. For example it supplies 35% of its mixed recycling materials directly to Northern Ireland manufacturers to put into their products, indirectly supporting their exports. The concept of social enterprise is catching on in the UK and EU and John is confident it will grow in Northern Ireland too – in time. “I think some of our politicians get it but there is a lot of old thinking – that the economy is the interaction between the public and private sectors. There’s no CBI for social enterprise but I think that will start to emerge with the new Social Enterprise NI group being formed.” Bryson competes with private sector players in most of its divisions, particularly on contracts for training programmes, energy efficiency and recycling. But while the Social Value Act in Westminster could mean those tendering for certain services will have to demonstrate social impact, that is not the case here. “We would argue that procurement should measure social impact and give it a score. If it did it would encourage the private sector to think more about it. What you’d get out of that is hybrids of private and social enterprises,” said John. “I think you will see new things emerge. Big Society Capital has £600m of investment capital in it. It is charged with creating an investment market for social enterprise and the third sector. And across the UK there are 10 social impact bonds in place. So there will be a move away from substantial grant aid support. The challenge is for Government to create a market for us to do this in.”
“The modern organisation is still driven by its objective to address poverty in Northern Ireland. It now just does it a different way.” JANUARY 2013 57
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Shona McCarthy With City of Culture year underway in Derry/Londonderry, Lucy Gollogly caught up with the CEO of Culture Company 2013 to find out how she is going about organising such a major series of events.
he task of transforming Derry/ Londonderry’s image from that of battle scarred provincial city to international arts hub isn’t one for the faint hearted. It’s fortunate then that Shona McCarthy definitely isn’t that. She’s largely shrugged off problems such as the continuing threat from dissident republicans, who have twice targeted the Culture Company’s offices in Ebrington Square, and a disagreement with Derry City Council that saw it take control of the company’s marketing budget last October. All but the most cynical would be impressed by the £16m programme of events Ms McCarthy and her team have put together for UK City of Culture’s inaugural year. There are the huge-scale, ‘big ticket’ events, such as the Turner Prize and performances by the London Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet. However, the programme is also designed to reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage and contemporary arts scene, with the opening concert Sons and Daughters featuring Derry luminaries such as Phil Coulter, Paul Brady, The Undertones and Damian McGinty. There is also an emphasis on community based projects, such as the photographic collection Portrait of a City, which aims to let the people of Derry tell their own stories. Ms McCarthy, who was director of the British Council Northern Ireland before she took the Derry job, admits she was initially reluctant to go for the chief executive post. “I had resisted becoming involved in the bid for Derry/Londonderry to become UK City of Culture. I thought, I’ve done this before; I’m not going to do it again. But then when Derry won and they were looking for a chief executive to take it to the next level, then it became
irresistible,” she said. “And I love this city as well. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s the first, and it’s the benchmark for all the UK Cities of Culture that will follow.” The breadth and depth of Ms McCarthy’s experience in the cultural sector is impressive: early in her 20-year career she established Cinemagic, the Belfast-based international film festival for children and young people. The Co. Down native was chief executive of the Foyle Film Festival in the 1990s, and at one point ran both film festivals at the same time. She also headed up Imagine Belfast 2008, the organisation which oversaw the city’s bid to become European City of Culture. That honour went to Liverpool instead, but the experience was instrumental in preparing her for the Derry role. The mother of two admits it was a daunting if exciting prospect, but that a life-changing six-month stint working in India helped prepare her. “Probably one of the most life enhancing experiences I’ve ever had was in 2007 when I was nominated as the Northern Ireland representative for the NESTA Cultural Leadership Awards. Basically it was an invitation to choose one out of 30 cultural leaders internationally to go and work with for six months. I chose to go to a place called the Seagull Foundation for the Arts. It’s a publishing house, gallery and a multi-media arts centre in Kolkata,” she said. Ms McCarthy brought her family, sending her two daughters to a school which was the first in the city to admit street children, along with fee-paying students. After that, she says, she was “ready for anything” Derry 2013 could throw at her. “I love the idea of starting something from scratch. When I walked into this post, it literally
“We are absolutely working at full tilt. I’ve never seen a more productive, dedicated and committed team of people in my life.”
was that. The first day there was no office, no computer, no desk – I was sitting at the end of a desk in Ilex, the regeneration company, and I was handed a Blackberry and that was it. “I got the opportunity to build the team from scratch. We now have 18 full-time core people and there’s probably a further 15 or 16 people who are project workers or secondees or project managers and that is likely to grow significantly this year,” she explained. “We are absolutely working at full tilt. I’ve never seen a more productive, dedicated and committed team of people in my life. They’re really genuinely brilliant.” Hopes are high that Derry’s year with the title will result in real economic benefits to a city that was plagued with high unemployment even before the current economic downturn. Ms McCarthy points to Liverpool as an example of what can be achieved. The UK City of Culture project was born out of the huge success of that city as European Capital of Culture in 2008. The Liverpool programme secured a total income of £130m over six years and helped change the city’s image from bleak and socially deprived to exciting and vibrant. Ms McCarthy says she is confident Derry’s programme will bring many hundreds of thousands of people to the city, its hinterland and Northern Ireland as a whole. She says success will be partly down to the “massive collective effort” from stakeholders and funders including the Executive (which put up the lion’s share – £12.6m – of the budget), Derry Chamber of Commerce, the City Centre Initiative, the Arts Council, Northern Ireland Screen, the various corporate sponsors and the city’s community and cultural organisations. In particular, she says it is hoped that the All-Ireland Fleadh in May will attract up to 400,000 people. When it took place in Cavan last year, it drew over 300,000 people and the value to the local economy was estimated at €40m. And she is certain the economic and cultural benefits will last longer than one year. “I think we’ve seen how other UK cities have in the past benefitted from the European Capital of Culture,” she said. “I absolutely believe that the legacy will be realised.”
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LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Paul Millar The chief investment officer at WhiteRock Capital Partners expects to lend as much as £10m this year as manager of the Invest NI-backed Growth Loan Fund.
ven in the current economic climate, there are lots of established SMEs in Northern Ireland seeking the finance to
grow. That has been borne out in the strong demand for mezzanine finance which the managers of the Growth Loan Fund have experienced. Paul Millar, chief investment officer of WhiteRock Capital Partners, says his team has had over 150 loan enquiries since the fund became operational at the end of June. Since it started investing in September some 15 loans have been approved by its investment committee worth £3.5m, an average of over £200,000 per deal. Finance for the £50m Growth Loan Fund has been provided by Invest NI and pension fund the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC). It will provide primarily unsecured loans of between £50,000 and £500,000 over the next five years to businesses that can demonstrate growth and export potential, with the manufacturing, engineering or tradable services sector being targeted. The fund was set up by Invest NI to address market failure but Millar stresses it isn’t there to compete with banks, rather to provide an additional resource which banks can no longer stretch to under their new operating models. “We’re not replacing traditional bank funding, we’re just providing additional top slice funding. There is a higher interest rate because it is unsecured, but that extra facility allows companies to go forward and grow,” he said.
“We’ve been in and presented to all the main banks here three times. We’ve had a very good response from them. They really see it as complementary.” And he should know. An accountant by training with experience gained at both KPMG and Deloitte, Millar spent the seven years prior to joining WhiteRock in corporate and business banking roles at Bank of Ireland. The loan fund’s pricing is higher than traditional bank lending at 8% to 9% and it can take a 2% stake in a company that defaults on repayments. But Millar doesn’t think that will be an issue because loans are being made by WhiteRock’s investment committee based on cashflow. “These are not grants we’re handing out, we have a very robust process in house and then we go out to the applicant’s business and spend a week doing due diligence,” he said. “It’s not a case of us saying, here’s £300,000, you don’t have to start paying for it for 12 months. We’re saying no, you’ve got to be able to afford the monthly loan repayments from month one. If that company can’t afford it, we don’t provide the loan,” he explains. “Invest NI and NILGOSC have put the £50m in but they want it back. I could have had 50 deals done in the first month by picking the first 50 guys through the door. Lending is about getting it back. If we do our job right here, these companies will have paid the money back in five years and there’s no burden on the taxpayer.” Millar further adds: “What’s giving us a lot of confidence is the quality of the businesses coming to us. Of those 150 enquiries, 25% of those loan enquiries have come from businesses
with a turnover of over £3m. There is a lot of it at the upper end. We have demand from companies with turnover right up to £25m.” Millar says that while the banking model has changed for the right reasons, it gives him comfort as a former banker knowing that five years ago what now falls under mezzanine funding was being provided by the banks. “The Loan Fund that we have here in NI, that fund has been in place in the north east of England for 10 years. These are new things in NI but they are not new anywhere else. This sort of funding structure has been running for about 10 years in Scotland as well. It has worked in other regions and I don’t see any reason it won’t work here.” he said. There are not many corporate bankers in Belfast doing a deal a week and because the pipeline is so strong, Millar already thinks the fund may need to be expanded. “We’re already going back to Invest NI and NILGOSC to say that if we keep going the way the demand is facing here, we don’t think we’re going to have enough funds. We think the demand is nearer £300,000 a deal, but we still think 50 deals per annum is achievable. That would be £15m a year. So maybe it should be a £75m fund,” he said. “We think we will comfortably do £10m in a year. That’s why we’re flagging it now. I am one of the few people in NI who has capital available to lend. What I don’t want to be doing is sitting in a couple of years time in a position where I’m telling someone I can’t invest in them because I’ve got no capital. If we’re really saying we think demand is at the £15m level, three years into a five-year fund we have no funding left,” he adds. “The positive view of that is that it endorses the initial decision to launch the fund.”
“Invest NI and NILGOSC have put the £50m in but they want it back. I could have had 50 deals done in the first month by picking the first 50 guys through the door.” JANUARY 2013 61
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
Neil Gibson The economist hopes to make a positive contribution to the way government formulates economic policy in his new role as director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy at the University of Ulster.
lready one of the best-known commentators on the Northern Ireland economy, Neil Gibson is likely to become even more prominent in 2013. From this month he will head up the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP) which will be based at the Ulster Business School and be tasked with regularly assessing the state of the economy as well as informing and critiquing the Executive’s policies. NICEP has been established with startup funding provided by a range of sources including DETI, First Trust Bank and Belfast Harbour, and will carry out policy-oriented economics research, while also contributing to the teaching of economics within the university. It is a return to his alma mater for Gibson, who graduated from University of Ulster in 1999. After stints with PwC and the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre, he founded consultancy Regional Forecasts in 2003. When it merged with Oxford Economics in 2007 Gibson became a director there. He told Ulster Business that NICEP’s primary function will be to help Northern Ireland by encouraging innovative economic policy. “Northern Ireland needs new policies, it hasn’t had any in a long time. Critiquing and challenging are part of the role, but NICEP’s primary goal is to help Northern Ireland. It is a challenging economic time and we should be thinking carefully about what to do,” said Gibson. “It is about thinking of ways that we could
do things differently, putting new ideas on the table for us to think about. If the Executive does make legislative changes, what should those changes be? What are the policy choices around skills, or the rates base, or austerity versus investment?” he added. Despite receiving some funding from government the economist says NICEP will be independent and will have to “say things that might offend people”. “We want to contribute ideas, not just be reactive. It won’t just be a case of ‘what would you like us to look at, Minister?’. It will be us promoting areas that should be looked at,” he said. Gibson notes that he, and other economists, comment in the press on a host of economic issues, but have not had the chance to work with senior civil servants to be involved in the formulation of any solutions. He hopes to put together a team of people who are “genuinely interested in economic change” and who can make the most of the centre’s position within the university, with both private and public sector sponsors. “The Centre is well positioned. It is not there just to be provocative and get you column inches, it’s not commercial in a making money sense, and it’s not within government to just be a rubber stamp to what’s already been decided,” he said. “It’s not just about focusing on what is bad, it is about what you would do instead. There’s not enough of that.” A board will be appointed to ensure NICEP’s research is relevant to the current economic
climate, and Gibson also expects to engage more with the media in his role as its director. “Sometimes the criticism is that the media doesn’t cover things in enough depth. But as economists have to be willing to contribute the time and play a more active role than a few sound bites,” he said. “Economic policy is very distant from people at the moment, and it shouldn’t be. The only way to improve that is to spend time with our business media and there will be willingness to do that.” However, Gibson says his first job will be to meet with each of the main political parties to get a sense of what’s on their economic agenda. He’d like to get to a point where parties have a dialogue with NICEP when formulating policy or want research done, but at this stage believes it would be sensible to first take stock of what economic policy actually is in Northern Ireland. “From that we’ll determine where there are gaps. Where there are policy aims for things we would like to see in NI but there is no legislation or mechanism to make them happen. I’m going into it with a very open mind as to where there are gaps,” he explained. “Our work should be ending with something that is genuinely actionable as a policy. We need to be cognicent that we live in austere times and that is not likely to change any time soon. We know that if NI wants to do things itself it’s going to have to find its own way of raising money to do them, or find ways of spending less. So there’s no doubt that the Centre’s economic policy angle will have to look at policies that can fund themselves.”
“we want to contribute ideas, not just be reactive. it won’t just be a case of ‘what would you like us to look at, minister?’ JANUARY 2013 63
Can good governance banish the elephant in the boardroom? I neffective board governance in both the public and private sector is a root cause of crisis and failure; in today’s highly regulated society this is the elephant in the boardroom. While the overall standard of board governance has improved, it is essential to keep it front of mind and for boards to be willing to challenge themselves and test their effectiveness. Effective board governance not only mitigates the risk of crisis and failure, but creates an environment and culture that maximises success. That was the message delivered to over 200 local directors and senior executives who attended a recent PwC Fraud Academy event to examine and challenge the role of the board
in the public, third and voluntary sectors. With a panel that included governance specialist, Eileen McMullan, John Dallat MLA and United Dairy Farmers group chief executive Dr David Dobbin, PwC forensic partner Ian McConnell summarised a lively debate that recognised that the experience, objectivity and behaviour of the board members was critical. While it was accepted that board members in the public and voluntary sectors – even though they may often be unpaid – have the same responsibilities as their private sector counterparts, it was also agreed that non executive directors (NEDS) in these sectors need greater training and support. In an increasingly regulated operating
“While we accept that good governance lies at the heart of good decision making, governance all too often becomes an issue after something goes wrong; largely because most organisations rarely assess their board performance, skills, roles and responsibilities.”
environment, the actions and decisions of government agencies, third sector organisations and private companies are equally open to scrutiny and to public challenge. And, while public sector failures attract headlines when scrutinised by the Audit office or the Public Accounts Committee, crisis within the private sector attract the attentions of regulators and government, often with significant reputational and commercial cost. There have been a number of high profile public sector related crises in recent years, ranging from, Into the West and the Northern Ireland Events Company to Northern Ireland Water and the Bio-Science & Technology Institute. In the private sector, DETI press releases announcing disqualifications of directors have become merely routine. Ian McConnell told the seminar: “In my experience, corporate crises are often created, facilitated or ineffectively managed as a result of three key issues: • Constitution of the Board – the lack of necessary skills, experience and objectivity;
1. The panel included governance specialist Eileen Mullan, Dr David Dobbin, United Dairy Farmers and John Dallat MLA. 2. Lynne Rainey, PwC with Noelene Steele, Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board. 3. Ian McConnell from PwC continues the debate with guests. 4. Dr Len O’Hagan CBE, Belfast Harbour Commissioners with Dr Malcolm McKibbin, Head of Northern Ireland Civil Service.
2 • Role of Non-Executives – the absence of NED’s or their ineffective performance of the role; and • Board behaviours – primarily the effectiveness of the Chair, the willingness of directors to challenge and the absence of a culture which recognises and values governance, thus preventing crises occurring. “While we accept that good governance lies at the heart of good decision making, governance all too often becomes an issue after something goes wrong; largely because most organisations rarely assess their board performance, skills, roles and responsibilities.” One of the features of the evening was the use of interactive voting technology to let delegates vote, respond and participate directly in the debate. In one of the votes, just over 50% of directors in the room indicated that, at some time, they had concerns about governance within their organisations; but fewer than half had actually taken steps to highlight and address these concerns.
That, said Ian McConnell, epitomised the issues facing executives and particularly NEDs in Northern Ireland boardrooms: “It can be immensely difficult to be the lone voice speaking out against the status quo. But all that is needed for governance failures to prevail is for good men and women in the board room to do nothing.” Ian McConnell is the forensic services partner, PwC in Northern Ireland. For more information about PwC’s Fraud Academy email: firstname.lastname@example.org
What is 4G all about? The speed and range of services available on mobile phones is about to take a giant leap forward with the roll-out of new 4G technology. Ofcom Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose explains.
ou’ll have heard a lot about 4G in recent months but probably don’t know what it means or when it’s coming. In short, it will be dramatic and it will be soon. Where 2G technology is suitable for making calls and sending texts and 3G makes it possible to access the internet with your mobile, 4G will make it much quicker to surf the web on your mobile, tablets and laptops. Speeds will be nearer to what you currently experience with home broadband. Because of this, 4G is ideally suited for services which demand more capacity like video streaming, mapping and social networking sites. For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks could be around 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks. This means a music album taking 20 minutes to download on a 3G phone and just over three minutes on 4G. Currently EE is the only operator offering a 4G service in the UK, by reusing surplus 2G airwaves, but we expect 4G services from other operators will be up and running by the second quarter of 2013. In setting the parameters for the release of this 4G spectrum, which will be through a competitive auction process, Ofcom has sought to maximise the benefits for citizens and consumers. Consequently, some of the available spectrum will be reserved for a fourth national wholesaler other than the three largest mobile operators. We believe consumers are likely to benefit from better services at lower prices if there are at least four credible national wholesalers of 4G mobile services. Furthermore, the spectrum bands will be auctioned to bidders as a series of lots with one of the successful bids carrying an obligation to provide a mobile broadband service for indoor reception to at least 98% of the UK population by the end of 2017 at the latest. We anticipate that imposing the obligation on one operator will drive other operators to extend their own coverage in response. Given that it is easier to provide coverage outdoors than indoors, a network meeting this obligation is likely to cover more than 99% of the UK by population when outdoors. In addition to this UK-wide coverage obligation, Ofcom has decided to require that the same operator provides the same indoor service to at least 95% of the population of each of the UK nations, including Northern Ireland. Outdoor coverage for a network meeting this obligation is likely to be 98-99% of the population of each nation. To put 4G in perspective, the auction will offer the equivalent of three quarters of the mobile spectrum in use today – some 80% more than was released in the 3G auction which took place in 2000. As such, it will deliver enormous benefits for consumers, not just with higher speeds but with new applications we haven’t even thought of yet.
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Workforce Mobility in 2013
eaf understands that for some staff, work isn’t a place. It’s something they do, wherever and whenever business needs to be done. To close deals, build relationships, manage financial responsibility and drive strategic value with the agility demanded by today’s global economy, executives need the freedom to move beyond office walls without leaving behind the resources they need to be effective. Simply put, executives need to be able to do anything, anywhere: collaboratively edit a contract during an overseas flight. Approve purchase orders at a business conference. Access real-time patient data and clinical systems from a remote hospital. Review Legal Documents from a courthouse. They need to do it all on whatever device is most convenient – including their own personal devices – from laptops to the latest tablets and smartphones. This kind of mobility isn’t an aspiration for the executive of the future. It’s a requirement for doing business today. To make it possible, organisations must solve significant challenges. How can executives collaborate actively even as their work takes them far from the office? How can they respond effectively to urgent needs while at home or traveling? How can they be given the flexibility to work with whatever device best suits their need, with fast, effective IT support even on their own consumer-grade devices? How can executives access the most confidential data anywhere, on any device, from any network while IT controls risk and ensures information governance and compliance? As a leader in solutions that enable more mobile, flexible ways of working, Leaf though our partners empowers executives to work wherever and however they need to, while managing risk and enabling organisations to: • Empower executives to work anywhere using their own personal devices. • Increase executive productivity by providing enterprise-application access from mobile devices. • Enable executives to share files easily, inside or outside their organisation, without introducing unnecessary risk to their organisation. For more information please contact cloudservices@ leafconsultancy.com or call 028 9089 7650.
LEADERS IN BUSINESS
A Quest for Excellence Ulster Business spoke to Suzanne Lunn, Marketing Director at Lunn’s, about creating leaders in business excellence and found out why Lunn’s are long-standing supporters of the most prestigious business award in Northern Ireland.
unn’s, Northern Ireland’s leading jeweller, is a family business established over 50 years ago. The IoD Lunn’s Award of Excellence recognises individuals who live and work in Northern Ireland and who, in the opinion of the judges, have contributed substantially to the success of their businesses, their employees and of the wider Northern Ireland community. It celebrates and commends excellent leadership in private, public and third sector organisations. A winning director is one who has shown a commitment to business, combining real dedication and outstanding ability and focus. Lunn’s has been supporting the award for 13 years. “The award is very close to our hearts,” said Suzanne. “It is one of the longest-standing business awards in Northern Ireland and we have been in partnership with the IoD since 1999. The award is also one of the most coveted in Northern Ireland: 2013’s winner will be presented with a sterling silver trophy and one of the most soughtafter watches in the world, a Rolex Daytona.” As a business, Lunn’s works with some of the most luxurious brands in the world. Suzanne added: “We are extremely serious about excellence; from the fabulous products we source, to the training we give our staff, to our customer service
and beyond. It is a great privilege to celebrate and extol excellence. The recipients of the award have contributed so much to the good of Northern Ireland, not just on a business front, but more often than not in a social capacity too. Without individuals like these constantly believing and investing, Northern Ireland would be a very different place.” The award acknowledges true success,
endorsing leaders for their determination and for providing businesses with inspiration. Giving an explanation of what she thinks makes a good director Suzanne said: “Our winners are dynamic, driven and professional. The award credits a distinctive director who has superior all-round skills and knowledge, strategically directs their organisation successfully, and has a genuine interest in the world outside their company.” The award has attracted a high calibre of winner over the years. “Over the last ten years we have had some very worthy winners,” Suzanne said. “They include: David Dobbin of United Dairy Farmers; Dr Peter Fitzgerald of Randox; Michael Howard of food and drinks company SHS Group; John McCann of UTV; Michael Ryan of Bombardier; and Ciaran Sheehan, Managing Director of the Care Circle Group.” The judges of the prestigious award include Linda Brown and Mervyn McCall of the IoD; John Simpson, economist; David Elliot of the Belfast Telegraph; Michael Howard, the previous year’s winner and Suzanne Lunn. The IoD Lunn’s Award of Excellence will be presented at the IoD’s Annual Dinner on 7 February 2013. FACT FILE The candidates are the winners of the Director of the Year Awards which were announced on Friday 30 November 2012. Judges have remarked on the high calibre of this year’s shortlist. At a ceremony at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast, the following Directors picked up awards: Karen Dundee, Galgorm Manor Hotel SME Director of the Year Karen Brady, mxb Young Director of the Year John McMullan, Bryson Charitable Group Third Sector Director of the Year David Dobbin, United Dairy Farmers Large Company Director of the Year David Robinson, Robinson Services Limited Family Business Director of the Year Helen Kirkpatrick, UTV Non-Executive Director of the Year
Celebrating their awards are Karen Dundee from Galgorm Manor Hotel, Karen Brady from mxb; David Dobbin from United Dairy Farmers, John McMullan from Bryson Charitable Group, David Robinson from Robinson Services Limited and Yvonne Mallon from B/E Aerospace
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Yvonne Mallon, B/E Aerospace Leader in Corporate Responsibility
Ones to Watch
ONES TO WATCH
Dr Andrew Woods CATAGEN Catagen won the top prize in this year’s InterTradeIreland Seedcorn competition. CEO Dr Andrew Woods tells us what the company is all about and his aspirations for the business. How would you describe your business in a twitter posting? Catagen are ‘setting the new standard’ in automotive catalytic converter testing. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product? Our customers would include all vehicle, engine and catalytic converter manufacturers globally. The need for our product arises from the global emissions legislation, which is the key driver of growth in our marketplace. Catagen’s advanced engineering approach is 80% more energy efficient and produces 98% less CO2 than traditional testing methods. This results in significant economic and environmental benefits for our customers and the wider public. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? We have a number of key USPs. We can offer a very fast payback to our customers, due to the reduced running costs derived from the energy efficiencies (around two years in most cases). That, coupled with greater flexibility of testing along with the environmental benefits, gives a very compelling case for purchase to our customers. To quote one of our customers “the procurement process was easy for us – you have no competitors”. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? It’s difficult to answer that one. I would say coming from a small rural community where I learned to appreciate the value of hard work and the benefits of having solid relationships. By directly applying these values in the Catagen business, I believe this has helped Catagen to get where it is today. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? Catagen is generating commercial revenues, is profitable and cash generative. Catagen’s next major milestone is to fully demonstrate our technology range to more interested parties in
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Rose Mary Stalker and Dr Andrew Woods from Catagen receive their Seedcorn award from Martin Cronin (right) of InterTradeIreland
the US and European auto sector. We expect this to result in moving current expressions of interest to further orders for equipment. Catagen is considering an appropriate investment round, which would accelerate our ability to deliver growth here in Northern Ireland. A critical pre-requisite is to ensure that any new investor shares our values, and truly wants to be a long term partner with us on this growth journey What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? Further sales growth in the US/EU automotive sector, which in turn leads to high quality employment opportunities at Catagen NI. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? We are addressing a large and growing market
due to emissions legislation worldwide becoming stricter. Catagen really has the potential to dominate the market opportunity, and at scale would be a business with a high gross margin and highly defendable patent position, with realistic potential to list on AIM or NASDAQ. Our aspiration and belief is that Catagen can become a world-recognised hub for catalytic converter testing based locally. Realising this vision will require the continued commitment and dedication from everyone working at Catagen. Is there anyone who inspires you or who you hope to emulate? I have a lot of admiration for self-employed tradesmen who work hard in whatever weather to provide for their families. Personally, I just wish to be myself and do the best I can, to both achieve and outperform the goals I set.
ONES TO WATCH
Daniel Loughlin EXPORT TECHNOLOGIES It may be one of the most competitive markets to operate in, but local company Export Technologies is more than holding its own against eCommerce rivals, according to Daniel Loughlin. How would you describe your business in a twitter posting? Export Technologies is an eCommerce platform provider and consultancy with a successful track record working with leading Northern Ireland companies. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your products and services? Our customers can be any company that realises they have eCommerce potential but have not fully maximised it. In my experience companies believe they have a successful eCommerce site when they get a few sales, but the reality is that success is achieved when they take a percentage of their online market sector and that can equate to millions, tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pounds. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? We operate in a crowded market. Our USP is that we gauge our success by the volume of online sales we can deliver for clients. In the last five years we have helped facilitate more than £700m worth of sales for Northern Ireland companies and it is this figure that gives us confidence in our eCommerce platform and our consultancy. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? I’m commercially focused and have a primary interest in seeing companies grow their sales online, but my background is technical. This can be a positive as it means I can understand the technical requirements of software as well as the importance of clients making sales. It is often the case in tech companies that CEOs are people with technical knowhow rather than with a financial background. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? Keeping pace with technology and continuing to innovate while servicing customers can be a challenge. Keeping the product and business objectives simple at our core helps. What stage are you at and what do you need to go further? We are in a growth stage and creating an “instant” version of our eCommerce platform (the IRP) for mass market. We have the funding in place and need to continue to attract the right talent to get to the next level. What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? This instantly deployable IRP platform launching mid 2013 will
transform our client base. We currently have a smaller group of clients and the new platform means that there will be no limit to the number of potential clients we can deal with. In order to support this projected growth, we realise that a strong company structure needs to be in place, so attracting people at the right level is a key priority. During 2012 we received industry recognition including our third consecutive year ranking within the top 12 of the Deloitte Fast 50 and we hope to continue this success in 2013. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? The problem with working in anything related to the internet is that due to the scale of the markets that are open, everyone from a software company to an online seller gets a new level of greed and aspiration! It is balancing the potential with the possible, and I believe we can become a significant player in the online market at an influential level. Are there any people in business (or outside business) who are an inspiration to you or who you hope to emulate? I’m always impressed by the different skills people have, and the importance of combining this talent in a team environment. In my view it is good to learn from but not to emulate any company or anyone’s product. People who inspire me are those who put in hard work for a greater good and I think this is often how greater things are achieved. Ideas also inspire me and good business ideas form the basis of good companies.
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ONES TO WATCH
Paul Stewart NI PARCELS Entrepreneur Paul Stewart believes he has found a gap in the hugely competitive courier package market and is hoping to take advantage of consumers’ willingness to shop around for good value in 2013. How would you describe your business in a tweet? NI Parcels is a website that gives customers wishing to send parcels the chance to compare and book major couriers at heavily discounted rates. Who are your potential customers and why is there a need for your services? Our customers are SMEs and the general public. In most instances to send a parcel with a courier you need to set up an account and to get good shipping rates you need to send thousands of parcels annually – this makes major couriers out of reach to the public and most small businesses. We let the customer book parcels online using our unique contracts with multiple couriers so in effect we are their supplier. We do not require credit checks or signed contracts and our prices are on average 50% cheaper than going to the courier directly. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? We are the only website in Northern Ireland that allows the customer to compare and book couriers online at competitive prices. We work with national couriers such as FedEx, Parcelforce, and DHL and local company Captain Courier, which gives the customer more choice. As well as being able to ship same day within Northern Ireland from as little as £5.99, we also ship to more than 200 countries worldwide. Our customer support service is provided via email, live chat and phone and gives the customer peace of mind and confidence in our service. How has your own background helped in the development of your new company? I have experience in shipping and logistics via my other business, Uni Baggage. This is a student shipping company I set up three years ago while studying at Edinburgh University after spending a fortune on excess baggage fees/courier services transporting my belongings back and forth. When I saw that an increasing number of local businesses were using Uni Baggage, I knew there was a specific need that wasn’t being met. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? As NI Parcels is principally online, a huge effort has been focused on developing the website. The site “plugs” into eight courier systems to allow us to display prices, collection dates, transit times, etc. As every courier system is different it is a massive challenge to gather and display data for the thousands of different options available daily. What stage is the business at and what do you need to kick on to the next level?
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NI Parcels is funded and is currently in the development stage. The website NIParcels.com is due to launch in February 2013. What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? As a new product to the market, our main aim for 2013 is to create brand awareness within the local business community and beyond. I am using the Uni Baggage model in terms of targeted advertising, PR and promotion both online and offline. We are planning to recruit and expand the team as creating this awareness alone is a full time job. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? I would like NI Parcels to become the number one shipping website in Northern Ireland. The courier market in the UK is huge. In 2011 Royal Mail (which includes Parcelforce) shipped 651 million parcels within the UK which included approx 16 million within Northern Ireland. I’m hoping to tap into this lucrative market. NI Parcels has great potential to grow quickly and the projections are to hit the million pound turnover mark within three years. Is there anyone who is an inspiration to you or who you hope to emulate? My dad. He has been very successful in business and is the first person I go to for advice. Our sectors are very different but we but have similar approaches to business.
ONES TO WATCH
Graham Robinson ILOVEQC Digital visionary Graham Robinson recently got a £75,000 cash injection from business angels into his business iloveqc, whose products are used by some of the world’s best known superstar DJs. five years, with artists like David Guetta, Pete Tong, Armin Van Buuren in places like Miami, Dubai, New Zealand and more recently creating the animation and projection design for the Land of Giants show in Belfast. What’s been the biggest challenge so far? The biggest challenge is getting our message out there. We have an amazing product that is a real game changer but our target customers are busy people over-saturated with information, so our challenge is to cut through the noise and present our concept in a way that makes sense. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? We secured investment via the Halo process between March and September 2012. We launched into the marketplace in late October so now it’s all about getting the traction to reach our breakeven point. How would you describe your business in a tweet? World First startup empowering DJs with magic video bombs, film editors with supercharging plugins and video artists with live social media Who are your customers and why is there a need for your products? There are three types of customer. Firstly, DJs who need a visual show to make them stand out from the crowd and create the complete experience. Video content is hard to find and loops over and over. Our video bombs are very lightweight files that create visuals driven by the DJs audio so they are automatically in time with his music and plugin very easily to the software he is already using. So he effectively gets an amazing bespoke interactive visual show with no extra effort and at an incredibly affordable price (our files start at just £9.99). Secondly, TV and film editors need to create mind blowing edits on supertight deadlines. We have developed plugins that allow them to load 3D models into their Final Cut editing
software. This is completely unique worldwide and literally adds a whole new dimension to their work. Because all our content works inside their software it can save them 50-70% of their time on an edit. Thirdly, VJs who perform visuals alongside musicians/DJs. Our files allow them to suck down tweets, facebook images, instagram and bring them into their performance, while also giving them live control over the visuals so they can remix them live. So much better than boring video loops that they used up until now. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? We are the first to market; you cannot by this product anywhere else, for DJs they get visuals automatically driven by the audio, for film editors they get 3D and big time savings and for Vjs they get a whole new level of interactivity. Has your own background helped in the development of your company? Yes, definitely. I have been using our product to perform visuals all around the world for the last
What do you hope to achieve in 2013? To take over the world. What is the potential for the business? I hope that our product will make a genuine difference to the average person, though empowering creatives to make more exciting shows and edits we hope that people watching TV, or going out to enjoy some music will have a better time that ever before. Our first sale was to Japan and we are a truly global business so we aspire to empower creatives from all around the world and will have over a million visitors to our site by year five. Who inspires you? There are many people who inspire me, from my wife Natalie, my dad, amazing artists who tried to improve society with their art like Wassily Kandinsky, modern visual innovators 1024 Arcitecutre, Anti Vj, Universal Everything. If it hadn’t been for Jesus I never would have started this business so He’s probably my biggest inspiration.
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Aaron Russell CUCOU It might seem crazy to set up a new estate agency in the midst of the worst housing crash in living memory, but that hasn’t put off Aaron Russell, who is making an impact in East Belfast. latest technology to achieve a service and sales performance of the highest level possible. Peter Tughan, my colleague, has over fifteen years experience within East Belfast estate agencies. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? I think the biggest challenge for me was having the courage to make the move to start up my own business. It was a big decision to make but I am looking forward to the challenges ahead and to watch Cucou grow. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? Cucou has been trading since September 2012 so we are still trying to promote the brand to our Northern Ireland audience. I think we need to continuously advertise our services further since we are a relatively new company and by providing a service to our clients that they will recommend to their friends and family.
How would you describe your business in a tweet? Cucou is a new, innovative estate agency with a passion for helping people find the right home. Focusing on selling, buying, renting or letting property. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product or service? Our customers range from first time buyers wanting to make the first step onto the property ladder, people starting a family and needing a larger home, property investors looking for great opportunities and those seeking to downsize. We also proactively push to grow our landlord and tenant database.
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In a competitive market, what’s your USP? I believe that Cucou is a very strong and quirky brand, which stands out within this competitive industry. We also have a strong online presence through the use of our website and have fully embraced all social media activity (Twitter @ CucouCalling and Facebook, facebook.com/ cucoucalling), whilst providing our clients with a professional service. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? Having gained ten years knowledge and experience in the Northern Ireland property market I knew I wanted to create a fresh, innovative company, which utilises all the
What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? My ultimate goal is to find all my clients their perfect home and for me and my team to achieve this by providing an approachable and professional service. Our promise is to keep the whole process simple and to grow the business throughout the course of 2013. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? Obviously I would love for Cucou to be the number one choice for all estate agency services within Northern Ireland. I think we have great potential to achieve this with our extensive knowledge and experience within this industry and marketing tools. Who inspires you? It would be wrong of me to say that one individual has inspired me, but several including family, friends and work colleagues throughout my career have been my main inspirations.
Northern Ireland’s largest airline set to ring in 15 years Ali Gayward, easyJet Head of Northern Ireland
2013 marks a special year for easyJet as the team get ready to celebrate their 15th anniversary of flying from Northern Ireland. easyJet was the first airline to bring low-cost travel here and, since its inaugural flight from Belfast International Airport to London Luton on 18 September 1998, it has been the market leader in providing easy and affordable travel. Over its first two years, easyJet added flights to Liverpool and a second London airport – Stansted. In January 2001 a significant milestone was achieved with the launch of a first European route – to Amsterdam. Steady growth and new routes continued into 2003 and, in June 2004, the long wait for direct flights out of Belfast to popular French and Spanish destinations ended, with new services to Nice, Paris, Malaga and Alicante. Since then it’s been onwards and upwards all the way – to the point where easyJet is now clearly established as Northern Ireland’s largest airline, flying to 23 destinations from Belfast International Airport. Ali Gayward, easyJet Head of Northern Ireland, said: “We are very proud that we led the way in revolutionising air travel in Northern Ireland those 15 years ago. Over the years we have worked hard to
support local business people and the travelling public by delivering great frequencies and value-for-money fares to the destinations people want. The policy has certainly paid off and we will continue to strive to provide the best possible service. “2013 is an exciting year for easyJet and we look forward to celebrating our 15th anniversary here. We are aware how important it is to have a local presence and we’re delighted to have one of our strongest bases located at Belfast International Airport. We employ over 230 people locally and have contributed significantly to the economy and tourism over the years.” With a 46% market share, easyJet is comfortably Northern Ireland’s largest airline and, with the introduction of flights to London Southend last year, it now flies to four London airports, offering passengers the most – and the best – options for travel to the capital. Ali Gayward said: “We know how important it is for people to access London and, by offering one-way flights to a choice of the four airports, passengers can, for example, fly to London Gatwick and return from London Southend or Stansted or
Luton. Time is important for everyone and certainly the main attraction of our new route to London Southend is the speed and efficiency from getting off the aircraft to exiting the terminal… followed by a two-minute walk to the train station and a direct journey to London Liverpool Street. From recent feedback, we are finding that passengers don’t like the lengthy queues, baggage waiting times and time taken to navigate through larger airports such as Heathrow – and they are therefore switching to us. “We were delighted to announce the roll-out of allocated seating on all Belfast flights from 27 November and we continue to deliver strong on-time performance – the most important driver of passenger satisfaction. This new seating option removes a barrier for some business travellers and therefore attracts passengers who previously may not have considered flying with us.” There is no doubt that 2013 will see easyJet reinforcing its commitment to Northern Ireland – and Ali Gayward will help ensure that a basic aim remains uppermost… to lead the way in delivering easy and affordable travel for Northern Ireland passengers.
ONES TO WATCH
Tom Robinson MOF Technologies You may not have heard of MOFs but as the CEO of Queen’s University spin-out company MOF Technologies explains, it is a potentially lucrative field for those who get into the game early. How would you describe your business in a twitter posting? MOF Technologies produces MOFs, materials which are sponge-like on the nano-scale, allowing them to soak up and store large volumes of gas. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product? There is a wide range of applications for our products, but a key one is natural gas vehicles (NGVs). NGVs have always been limited by the absence of a widespread refuelling infrastructure. Our technology allows large amounts of natural gas to be stored in fuel tanks, even at low pressures. This opens up the possibility of refuelling from domestic gas supplies – the same gas supply that fuels your home’s central heating. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? We can produce these materials in a low-cost, rapid and sustainable way, enabling their use in large-scale applications for the first time. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? I started my career as a research physicist before making the transition to business. This background has proven invaluable in running a university spin-out company such as MOF Technologies, where my day-to-day activities combine very technical R&D issues with business development, fundraising and peoplemanagement. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far? An ongoing challenge is selling a product that no one has ever heard of, in markets that don’t yet exist! A key priority for us is to gain exposure for our technology and the benefits that Metal Organic Framework materials can bring. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? We have raised seed funding and have begun
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Tom Robinson with Julie-Ann O’Hare from Bank of Ireland after winning the NISP CONNECT 25k Award
the process of scaling-up our manufacturing technique to produce bulk quantities of MOFs. We are already selling small quantities of MOFs for niche applications. We will be looking to raise further funds within the next year in order to establish our own manufacturing facility.
What is the potential for the business – what are your ultimate aspirations for it? We have a technology that has the potential to revolutionise a number of industries. My hope for the company is that it maintains it’s current rapid rate of progress and that it continues to innovate and move into new markets.
What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? We aim to establish development partnerships with key end-users, continue developing our technology and make MOF Technologies a household name!
Is there anyone who is an inspiration to you or who you hope to emulate? Nikolai Tesla for his incredible ability to innovate, laying the foundations for AC electrical power and X-rays, and Thomas Edison’s ability to take these innovations and commercialise them.
ONES TO WATCH
Peter McCaul Dealtronic Everyone is after a deal in the current economic climate, and Newry-based Peter McCaul is confident he’s got the formula to succeed where other deal-based businesses have failed. How would you describe your business in a tweet? Online, in-store and mobile software offering an innovative way to increase sales and profits while offering up to 100% discounts for customers. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product or service? We are a unique business in that we have two customer bases. One is that of the customers buying products from our online, in store, and mobile platforms, for a range of discounts based on the luck of the draw. The other being the businesses, large or small who want an exciting and effective way of increasing sales without having to remain in constant sales mode. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? Dealtronic offers businesses exclusive software which allows organisations to create targeted and specific promotions. Essentially what we can offer is the ability for any business to create profitable promotions, where they keep all the profits, and provide the platforms to market them. The consumers have the opportunity to get their purchases at different levels of discount; completely free, or worse case scenario a smaller level of discount. We are fully aware there has been a surge in deal sites in recent times. Dealtronic have capitalised on this by offering an innovative twist to this trend, not only to consumers but businesses as well. Dealtronic offers businesses all the benefits of such sites with none of the disadvantages i.e. high commission rates and low customer loyalty rates. We take zero commission from sales; offer an effective and strategic marketing platform in order to showcase their products as well as offer organisations a platform in which to design their own deals. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? I managed the Brass Monkey Bar & Restaurant in Newry for a period and it was during my
tenure here that the original spark of an idea for Dealtronic came about five years ago. As a business owner I know the difficulties facing many businesses in today’s climate so I developed this software to increase customer footfall, loyalty, satisfaction and above all for the businesses, profits. All the while the software has been developed with ease of use in mind so anyone can use it. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? Dealtronic has been trading for just over three months now and to date we have signed up over 30 businesses. This was indeed our first challenge; would businesses invest in our software. So many people thought it was too good to be true and there must be a catch. Now we have hurdled this challenge we must continue to make people aware of our brand, proving we are exactly what we say we are. What do you hope to achieve in 2013? We have established our target list of partners and distributors throughout Ireland and the UK and will be approaching them to sell our software on a competitive commission based structure. 2013 promises to be a big year for
Dealtronic as we also plan to continue our role as a job creator with the introduction of The Dealtronic Apprentice Campaign. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? Dealtronic is everything that many SME’s around the globe are searching for today, developed by an SME that had the same challenges they have. The reaction so far has been overwhelming and we continue to grow at an almost daily rate. Our ultimate ambition is to create a worldwide brand with its heart beat in Northern Ireland generating jobs and revenue for businesses. I once read a quote by Napoleon Hill: “It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.” That is essentially what our software is capable off. Is there anyone who is an inspiration to you or who you hope to emulate? While everybody should aspire to be the best that they possible can be themselves, I do like reading the aforementioned author’s (Napoleon Hill) book “Think and Grow Rich.” I would encourage everyone to read it, as it is a very empowering read.
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ONES TO WATCH
Jonathan Guest Paper Yacht Jonathan Guest is using his experience as MD of a leading export company to help SMEs across a number of sectors to grow their business in new markets. actually understand what help organisations need to succeed and take their businesses to the next level; whether it’s increased turnover, a move into export markets or development of new products and services. I am not a “Post-It” notes on the wall sort of guy, I roll my sleeves up and get into the heart of issues at all levels within companies. I will also deliver an honest assessment of what I find, as ultimately the important issue is to help the business to become successful. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? I am a professional engineer and have worked for a number of international corporations as well as local SME’s strengthening their capability, which led to profitable turnover growth. I have gained experience throughout those organisations from the design office, through production engineering and management, on to the position of operations director and finally managing director. That helps me relate to staff throughout my client companies and deal with the real issues they face in trying to execute change. What stage are you at with the business and what do you need to kick on to the next level? I have been trading for approximately six months now and am already working with a number of companies across a range of industries; but of course I am still spending a lot of time networking and pitching my ideas to new and potential clients.
How would you describe your business in a tweet? Making business plain sailing @PaperYacht brings strategic and operational excellence to allow SME’s to grow and export internationally. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product or service? My target customers are NI SME businesses who want to enhance their capabilities and grow efficiently, especially into new export markets. NI companies are in the main owner managed, which is a great strength in terms of commitment and decision making, but it can also be a limitation to future growth as the owner gets swamped by the daily business. I can develop good operational procedures that allow staff to take on higher levels of responsibility so I can help the owner/ manager steer the strategic direction of the business using both industry leading tools and my significant experience. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? My USP is that I have spent 18 years on the other side of the desk so I
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What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? 2013 will be the growth year for Paper Yacht, in which I hope to build on the interest already being shown in my company to develop a solid customer base. I intend to expand and take on some employees, at least one of which will be a graduate as I have a firm belief that we must start building a better future for our young people in these difficult times. What are your ultimate aspirations for your business? The potential for the business is huge, not just in NI, but across international borders where I have worked extensively before, so I want the company to become a leader in SME strategic and operations consultancy. I am passionate about education, so I envision a learning organisation that benefits not only clients but local communities through continued voluntary engagement that Paper Yacht is already involved in. Who in business inspires you or would you hope to emulate? Gerry Robinson is down to earth and has been able to put problems and issues into plain english, without the need to resort to consultancy jargon. He also has never been afraid to put forward his views and follow his beliefs gained through his varied business learning experiences.
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ONES TO WATCH
Gabriel Bradley Taskmaestro After gaining traction with his wall Taskmaestro system in 2012, entrepreneur Gabriel Bradley expects the business to kick on to the next level this year. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? Having an easy to use and easy to control method by which you can ensure that what needs to be done is being done. The team can pick up instantly how to use the product, and management are fascinated to measure how much more effective they can be. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? I have owned and managed several catering establishments in the past – which is where the idea for Taskmaestro was hatched. As a result, I have developed a good insight into how these business should be run in order to satisfy legislation whilst paying attention to the needs of the customer.
Gabriel Bradley (right) with Invest NI’s Niall Casey at an event in Newry
How would you describe your business in a tweet? A must have tool to help deliver efficient staff, improved hygiene levels and reduced costs– guaranteed to give you peace of mind that all is being done that needs to be done. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product or service? Our customers are all progressive operators in the catering or hospitality market who are not happy to stand still. They perceive the need for a solution to staff forgetting the hard to remember tasks. However good your team is, no-one is perfect all the time, so Taskmaestro helps the better operators to improve standards and margins. Taskmaestro is a wall mounted device used by restaurants, coffee shops, deli counters, hotels etc who want to manage staff through their
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regular and not so regular routines. Once the task lists are set up, Taskmaestro will alarm and remind staff of what needs to be done and when. By using biometric identification, Taskmaestro holds staff accountable for each of the tasks completed and keeps managers informed via reports that can also be provided to Environmental Health of who has done what and when. Chains specifically are focused on consistency of service. A dirty restaurant has the ability to tarnish the brand way beyond the local footprint of a specific failing restaurant. Taskmaestro will deliver the same best practice procedures throughout the chain – especially important when rolling out new tasks focused on new equipment. This will ensure the customer experience is consistent as tasks across the chain can be rolled effectively and equally.
What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? We received seed funding in 2011 and have now launched the product in the market. Having established significant customer traction, our next objective is to land one or more of the larger chains that are currently trialling the product both in the UK and Ireland. What do you expect or hope to achieve in 2013? To walk into the Merchant Hotel in Belfast or into any of the Musgrave Group forecourts and see a Taskmaestro tablet up on the wall. What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? At its heart we are a software business and as such it is possible for us to access a global market. While there is a big gulf from our current position to where we want to be, the management team has done it before, so there is no reason that we cannot ride that horse. Are there any people in business who you hope to emulate? Who wouldn’t want to be Alan Sugar or Richard Branson?
ONES TO WATCH
Patrick Devine and John Hope SHIFTDOCK Recently named as regional winners in the IntertradeIreland Seedcorn competition, the team behind ShiftDock are hoping to make big strides with their business in 2013. How would you describe your business in a tweet? ShiftDock is a web-based application which allows managers to create and publish the weekly rota right from their web browser. Who are your customers and why is there a need for your product? Our customers are essentially any business that has to schedule casual staff. We initially expected these businesses to be in the hospitality and retail sectors. However, since launching we’ve had all kinds of organisations; from Universities, events teams, councils, even religious groups, sign up to use ShiftDock. The market really is huge. In a competitive market, what’s your USP? Complex, confusing staff schedules are a common problem in businesses all over the world. Some other people have tried to solve this problem by replacing one system with another slightly more efficient one. We want to remove the system entirely. Managers know they can use ShiftDock to create the weekly schedule quickly, and rely on it to inform their staff in a multitude of ways; via their email inbox, the website or even through the calendar on their mobile phone. They’re busy people, they don’t have time to pick up new processes or train their staff in new systems. So we build innovations that work with the technology they already have in their pockets and on their desktops. How has your own background helped in the development of your company? Although we’re now involved in technology our roots are in retail and hospitality. We both worked from an early age in customerfacing businesses and it’s something we’re very proud of. It means we fundamentally understand the problem facing businesses like this and it has provided us with the first few contacts we needed to get ShiftDock off the ground.
John and Patrick receive their award from Margaret Hearty of Intertrade Ireland
Besides that, on the product side we’ve got some good expertise under our belts in building and scaling Web and mobile applications to handle millions of requests, particularly through John’s work with Project Zebra, a premier mobile game start-up based in Belfast and Cologne. What’s been the biggest challenge so far? Really this kind of business is just a constant stream of small challenges! The biggest will probably come with the ramp up of promotion in January. What stage are you at and what do you need to kick on to the next level? We’ve started to capture customers all over the world, including in many countries in Europe and states in the USA. We are now working on building close partnerships with well known retail brands in Ireland and abroad with a view to refining ShiftDock into the best tool on the market for employee scheduling. What do you expect to achieve in 2013? Our main aim is to increase our growth and our reach internationally by refining our
product and intensifying our advertising campaigns. This includes a ramp up in our online advertising in early 2013. We also want to expand into the tablet app market and further into the mobile app market, although our emphasis will always be on removing hassle for staff managers, not adding new systems! What are your ultimate aspirations for the business? Our aspiration is to build a product that changes the industry. Having created something unique we see an opportunity to become the market leader. We’re driven to continually innovate, removing layers of cost and hassle for managers using Web and mobile technologies. Are there any people in business who are an inspiration to you or who you hope to emulate? Jack Dorsey, known for Twitter but specifically because of his work innovating in the retail space through Square. Also the Collison brothers, for what they’ve done at Stripe. And Michael O’Leary. For being Michael O’Leary.
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Childcare affordability – does anybody care? Ulster Business speaks with Marie Marin, the founder and Chief Executive of Employers For Childcare Charitable Group, about the affordability and provision of childcare in Northern Ireland.
ince its inception in 1999, Marie Marin has spent her time lobbying on the need to support parents to be able to get into and stay in work. It is an issue that is taking on increasing importance in the current economic climate, with the Government proposing welfare reforms that could have a big impact on working families. “My mantra is that childcare is both a labour market and an economic issue,” said Marie. “Childcare is critical to our economic recovery. We have a weak childcare infrastructure that is not responsive to the demands of parents. Childcare affordability is also a key challenge. The cost of childcare for many parents is prohibitive, with some forced into reducing their working hours or leaving the workplace altogether.” Employers For Childcare Charitable Group made history in 2010 by carrying out the first Childcare Cost Survey for the region and committed to doing this on a yearly basis. The Northern Ireland Childcare Cost Survey 2012 was recently launched at Stormont. Central to its findings was that the average family is paying £16,224 a year for two full time day care places. The report provides a detailed and depressing picture of the challenges facing ordinary working parents. It provides a very clear message to our policy makers at the Northern Ireland Executive on the particular need to address the issue of childcare affordability. Marie commented: “There are a number of
reasons why our policy makers and politicians need to invest in childcare. At one level it helps to facilitate greater participation in the workplace. Investing in our children is also a major force in helping to overcome the issue of the high levels of child poverty within the region.” In relation to the specific point of childcare affordability, there are two forms of financial help that are currently available with childcare costs, the childcare element of Working Tax Credits and the Childcare Voucher Scheme. Yet Marie highlighted that many parents are not utilising, or even aware of, this financial support.
“Increasing childcare provision and lowering costs will help increase parents’ access to employment, particularly for mothers.” 106 JANUARY 2013
This has been a key point that Employers For Childcare Charitable Group has been lobbying Government on now for a number of years. “Increasing awareness of the support available has the potential to be a quick win for our politicians. Both forms of help come directly from the Treasury and are not taken from the Northern Ireland block grant. Therefore, an increased uptake among parents would be good news for NI Plc as more parents would be better off in their weekly pay packets, and will have more disposable income,” said Marie. “We believe that an awareness campaign will contribute to moving more parents back into employment and will make it easier for those in employment to stay in work. Increasing childcare provision and lowering costs will, in turn, help increase parents’ access to employment, particularly for mothers.” The Childcare Cost Survey 2012 reinforces the significant role that childcare plays in helping parents to balance their work and family responsibilities. It also illustrates the problems associated with sourcing accessible and appropriate childcare. The Office of the First and Deputy First Minister recently launched a document ‘Towards a Childcare Strategy’, for consultation. Employers For Childcare Charitable Group has been lobbying for an updated, fit for purpose childcare strategy for many years. Although they welcome the publication, the organisation feels the document poses more questions than answers on a vision to address the key problems associated with access to childcare. In order to form a detailed response to this consultation Employers For Childcare Charitable Group is holding a roundtable event which will bring together key stakeholders to discuss the document at Stormont. The event will be held on Wednesday 23rd January. For further information on the event or Employers For Childcare Charitable Group visit the website www.employersforchildcare.org.
Debt protection: Time for action Gerard Gildernew of Cavanagh Kelly Chartered Accountants and licensed Insolvency Practitioners provides some expert advice on what you need to do to make sure it’s cash that comes through your door this year, rather than an invitation to a creditors’ meeting.
continuum of high profile insolvencies in 2012 brought that much dreaded insolvency letter through the letterbox of many of Northern Ireland’s suppliers. And it wasn’t limited to the construction sector, with bankrupt retailers, hoteliers and other traders hitting the buffers as the recession tightened its grip on Northern Ireland’s economy. It is no surprise then that trading relationships and business owners’ attitudes to their business partners are changing as the depths of the recession become more apparent. Many businesses once perceived to be solid and good trading partners are struggling; and there are unpleasant surprises in store for those suppliers who don’t take care. So what’s the key to making sure you get paid? Where you are providing credit at any level, the ‘KYC’ rule applies – Know Your Customer. Any trading relationship is an investment in another business. If you don’t believe in the customer, then don’t work with them... they will catch you out. Getting a financial health check done on key customers will help you understand and manage the risk in your debtor book. At the very least, a simple credit check or review of the company’s financials filed with Companies House or companies Registration office (ROI) will give you a steer. A solid and focused Invoicing and Debt Collection strategy is the key to avoid being caught out. Invoice in a timely manner (a lot of people still don’t), collect promptly and set strict credit limits. That way you will quickly sense if there is a problem and know when to put your customer on stop. Invoice Regularly. It seems so simple, but time after time we all continue supplying a service or product and delay in raising the invoice; then when the bill eventually arrives, the customer is shocked or cannot pay. Frequent valuations and completing the paperwork on a timely basis will often avoid disputes and increase your chance of payment. This requires a rigid disciplined approach but will pay dividends in the long run. Do I need to offer credit? Ask yourself if credit really is a must in your business. More
Ballymena’s Patton Group was one of the high profile local business failures last year.
and more businesses are moving to cash or BACS payments only. Working capital cycles are definitely getting shorter as progressive businesses get better at working their cash. This will not suit all businesses but an early settlement discount may be just what’s needed to get the cash in faster. Think too about requesting upfront and staged payments. You have wages and bills to pay on a set timeline so why not tie your customers in to planned payments too? Don’t trust promises. Sadly, when insolvency looms, even those with good track records on trust resort to making promises they cannot fulfil. It is especially hard to say no in these circumstances but it will prevent a big bad debt. Do trust your instinct. Good business people have good instincts. If you have a bad ‘feel’ about a debt, don’t delay. Legal demand letters can be issued at an affordable price.
Remember he who shouts loudest will get paid first. Visit your customers. An obvious and important way to get a feel for debt reliability is to see first-hand your customer’s premises and their approach to business. This often influences the extent of credit you will grant. We have seen the various economic predictions for 2013 and the negative there is all too dominant. But if the outlook is for little growth, it is then absolutely crucial to protect what you have – it might be mundane and even boring but time taken on credit control and managing your cash will allow for survival until we turn the corner. Gerard Gildernew is a Chartered Accountant and Licensed Insolvency Practitioner. He can be contacted at 028 9091 8230 or by email: gerard.gildernew@ cavanaghkelly.com
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BDO roundtable supports business growth in NI At the end of 2012 business services firm BDO brought together leaders from the business community to discuss the way forward for the local economy. Roundtable participants • Andrew Crawford – Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment • Ann McGregor MBE – Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce • Arlene Foster MLA – Minister, Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment • Brian Murphy – Business Restructuring Partner, BDO • Francis Martin – Managing Partner, BDO • Gerry McGinn – Managing Director, First Trust Bank • Jonathan Milligan – Senior Divisional Manager, NAMA • Kevin Kingston – Deputy Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director – Business & Corporate Banking, Danske Bank • Kevin Reid – Marketing Director, BDO Ireland • Richard Kelly – Director, Randox Laboratories & Director, Lotus Properties Group • Ronnie Hanna – Head of Asset Recovery, NAMA
DO was delighted to host the Business Growing Together – Northern Ireland Economic Roundtable on 10 December 2012 in their Belfast headquarters. The event brought together leaders from the public and private sectors in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in an open conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the economy of Northern Ireland. Chair of the event, Francis Martin, Managing Partner of BDO, opened proceedings by highlighting the important role the private sector must play not only as a driver of a re-energised Northern Ireland economy but as a partner in dialogue with the public sector for how Northern Ireland as a whole evolves. Themes The roundtable was broadly structured around five themes: • How exporting priorities have changed in the last few years, as evidenced by opportunities in the BRIC economies and China in particular; • The need to create an attractive environment for foreign direct investment in N. Ireland;
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BDO’s Francis Martin with Arlene Foster
• The role of a functioning property market in supporting the wider business recovery; • The role of government as part of a wider stakeholder base, rather than a single instigator of action; and, • Supporting the next generation of exporters. Context With 114,000 private sector enterprises in total, NI represents some 2.4% of UK’s overall business base. Among private sector enterprises in Northern Ireland, some 99% employ less than 50 people, while medium to large enterprises make up a relatively low level of private sector employers in the region, compared to the UK as a whole (40% against 53%). In addition, enterprises with no employees make up a slightly larger proportion of private sector employment in Northern Ireland compared to the UK average (18% to 16%). Delayed recovery While it can be no surprise that the challenges of the last number of years have impacted negatively on growth and output among businesses in Northern Ireland, of particular concern is the delayed sense of recovery evident in the region. Northern Ireland is one of only two regions in the UK where the business base continues to contract, and the only region in
the UK that has seen a decrease in the number of businesses registered in the last year. Overall, in Northern Ireland, the business ‘death rate’ increased from 6.5% in 2007 to 9.2% in 2009. However, it should be noted that, while the business base has contracted, this decline has not been as sharp as the private sector growth enjoyed by the region in the decade up to 2007. With a boom in exports a notable feature of the Republic of Ireland economy in the last four years, the fact that the number of active exporters has also fallen sharply in Northern Ireland since 2009 is a cause for concern. From a peak of 1,700 in 2009, there are now around 1,400 active exporters in Northern Ireland. They make up a total of 2% of the registered business base in the region and hold a 2% share of overall UK exports. Private sector priorities Against this background, Francis Martin stressed that the theme of the roundtable was how businesses could address the capacity deficits evidenced in Northern Ireland through a strategy that saw companies grow together, creating jobs, investment, prosperity and confidence. He reminded participants that there was now a robust political context against which the economy could prosper, with the Programme
ECONOMIC ROUNDTABLE SPONSORED BY BDO
for Government providing an economic strategy that focused on creating employment through private sector growth. The input of the private sector into this dialogue is vital to making this vision a reality. Francis said that, through its input, the private sector could play a fundamental role in creating a dynamic business base; addressing the bottlenecks in funding that are impacting on the survival and growth of viable companies; and evolving an export-focused business culture. “The priorities that all of us in the private sector have to address are recovery, funding, exports, but also the development of a skills-based culture and investment in an infrastructure that can facilitate business and employment growth,” he said. Key to this was what he called confident messaging in what Northern Ireland has to offer the business community. Positive messaging Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster MLA welcomed the focus of the roundtable on positive messaging both within the Northern Ireland business community and far beyond its shores. She noted the particular value of this approach at a time when negativity about the business prospects of the region seemed to dominate discourse. “What concerns me in particular is that this positive message is not reaching the people who most need to hear it,” she said. “The positive stories of our economy, in areas as diverse as agri-food and aerospace, need to circulate among a wider audience and need to be influencing decision makers.” She said it was clear the business community would have a major role to play in bringing this about. Roundtable themes • Changing priorities – new opportunities The discussion focused on how exporting priorities have changed in the UK and Ireland, and the EU generally, over the last few years. Brian Murphy
Kevin Reid (right) with Kevin Kingston
Recognition of the opportunities in the BRIC economies and China in particular has grown significantly and a China-strategy is becoming increasingly important for most export categories. Discussion centred on the importance of relationship building in creating business opportunities in China. • Attracting foreign direct investment Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has long been the source of significant wealth and employment creation on the island of Ireland and the roundtable looked at the competing strategies of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, their relative and competing strengths, and the changing dynamic of their offering. Not least, the potential for a lower corporation tax rate, to at least match the Republic of Ireland’s rate of 12.5% was recognised as creating an opportunity to place Northern Ireland on a stronger footing with the Republic of Ireland when it comes to competing for FDI. The Republic’s success at continuing to Ronnie Hanna
attract a strong stream of FDI investment, even as its international reputation suffered, was noted. Roundtable delegates also reflected on the opportunities for a complementary overlap between the two jurisdictions. Ronnie Hanna, Head of Asset Recovery, NAMA, noted the development of one particular opportunity in the wake of the economic downturn, namely the arrival of US equity houses such as Blackstone to Dublin. This new dimension for business funding represented an opportunity for businesses in Northern Ireland as well, he noted. Picking up on the theme of positive messaging, Richard Kelly, Director, Randox Laboratories and Director, Lotus Properties Group, spoke of the opportunity that could be capitalised on if the proper resources were directed towards attracting equity firms to look to Northern Ireland. There needed to be a compelling case, he added, as to why they would move from the south, having first set up there. In spite of the huge challenges the Republic has faced over the last number of years, Ronnie Hanna also argued that a new sense of confidence was now emerging in the Republic, with more and more business leaders believing in and investing in this recovery. Even the recent Budget, which was seen as draconian by many stakeholders in society, had been broadly welcomed by the business sector, as it contained a number of measures that are supporting the private sector. “I believe NAMA is playing an important part in assisting stabilisation in the Northern Ireland market, through taking a longer term view, providing significant capital funding and offering vendor finance, all of which are part of building confidence,” said Ronnie. Adding to this, Kevin Kingston – Deputy Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Business & Corporate Banking, Danske Bank – pointed toward the importance of perceptions and the need for business in Northern Ireland >
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the Minister, he said “we need to take skills sets that have value and ensure we put them in a growing sector and not a dying sector.”
to be seen as having a forward-looking growth dynamic if it was to attract the kind of FDI that would be significant in its future development. • Property market recovery Conversation on the property market in both parts of the island of Ireland invariably focuses on whether the market has reached the bottom. Picking up on this theme, Brian Murphy, Business Restructuring Partner at BDO, expounded his view that while there was little doubt the situation in Northern Ireland had been seriously impacted by the challenges within the property market, the response of government and the banks has gone a considerable way to alleviate the issues. “Over the last four years, we have witnessed a significant adjustment in property values in Northern Ireland. In response to these adjustments, we are now seeing an increased demand for opportunities to invest in.” Brian also added: “Although faced with their own challenges, the banks have sought to support their customers, particularly those with exposures to property. This has prevented the much-feared flood of property coming to the market and the inevitable fire sale that would result. This approach, when combined with low interest rates, provides us with a strong base on which to build our economic recovery. ” The participants spoke of a need to draw a distinction between owners and speculators in understanding the dynamics and needs of the recovering property market. Kevin Kingston stressed that positive messaging needs to go out around growth to property owners in particular. Ronnie Hanna spoke of the learnings from the property crash and of the need for planning to be re-congifured away from the failed model of the past and towards a more sustainable creation of value. Looking to the portfolio of NAMA, which owns 121 hotels, and noting only one of these has closed since it was acquired by the
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agency, Ronnie said this experience had led him to recognise the importance of focused management to support business confidence and recovery. “We need to recognise that recovery is not going to be all about high-growth areas or even all about exports,” he said. “The services industry and indeed all businesses with potential can play a part and will benefit from a culture in which we build this confidence.” The collapse in the property market has, of course, been felt more directly by the construction sector than any other. Minister Foster spoke of the importance of recognising transferrable skills and investing in them. She said there were some great examples of initiatives already undertaken in Northern Ireland. In terms of improving the skills set of the entire economy, Gerry McGinn, Managing Director, First Trust Bank said that “business needs to play a key role from the careers advice stage onwards” and that communications in this area, in particular, needs to improve. Echoing Ann McGregor
• The role of government as part of the broader stakeholder base Returning to the centre theme of the renewed sense of importance of the private sector in the future development of Northern Ireland, Kevin Kingston reasserted the view that business needs to drive the planned change that is anticipated for the region, whether in terms of re-skilling the economy to higher value outputs; developing viable routes to access finance that can drive growth; or developing an infrastructure that can support a changing and growing economy. All were of pivotal importance in accelerating business growth in the region. The Minister added there was a particular need in Northern Ireland to change the unique mindset that believed government had the answers to all problems. “To drive growth and success in Northern Ireland we need to work together to remove the crucial barriers to that growth. We need to have private sector input in many of the issues we face,” she said. The Minister also went on to outline steps being taken to support business and create jobs in the aftermath of the recession, including the Executive’s £200m Economy and Jobs Initiative. She said: “This new stimulus package is designed to boost our economy and provide employment opportunities, particularly for our young people and those who have been out of work for long periods.” The Minister highlighted that “significant steps have already been taken on the road to rebalancing and rebuilding our economy, with a view to increasing employment and prosperity for all. We are facing significant challenges, but I am confident that with everyone working together, we can achieve our key objectives.” • Funding and Addressing the high business failure rate Northern Ireland’s higher than average business Andrew Crawford
ECONOMIC ROUNDTABLE SPONSORED BY BDO
mortality rate is a cause for concern for those determined to extend the influence of the private sector in the economy. Access to funding is a necessary precursor to business growth and development and Richard Kelly described it as a long running issue, inhibiting good businesses from growing. There was particular emphasis on the issue of gearing in enterprise financing and the relationship between the heavy gearing of loans and business failure was seen to be an issue in Northern Ireland as it has also been in the Republic. Here also, participants said there needed to be robust solutions that allowed viable businesses to prosper. Kevin Kingston also raised the issue of what are arguably artificially low interest rates and highlighted his concerns about the impact on business as rates inevitably begin to rise. “It may well yet still be some time off, but rates will have to move back up again at some stage. While this will be welcome news for savers, many borrowers will struggle to absorb the increased cost of finance,” he said. Roundtable participants spoke of the challenges created by the ‘personal guarantee’ culture that exists in business in the UK and Ireland, and which was seen to be a particular inhibitor of entrepreneurship and recovery. Gerry McGinn, Managing Director, First Trust Bank spoke of a need to take learnings from the US and move away from the personal guarantee culture to an equity culture. • The next generation of exporters The decline of exports among Northern Ireland enterprises is a matter of concern for all those interested in seeing the private sector flourish in the region. Arlene Foster spoke of the need for creative ways to address this and highlighted the German model that has proved so successful. In Germany, exporters need to join a particular chamber related to their business area if they are to secure an export licence. The system has a proven track record of providing a support structure for companies, allowing them to address issues that emerge with access to a working body of excellence among their peers. The move to the development of these industry bodies would help create a culture of trust and supportiveness which benefitted all participants, she said. Ultimately, there is a “need for Northern Ireland to look outside and to sell Northern Ireland externally”. The Minister said she wanted to see Northern Ireland become a UK region with a strong
global outlook and suggested that improving competitiveness through a focus on export-led economic growth, as identified in the Economic Strategy, is the key to increasing employment and prosperity. She added: “Too many of our exporters have historically relied on near markets such as the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain. Whilst these are important, we need to extend our reach and take advantage of the many opportunities that exist across the globe. There are already many success stories for local companies from these emerging markets and we
“It is crucial we support smaller companies who are interested in starting to do business in new markets abroad.”
must continue to build on these by innovating and bringing new products to the global market.” Ann McGregor added: “We have many ambitious and well run companies in Northern Ireland with the products and services to find success overseas. But we need more, many more, to help transform the local economy. We must encourage companies to look beyond markets in Britain and the Republic, and to explore opportunities in emerging regions. “Northern Ireland Chamber has led by example in encouraging new exporters through Danske Bank Export First, a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce initiative. It has provided support to 230 local businesses in its first year, rolling out ten events in locations across Northern Ireland.” Gerry McGinn spoke of the opportunity for mentoring schemes that would share exporting learnings among enterprises. “It is crucial we support smaller companies who are interested in starting to do business in new markets abroad. Larger companies in unrelated sectors with relevant market knowledge have a lot to offer these companies, particularly in how to make the initial approach,” Gerry said. In a discussion on how resources could be targeted to the most viable companies, the Minister posed the question as to ‘who picks the winners?’ Kevin Kingston argued for what he said was a “self-selecting, Darwinian approach,” to this, adding that there needed to be a broader and better understanding among resource holders of what makes a “winning” business. In an era of straitened resources, new relationships and synergies could support this and the Minister said she was currently reviewing how resources in tourism and inward investment could mutually support each other and strengthen the message of the region. “Northern Ireland has a good story to tell – we need to get it out there,” she said.
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Fancy a tax relief strategy? First, weigh up the pros and cons
aving access to expert advice in developing the strongest tax efficient investment portfolio is an important element in any financial strategy. VCTs and EISs can potentially be highly tax efficient components of a well-diversified investment portfolio. Raymond Mulligan of Johnston Campbell stresses, however, that no investment programme should be contemplated until a highly detailed examination of the project has been completed. “We work on a daily basis with a diverse range of investment managers,” he said. “They are experts in discretionary investments including in the fields of Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) and Enterprise Investment Schemes (EISs). “The importance of that expertise cannot be over emphasised as the investment managers need to complete exhaustive due diligence. “They also scrutinise available security options to further mitigate potential losses that might occur.” Raymond added: “The structure of VCT and EIS schemes allows people to spread their investment outlay across a diverse range of industry sectors. “A number of funds also offer investment into renewable energy projects. “By doing so investors can harness the tax reliefs as well as the income generation from the Government feed in tariffs and Renewable Obligation Certificates.” Mr Mulligan pointed out that in Northern Ireland there is a growing recognition of the untapped potential in the renewable sector. “That optimism can be traced to the success of projects already developed in the United Kingdom in the areas of solar and wind energy, biomass and anaerobic digestion,” he said. “The growing momentum for similar initiatives in Northern Ireland has been boosted by the decision of Triplepoint to invest in B9 Organic Energy and Craigahuller Energy’s methane gas generation landfill site near Portrush. “In addition, last December the fund manager, Downing, through its Downing Renewable EIS, agreed terms of business with the Solar Energy Saver programme operated by Galgorm Renewables. “The deal will allow local businesses to tap into the savings generated by solar electricity. “Such investments are not suitable for everyone but for the more adventurous investor the tax benefits are worth exploring.” He added that there are significant differences between the two investment vehicles. The holding period for income tax relief qualification with VCTs is five years. With the
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EIS option the waiting period is three years. The income tax relief on both schemes is 30 per cent with the maximum annual investment £200k for VCTs as against £1m for EISs. There is no limit on the amount you can invest in an EIS for capital gains tax deferral relief, and both VCT and EIS disposals are capital gains tax free. Additionally, once certified by HMRC, EISs can qualify for business property relief and are therefore exempt from inheritance tax after a period of being held for two years. You can also claim loss relief against income or capital gains tax for any shares sold at a loss. “In both instances the annual contribution scope is much higher than can be placed annually into a pension,” said Mr Mulligan. “Unlike a pension however, neither has a lifetime allowance limit. “The dividend income on the VCT scheme is tax free with the return on the EIS scheme being taxed.
“The other structural difference between the two vehicles is that VCTs are listed funds whether EISs are not.” Overall there is a general acceptance that both VCT and EIS investments are at the higher end of the risk scale due to the nature of investing in small UK companies, but within that space there is a broad bandwidth of risk and their suitability should be assessed in detail in conjunction with a client’s overall asset portfolio and attitude to investment risk. Last April the government launched the Seed Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIS) providing income tax relief of 50 per cent and aimed at micro businesses. However, the failure risks involved are regarded as being in the high category. “It is,” says Raymond Mulligan, “a complex investment sphere where it is essential that professional advice should be sought to ensure the best choices are made.”
Will new funds herald an end to the VC famine? What difference will the two venture capital funds which Invest NI has put out to tender make to the funding landscape in Northern Ireland, asks Symon Ross.
012, like 2011 before it, passed without a venture capital investment in excess of £500,000 made by a local fund. That’s because the long awaited third fund that was to be operated by Crescent Capital was shelved after Invest NI decided it was taking too long to raise private funding needed to reach the first closing level set in its tender. However, at the end of last year Invest NI issued a new tender, this time for two potential funds in the development / venture capital space, for which it intends to appoint managers. The target size for each fund is £30m or more – similar to the previously proposed Crescent 3 – with the Government offering up to £15m to each fund and subordination up to 50% as a sweetener for private investors. The investment target size is £450,000 up to £2m and there is for the first time an option for the venture fund managers to invest up to 25% outside of Northern Ireland. INI estimates investment in 20 new companies over five years. Tellingly, the minimum first close for each fund is £15m, meaning the fund managers successful at tender would only have to raise £7.5m in the market before it could be operational. That matters because some investors prefer to come on board a new fund after it is operational, a fact that made it difficult for Crescent as it tried to raise its third fund in 2011 and 2012. While the company hasn’t commented on what went on, sources suggest it was unable to
Colin Walsh of Crescent Capital
meet the arbitrary first closing level of £22.5m set in that tender, but would have been able to achieve a £15m closing. Although lack of recent activity means demand for venture capital investment in the
“Whoever wins the mandates, access to equity capital across the range of investment sizes will be in the best shape it’s ever been.” 116 JANUARY 2013
bracket covered by the new funds is hard to measure, Invest NI believes market failure exists in the supply of equity and that the problem has been exacerbated by the recession. A report by the UK BIS department has put the equity gap at between £250,000 to £2m, and suggested this may now extend to £5m. Northern Ireland has good availability of seed, early stage and mezzanine finance below that limit through funds operated by E-Synergy and Clarendon Fund Managers, but the gap above that has been recognised for some time. One other difference with the new funds is the intention to target deals of up to £2m, an increase on the £1.5m State Aid approved level of the second Crescent fund, but in line with
what is already available in Scotland and Wales. No more than 10% of a fund could be invested in any one portfolio company. But it won’t all be plain sailing for fund managers. “Letters of intent” must be gathered from prospective investors in the funds, which would be taken as binding if a manager was successful. The cost of this fund raising exercise falls on the fund manager, adding extra pressure to be successful in the tender. Still, it is highly likely that the leading local fund managers, including Crescent, Clarendon and Enterprise Equity will be interested in the tender, as too might firms from GB and Ireland like Kernel Capital and ACT, who have tendered for previous funds here. Colin Walsh from Crescent Capital indicated the Belfast-based fund manager would be putting itself in the mix for the new funds. He said: “There’s been an equity gap at the larger deal size locally for quite a while, but the latest tender from Invest NI addresses that gap pretty comprehensively. For the first time in a long time, at the end of this process there should be two locally based development capital managers with substantial funds at their disposal. That should meet the needs of local companies seeking development capital for growth for several years to come. “Whoever wins the mandates, access to equity capital across the range of investment sizes will be in the best shape it’s ever been, which will be welcomed by everyone involved. It’s a little terrifying; but we have beefed up the team here at Crescent in preparation and we’re very excited about the investment opportunities it will hopefully bring.” The tender will remain open for four months, putting the deadline for submissions at the end of March and Invest NI’s timetable suggests the funds could be operational by July or August. Firms will have only one month from being awarded the tender to achieve first closing. By putting forward a plan for two funds it is no doubt hoped that a degree of competition will be created and that the backlog of attractive prospective opportunities for investment will be cleared. It has been questioned before whether there are enough high quality companies out there to generate the level of returns needed to attract investors. Invest NI has been smart this time around by letting the market decide whether the potential exists, and it may be that two funds are not raised immediately. Whatever does emerge can only be a good thing for the funding continuum in Northern Ireland.
Keeping the Halo from slipping Halo chief Alan Watts tells Symon Ross that the business angel network is ahead of its targets and continuing to evolve.
he business angel group Halo is now well established in the consciousness of business people and entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland, and recently passed the £5m mark in terms of the investments made since being relaunched almost four years ago. It was initially explained as being a friendlier version Dragon’s Den – wouldbe entrepreneurs pitching for investment in their companies from wealthy individuals – but Alan Watts says it is in reality more like a dating agency. “It is not only for start-ups and not only for techie companies. And the entrepreneurs are not pitching for money, they are pitching for another meeting,” he said. Watts says Halo has a “strong community feel” compared with other regional networks he’s come across. At the outset there was some scepticism that it was just a private club for wealthy people, but Watts says the network is “self-policing” when it comes to ushering out hangers on there to have something to boast about to their friends, rather than to invest. Its 100+ members pay a fee, and nobody is left under any illusion that while angel investing can result in big pay days it is high risk, with most investments failing and those that succeed often taking six years to make money. “Having a big exit to point to would move us up a gear but it is not as big a holdback as it would be in other regions,” said Alan. Watts expects that 2013 will see the
emergence of formal groups of angel investors. One, called Arran is already looking at opportunities, pending approval from Invest NI and two others are in the early stages of coming together. Alan’s short term vision is to end up with four or five groups in Northern Ireland with Halo evolving to become a community body that feeds a series of deals to the groups. At a time when venture capital provision and returns have taken a huge hit around the world, he believes there’s a greater role for angel investors in funding business growth. “Only the top 5% to 10% of companies need VC. The other 90% could and should take multiple angel rounds. If done properly angels could put in £2m in total, which would enable businesses to get to a good size and then be sold,” said Alan. This model, where companies have to accept they will be sold for say £20m and not £200m, is run by a number of organisations, including Ohio Tech Angels. Watts says that is not a lack of ambition, but a structure that allows both the angels and the entrepreneurs to get money back to go again, at the same time training angels to be non-executive directors. Further down the line, Alan says that having a number of groups will lead to syndication – which he defines as taking investment from more than one group. For example while one group may fund a business’s first and second rounds it could club together with another group on the third round to make it affordable. To that end Halo has become the first non-Scottish member of LINC Scotland and signed a memorandum of understanding with Par Equity, a syndicate of 200 entrepreneurs there. That will see one Scottish company pitching at Halo meetings but also allow NI companies access to Par’s funds. Halo’s strategy is to have more partnerships with Scottish and Irish syndicates in future. The other big trend which Watts is keeping an eye on this year is equity crowd-funding. “I think it has a real use if it is done correctly,” he said. “In angel investing you need £100,000 risk money or £1m in total. Crowd-funding brings it down by a factor of 10, which means you can put £1,000 in 100 companies.”
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Valuations in uncertainty In a challenging economic environment it can be more difficult than ever for buyers and sellers to feel confident with their business valuations. KPMG’s Simon McMullen guides us through the basic principles.
or buyers and sellers of businesses, it is always important to get a firm grip on the value that underpins the transaction. But in the prolonged downturn, the valuation question can be thrown into even sharper relief. Sellers can feel that the longer-term projections for their businesses are undervalued or ignored, while buyers can feel adrift in uncertainty and nervous about mapping past performance onto a still austere future. Too often, this can see parties walking away from deals where there is actually strong underlying value for both sides because that value gets obscured in a fog of data. The good news is that there are three useful techniques that do retain a strong ability to point towards the objective value of a business, even in difficult times. Understanding these valuation techniques and their application can be key for buyers and sellers in gaining comfort around their strategy for any transaction. The first valuation technique to consider is the market-based approach. Under this method, we derive multiples of factors such as earnings or sales from comparable listed companies and comparable corporate transactions – these multiples are then applied to the subject company that is to be valued. The key here is to ensure that properly comparable peers are used and to adjust the data to account for differences such as size, growth rate, maturity and market position. It is important to gather as much meaningful evidence as possible – often this provides us with a range of values and it is essential to understand what underlying issues drive the different outcomes and then determine where the subject company fits in. The second valuation technique is the income approach. This takes the projected cash flows of the subject company and converts
them into a present value by applying a risk adjusted discount rate that factors in the time value of money. Whilst this approach has a solid mathematical basis, it is better suited to developed businesses where future cash flows are reasonably predictable. This technique is of
“In today’s market, sellers will try to steer buyers away from applying depressed multiples to mid-recession earnings.” 118 JANUARY 2013
less help to early stage or small to medium sized enterprises. Third is the asset-based valuation approach. This “sum of the parts” approach takes each of the balance sheet items as the basis on which to calculate a business’s worth. Viewed as a safe and traditional approach, it can often run into practical difficulties due to the complex nature of many intangible asset classes, such as intellectual property and goodwill. For this reason, it is usually now best used as a backstop position and a sense-check rather than as a stand-alone method in its own right. It is important to recognise the biases built into each of the valuation methods – to use them to your own advantage in negotiation, and to recognise that the most objective valuation can generally be found in a considered combination of the three methods outlined above, rather than clinging too inflexibly to one particular approach. In today’s market, sellers will try to steer buyers away from applying depressed multiples to mid-recession, current or historical earnings and emphasise post-recovery projections. Sellers will also point to the income approach, where future cash flows drive value, whereas buyers are likely to use an asset-based valuation as a base given the challenging financing environment. Ultimately, the parties in a transaction need to recognise the reality of the operational climate for the business in question. Valuation techniques need to be combined with judgement and commercial understanding: for sellers, that means focusing attention on core strengths whilst acknowledging the uncertainty that buyers face; for buyers it means acknowledging that there are still solid, valuable businesses available for acquisition. When opinions still differ between the buyer and seller, mechanisms such as earn-outs can be used to bridge the gap. With these thoughts in mind, there are plenty of win-win deals still out there to be done.
Simon McMullen is an Associate Director at KPMG Corporate Finance in Belfast. For more information, or to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact him on 028 9024 3377.
he Confederation of Business Industry may not be the organisation that most immediately springs to mind as a lead advocate for venture capital in Northern Ireland but that has changed in the last 12 months with the appointment of Ian Coulter as its Chairman. In fact one of the priority messages that has been made by the CBI over the last 12 months is that fortifying venture capital and alternative finance structures are vital to the future of the Northern Irish economy and deserves being given much more priority by both government and business alike. That is the firm view of Ian Coulter who approaches this question from a couple of different perspectives – both in his role as Chairman of the CBI in Northern Ireland but also as Managing Partner at leading Belfast law firm Tughans, which has a busy specialist venture capital and equity finance team which
works with local client companies and funds alike. “We are seeing real opportunities for Northern Irish businesses in new markets, particularly in niche areas where we have the skills and expertise to compete on a global scale” says Coulter. “Some of our key markets such as GB and the US will hopefully commence a sustained if cautious growth cycle this year and our businesses must be ready to capitalise on these.” The key to growth is making sure our businesses have the access to, and appetite for, the difference types of finance that are and need to be available. There is no doubt that venture and equity finance has a key role to play here. “Our economy is still experiencing real difficulty in places but we do expect to see further growth in M&A and venture capital deals in 2013.” With his CBI hat on Ian reckons that the Executive can and should play a key role in
helping stimulate the funding environment – “it is one of the most significant challenges facing the Executive on the economic front” he adds. “The recent CBI Report on Access to Finance called on our Executive to adopt a long term strategy to balance out the liquidity issues that we face as a region and will continue to face given the upcoming Basel 3 banking reforms. It is important that organisations such as ourselves work closely with our politicians to understand and get to grips with the challenges that lie ahead. I believe this process is under way.” The CBI Northern Ireland Chairman has been quick to welcome the recently launched DETI/Invest NI £50m Growth Loan Fund which sets out to offer unsecured loans to SMEs. In addition some wins that the CBI have taken out of their Access to Finance Report is helping to lobby on the creation by Invest NI of two new venture funds, which have the potential to go up to £30m each and also the introduction of finance vouchers whereby businesses can avail of grants from Invest NI to secure the expert financial advice they need to secure funding. “These funds as and when they come to fruition, in Q2 of this year, will have an impact on local companies looking for equity”. But more is needed, he continues. “While these amounts sound significant, these funds are to be spread out over a number of years – the Invest NI access to finance packages amount to £100m over six years. While I believe that the structures are good, the amounts need to be revisited. As a result we will be lobbying the Executive on securing further funds to be made available,” said Mr Coulter. “The fact remains that Northern Ireland continues to suffer from gaps in the funding spectrum and in particular companies looking for £250,000 to £1m equity plugs at that stage in their development. Encouragingly companies that are seeking £2m-3m equity investment upwards have tended to be well received by larger GB venture funds and I would say that Northern Irish businesses at that level are very well regarded by such funds if they decide to take the plunge. Over the past 12 months with my Tughans hat on I have seen funds such as Broadlake Capital from Dublin, YFM from England and Par Equity from Scotland all make investments into a wide range of Northern Irish companies with a lot of success.” But do Northern Ireland companies tend to have an aversion to equity based sources of finance? Ian agrees to an extent but sees this changing. “There is no doubt that this was the case historically and that the majority of venture capital deals involved high tech companies up to a couple of years ago. However this has been changing for some time. I think over the next 3-4 years you will see a lot more companies in sectors such as engineering, manufacturing and agri-food taking venture capital in. “This is a trend that we see continuing which is good news for the businesses involved and hopefully the wider economy”.
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Make the Most of... Bill Manson from MLN and Podiem puts out a call to action to local managers... Absolutely every news bulletin I listen to or watch has at least one item that will refer to the lack of leadership – in politics, in business, in society and in the media, to name a few. It’s why I make no apologies in pointing out the brutal truth – it will be the quality of our management and leadership that will dictate our success in 2013. Success as individuals, success as organisations and success as an economy. It is this reality that underpins ‘Management Month’ as one of the most important and popular initiatives in the business calendar, especially for those in management and leadership roles in organisations in Northern Ireland. The concept is simple. During the month of February, MLN (the Management & Leadership Network), together with its partners (shown below), organises a dozen high-end, free to attend masterclasses and networking events across the province. The Masterclasses typically cover a range of practical business issues such as Performance Management, Leadership, Strategy, People Management, Coaching, Reputation Management, Digital Marketing, Profit Management and a range of other topics crucial to the competitiveness of organisations. MLN is encouraging managers and leaders across all sectors to look at the Management Month calendar, select the Masterclasses that fit with the development needs of their organisation and set a leadership example by coming along and bringing members of their management teams to these award-winning events. The beauty of Management Month is that all Masterclasses are free to attend. The calendar of events is housed online at www.mln.org.uk and it will continue to be updated during January and February. As well as owners and managers, Management Month provides opportunities for professionals and future managers to gain exposure to cutting edge expertise, as well enjoying business insights and wisdom from business leaders who have the t-shirt and the scars when it comes to running successful organisations.
To give Ulster Business readers a flavour of what they can expect in February 2013... FPM Chartered Accountants (one of MLN’s Champion Firms) will again host their MM Leadership Lecture. The inaugural 2012 lecture was given by Irish telecoms magnate Denis O’Brien and MLN is delighted to confirm that this year’s event will be addressed by Dr Martin Naughton (pictured). Dr Naughton is one of Ireland’s most successful entrepreneurs and is best known for founding what became the Glen Dimplex Group. The FPM Leadership Lecture will take place at the Ulster Business School’s Belfast Campus on the morning of Friday 8th February.
...and the M&L Conference The Ulster Business School will themselves host two unique Masterclasses during Management Month. On Thursday 7th February they will host an event focusing on ‘Business Continuity and Crisis Management’, at which experts from Volkswagen’s headquarters in Germany will share their leading expertise. Then, on the Tuesday 19th February, the Ulster Business School will turn its attention to ‘Human Resource Management’ by hosting an event entitled ‘HR Managers – Unsung Heroes of the Peace Process’. For those interested in Online Communications, MLN’s Digital Marketing Champion, Being, will host a Masterclass on Friday 15th February, entitled ‘Increasing Sales with Mobile Optimised Emails and Websites’. The event will specifically focus on how mobile optimised websites and emails can increase revenue by 20% 30%. For full details of these and all of the other free MM events visit www.mln.org.uk. In addition to the Masterclasses, Management Month will conclude with the renowned Management & Leadership Conference. The 2013 conference will take place at Titanic Belfast on Thursday 28th February from 8am – 1pm. As with Management Month, the M&L Conference is now firmly established and is regarded as Northern Ireland’s major management and leadership conference. In the last few years the conference has featured contributions from international business figures such as Rene Carayol MBE, Karren Brady, Dr John Bird MBE and Sir Christopher Bland. The event has also featured local business leaders such as Paul Allen (Tayto) and Stephen Magorrian (Botanic Inns). The M&L Conference has developed a reputation for delivering the unexpected, by exposing local managers to speakers they might not ordinarily hear from at a business leadership event. In the past, delegates have experienced memorable contributions from the likes of Paediatric Surgeon Bill McCallion, Mentalist David Meade and Charity Leader Richard Moore, who was once described by the Dalai Lama as ‘an inspiration’.
The exciting speaker line up for the 2013 M&L Conference will be launched in stages online at www.mln.org.uk where full event and booking details can also be viewed. In addition to taking time out to attend some free Masterclasses during Management Month, MLN urges you to set aside the morning of Thursday 28th February to experience the M&L Conference... you will not be disappointed. Thanks to the generous support of the MLN and Management Month partners (detailed below) local managers can secure what should be a £195 +VAT ticket for the nominal fee of £50 +VAT. Tickets can be purchased online via www.mln.org.uk There are also some exhibition opportunities for organisations wishing to profile themselves to local managers and leaders from all sectors so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if this is of interest to you.
In closing, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and a Happy Management Month... and remember to ‘Make the Most of it!’
Businesses urged to rock their music knowledge for Action for Children
ever Mind the Business’ the unique audio-visual music themed fundraising event, in support of Action for Children Northern Ireland, will be rocking the Ramada Plaza at Shaws Bridge on Thursday 28 March 2013. As Ulster Business goes to press, more than half the tables are sold for the fun event which is now in its fifth year and which has become one of the most eagerly anticipated and competitive in the Northern Ireland business events calendar. Helen Quigley, Action for Children Northern Ireland partnership fundraising manager, said: “We are excited with the response we’ve already received from the local business community to what is a key fundraiser for Action for Children Northern Ireland and at this rate we’re sure the event will be a sell out. Monies raised will go to support some of Northern Ireland’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people and help Action for Children be there for them for as long as it takes.” Media organisations, law firms, finance houses, retailers and property consultants have already signed up to pit their music knowledge against each other at the table quiz with a difference which will be hosted this year by BBC’s Ralph McLean. Strictly a ‘dress down’ affair anyone not wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt will look out of place! Following the bottled beer reception, guests will be treated to a three course supper, an amazing audio visual pop quiz, excellent raffle prizes and an auction of musical memorabilia before finishing off the night with some fantastic live music. If you think you and your colleagues have what it takes to join Northern Ireland’s business elite and battle it out be crowned ‘Never Mind the Business Champions’ in 2013, contact Dawn McCormick at Aurora Events – tel 028 9268 9631 or email: email@example.com. You can also log onto www.actionforchildren.org.uk/events and click on Northern Ireland for further information. Tables are priced at £750.00 per table of ten. Action for Children Northern Ireland works with almost 5,000 children.
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Executive Motoring By Pat Burns
www.fleetfinancial.co.uk Extra comes as standard
Corporation Tax for Business Vehicles – countdown!
his month it is some technical accountancy talk – if you run company vehicles you know that CO2 is king. If you contract hire a vehicle you can offset a percentage of the costs through corporation tax. For contract hire, the current thresholds are as follows:
• if a car has a CO2 of 160g/km or below you can offset 100% of the finance element for the contract hire lease against taxable profits, • if a car has a CO2 of 161g/km or above, the offset percentage is 85%. Recently all the major car manufacturers have significantly reduced CO2 levels so the average CO2 of a typical family vehicle ranges from 119 g/km to 139g/km. Most fleets have been reaping the benefits of offsetting 100% of the finance costs accordingly. The Government’s CO2 table is known for the next three financial years, as each year progresses the taxable percentages of car P11D values tend to increase by 1% eg a VW Passat Saloon 2.0 TDI 177ps Sport DSG (P11D = £26.565) with a CO2 of 136g/km – the percentage of BIK for this diesel car will be as follows: 2012/13 @ 21% of P11D Value, 2013/14 @ 22%, 2014/15 @ 23%. We were all aware of these personal tax charges but now we have a new time bomb. Come the 5th April 2013 the writing down allowance threshold will change from 160gkm to 130g/km. From then this means that if you are driving a vehicle of 131g/km or above (as in the VW example) you can only offset 85% of the finance rental costs on a contract hire lease against taxable profits. You should be aware of this and your policy should now include only vehicles below 130g/km. Not an exciting topic but one that could save your business money. Paul Griffiths, Business Development Manager for Fleet Financial (NI) Ltd. Tel: 028 9084 9777, Mob: 07825 138530 or Email: email@example.com.
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Extra comes as standard
New Mazda SUV a hit with company car drivers
azda’s new compact crossover SUV, the CX-5, is proving a hit among user-chooser company car drivers. They are turning to Mazda for the first time as they look to reap the benefits delivered through Mazda’s new Skyactiv technology including low CO2 emissions and excellent fuel economy. The arrival of the Skyactiv technologies centres on three key areas – lightweight chassis technology, advanced engines and highly efficient six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. This Skyactiv technology will feature in all new Mazdas. On-the-road prices for the 18-strong Mazda CX-5 range start from £21,395 for the 2.0-litre SE-L Skyactiv-G 165ps petrol and rise to £28,995 for the flagship 2.2-litre Skyactiv-D 175ps diesel Sport Nav Auto all-wheel drive (AWD). The 2-wheel drive petrol engine range gives drivers a choice of SE-L and Sport Nav trim levels. Emitting 139g/km of CO2 and returning 47.1mpg on the combined cycle no competitor models can match such figures given the available power. Diesel engine performance – 2.2-litre powerplants with a choice of Skyactiv 150ps or 175ps engines with 2WD or all-wheel drive, manual and automatic transmissions and four equipment levels – is similarly unmatched in terms of both CO2 emissions (from 119g/km) and fuel economy (from 61.4mpg on the combined cycle). Amongst the impressive list of standard equipment on the CX-5 is ‘Smart City Brake Support.’ This operates at speeds of up to 19mph and uses a laser sensor to detect a vehicle in front of the car. If the driver fails to slow the vehicle appropriately, or to take avoiding action, the system automatically activates the brakes and reduces the engine output at the same time. That helps to avoid collisions or mitigate the damage from rear-end collisions at low speeds, which are among the most common accidents.
All new A3
he third generation of Audi’s highly successful A3 model is sure to be another hit. With an even higher spec, new engines and excellent fuel economy this model’s success story is set to continue for many years to come. Prices for the three-door models start from £19,205. Redesigned from the ground up following the principles of ‘Audi ultra’ lightweight construction, the all-new A3 tips the scales an impressive 80 kg lighter on average than its predecessor, pegging the 1.4 TFSI model at just 1,175kg. For now there are three specification options – SE, Sport and S line – all of which are well appointed. The entry level SE model features 16-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, the MMI radio with its 11 millimetre-thin electrically folding screen, Audi Music Interface iPod connection, a Driver Information System, Bluetooth mobile phone interface and a multifunction steering wheel. It also offers voice control for many of its telephone and audio system functions. Sport models upgrade to 17-inch alloy wheels and, for the first time at this level, feature the Audi drive select adaptive dynamics system. This enables the driver to choose from five modes
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which dictate the car’s driving characteristics – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual. They influence the weighting of the steering, the sensitivity of the throttle pedal, the shift points of the S tronic transmission if this is fitted and the parameters used by the optional adaptive cruise control system. Additional Sport features also include two-zone climate control, sports seats, sports steering wheel and aluminium detailing inside and out. Highlights of the top S line specification include 18-inch alloy wheels, S line body styling, xenon headlights with LED daytime running lamps, an S line sports steering wheel and partleather-upholstered sports seats embossed with the S line logo. Suspension grades across the three specification levels are more interchangeable in the latest A3. As standard, SE models feature more comfort-oriented standard suspension, while Sport and S line versions move to a firmer sport setting which in S line models can be taken to an even more overtly handling-focused level with the no-cost option of dedicated S line sports suspension. A3 Sport and S line customers can now, however, also take the opposite approach by combining the attractions of Sport and S line specification with the
optimum comfort of standard suspension. Key options also include SD card activation for the onboard navigation system, a 705-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, the Audi phone box which enables wireless connection to the car’s antenna simply by placing a phone in the compartment and a parking assistant that can take care of steering during parallel parking manoeuvres. One of the most important choices will of course be the engine, and there are three very convincing four-cylinder petrol and TDI options to choose from, all of which are essentially new developments bringing fuel economy gains of up to 12 per cent over their predecessors. The 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre TFSI petrol engines and the 2.0-litre TDI have outputs of 122PS, 180PS and 150PS respectively, and all drive the front wheels in this first phase. The 1.8-litre TFSI is linked as standard to a seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission; the 1.4-litre TFSI and 2.0-litre TDI are paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. Additional engine and transmission combinations, and new engines such as the 1.4-litre TFSI with innovative cylinder on demand technology, will follow during 2013, as will models equipped with quattro permanent all-wheel-drive.
Business customers ‘prioritising’ cost-effective vehicle supply
n today’s ever-changing business environment, many Northern Ireland firms have prioritised the need for a viable solution to business vehicle supply and maintenance. As part of Northern Ireland’s largest independent new and used vehicle dealership, the Donnelly Group, Donnelly Finance and Leasing Ltd (DFL) provide customers with a tailored solution for both sourcing and purchasing company vehicles at the right price. Donnelly Group has seven sites across Northern Ireland so businesses can ensure they are never far from dedicated local support and expertise for their company vehicles. Debbie Irwin (pictured) is Sales Manager at DFL and says: “With many businesses feeling the effects of the economic downturn, our long standing relationships with vehicle manufacturers enables us to take advantage of discounts which are not available to other leasing companies in Northern Ireland. These discounts are ultimately passed on to the business customer. “Business owners are making cost-effective vehicle supply a priority and being part of a large multifranchise dealer group means we can put you in the right vehicle at a cost that suits your budget.” With Donnelly Finance and Leasing Ltd offering a dedicated support team, business customers can ensure they are responded to quickly and effectively. Debbie Irwin continues: “The mantra of our business is “Keeping the customer central in everything we do. Our dedicated account managers are professionals from a financial background with real in-depth experience. We have built up solid relationships with Banks and Finance Providers, which has proven highly effective in securing financial facilities for our customers. We supply a practical alternative to in-house fleet management of company vehicles, and whether it is one or one hundred vehicles, for many Northern Ireland businesses, DFL is the number one choice.” For more information on Donnelly’s Finance and Leasing, contact 028 9084 6010 or visit www.dflni.co.uk.
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All Ireland Telematics Company Car service from Crash Services
Catriona Fitzpatrick from leading accident services provider, Crash Services, joins the company’s founder and managing director Michael McKeown, and John Catling, CEO of FMG, to announce an exclusive agreement with the UK provider of revolutionary new ‘telematics’ black box technology.
rash Services has signed an exclusive rights agreement with the UK provider of a revolutionary new ‘telematics’ technology which could help reduce the ever increasing cost of running a fleet of company cars as well as cutting the number of accidents on our roads. The deal with FMG means that Crash can now supply the award-winning driver behaviour management system, Ingenium Dynamics, for whole island of Ireland. Crash says this ‘black box’ technology – used to monitor driving behaviour such as distance travelled, speed and braking – will directly help to reduce incidents on our roads. The company said that by installing the small device in vehicles, data collected and analysed online from each journey can be used to improve driver behaviour and cut motoring costs for young drivers and fleet managers. The device – about the size of a mobile phone – is fitted behind the dashboard of the car and is linked to google maps. It also has a g-force meter inside to measure heavy braking, cornering or accelerating. While detractors may say that it is ‘Big Brother’ technology, the team at Crash suggest companies should reward safer and more fuel efficient drivers rather than using it to penalise erratic driving. FMG has invested £3m in the technology to date and the system has already been endorsed by transport experts at Loughborough University, the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) and the Driver Research Group at Cranfield University.
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Michael McKeown, Founder and Managing Director, Crash Services: “As Northern Ireland’s leading provider of accident services, we know first hand the impact accidents can have on people’s lives and we are committed to cutting the number of accidents and fatalities on Northern Ireland’s roads and assisting fleet managers improve safety and efficiency. This system should also lead to better insurance access for younger drivers. “The system developed by FMG was chosen by us because of its proven ability and track record in managing driver risk.” Once installed on board the vehicle, the ‘black box’ unit gathers and interprets driving information. The data, which is then transmitted through the mobile communications network for viewing later on a secure internet webpage, shows the speed of the vehicle, its position at any given time, braking and acceleration force, cornering and more. The results from each journey are analysed and categorised into high, medium or low risk. According to FMG, in Great Britain, fleets using the technology already report a 25-80% reduction in insurance claims, while young drivers using the system have seen insurance costs slashed by up to 40%. John Catling, Chief Executive, FMG, said: “We are delighted to be working with Crash, which has an exceptionally strong presence and customer base in Northern Ireland. This is one of a number of agreements we have recently signed across Europe and beyond. It is very exciting to us to be assisting Crash in bringing this essential improvement to the Irish market.”
David Rowan has been appointed as a solicitor at A&L Goodbody. David, who specialises in providing corporate transactional and commercial advice, will advise public and private sector clients on all aspects of corporate and commercial law. Prior to joining A&L Goodbody he spent four years working in the London office of a leading US law firm. Cathal Geoghegan has been appointed as the new managing director of The Mount Charles Group, one of the largest independently owned catering and support services companies in Ireland. The former financial director, who has been with the company since 2000, takes over from the founder and owner of the group Trevor Annon, who is moving to the role of chairman. The Law Society of Northern Ireland has announced Michael Robinson as its new President. He has been a partner with Cunningham and Dickey solicitors in Belfast since 1989. Michael continues to practise in public liability and employer’s liability defence litigation as well as the broad range of services offered in general practice.
Edward Wright has joined Business in the Community as the Sustainability Director of its ARENA Network. Prior to joining Business in the Community. Edward spent over 16 years working in private sector environmental consultancies throughout the British Isles, specialising in planning, auditing and environmental management system development projects. Darren Bew has recently joined CIP Insurance Brokers Ltd as a Commercial Account Executive based at their Crumlin, Co Antrim head office. Darren has over 10 years experience in the Northern Ireland insurance broker market arranging and placing a wide spectrum of business insurances for SMEs, public sector clients and private companies. Margot Slattery has been appointed the new managing director of Sodexo Northern Ireland. The company, which employs approximately 500 staff, is one of Northern Ireland’s largest food and facilities management providers. Margot joined Sodexo in 1991 and was divisional director for three years prior to her current appointment.
Gemma McKay has been appointed Marketing Executive at Beam Vacuum & Ventilation. Gemma will be responsible for the implementation of the company’s promotional campaigns for the complete range of vacuum and ventilation products throughout UK and Ireland. Gemma brings a wealth of experience gained from marketing roles within the pharmaceuctical, charity and education sectors. To support continued growth in the Great Britain marketplace Vaughan Engineering Group has been recently strengthening its finance team by appointing Colin Jeffrey as Group Finance Manager. Colin has over 20 years’ experience within the construction industry. Mary McIlveen has been appointed assistant accountant at Vaughan Engineering Group. Mary graduated from university with a BSc (Hons) Accounting Degree and recently gained membership to the Institute of Chartered Accountants Ireland following completion of her training contract with international audit firm KPMG.
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Andy Anson has joined the board of UTV Media as a non-executive director. He has significant experience in the media and sports sectors, including previous roles as CEO of England 2018, England’s bid to bring the FIFA World Cup™ to England; CEO of ATP Europe; Commercial Director and Board member of Manchester United plc; Managing Director of Channel 4 Interactive and Head of Strategy for Channel 4 TV.
Catherine McClelland has been appointed as the Business Services Manager for Ortus, responsible for leading her team in the delivery of an integrated support service to both new start up companies and existing businesses aiming to expand and/ or enter new markets. Barry Kelly has been appointed as the Franchise Services Manager for Franchising NI, where he will facilitate the growth of successful, indigenous businesses, across Northern Ireland by providing support in the creation of new, ‘best practice’ franchise business models. Prior to working with FranchisingNI Barry was Head of Franchisee Recruitment & Property Acquisition at the Streat.
Jonathan Hendron has joined Western Building Systems as its Window Division Manager. Jonathan has 20 years’ experience in the construction industry and has a sound knowledge of both U-PVC and aluminium systems. Shane McGahan has been appointed as a Quantity Surveyor at Western Building Systems. Shane is responsible for quantity surveying aspects of all projects from post-tender stage, working within the housing, education and health sectors. He has over 15 years’ experience working on a range of projects from small refurbishment projects to office developments and schools. Ciaran Broderick has been appointed Audit & Compliance Manager of Muldoon & Co. Chartered Accountants. Ciaran has over 14 years of audit and accounts experience having worked on a range of audit projects including public limited companies in his previous roles in Northern Ireland and the North West
of England. Patrick Rafferty has been appointed Marketing and Sales Manager at Todds Leap. Patrick has 14 years’ experience in the industry, having spent eight years at UTV as Manager of Operations. Patrick will oversee further expansion at the Ballygawley-based business. Anne Loughran has been appointed Project Manager at Todds Leap. Anne will lead the Special Projects Section, bringing together the Engineering, Activity and Training arms of the business to create new products and services. Anne has 11 years’ experience across a variety of companies. Patricia McNally has been appointed Youth Co-ordinator at Todds Leap. Patricia will further develop youth services provision to schools, colleges and universities, as well as youth clubs and groups. Patricia brings 17 years’ experience in the youth and teambuilding fields to her role at Todds Leap
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1. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster launches the second phase of business support programme ‘Danske Bank Export First’ – a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce initiative which aims to help aspiring and new exporters. The Minister is pictured with Chamber CEO Ann McGregor and Kevin Kingston, Deputy CEO of Danske Bank.
2. Budding lawyers at Ashfield Girls’ School teamed up with negotiation specialists from Allen & Overy to crack the art of successful bartering in a one-day workshop. Pictured with Andrew Brammer, Head of Allen & Overy’s Belfast Services Centre are Chelsea Doherty and Amy Buchanan.
3. Leading University of Ulster scientist Professor John Callan has been appointed as the first holder of the prestigious Norbrook Chair in Pharmaceutical Science. He is pictured with University of Ulster Vice Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett and Norbrook Laboratories Director, Professor The Hon. James Haughey.
4. Phoenix Natural Gas CEO Peter Dixon, whose business has achieved the Big Tick standard more times than any other business in the UK – eight years in a row – and John Heaslip, CEO, Business in the Community NI call for businesses to enter the 2013 Responsible Business Awards. To apply visit www.bitc.org.uk/ awards
5. John Armstrong, CEO and Iain Ferguson, pensions executive, launch the Workers Pension Trust for employers in Northern Ireland. The Trust allows local employers can now automatically enrol their eligible employees into a pension scheme that meets the new requirements of the Pensions Regulator.
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6. Powerteam, Northern Irelandâ€™s largest high voltage electrical design and build company, has invested ÂŁ275,000 in a state-of-the-art document management system. The system was installed by three companies; Causeway, Equiniti ICS and Northgate. Pictured are Carol Massay from Causeway, Edyta Wright from Equiniti ICS; Andy Gillespie of Powerteam and Ed Brown from Northgate Managed Services. 7. Linden Foods, the Dungannon based meat processing company, has won a contract to supply a new range of premium Northern Irish Hereford meat products to Lidl grocery stores across Northern Ireland. Pictured at the launch are Caitriona McCarry from Lidl Northern Ireland with Catherine Hunter, Retail Account Manager of Linden Foods. 8. Ulster Bank has announced its participation in the UK Export Finance Bond Support Scheme as part of its drive to support Northern Ireland businesses and entrepreneurs commence and increase trade with other economies. Pictured are Elizabeth McCrory from Invest NI; with Ian Jordan, Director of Corporate Banking NI at Ulster Bank and Ann McGregor, CEO of the NI Chamber of Commerce. 9. LEDCOM, Larne Enterprise Development Company Ltd has appointed its first new chairman in 20 years. Henry Fletcher takes up the new role as Arthur Henderson steps down after two decades. 10. Wilderness Flower and Garden Centre, an established firm run by Kyle Archer, has moved to a new purpose-built unit at the Flush Retail Park in Lurgan to accommodate the expansion of their garden centre operation. Opening the new premises are owner Kyle Archer and David Andrews of Ulster Bank, which backed the investment.
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11. Value Cabs, Northern Ireland’s biggest taxi firm is improving its green credentials after taking delivery of a new range of Toyota Prius taxis from Charles Hurst. Paul McCausland from Value Cabs is pictured with Adrian Devitt franchise manager at Charles Hurst Toyota. 12. Jane Adams from Mannys Fish and Chips, Orla McAteer from Danske Bank, John Jones, Centre Manager of the Kennedy Centre, Liam Gough of Blue Inc and Laura Adams also from Mannys, celebrate the opening of their new stores at the shopping centre. The opening of these new shops alongside anchor store Sainsburys have created 80 new jobs.
13. Belfast Metropolitan College’s new e3 building has played host to the inaugural TEDxBelfastMetropolitanCollege event. Pictured ahead of the event are Justin Edwards, Assistant CEO Belfast Met, Chintan Patel, Head of Collaboration Strategy at Cisco, Tim Hynes, Senior Director of Microsoft IT and Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Chief Executive at Belfast Metropolitan College. 14. A mobile app designed to drive ‘digital’ footfall to local retailers has been developed by Newtownabbey based daily deals provider TreatTicket.com. TreatTicket Mobile, launched by Glyn Roberts, NIIRTA Chief Executive, and Mary McCall, TreatTicket.com Managing Director, provides businesses, including hotels, pubs or hair salons, with a digital platform to upload current discounts and offers to a mobile directory of ‘deals’. 15. The team from Hamilton Architects is pictured at a celebration of the firm’s 40th anniversary, at which over 130 clients, consultants and staff, past and present, got together to commemorate the ruby milestone.
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16. Tanya Kennedy of Business in the Community along with Jayne Finlay and Barry Phillips, Legal-Island encourage companies to look at their business’ vital statistics and find out how they can increase innovation and creativity within their companies by engaging their employees more fully. A free Engaging Employees report is available.
17. The President of the Law Society NI, Michael Robinson has nominated Action Mental Health as his Charity for 2013. Mr Robinson is pictured with David Babington, Chief Executive of Action Mental Health.
18. Bronagh Donnelly from Specialist IT Recruiter Lucas Love presents Matt Johnston, of Digital Circle with the ‘Lucas Love IT Award for outstanding contribution to the IT sector.
19. CIM board member Charles Fulton is pictured with sponsor Andrew Johnston, Chairman of Subway NI, as they put marketing students Niamh Kelly and Victoria Poole through their paces ahead of the ‘Pitch NI’ 2013 competition, which will see 15 teams of three go head-to-head to win over a Dragon’s Den-style panel.
20. Alastair Hall and Ian McKnight, partners in Hall McKnight architects, have beaten stiff international competition to secure a commission for a prestigious £20m development project in central London. Hall McKnight will be responsible for the transformation of the Quadrangle at the Strand Campus of King’s College London.
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21. Ballymoney-based architects 2020 have invested over £20,000 in the relocation of the company’s premises to Main Street in Ballymoney, which were officially opened by Channel 4 and Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud. The team developed a working relationship with Kevin McCloud after filming an upcoming episode of Grand Designs in Northern Ireland.
22. Moy Park has smashed its fundraising target for corporate charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support. Moy Park doubled its target of £20,000 to raise a staggering £40,000 over the past two years. Managing Director Nigel Dunlop handed over a cheque to Joanne Young of Macmillan Cancer Support with Janice Porter, Chairperson of Moy Park’s Charity Committee. 23. Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive of Invest Northern Ireland officially open a new £2m Technology and Polymer centre for Bangor firm Munster Simms Engineering Ltd (Whale) with the company’s managing director Patrick Hurst. 24. Lisburn based Andrew Ingredients, which supplies specialist ingredients to bakers, has has helped to buy life jackets for RNLI stations in Newcastle, Co Down and Bundoran, Co Donegal. Showing off the life jackets to Tim Andrew from Andrew Ingredients is Sharon Pollock, RNLI Community Fundraising manager for Northern Ireland.
25. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster congratulates Denroy Plastics Chairman John Rainey as the company celebrates 40 successful years in business. The Bangor-based plastic moulding manufacturer is a world leader in its field and is currently targeting new opportunities in the aerospace sector.
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LIFESTYLE leisure for anyone, but keeping a close eye on where your time goes will help you manage it more efficiently.
Wind down by cooking Cook Often. The best chefs don’t start off being the best, they make the same dishes over and over again until they have those dishes mastered. That repetition reinforces basic techniques until you get a feel for how each stage should look and taste. Make what you like. When you cook, especially if you’re a beginner, you should make things you love to eat. Not only will this encourage you to cook again, but will build your confidence to branch out to other recipes. Once you feel more confident, you should find cooking an enjoyable, relaxing and therapeutic way to wind down after a long day.
Resolutions with a difference Forget your expectations that you will fit in a five-hour workout and exist only celery and cabbage soup. Unrealistic goals are not only pretty much guaranteed to fail, but the easiest way to make a cold, grey January even more miserable! Instead, writes Roisin Bradley, aim to make some subtle changes that will make you a happier, healthier and more productive version of you in 2013.
Become a Morning Person Pack the night before. Yes, it is a chore when you’re ready to go to bed, but it will make your morning so much more stress free not having to scramble to find things in a rush. No distractions. Keep your TV off and don’t check your emails – they can wait until you get into the office. Logging on for ‘just a minute’ can easily turn into half an hour of wasted time and means your mind is on the challenges of the day ahead instead of taking time to yourself. Exercise outside. If you are normally a zombie in the morning, it will feel like the last thing you want to do, but stick with it. After a few weeks, you will notice your energy levels surging, and being outside will leave you relaxed and rejuvenated. Schedule your sleep. The unfortunate truth is that you will never be a morning person if you’re not getting enough sleep. There are a number of apps available to help you work out
the optimum time to go to bed so that your alarm isn’t interrupting your deepest sleep.
Organise yourself at work Simplify your surroundings. Take a few hours to file and organise your home or office, so that everything can be found easily and remove anything unnecessary. If possible, only have your current task on your desk. Organise as you go. Try not to let everything slip – tidying and filing as soon as you have finished one task and about to start another will help keep you focused, and will save you time and stress in the long run. Find a planner/calendar that works for you and use it. Time management can be difficult
Be adventurous. You will soon pick up which food combinations and techniques work, and you can translate this to your own kitchen. Familiarising yourself with the content of dishes means that you can control the levels of fat salt and sugars, and make subtle changes to improve your diet without feeling restricted.
Get a good night’s sleep Stick to a sleep schedule. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. However, don’t agonise if you can’t fall asleep straight away, you will find it even tougher to nod off – it will take some time for your body to get used to the new routine. Watch your food and drink. Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed, as your discomfort might keep you up. Limit your coffee and alcohol intake – stimulants can take hours to wear off fully, and while alcohol will make you sleepy at first it will play havoc with quality sleep. Create a bedtime ritual. Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. Relaxing activities ease the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness, but steer clear of electronics.
TAKE A FEW HOURS TO FILE AND ORGANISE YOUR HOME OR OFFICE, SO THAT EVERYTHING CAN BE FOUND EASILY.
Ulster Business /January 2013
The Gadget Guide Technology journalist Adam Maguire reviews some recently released and soon to be available gadgets.
REVIEW: LOGITECH ULTRATHIN iPad Keyboard Cover
REVIEW: SAMSUNG GALAXY MINI
ombining the necessity of a screen cover for the iPad with the usefulness of a physical keyboard, Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover does a decent job but at a price. Once in place the device operates as you would expect - covering the screen when not in use and replacing the iPad’s on-screen keyboard when connected via Bluetooth; a process which only takes a few seconds to complete. In terms of drawbacks, the keyboard is naturally less than full-size and also adds a degree of bulk to the device when acting as a cover. However, for users who want to type at length without having to take their laptop along, this is likely to be an acceptable trade-off.
ontinuing to build on the strength of its Android-based phone brand, Samsung’s Galaxy Mini aims to dominate the lower end of the competitive mobile market. The Samsung Galaxy S series of high-end phones have been phenomenally successful, making Samsung the de facto leader of the anti-Apple brigade. However, not everyone can afford such cutting edge technology, so the South Korean company also offers a low-cost alternative in the Galaxy Mini. For the price it is quite low-spec, offering a small 3.14” screen, 3mp camera and complete lack of built-in memory. Despite this the device looks smart and – while boasting a low resolution screen – just about registers on the smartphone spectrum. Expect this to be a hit with cash-strapped teenagers who want the Samsung Galaxy experience; even if it is the bargain basement version.
The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is available online for £89.99.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini can be bought SIM-free on Amazon.co.uk for £81.56
PREVIEW: HP ENVY X2
PREVIEW: NEST DIGITAL THERMOSTAT
icrosoft pitched its Windows 8 operating system as a crossplatform solution that could work on tablets and laptops – with the Envy X2, HP has taken that idea to its logical conclusion. Eschewing classification as a laptop or a tablet, the HP Envy X2 offers to be a bit of both. Looking at first like a laptop, the device’s unique selling point is its detachable screen, which splits from the body to become a standalone tablet. It is a noble idea which could solve some of the problems tablets – and laptops – have by design. However there is a fear that such a union requires a few too many compromises and that the Envy X2 will be a jack of all trades.
hile mobile-capable, smart technology has infected most parts of the home by now, it is unlikely that many considered the home thermostat an area ripe for innovation. However the Nest, devised by one of the key creators behind Apple’s iPod, is designed specifically with that in mind, promising a more efficient, responsive and easy-to-manage heating system. Nest is designed to learn people’s preferences based on the changes they make through the thermostat, eventually doing it automatically. Unsurprisingly, the device can also be controlled through a smartphone app, meaning it can be controlled even while away from home.
The Next digital thermostat is due for a UK release in the coming months.
The HP Envy X2 has just gone on sale from £799.
January 2013 / Ulster Business
Simon Cordner, PR Manager, Chain Reaction Cycles How often do you travel, where to and why? Working on our sponsored events and with our partners I’m away at least three times a month. 2012 has seen visits to Belgium, Spain and the USA. Other than your phone, what are the three things you couldn’t do without when travelling on business? My headphones, notebook and a good magazine. Have you found a good way to work while you are on the move? I’m the king of blagging free WiFi everywhere I go, glued to my phone and never ‘offline’ for too long. When I’m in the air I always have a notebook at hand to scribble ideas and ‘to-do’ lists. What would be your top tips for anyone embarking on a job that involves a lot of travel? Register for air miles, fill your phone/iPAD with music and movies and always remember to tell your wife that you’re going away. Have you run into other Northern Ireland business people when you’ve been overseas for work? You’re never too far from someone from Northern Ireland. I don’t think I’ve been on a flight this year where I haven’t known someone from the local business community. What do you enjoy most about work travel and what are your pet hates? Getting the opportunity to see new places. I hate getting caught speeding in hire cars (twice this year) and people who sit in the wrong seat on flights and then claim ignorance. What city/location have you been most pleasantly surprised by or disappointed by? Monterey in California was great and in contrast I had to stay in Stoke-On-Trent this year which was grim! What do you look for in a good hotel when away on business? Having worked in the hospitality industry I appreciate good service and helpful staff. WiFi is a must but charging it as an extra is poor. It’s even free on Translink now! Have you worked out a way to avoid jet lag? Stay up late the night before travel and adjust your watch as soon as you get on a flight to local time of your destination. Do you speak any languages and if so have they been of use on business trips? I speak a little French and Spanish, enough to ask for the necessities like finding a good restaurant. Where in the world would you most love to work? I worked in Boston, USA a few years back and would love to move out there permanently. Fingers crossed on the Green Card lottery in 2013.
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Business Books DON’T GET A JOB, BUILD A BUSINESS By Joanne Hession & Joan Baker (Mercier Press) This book is full of the kind of information you need to run a small business successfully – whether you are just starting out, or you have an established business and you want to develop it and ensure its survival. Through a series of ‘Killer Questions’ the authors highlight all the important things you need to think about to make your business a success and ensure you are heading in the right direction. The informal approach and short chapters means that the book can either be read straight through or be dipped in and out of for easy reference. THINK BIG By Donald Trump & Bill Zanker (William Morrow) A man consistently ranked in the Top 100 Richest People in the world, Trump also brings the perspective of an entrepreneur who overcame an extremely public bankruptcy – all thanks to his unique approach to life and business, Think big and kick ass! He’s survived the biggest real estate bankruptcy in history and climbed his way back to the top. Readers will get the inside story on how not to crack under pressure, the secrets to staying focused, how Trump himself stumbled and recovered multiple times on his way to the top, and much more. THE CHANGE BOOK By Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler (Profile Books) This book is about change – from the small and seemingly insignificant transitions in our day-to-day lives, to the big and almost incomprehensible shifts in human history. Drawing on expert advice and often complex theories, the authors present fifty simple and effective models to help us make sense of change in our world. Change is happening all around us, in every sphere from the personal and political to economics and the environment. In The Change Book you’ll find models explaining the financial crisis, why biotechnology is the industry of the future and why cities are the new nations.
All titles are available at easons. To win copies of the featured books go the Ulster Business facebook page.
Belfast City the airport of choice in NI
recent poll carried out by Lucid Talk has revealed that 63.2% of people in Northern Ireland prefer to fly from George Best Belfast City Airport. Furthermore, the poll reveals that in those areas of Northern Ireland where over 80% of the population are based, Belfast City Airport is clearly the preferred airport to fly from. Katy Best, Commercial and Marketing Director, George Best Belfast City Airport, said: “We are delighted, and feel very encouraged that the poll reflects the hard work and determination by the airports staff to make the passenger experience the very best it can be. “Over recent years, the airport has made significant investments to upgrade our facilities, enhance our product offering and have grown our route network to simply make travelling a more pleasurable experience for our passengers and to increase consumer choice. “Our latest development, in the International Arrivals Hall, sees the arrivals space in the airport more than double to accommodate our new International passengers in 2013.” Other findings from the survey highlight that 56% of people in Northern Ireland agree that growth at Belfast City Airport is important to Belfast and Northern Ireland’s future economic growth. Katy Best added: “George Best Belfast City Airport is one of the most restricted airports in Europe. It is the only airport in Europe with a seats for sale restriction, limiting us to the amount of seats we can sell from the airport each year. “Removal of this restriction would directly and indirectly generate an additional 350 jobs and £22.4m of economic growth to the region which cannot be overlooked, especially in today’s economic climate. “We will continue to go that extra mile to meet our passengers needs and look forward to a very busy 2013. Next year we will celebrate our 30th anniversary, launch our European routes and strive to maintain our position as Northern Ireland’s favourite airport in the hearts and minds of the public.”
Falcon expects increase in holiday sales
s Falcon Holidays celebrates its 25th year of operation in Northern Ireland, the tour operator has announced that holiday sales are on the increase. The company said it was anticipating a busy January following a strong trading period that has seen sales to date for Falcon, Thomson and First Choice for summer 2013 experience double digit growth year on year. This growth has been driven by the company’s investment in differentiated products, said Falcon director Helen Caron (right). “Traditionally, January has always been a key booking period for Falcon and we are preparing for a particularly busy month as indications are that more and more people want to have their summer holiday secured early,” said Ms Caron. “We continue to trade in a tough economic environment but we are delighted that our strategy of driving growth through differentiation has been well received by our customers,” she added. “By this I mean popular products like our Holiday Villages and Splashworld resorts that are exclusive to Falcon customers and that our competitors find hard to replicate. “The success of our differentiated products has definitely been one of the key drivers of growth in our business since we launched our programme back in June, with sales of our unique products growing by 46% year on year. “Another trend we have noticed is the increasing popularity of all-inclusive holidays which have experienced an increase in sales of 12% year on year in Northern Ireland. Booking an all-inclusive holiday enables customers to budget for their holiday in the knowledge that all food and drink is included in the holiday price and paid for before they go, therefore offering great value for money,” Helen said. Falcon said it will continue to base a dedicated 737 aircraft at Belfast International for the summer and also plans to increase support of Falcon’s sister brand Thomson in Northern Ireland.
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SPORT & HEALTH
Games volunteers exceed targets O
rganisers of the 2013 World Police and Fire Games are celebrating a record response to their call for volunteer applicants launched at the beginning of September. In excess of 6,000 people have pledged their support and have signed up as volunteer applicants. 2013 Games organisers had set a target of over 4,000 volunteer applicants and were delighted by the huge response from people of all ages from across Northern Ireland and beyond. Whilst the main recruitment phase officially closed at the end of October to allow sufficient time to process the many thousands of registrations, organisers continue to engage with under-represented groups as part of WPFG’s strategic effort to tackle social exclusion, promote equality and opportunities, and strengthen community engagement. This includes people with disabilities, older people and individuals from Neighbourhood Renewal Areas across Northern Ireland. In addition people with specific skills that are needed to ensure the smooth running of the Games are also still being actively targeted. Hitting gold: Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin is pictured with Celebrating the record number of volunteer registrations, the World Police and Fire Games’ youngest and oldest volunteer applicants, Ciara Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Caral Ni Chuilin said: Dinsmore (centre) from Coleraine and Margaret Cameron (right) from East Belfast. “The response to the call for volunteers for the 2013 World Police and Fire Games is a demonstration of the spirit and enthusiasm of people across the North of Ireland. The Games offer an exciting opportunity for local people to get involved in a wide variety of roles. We are aiming to make the 2013 Games the friendliest ever and it is the volunteers who will make this aspiration a reality. The Games are a chance for Belfast and the North of Ireland to shine and I am confident that the volunteers will have a major role in ensuring that they are successful.” The 2013 World Police and Fire Games (WPFG) takes place from 1st-10th August and is set to attract 10,000 competitors from over 70 countries. For further details visit www.2013wpfg.com or find us on twitter @2013WPFG or www.facebook.com/2013wpfg.
Taking charge of your own health H
ealth and wellbeing is a continuously evolving process; our bodies change over time, as does our health status. Until now, individuals have had to rely on someone else telling them if their bodies are functioning properly. We visit our doctor with symptoms, who then determines appropriate tests based on those symptoms. However, the onset of symptoms is often an indication that something is already awry and in some instances, weeks can go by without knowing the outcome of test results. Randox Health believes that something as changeable and time-sensitive as our health requires a swift but in-depth and personalised approach. Randox Health has developed one of the most comprehensive test menus available worldwide to help you unravel the complexity of your health. Utilising cutting-edge Biochip technology, usually reserved for the most progressive private healthcare systems, a simple blood sample can provide a wealth of information. Developed by Randox Laboratories, an industry leader in the development of diagnostic technology, Biochips enable testing of multiple biomarkers from a single blood sample. A biomarker is a substance, found in the blood or other body fluids that can be measured and indicate the presence or risk of a particular disease state or abnormality of body function. Randox Health has expertly formulated an array of risk indicative, predictive and diagnostic biomarkers into comprehensive health profiles. The extensive testing within each health profile provides a thorough evaluation of an individual’s current health status irrespective of perceived symptoms or medical history. Health profiling in this way eradicates any pre-conceptions or pre-judgements regarding an individual’s health and enables identification of potential future health problems before the onset of significant health issues. Each Randox Health profile consists of panels of biomarkers designed for the analysis of particular body functions or disease states. Panels include Heart Health, Kidney Health, Liver Health, Diabetes Panel, Nutritional Health and Digestive Health among others and provide a comprehensive assessment of your current health. Randox Health believes in empowering the individual with information, enabling you to take charge of your current and future health. Often blood test results are reported without a clear indication of what the result means or why the test was performed. A personalised report detailing all results, with clear explanations of the tests performed, accompanies all Randox Health profiles. In addition, a consultation with a member of the Randox Health team enables you to further explore the significance of your results and gain a more thorough understanding of the tests involved.
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Business Diary February 2013
5 February 09.30 - 4.30
Advanced Selling Skills Organised by Cosensa
Cosensa Head Office, Belfast BT1 2GT Cost: £390.00
For more information call 028 9043 9624 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
7 February 09.00 - 11.15
Improving Productivity in a Service Business Organised by Invest NI
E3 Building, Belfast Metropolitan College, 400 Springfield Road BT12 7DU
John McClune on 028 9069 8371 or email: email@example.com
7 February 08.00 – 10.30
Practical Tips for Navigating TUPE & Agency Worker Directive Sponsored by Tughans
Queen’s University Riddel Hall
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Kirsty.email@example.com
8 February 10.15 – 11.45
Leadership Lecture: Annual Leadership Lecture with Dr Martin Naughton
University of Ulster, York Street, Belfast
For more information and booking details visit www.mln.org.uk
13 February 09.15 – 4.30
Essential Export Skills – Winning Sales Organised by Invest NI
Ramada Hotel, Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast Cost: £75.00 +VAT per person
Rowan Geddes on 028 9069 8066 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
15 February 08.15 – 11.00
Digital Marketing Breakfast
Being Conference Suite, 21 Old Channel Road, Belfast
For more information and booking details visit www.mln.org.uk
19 February 4.30 – 7.00
HRM Masterclass – HR Managers Unsung Heroes of the Peace Process
University of Ulster Jordanstown, Belfast
For more information and booking details visit www.mln.org.uk
26 February 09.00 - 1.30
Managing Diverse Talent and Creating an Exclusive Workforce
The MAC, Belfast Cost: FREE
Melanie Doherty on 028 9046 0606 or email: email@example.com
28 February 08.00 - 1.30
Management and Leadership Conference
Titanic Suite, Titanic Belfast
For more information and booking details visit www.mln.org.uk
If you would like to promote an event or conference please contact Stuart Hackney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
TO PLACE A CLASSIFIED ADVERT CONTACT ULSTER BUSINESS ON 028 9078 3200
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People in Business and safety has been one of the main focuses of my jobs and my current role has developed as our network has grown. My team and I are in charge of monitoring our network in each of the new gas towns. We carry out lengthy, regular checks, both regulatory and to meet our own stringent company standards, on our pipes and supply mechanisms. For example, we run a safety initiative, Dial Before You Dig, where we communicate with those undertaking construction work about the importance of contacting us before carrying out any digging so that we can ensure contractors are safe and our pipes remain undamaged.
What do you regard as your greatest achievement to date?
Apart from my TWO lucky holes in one on the ‘pitch and putt’, I would say working my way up in the natural gas industry to my current role.
What is your toughest challenge to date?
CAREER: Health, Safety & Environmental Manager, firmus energy. Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Warrenpoint and still live in the local area today – it is definitely ‘home’ for me.
What was your first paying job?
It was when I was a teenager washing cars with two of my friends over the summer holidays. I would love to say that this is where we made our first million but that certainly wasn’t the case! My first ‘proper’ job was with FM Environmental in Newry.
Had you a strong sense of direction for your future career?
I always wanted to be an engineer and originally I wanted to focus on structural engineering. However, when I was studying I realised that I was more suited to the civil engineering aspects of the course so pursued that route instead.
What was your first big break?
I am of the opinion that what is meant to be will be – I suppose if I hadn’t got my initial job with FM Environmental I wouldn’t be where I am today!
How did you get into your current career?
I worked as a civil engineer in a few consultancy offices, specialising in water and waste-water design. I was approached by McNicholas, who were interested in my ‘water’ background but when I joined them, there was no water work on so I started working on natural gas projects for them, initially for three to six months. Twelve years later I am still working in the natural gas industry.
What is the main focus of your job?
Since the beginning of my career health
When we are bringing natural gas into areas where it hasn’t previously been available we need to ensure that communities have all the information they need. One of the primary focuses would be on how highly regulated the gas industry is and its excellent safety record. I am very passionate about ensuring that everyone in the team, whether they are a firmus energy employee or a contractor, makes safety their number one priority. With our network growing everyday this brings fresh challenges and I need to come up with innovative ways to remind people that we can and must always improve the manner in which we work, but always with the spotlight on safety.
How do you motivate your staff?
I remind myself that we can make a real difference. Something may seem insurmountable but when tackled as a team, breaking down the task bit by bit, it becomes achievable. With this in mind I am motivated by the fact that I have a great, supportive team behind me and that we work really well together.
If you were to change career what you do?
I would still work in the engineering field but perhaps as a mentor or trainer. I enjoy leading a team so think I would be well suited to bringing out the best in young people and inspiring them.
That’s about the only answer you won’t get from Agnew Fleet Manager. From tracking vehicles to reducing fuel costs - we have the solution.
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18 Boucher Way, Belfast BT12 6RE www.agnewcorporate.co.uk
Helping your business go places
Aer Lingus has made the move to the heart of Belfast city which is great news for Northern Ireland business. We are now the only airline to fly to both main London airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, with the choice of six daily flights. Weâ€™ve got flexibility covered with fare options to suit your needs. Our Gold Circle Loyalty Programme offers great benefits to frequent flyers. Weâ€™ve also got value covered, with four free ways to check-in and now you can even pre-book your breakfast on board! Just some of the many ways Aer Lingus takes care of you and your business.
Great Care. Great Fare. All information is correct at time of print. 154432 Ulster Bus Mag FP.indd 1