Net Zero: Time for Irish companies in the UK to prioritise strategies to tackle climate change 

Net Zero

Irish companies operating in the UK have had quite a turbulent few years. Not only have they worked through the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected literally every part of the business world, but they have also come through the preparation and implementation of Brexit. But now there’s another issue that is becoming ever more urgent by the day – climate change – and it’s time now for Irish companies in the UK to start implementing strategies to make their business more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

While climate change is an urgent issue in every country, an even closer light has been cast on the changing environmental and sustainability conditions of the UK market. The UK was the first industrialised nation to enshrine its climate targets in law, pledging to cut carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 78% by 2035 and to reach net zero by 2050. This has been supplemented by recent UK government announcements including its ten-point plan for a green industrial revolution (published in December 2020), a new hydrogen strategy and an offshore wind sector deal. COP26 is taking place in Glasgow this autumn, and to coincide with its launch, the UK government is planning to publish a comprehensive cross-sectoral net zero roadmap, which should provide greater clarity for all sectors.

By and large, net zero been welcomed by the market, as businesses can see the opportunities that come with such a move, but the details still need to be sorted out,” explains Darragh Cotter, Senior Market Advisor, Industrial and Cleantech, at Enterprise Ireland. “The comprehensive roadmap to be published ahead of COP in November is expected to include all the important steps to take the UK to their net zero target, including the level of investment the government is willing to put into it.”

 

Already an urgent issue

With such ambitious targets, it’s clear that this will result in fundamental changes across the business community. Already, the UK net zero challenge is rapidly impacting government policy and legislation, influencing consumer preferences, impacting investor decision making and changing the way major corporates work with supply chain partners.

If you already have a presence in the UK, you must become conscious of the net zero ambitions of your customer base and the changing dynamics,” says Darragh. “For instance, already a lot of public procurement is building in environmental criteria into their tender assessments. That will be the same in the construction and agricultural sectors. So our message is that this is a critical issue for Irish businesses if they want to continue working in the UK because everything from procurement to the type of products and services will undergo fundamental change as we journey towards net zero.

“For us in the Enterprise Ireland London office, it’s the number one issue facing businesses today; we want to educate our clients on the issues facing them, find out what’s required by their customers and potential customers in the UK and relay that information to our client companies. For instance, we are seeing more and more UK corporates looking for their supply chain to have achieved environmental accreditation through certification such as ISO 50001 and ISO 14001. Our client companies need to be aware of the criteria they need to fulfil in order to continue doing business in the UK.”

To help, Enterprise Ireland has launched Net Zero UK: Ready for a Green Future, a proactive market intelligence and insights campaign that is designed to keep Irish business informed of the UK’s net zero plans and their impact on business. Through webinars, podcasts and reports, the campaign will highlight technologies and verticals that are likely to decline and those that will grow and emerge, along with the evolving expectations of major UK corporates. These insights can inform the strategic planning and R&D activities of Irish companies operating in the UK to both protect and to grow their business over the coming years.

Opportunities

Of course, with every change there’s opportunity, and working with Irish SMEs to identify new and relevant business opportunities is a key goal of Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign. “Net Zero will affect every sector, but some sectors would require different measures to others,” says Darragh. “For Irish companies, there are opportunities across all sectors related to net zero, not just in renewable energy – there are also opportunities in construction, engineering, manufacturing, local authorities, finance, business technology and more.”

Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign is complemented by the €10 million Climate Enterprise Action Fund, which provides a suite of products to help Irish companies assess their current carbon footprint and develop a concrete decarbonisation strategy to help future-proof their business. These financial aids work alongside the focused sector insights provided by the Net Zero UK campaign.

Despite Brexit, the UK remains one of Ireland’s most important export partners, and it’s vital that Irish companies take action now to address the opportunities and risks brought about by the growth of UK’s green economy. Enterprise Ireland’s Net Zero UK campaign aims to support Irish exporters and help them to emerge stronger, more successful and more sustainable than ever.

Net Zero UK is part of Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK campaign. Find out more here.

Leo Varadkar and others on trade mission

Back to business: Tánaiste leads Enterprise Ireland trade mission to London, Paris & Berlin

It’s been a long and difficult 18 months for Irish businesses, but now that we can finally travel abroad and meet new and existing companies, the recovery has well and truly begun. In fact, Enterprise Ireland’s ambitious calendar of in-person trade missions has already begun, with the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, leading a team on a visit to the UK, France and Germany in early September.

This was the first in-person trade mission since the EU-UK Trade Agreement and the Covid-19 pandemic, and underlined Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to helping Irish companies grow and prosper during this period of recovery. “This trade mission was a reflection of our commitment to the economic recovery, getting Irish businesses out there as quickly as possible to take advantage of opportunities in these three important markets,” says Tom Cusack, Divisional Manager for International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

Together, the UK, France and Germany represented 38% of total Enterprise Ireland client exports in 2020, with over 2,300 Enterprise Ireland client companies exporting to these three markets. “Brexit has happened but the UK continues to be the No.1 export market for Irish companies,” says Tom. “Our ambition is to sustain and grow exports into the UK while growing exports outside the UK too. France and Germany are important to us; each market is worth over €1 billion, and as part of the Eurozone, there are several huge advantages in trading with both countries, including the currency, ease of access and ease of trading. But the UK remains extremely important.”

 

Resilience and growth

While undoubtedly the past 18 months have been challenging, Irish companies have shown great resilience and tenacity in continuing to trade during tough times. In fact, despite the challenges of Covid-19 and Brexit, Enterprise Ireland client exports remained steady in 2020, achieving exports of €25.48 billion. Plus, over the last 12 months, more than 50 companies have set up a new presence on the ground in the UK, French and German markets, in such growth areas as digital technology, life sciences, construction, fintech, energy and transport.

“Irish companies have been remarkably resilient over the last 18 months, and have continued to win business and maintain existing business without being able to travel,” says Tom Cusack, Divisional Manager for International Sales and Partnering at Enterprise Ireland.

“Some industries have been more impacted than others, but our 2020 numbers would have effectively held their own with 2019, which is very positive.”

To help Irish companies grow and recover, the purpose of the September trade mission was practical, and enabled Irish companies to meet potential new customers and decision makers in many different industries in the three countries. “Ultimately the mission was about raising the profile of Irish businesses and Irish products in the UK, France and Germany, and highlighting the level of innovation and commitment coming out of Ireland,” says Tom. “It was also a chance for companies to pitch to potential customers in each country. The presence of the Tánaiste always helps to get people into the room, so the mission proved a valuable opportunity for Irish companies.”

 

Three busy days

The first day of the trade mission took place in London, underlining once again how vital the UK market is to Irish companies. Highlights of the visit included an innovation exchange event, attended by the Tánaiste, with UK local authorities and Irish companies. There was also opportunity for focused business meetings with key decision makers from the UK insurance and healthtech industries.

In Paris, much attention was paid to large infrastructure projects, and included meetings with Réseau de Transport d’Electricité and EirGrid, partners in the Celtic Interconnector project. There were also meetings with representatives from Le Grand Paris project, the largest transport and infrastructure project in Europe focused on mobility, sustainability and urban development in the Ile de France region.

The team then travelled to Berlin, where the Tánaiste formally launched Enterprise Ireland’s fourth Enter the Eurozone programme, in partnership with Berlin-based European School of Management and Technology (ESMT). Meetings also took place with Europe’s leading healthcare provider, Helios Health, and German mobility company Tier GmbH.

Over the course of the trade mission, the Tánaiste also met with a number of IDA Ireland existing and target client companies from the financial, telecommunications, insurance and e-commerce sectors.

“It was a very busy couple of days but we believe the trip really opened doors for Irish companies, highlighted the significant benefits in doing business with Irish companies and ultimately helped their growth and recovery by introducing new customers and encouraging new business,” Tom explains

“This trade mission was hopefully the first of many. We have a draft schedule of missions running to the end of the year that includes the US and the Middle East, underlining our commitment to get Irish companies back out there. Where possible, the export agenda will be fully supported by Ministers from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, which always helps to open doors during these missions. We’re an island nation and exports are vital to us; we have a strong reputation throughout the world and our priority is to sustain and grow this through these trade missions.”

Building an online presence in Germany

Building your German online presence – Best practice in localisation and eCommerce

Building an online presence in Germany

 

Selecting the route to market can be one of the main challenges for any business looking to export to Germany. While in the past there may have been a preferred or single route to market, businesses are achieving success using multi-channel approach to engage the market at different levels.

Enterprise Ireland’s team in Germany has seen the importance of online to not only sell products and services but also to support the German customer in their buying journey. Buying decision are often made well in advance of the first contact. Your online presence is a key factor in informing and influencing your customer about your business and why they should consider you for their needs.

Enterprise Ireland has vast experience in advising businesses on German customers’ perspectives and expectations and how to develop an effective German online presence. In conjunction with Glocafy, Enterprise Ireland has developed this Best Practice guide with sectoral insights and advice from companies already trading in Germany.

Help your business to succeed locally, download your Best Practice Guide to Building your German online presence.

Paula Carroll

New Frontiers: The first step for ambitious entrepreneurs

IPaula Carroll - New Frontiers National Programme Manager

Ireland has a fine reputation around the world for being a country of innovators – indeed, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have an idea for a new product or service, or a vision to make an existing solution even better. But translating that idea into a viable business is a massive jump – which is where the New Frontiers programme comes in.

Delivered on behalf of Enterprise Ireland in 18 Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities across Ireland, New Frontiers is Ireland’s national entrepreneurial development programme, as Paula Carroll, New Frontiers National Programme Manager, explains:

“It’s a programme designed to support early-stage entrepreneurs, from when they have that business idea in their head right through to when they bring that product to market. It offers a structured and supportive environment and runs across three stages.” 

Delivered in three phases, the New Frontiers programme is designed to be as user-friendly as possible, allowing you to explore and develop your idea over a number of phases

“In Phase 1, someone may come in with a sketchy idea and want to explore and validate it,” explains Paula. “Within six to eight weeks, they work on the idea and find out if it can become a valid business that’s worth progressing. It’s part-time so requires no commitment; the participant can complete the phase in the evenings or at the weekend without it affecting their job. It consists mostly of interactive workshops.

“After Phase 1, participants can apply for Phase 2, which is an intensive six-month immersive programme.

“In Phase 2, participants work on their business idea full-time; the programme includes interactive workshops, five one-to-one mentoring sessions and a €15,000 stipend.” 

They also get a lot of support within the colleges or universities in which the programme is being run, and have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. During this phase they get milestone reviews, to ensure they stay on track as six months can pass very quickly indeed.

“At the end of the six months, sometimes participants can look for additional support either from the Local Enterprise Office or from the High Potential Start Up team in Enterprise Ireland. They could also stay on for Phase 3, which is another three months of support.”

 

Creating success stories

Enterprise Ireland has been managing the programme since 2012, and since then, approximately 4,900 individuals have participated in New Frontiers, with 1,500 going on to the immersive Phase 2 of the programme.

“We also did an evaluation at the end of 2019,” says Paula, “and out of the people we surveyed who had completed the programme, over 83% were still in business. Plus the turnover of those people surveyed was over €300 million.”

Some of those still in business are genuine Irish success stories. For instance, a 2019 participant is Uccello Designs, a design and manufacturing company providing stylish assisted-living devices such as an innovative no-pour kettle; Uccello Designs now employs 11 people in Ireland, Australia and the UK. Another success story is 2017 participant Kianda Technologies, which has developed a no-code business process automation platform that allows business users address core business process management needs without the need for outside help. Now supported by Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up unit, Kianda recently experienced a 40% increase in their customer base and is aiming to triple the size of their team by the end of the year. And, Immersive VR Education in Waterford, one of the 2016 participants, raised €6.75 million following a successful IPO in 2018.

 

Supporting every corner of the country

The regional aspect of the programme plays an important role in Enterprise Ireland’s commitment to developing sustainable businesses all over Ireland. “It’s offered in 18 institutions throughout Ireland,” says Paula. “With Covid, obviously, it all went online but post-Covid, Phase 1 will remain online – which makes it accessible to everyone, regardless of where you live – but Phase 2 will have face-to-face meetings, interaction and networking, as well as some online.

“Having that interaction is so important when building a business as other people can challenge an idea within a safe environment, and give participants the opportunity to practise their pitch in front of mentors and peers. 

“New Frontiers encourages people to pitch from day one; we get them to deliver an elevated pitch at the very start, and by the end of even Stage 1, that pitch has been refined and developed through practice.”

The New Frontiers programme is open to early-stage entrepreneurs based in Ireland over the age of 18 with an idea that has employment and export potential. Start dates vary according to your chosen location, but the application process is quick and easy. Simply fill in the online form available on www.newfrontiers.ie and a programme manager will get in touch to discuss your project and send you an application form

Visit www.newfrontiers.ie for details on how to apply.

Cara Edwards title

Graduate Stories: Playing a tangible role in supporting Irish enterprise

Cara Edwards - Grad Programme title

Cara Edwards is currently on Enterprise Ireland’s national graduate programme working as a Development Executive in Dublin within the Life Sciences, Construction, Cleantech, Timber and Consumer department.

I became interested in the graduate programme while I was studying for my Masters in Strategic Management at TU Dublin, where I specialised in innovation. Enterprise Ireland’s support for Irish companies was constantly referenced in my studies, so I knew it was somewhere that I would like to apply to.

 

Applying for the Graduate Programme

The application process is quite lengthy and intense. It’s very important to dedicate time to completing your application. There are multiple stages so it’s vital to research what’s needed in each stage and understand what Enterprise Ireland is looking for. Once you’ve successfully completed the initial online assessment, you’re invited to an assessment day with other candidates – I remember being extremely nervous about this but as soon as I met the assessors, my nerves were put at ease. It’s a great opportunity to show your strengths and to get an insight into what Enterprise Ireland is about and what the work entails.

There are lots of opportunities in various departments, especially on the national programme, and you can indicate your preference before the final interview.

 

Lots of responsibility from Day One!

The role has given me a unique opportunity to work with a variety of companies from a wide range of sectors; from Day One, I was given lots of responsibility working directly with clients and supporting colleagues on various initiatives. Over the past 10 months, I’ve been project managing one of Enterprise Ireland’s biggest events, Med in Ireland, which is a biannual high-profile national event that covers the entire spectrum of the Irish medical technologies sector. My role involves driving and coordinating a team of colleagues from various departments, ensuring that planning is underway and that we’re achieving key project milestones. This project has enabled me to work closely with many of our overseas colleagues too.

“Another highlight for me has been working as part of a small team on the Online Retail Scheme, where we administered over €5 million in funding to retailers in response to the huge impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the retail sector.” says Edwards

Now that the retailers have had the opportunity to implement their projects, it’s extremely rewarding to see the results – by improving their online capability, they’re more competitive and resilient as a result. This is an example of how rewarding the work in Enterprise Ireland can be.

 

Developing a skillset

I’m now half way through the two-year programme and I’m starting to think about what happens next. I personally would like to stay with Enterprise Ireland as I feel there are plenty of opportunities to further my career. Also, by working so closely with companies, you gain a deep understanding of how they operate and you can take these learnings with you whether you stay with Enterprise Ireland or go elsewhere. It’s also been very inspiring to work with entrepreneurs.

“The Graduate Programme is a great opportunity to work with different companies and build a broad set of skills; there are continuous career development opportunities and lots of learning available through courses, webinars and workshops.” says Edwards

Enterprise Ireland is also incredibly diverse so there are multiple ways to get involved and build your skillset. Plus the work is very rewarding as you’re playing an active role in supporting Irish enterprise. I would really recommend the programme to anyone interested in a career in business. 

To learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Graduate Programme can help you take the next step in your career visit National ProgrammeInternational Programme

Pricing Excellence: Irish exporters need to develop a robust pricing structure to safeguard their business

We are currently entering a period of high inflation, with prices rising in the EU, the UK and the US. Even at home, the Irish Consumer Price Index rose to 1.7% for the year to May 2021. But after several years of stable prices, many companies are unprepared for the commercial implications of inflation, leaving them vulnerable both now and in the future – and this, according to the results of the Pricing Excellence study recently commissioned by Enterprise Ireland, is a very real worry for Irish companies operating in every country.

Having a robust pricing strategy is important in every sector, but thanks to a prolonged period of low inflation, this skill has been underused and underdeveloped. “Pricing is a fundamental capability and relevant in every market,” says Deirdre McPartlin, Director UK at Enterprise Ireland. “It’s not a dark art or something mysterious, it’s a strategy that companies need to develop and fine-tune over many years. It has even been described as a ‘memory muscle’ that unfortunately has weakened over the years of low inflation. A pricing strategy requires both skill and confidence, and these can – and must – be learned and developed.”

Why a good pricing strategy is so vital

“For business to business companies, many of the SMEs we look after are dealing with powerful procurement departments that are highly skilled at getting the lowest prices,” says Deirdre. “Or they may be going up against bigger corporates that have very sophisticated pricing systems and strategies. And with online marketplaces and increased digitalisation, pricing is more transparent than ever – but it’s hard to explain value in those instances or compare like with like. And then there are companies with something completely new – how do you set a pricing strategy in a brand-new market?”

 

Not charging enough

An increasing number of Enterprise Ireland client companies have reported that they are finding the subject of pricing strategy more challenging recently. “We see clients that are so skilled at innovating, that work incredibly hard in winning a customer and in keeping a customer,” says Deirdre. “But they say that trying to monetise that innovation requires skill and confidence, so that pricing is not just ‘cost plus’.

We see customers with order books going out 18 months and yet they’re operating on the thinnest of margins – so they clearly have a very valuable product or they have customers that they’ve maintained for 10 years but they’re not getting the profit margin.” says McPartlin

If you are struggling to find the margin to invest in sales & marketing or R&D to grow and protect your business, but you’re keeping your customers, then maybe you’re not charging for all you provide.”

To look at the challenges being face by Irish companies around the area of pricing, Enterprise Ireland partnered with international pricing and strategy consultancy Simon-Kucher & Partners to conduct a survey of Enterprise Ireland client companies on pricing strategy. This was the first multi-sectoral pricing survey of Irish companies, and the results were compared with the global averages from Simon-Kucher & Partner’s Global Pricing Study 2021, which evaluates the pricing and growth strategies of companies across all industries worldwide.

The study involved a survey of nearly 500 Enterprise Ireland client companies covering 12 industries. The sample included respondents across top and middle management positions in a range of B2B and B2C industries. And the results echoed what Enterprise Ireland has been hearing since the end of 2000 – that Irish companies were still producing goods and solutions valued by the market, but that profit margins were increasingly under pressure.

According to the survey, Irish exporters have shown great resilience through the challenges posed by both Brexit and Covid-19, with 54% of companies reporting improving profits in 2020, comparing well with the global average of 59%. 

According to the survey, Irish exporters have shown great resilience through the challenges posed by both Brexit and Covid-19, with 54% of companies reporting improving profits in 2020, comparing well with the global average of 59%.

But with volume gain consistently identified as the key profit driver, and only 8% predicting that these improvements in profits will be sustainable in the long term, any profit gains are highly vulnerable to the impact of inflation rises.

From the survey, 71% of respondents were planning a price increase in 2021, with 35% of respondents targeting price increases above the inflation rate and 34% planning a price increase in line with inflation. But the average realisation rate for price increases was 21%, which means that a company trying to raise prices by 2% would only achieve around a 0.4% increase on average. This puts many companies at risk of significant margin erosion – even if they were targeting for increases above inflation rates.

 

Building skills and confidence in pricing strategy

Price is the strongest profit lever for companies ahead of cost control and increase in sales volume, and these results clearly show that Irish exporters need to develop a sustainable pricing strategy. Not only is this important to protect profit margins, but it’s also needed to future-proof the business, by giving them the resources to invest in research and development, as well as the means to invest in important business functions like sales and marketing activities.

“It’s not price gouging or exploitation, it’s about getting a fair price for the value that you are delivering,” says Deirdre. “We’re living in a time of inflation, which is relatively new for a lot of companies – for instance, we talked to some clients who hadn’t put in place a price increase for nine years. The study clearly shows the need for companies to invest time and skills into a pricing strategy that will equip the company for future growth and success.”

Watch our on-demand webinar with Mark Billige, CEO of Simon-Kucher & Partners to learn the steps needed to implement a price increase process.

Karen_Hernandez

People management and the new work landscape

 

For the past year and a half, employees across the country and indeed the world have found themselves in the unusual position of working from home. But now that some sort of normality is returning to our lives, many industry bosses are keen for their staff to put in a physical presence at the office – however, an overwhelming majority would like to continue working remotely in some way or other.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, the nature of work has changed as, for many businesses, Covid has accelerated the move to remote working,” says Karen Hernández, Senior Executive – People & Management Pillar – with Enterprise Ireland. “Overall, this has been a positive move as many companies have found that productivity has remained the same or even increased during this period.

“A recent survey, conducted by the Whittaker Institute and NUI Galway, found that 95% of respondents would like to work remotely at least some of the time – and with this in mind companies are now seeking to set up appropriate means of supporting remote, hybrid and flexible working.”

 

Challenges ahead

But while this new landscape brings both opportunities and challenges, Hernández says companies should also consider how to address some of the medium-term HR and management challenges now facing their business.

“Possible issues include looking at ways to implement flexible working to suit both the business and the employees, utilising office space while many are working remotely and motivating managers and employees while they are engaged in work outside of the office,” says Hernández

“In addition, staff may be anxious about returning to the workplace, so it is also important to consider health and well-being supports and be aware that remote working attracts the same rights and responsibilities as office-based work in terms of pay, benefits, health and safety and work time.

“But where businesses are employing staff from other jurisdictions, they need to be clear that the employment rights, which govern the terms and conditions of employment, are those of the country where the individual is physically working.”

 

No one-size fits all model

The people management expert says while research indicates that a majority of employees want to keep working remotely, in some format, employers must understand that they run the risk of losing their best talent if they force everyone back to the office.

“Transitioning to a fully remote or hybrid work model may seem easy as we have all been doing it for 18 months,” she says. “But in reality, getting remote and hybrid working right for the long-term is actually very complex and requires significant planning and communication with employees.

“Firstly, companies really need to consider what’s best for them as a business as well as their employees. What’s right for one company may not be right for another, so a good starting point is to survey managers and staff to understand their needs. Then companies need to review and consider how easy it will be for employees to carry out responsibilities remotely – flexibility is key here as what works for one person, may not work for another.”

 

New skills needed

Maintaining engagement and motivating staff is incredibly important and Hernández says that managers need to develop new skills to engage employees in remote and hybrid work environments.

“There needs to be regular two-way communication, via surveys, focus groups and all-hands meetings,” she says. “This is essential going forward and companies need to establish a culture of trust, with value placed on deliverables rather than on input or time spent online.

“In addition, managers need to have the skills to lead and manage remotely – and this may require some additional training.  So, companies need to look out for signs of stress and over-work among employees as it is more difficult to spot in a remote environment.  Indeed, many are reporting that the merging of work and home life is making it difficult to switch off outside work hours and this is exacerbated when the work culture is focused on presenteeism, as employees feel that their time is being monitored.”

Support from Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland is aware that companies may need assistance when it comes to ensuring a smooth return to the office or developing an efficient hybrid or remote working model. So in in conjunction with Voltedge Management Ltd, it has developed Emerging through Covid-19: The Future of Work to help Irish companies to consider and reflect on these and other HR challenges they are likely to face over the coming months.

“Its purpose is to help business leaders to understand how the world of work has changed over the past year and consider the impact these changes may have on the expectations and motivations of both current and prospective employees,” says Karen Hernández.  “Our intention is to provide insight into good HR practice and to encourage businesses to think about what approaches or responses may be right for them.”

 

Click here to download your copy of the guide.

Update on the AMP7 spending cycle and Green Webinar title: UK Water Sector, Recovery Investment Plans

The UK Water Sector and the AMP7 spending cycle – Webinar

This webinar provides an update to the UK Water Sector and the AMP7 spending cycle and Green Recovery Investment Plans.

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland and British Water the webinar discusses the key topics facing the sector with insights provide by industry experts:

  • Lee Horrocks, Director, LCH Executive

  • Lila Thompson, Chief Executive, British Water

  • Matt Lewis, Water Innovation Portfolio Manager, Severn Trent

  • Paul Gardner, Managing Director, Glanagua (UK)

  • Mike Froom, BD Director, TE Tech solutions (part of the Trant Group)

Gain key business insights with our on-demand UK webinar series.

    Steve Keogh - Graduate Programmes

    Graduate Stories – Flying the flag for Irish businesses in international markets

    Steve Keogh title

    Steve Keogh participated in Enterprise Ireland’s international graduate programme working as a Trade Development Executive in the Austin, Texas, office. On completion of the programme he made the move back to Europe and is now based in Brussels working as a Market Advisor

    The Graduate Programme at Enterprise Ireland gave me the opportunity to see the world while flying the flag for Irish businesses in international markets. My story is slightly different in that I’m 37 years old and ran a family business in Dublin for many years before deciding that I wanted to do something bigger. While studying Business Management in Tallaght I became interested in Enterprise Ireland and went on to complete an International Management Masters in Trinity before joining the Graduate Programme.

     

    Applying for the Graduate Programme

    The application process for the Graduate Programme is fairly intense. First you need to write an essay about why you’re good for the role. Then there are online tests to do before a video interview. The group scenarios can seem quite intimidating. In one instance there are five applicants with five individual assessors taking notes and watching your performance as you work through a case study completing tasks and discussing the assignment in front of the group. While it can be intimidating it is worth it for the benefits and experience that the Enterprise Ireland graduate programme provides.

    If I were to give one piece of advice to applicants who face the same test it would be that this is not the time to discuss your thesis; this is a test to see how you would act on the ground in the market. Many candidates think that the assessors want to see their knowledge of a topic, when it’s actually a practical test to see what impactful decisions you would make that would help our clients. This test is reflective of the job itself – on any given day, you’ll receive a call from a client looking for contacts or networking opportunities – your job is to connect them with the right person/people, sector knowledge is important but so is practicality. Time is money over here.

    If you’re interested in the position, you need to be bold and confident. There’s no room to be timid around ideas, instead be brave enough to voice the ideas that you think would make the most impact.

    “Go in with a positive mental attitude and let your willingness to work hard and do the job show.” advises Steve Keogh.

     

    Networking is key

    The job itself is intensive. You are representative of Ireland on the ground in a foreign business community. I can’t put a figure on the number of tasks you might be asked to do. It’s literally anything and everything that would help Irish companies win exports in a foreign market. It’s about knowledge and networking – the knowledge of the leading sectors in your market, and the contacts you make through attending shows, events and so on.

     

    Making an impact for Irish business

    Nothing makes more of an impact than if a company rings up looking for advice on how to get into a sector and you’re able to introduce them to the major players and progress an introduction– you’ve just saved them a lot of time and a lot of headaches. And on the flip side you will have lots of people coming to market with a product that mightn’t be suitable – your knowledge of the market could save them time and money if you can direct them to the best market fit for their product.

    One of my favourite success story’s features a company from Tipperary called Saint Killians that produces candle units for churches. Their products make it so that when the candle burns down, the wick drops into a water bath underneath for safe extinguishing. About a week after I stepped into this role, they contacted me and asked for help to sell into Texas for the first time. This was my first task and I felt I had something to prove so I got on the phone to every priest from Houston to Dallas and back, and now, if you go to 10th Street in Austin, there’s a church there with a candle unit from a company in Tipperary – and I got it there! That’s the sort of impact you can have for an Irish company and the feeling of being able to point to it and say: “I did that” is extraordinary.

    “Enterprise Ireland gives you the opportunity to do genuinely meaningful work for Irish companies in international markets.” says Steve Keogh.

     

    One Year Later

    One year later and I am sitting in the Enterprise Ireland Benelux office on the 14th floor of Sablon tower in city centre Brussels. It’s been an interesting transition to say the least and I feel invigorated by the challenge of a new region, new team dynamics and business culture.

    I have started a new position as a Market Advisor for digital solutions and will be working with colleagues in the wider Eurozone team to deliver impact for clients in cyber security, ICT and more. That’s what’s great about Enterprise Ireland, the opportunities for progression and exciting challenges are there. It takes a combination of patience, opportunity and results but if successful you can join one of the overseas offices in a new region and gain an entirely new cultural experience, or advance in your career in HQ at Eastpoint and remain at the forefront of innovation.

    The preceding year was challenging for businesses globally as we all transitioned into the world of virtual work, restricted travel, and general uncertainty. Working from Austin I was able to witness first-hand the adaptability of the Enterprise Ireland team and we all pivoted into new ways of delivering impact for clients. Through webinars, virtual pitch events, business accelerators and network we could still deliver key supports to help win new business and expand existing relationships for our clients.

    For those wishing to progress beyond the grad programme in Enterprise Ireland, your demonstration of capability will increase your responsibility. My portfolio was expanded to include the energy and aerospace sectors for the US and I thoroughly enjoyed finding new opportunities for clients in these markets. The development of meaningful relationships with your clients will be key in your success.  The clients I worked with had incredible offerings and exceptional business development skills so once I could find the right opportunity for them, I was confident that they would work their magic and get results. Building trust with your manager and team will open doors to new opportunities and keeping a keen eye on new or unexplored sectors in your region will provide a platform to demonstrate your innovative thinking. In this regard I particularly enjoyed looking at the commercial space and renewable energy sectors in the US.

    I think ultimately that there is an element of job fit that comes into play. It won’t take you long to figure out if this is the sort of role you enjoy and if it is the right one doors tend to open.

    If you are successful in joining the programme, you have gained the opportunity of a lifetime. Whether you stay on with Enterprise Ireland or take up a new role in a different organisation, the skillset, network and confidence you will have gained set you up for success in any new endeavour.

    To learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Graduate Programme can help you take the next step in your career visit National ProgrammeInternational Programme.

    The Future of UK Ports – Overview, trends and opportunities

    As the UK ports industry enters a time of significant transformation, we hear from leading market experts on the latest trends and opportunities for Irish suppliers in the sector.

    This webinar examines:

    • Ports for offshore wind

    • Freeports

    • Port decarbonisation

    • Smart ports and digitalisation

     

    Contact our UK Cleantech Market Executive or gain key business insights with our on-demand UK webinar series.

      Why Export title

      Export Journey: Step 1 – Why Export?

      Why Export title - image of woman packing a box

      In a post-Covid world access to international markets, buyers, distributors and information is now at the fingertips of Irish SMEs thanks to increased digitalisation.

      When looking towards new markets, it is important to consider the potential benefits of exporting for your company such as;

      1. Diversification of market and reduced vunerability

      A well considered diversification plan can minimise a dependency on the domestic market and the potential exposure to domestic downturn.

      2. Increased revenue and scale

      Exporting opens channels to exponentially expand the home market and identify new markets to take advantage of globally. A larger market base delivers economies of scale, enabling you to maximise your resources.

      3. Improved profitability

      Your ongoing domestic operation should cover business-as-usual fixed costs, either directly or via other types of business financing, which should, in turn, facilitate a faster growth in your export profits.

      4. Best practice and knowledge

      Accessing global markets will provide additional benefits to an exporter, aside from increased revenues such as new ways of doing business, increased awareness of global best practice, cultural and international competitiveness, that could also bring benefits to your market offering in Ireland.

      5. Domestic competitiveness

      Considering your company’s export potential will increase its resilience against potential competition within the domestic market.

       

       

      Assess & validate title and two women at a computer screen

      Export Journey: Step 2 – Assess & Validate

      Assess & Validate title and business people

      Before beginning your export journey you must clearly identify your target market.  You may have preferences based on previous experience, understanding of the language or culture or simply some connection with the market, though a good starting point it’s not enough of a reason to export to this market.

      Market Research will form the backbone of your export strategy as you begin to validate your plans.

      The key elements for consideration are:

      • What makes your product unique
      • Who are your competitors in your selected research market?
      • Who are the buyers in that market?
      • How does your product compare in terms of pricing?
      • How is the product sold in that market?
      • What are the local regulations, certification for selling your product and can you currently comply?
      • A clear understanding as to why you have selected this market as the potential first market.

      What supports are available?

      If your business is at an early development stage the Local Enterprise Office has the supports to help you plan, start and grow

      If you are are already supported by Enterprise Ireland you can contact your Development Advisor here.

      The Market Research Centre provides access to world class research databases to help client companies make better, more informed business decisions. Contact the Market Research Centre here

      Enterprise Ireland hosts events to assist companies’ growth plans – See our events calendar for details.

      Our Market pages and Going Global guides provide expert insights and contact details for our overseas offices.

      Learn how our Exporter Development team can support your growth.