Global Ambition – Industry Insights webinar series

Enterprise Ireland will host a series of Global Ambition – Industry Insights sector focused webinars for clients, to deliver market intelligence on the evolving international export opportunities across global markets. The five sector market webinars will focus on:

  • Construction – 15th September, 9:30am – 10:45am

  • Lifesciences – 15th September, 2pm – 3pm

  • Travel Tech – 16th September, 3pm – 4pm

  • Agritech – 17th September, 11am – 12pm

  • Consumer Retail – 17th September, 2pm – 3pm

 

This webinar series will draw on Enterprise Ireland’s unique insight into key markets for Irish exporters lead by the Market Advisor in that sector and will explore crucial issues such as relationship strategies and the shift in consumer behaviour in the context of Covid-19.

You can register using this link. You can register for multiple webinars and all registrants will receive a copy of the webinar recording and slides.

Market Watch – South East Asia

Overview

• Many countries in South East Asia have made a successful return to business
• Travel restrictions had posed problems for businesses selling into the region, but goods are moving again.
• Critical supply chain companies are ramping up production and capacity to meet increasing demand
• Opportunities are continuing to arise, particularly in Digital technologies, Life Sciences, Telehealth, and Industrial sectors
• Life is beginning to return to normal.

Every industry across the world has been impacted by the effects of Covid-19. But while there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, business is beginning to return to some sort of normality and Kevin Ryan, Director of ASEAN, says much of South East Asia has made a cautious, but successful return.

“Business is definitely getting back to some semblance of normality, but things are a little different,” says Ryan. “In Singapore, we are now in Phase 2 of the ‘Circuit-Breaker’ measures and most businesses are now allowed to return to office environments. But the message remains consistent and to work from home where possible.

“Politically there is a history of stability and longevity here with governments making long-term plans which are carried on by successive ruling parties and this is very beneficial to the economy of the region.”

With experience of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2004, the governments of SE Asia have been methodical in their management of the Covid outbreak and this has proved crucial in the successful reopening of business.

“During the phased approach, the return to work was carefully managed,” says Ryan. “And around the region, key markets are opening up and demonstrating strong ownership in managing business and movement of goods.”

So with the effects of Covid shaping how people work and interact, the ASEAN director says strong sectoral opportunities have emerged.

“The Future of Work and the Digital Workplace is a very interesting development and client companies see big potential across the Asia market,” he says. “Here you have huge centres of populations, with Banks, Insurers and Tech companies all requiring teams to work remotely and embrace innovative solutions.

“From the Life Sciences sector, there is significant interest and demand for services which offer innovative solutions to help eliminate the effects of Covid. And the crisis has shown how reliable technology can be and has forced governments to take a fresh look at implementing digital health solutions in their regions.

“Consumer Retail is also playing out strongly with the likes of Water Wipes and Pestle & Mortar being two good examples of clients gaining traction in Asia.”

But most businesses, regardless of sector, are focused on saving cost, generating additional ancillary revenue streams and using technology to help prevent Covid in the workplace.

“Businesses are very keen to understand how technology can help them combat the pandemic and keep staff safe,” says Ryan. “We’ve had strong engagement with companies who see the value proposition, most notably with the likes of Novaerus who have a proven air and surface disinfection device. While companies such as Combilift have proven capabilities in an industrial space, helping to eliminate waste and enabling companies think more efficiently.

“Our clients are constantly looking at new ways to offer unique solutions to companies, which are now struggling with their traditional business model. And we are seeing success and increased interest in companies such as Good Travel Software (GTS), which allows OEM car manufacturers and car companies opportunities to tap into additional ancillary revenue streams they wouldn’t have considered before.”

But one of the real strengths of Enterprise Ireland is its network overseas.

“We are the gatekeepers making sure clients are ready to make the leap,” says Ryan. “We also work with them to break down any barriers – geographically and culturally.

“So on a positive note, we’re definitely seeing greater availability and access. Prospective buyers in the region are realising that unless they open their minds and are willing to think innovatively, they will face the prospect of losing opportunities to their competitors, and in this climate that could prove fatal. Irish companies have a long history of being innovative and entrepreneurial and business in Asia is very responsive to this.”

The SE Asia region encompasses 10 countries with a population of circa. 650m people and Ryan says the market is very much open with he and his team engaging regularly with client companies to support a successful entry into the region.

“Ireland, in comparison to some parts of Asia, is small, and our team works extremely hard on selling a consistent Irish message,” he says. “We have strong success in opening doors and creating opportunities and our reputation across the globe is superb with Ireland’s expertise in Asia shining through from the perspective of innovation and quality.

“So there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re encouraging clients who have a product ready to go, to engage in Asia as we are laying the groundwork for opportunities to be realised in 2021 and beyond.”

Get key insights on the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

happy employee

Irish talent tech firms boost global engagement and productivity

In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

Companies around the world are looking to Irish talent tech companies for cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees. From wellbeing apps to performance management tools, Irish companies are exporting best-in-class products to businesses in dozens of countries.

Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments. Discover how five of the best in Irish talent tech are meeting the needs of a global client base.

 

1. Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

Cork-based Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

“We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.

 

Describe your business

“Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture.”

“People  need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.” Pete Rawlinson, CMO at Workvivo

Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

Woodies found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.

 

2. Frankli: automating continuous performance management

While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

“Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition. “People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

“Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.

 

3. Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

“If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

“They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

With users in Ireland and India, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK, So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.

 

“The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.” Sohini De, Empeal founder

 

4. Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

“We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan, an all-Ireland winner himself and a cousin of Dublin GAA legend Bernard Brogan, another of the co-founders along with Michelle Fogarty, who represented Ireland at taekwondo. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

“We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has users in 10 countries, including Mondelez, McDonald’s and Paypal. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”

 

5. Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed 

Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

“POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources, offering tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journaling” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

“The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

“POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard.”

Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

“All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

Orbidal CEO

Evolve UK Webinar – Selling your Digital Solution to the UK Public Sector

Laura Brocklebank, Senior Market Advisor, Enterprise Ireland UK and  Tony Corrigan, CEO, Orbidal will present best-practice and opportunities that exist in the UK public sector and how to be successful at winning UK Public Sector contracts. The webinar will feature:

  • Overview of UK Public Sector Procurement – Covid-19 update and what’s happening now?

  • Overview and opportunities that exist with UK Public Sector – Spotlight on Digital Frameworks

  • Best practice for prospective public sector suppliers

  • What makes a supplier successful at winning contracts?

  • Orbidal’s process to ease and simplify the process of tendering.

ReturnWorkplace 1

Covid-19: Returning to the workplace safely

In four short months, the world of work has changed dramatically thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us experienced remote working, changed working conditions, altered hours or even layoffs. But now, as the economy slowly reopens according to the Government’s phased roadmap, employers and employees are slowly returning to the workplace, albeit a very “new normal” type of workplace.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on companies in many different ways,” says Karen Hernandez, Senior Executive, People & Management, at Enterprise Ireland. “As a result, the challenges that companies are facing as employees return to the workplace tend to be different, but in general, there are a number of key considerations that companies will need to address to ensure a safe return to work.”

To help companies navigate their way through these considerations, Enterprise Ireland has produced Covid-19: Return to the Workplace Guide, which can be downloaded on the Globalambition.ie website. This is a practical guide that takes employers through four key areas: the health, safety and wellbeing of employees; employee communication and engagement; resource planning; and data privacy and GDPR. The guide also includes some templates that employers can use within their own business, such as a Pre-Return to Work form.

“The first consideration that employers need to address is the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees,” explains Karen. “The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) has issued the Return to Work Safely Protocol, which supports companies put measures in place that will protect the health and wellbeing of their employees as the economy begins to open up. Measures include completing a Risk Assessment, completing or updating your business’s Covid-19 Response Plan, and asking your employees to fill out a Covid-19 Pre-Return to Work Form.”

The HSA Protocol can look daunting at first, but Joyce Rigby Jones, Joint Managing Director at HR consultancy Voltedge, explains that it’s up to an employer to decide what is right for them. “The HSA Protocol provides a list of guidelines and protocols, and it’s up to each company to look at these and decide what is reasonable and appropriate in their case. But at the same time, as employers, we have to make sure we’re providing a good and safe base for our employees.”

Many guidelines include practical measures such as putting processes into place for suspected Covid-19 cases in the workplace, but another major part of ensuring employees’ health and safety is looking after their wellbeing, as Joyce explains. “We’ve all gone through major stress and there’s been such radical change that every employer has to take  onboard how this has affected employees.

Many employers have put into place an Employee Assistance Programme or Occupational Health Service to help employees with any issues they may encounter. But if you don’t have this, there are other things you can do, such as running wellness sessions or spearheading wellbeing initiatives.

There are some really nice resources on the gov.ie website called In This Together. The HSE website also has a mental health section, which is very useful. And of course, the Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Return to the Workplace Guide offers some useful ideas such as a buddy system, which can be great for those working remotely. Communication is key – not everyone will be able to return to the workplace so talking to each individual and making them a part of the decision-making process will help their wellbeing and make sure any decision is good for them.”

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

The second key consideration identified by Enterprise Ireland is communication, which is essential during a time of so much change. “The HSA has provided guidance on a number of practical measures to enhance communication with your staff as they return to work,” says Karen. “Employers should be looking at all the changes in policies and procedures that must be made and ensure that employees know what they are.

A first step includes putting a Covid-19 Response Team in place, who will be responsible for completing and implementing the business’s Covid-19 Response Plan. At least one worker representative should be appointed, who will work with the team to engage with employees regarding any changes that need to be made as part of the Covid-19 Response Plan. All staff must also be trained.”

Enhanced communication will also help your employees’ wellbeing. “Everything about the workplace will change, from where you enter and exit to where you take your breaks,” explains Fredericka Sheppard, Joint Managing Director at Voltedge. “Change is difficult and it’s up to each employer to implement those changes, map it out, communicate with their employees and communicate again – you cannot communicate too much in this instance.

“Collaboration will bear fruit. You want to know if there are risks or if an employee is nervous about the workplace or feels unsafe. You want your staff working in a safe environment; if you are communicating with your staff through surveys, questionnaires etc on a regular basis, you will get greater engagement with your employees – and we know that in an environment where there is greater engagement, there is greater productivity.”

Successful resource planning

Inevitably, some businesses will have to take a hard look at their company and make some changes. Remote working will become a long-term reality for some companies, while sadly for others, redundancies may have to be implemented. Any changes in resources should be made objectively and with the constraints of employment law in mind. “Given current physical distancing guidelines, it’s highly unlikely that any company will be bringing back their full complement of staff initially,” says Karen. “Businesses will have to look at their resources in line with their business plans and their employees’ needs. For instance, some employees might have underlying health conditions and mightn’t come back into the office at first.”

“Some companies may have to look at restructuring or altering their business,” adds Fredericka. “They must pay attention to the legislation in this area. This hasn’t changed and the crisis won’t excuse you if you don’t do it right.

The Enterprise Ireland Return to the Workplace Guide has some useful information regarding this. Of course there’s a financial impact to this, but you must also remember that there’s a psychological impact too. The staff who are staying may be affected by any redundancies too – and this is talent that you have worked hard to get. Evaluate your business and market; you must keep this under constant review.”

On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to look at the skills of your employees and invest in your talent. “Resilience and good people management have never been more important and we need to support and invest in managers in developing these skills. Your marketplace may have changed, you may have to alter the product you offer – invest in your people to adapt to these changes and you’ll reap the rewards in the future.”

Protect sensitive information

A final key consideration is the tricky issue of GDPR and data protection. The HSA Protocol requires employers to collect information and keep records that could contain potentially sensitive information. It’s imperative that employers only collect the information they need, and that it is stored appropriately.

“GDPR and data security are more vital than ever,” says Karen. “The HSA is asking employers to keep contact logs, and there may be a need for some companies to undertake temperature checking too. There will also be health information included in the Pre-Return to Work Form. Companies need to be very mindful of their obligations under GDPR and data security. They must make sure that any information they request is reasonable and that this information is stored securely.”

These points, and more, are explored and expanded in the Covid-19: Return to the Workplace Guide. Enterprise Ireland has also launched a number of supports for businesses, including the Lean Business Continuity Voucher, which provides companies with up to €2,500 to help them put into place any guidelines or strategies needed before opening up the workplace again. More details can be found at https://globalambition.ie/covid-19/

EI_Market Watch Series_Dubai

Market Watch – Middle East

Overview

  • MENA is beginning to open up after a very strict lockdown.

  • Irish companies need to be aware of market differences in the region.

  • There is scope for movement in the health and safety, education and healthcare industry.

  • Communication and innovation is the key to success.

Covid-19 has most certainly changed the world as we know it – and as many countries are beginning to lift restrictions, markets are changing rapidly with dynamics shifting as everyone tries to adapt to the new normal.

Mike Hogan, Regional Manager for MENA says Ireland has long had a healthy business relationship with the Middle East and North Africa and as the region begins to open up, he encourages Irish businesses to be aware of how things have changed.

“Everyone knows that Covid-19 has brought about a special set of circumstances, an unprecedented Black Swan Incident,” he says. “At home, Enterprise Ireland is working with clients in a tailored manner to help them make changes to their business models in order to survive.

“But circumstances are different overseas and we have been offering continuity to clients in order to help them find new ways to communicate and keep informed about what is happening in terms of delivering their service and product.

“It’s so important to understand the dynamics of the market and the situation end users are facing. Much of this is similar to Ireland, but there are specific market differences so on a simplistic level, business models need to be tweaked and companies must begin to look forward to the new normal.”

This may take some time as much of the region has been completely shut down for the past few months.

“Many of the measures taken to combat the effects of Covid-19 across the Middle East may have seemed draconian from an Irish perspective,” says the regional manager. “There were 24-hour curfews with people only allowed out to go to the chemist or buy groceries and at the height of the restrictions, people could only leave the house once every three days.

“This has impacted the economy, especially as many places rely on tourism and international transport, so the shutting down of airspace, apart from cargo flights, has had an impact. And of course from an Irish perspective, this has had consequences on how goods are brought to market and how much it costs.

“So the new normal will involve an unwinding of these measures as well as a change in logistics, markets and communication. Nothing worries clients more than silence and people will remember who did business with them during the hard times and will reflect on who stood by them when their business was in jeopardy.”

But while the MENA region has been severely impacted by the crisis, Mike Hogan says there is still plenty of opportunity to be had.

“We are going through a bad time at moment, but Irish companies can have an impact as they have solutions which will fit in very well,” he says.

“And while countries like Saudi, for example, had cut back on infrastructure, the continuing increase in population, means that it continues to add new hospital beds every year, just to keep up with population growth, and increased capacity will increase healthcare opportunities ”

Indeed, Hogan says that healthcare and education will generate opportunities as countries across the region begin to open up and get their economies and their population back to some sort of normality.

And due to a diverse demographic, the Gulf region is also an ideal location for companies to test the waters and trial a new product or service.

“The region includes a lot of expats and migrant workers, so you can test a product here and get a wide number of reference points in terms of market reaction, as you are dealing with a large number of different nationalities, cultures and traditions,” he says. “So it’s a good opportunity to gauge how they react to various products and services.”

But one of the effects of the pandemic will see countries looking to reduce their supply chains and reinvigorate their indigenous industries to be more prepared should a second wave of the virus occur.

And while Ireland has always enjoyed a large share of the educational market in that corner of the world, remote learning is likely to continue to play a larger role in the future, so our HEIs need to be prepared for this.

“Cooperation between Ireland and the Middle East is going to need to change as some countries are really expanding their education system to meet the needs of the region,” says Hogan.  “Ireland needs to look at the content for remote learning rather than replicate what’s been happening in the classroom.”

Businesses will also operate more on a remote basis with exhibitions and conferences pushed into next year, so companies who want to stand out from the crowd, should come up with other ideas to make video conferencing more interesting. Decision makers in the Gulf are becoming increasing younger and tech savy, so Irish companies can’t simply rely or existing contacts and need to engage more widely and future proof their contact base.

“There is certainly some fatigue with relation to webinars and conference calls so it will be important to come up with something a bit special to engage clients,” says Hogan.

“These are young countries which require a continued and changing response so companies mustn’t sit on their laurels.”

Get key insights on the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

Evolve UK – UK agriculture industry report



This report focuses on the UK agricultural industry examining the effect Covid-19 has had on the demand for equipment, the new innovations recently launched in market, emerging trends and what is influencing these developments.

The report also discusses the implications of Brexit on the industry and speaks with leading business experts to explore the opportunities this time of change may present.

Read the full report

Patrick Torrekens, Head of the Enterprise Ireland BeNeLux

Market Watch – Benelux

 

Overview

  • The BeNeLux countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) are working hard to return to normal business practise.

  • Health and safety remain a prime concern so remote working and virtual meetings will continue to be in place for some time to come.

  • Continued communication with clients is vital.

  • Opportunities are available in the biopharma, digital connectivity, and biotech sectors.

Like the rest of Europe, the BeNeLux countries are working hard to return to some level of normality after Covid-19. And Patrick Torrekens, Head of the Enterprise Ireland BeNeLux team, says despite the fact that remote working remains in place, business is beginning to pick up in the region.

“Just like many people across the world, I have been working from home for the past few months and here in the BeNeLux countries, remote working, particularly for the services industry, is still the recommended norm as part of the three countries’ re-entry strategy,” he says.

“However, more and more production facilities, construction sites, engineering plants and office buildings are gearing towards full capacity and the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are fully operational with authorities doing everything to maintain the flow of goods in and out of the three countries.”

Torrekens says health and safety remain the prime concern and the necessary measures have been taken to ensure social distancing on the work floor, on public transport and in public places. While industry heads and Government are doing everything they can to get everything up and running once more.

“Things are not back to normal as yet, but the Dutch, Belgians and Luxemburgish, are keen to see business pick up again as quickly as possible,” he says. “When we are talking to buyers in our markets, we still hear that their focus is on adapting to the new reality on making their supply chain, and other critical processes, Covid compliant.

“So any solution which helps them to achieve Covid compliance gets their full attention and that is why it’s so important to stay closely connected to your clients as they are also turning to their existing client base for inspiration and support at the moment. But BeNeLux decision makers are not currently looking at new investment projects so expect a delay in the sales cycle, be patient and stay connected with your in-market contacts.”

But despite the delay in returning to normal, he says business is definitely moving in certain sectors and some markets remain buoyant.

“There are opportunities and exceptions to be found, particularly in the sectors of high relevance for trade with Ireland,” says Torrekens. “The BeNeLux region is a hot spot for pharma and biotech research and innovation and it is expected that multinationals such as Johnson and Johnson, with research facilities in the Antwerp region, will invest in new laboratories for vaccine production and other virus related research.

“So it is encouraging to see that some Irish companies are already preparing to play a part in this by strengthening their teams in markets.”

The past few months have clearly pointed at the strategic need for digital infrastructure and the Netherlands, in particular, is a frontrunner in digital connectivity and continues to invest in its infrastructure.

The Enterprise Ireland regional manager says communication is vital during these strange times, so Irish companies must do all they can to stay in touch with their clients.

“An interesting fact to mention is that the Netherlands has witnessed the highest global growth rate of virtual meetings held over digital platforms in the past weeks,” he says.
“So rest assured that if your contacts are not available for face to face meetings, they are definitely open, and accustomed, to online sessions. And please remember that the travel restrictions which are currently in place in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg should not prevent you from reaching out to existing clients and new prospects.

“Finally Belgians and Dutch and Luxemburgish people have massively turned to online commerce and businesses have adapted their sales channels to accommodate this. This has given an extra boost to businesses in IT, and professional service but also in transport and logistics.

“Ultimately, your solution will stand out if you have a strong value proposition which gives you a good chance to win more business in this region. And our teams stand ready to support you with advice and hands on support, so do get in touch, virtually for now, but hopefully face to face soon.”

Get key insights on doing business in BeNeLux and the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

Ciara O'Toole, Country Manager, Italy

Market Watch – Italy

Overview

  • Italy was severely impacted by Covid-19 and had no protocol to follow as it was the first to experience a total lockdown.

  • It has started to recover and has begun to open up its borders

  • Construction sites are open and medical device companies are in production mode.

  • Opportunities are also available in the health, ICT agriculture and energy sectors.

    Europe and the rest of the world watched in horror as Italy succumbed to the ravages of Covid-19 and tried to figure out a way to keep its citizens safe and its economy from collapse.

    And while the effects of the pandemic definitely left its mark on the country, it has started to open up and the recovery plan has been put into action.

    Country manager, Ciara O’Toole says it was a very difficult period for Italy, but the situation now seems to be under control and while there are still some challenges ahead, plans are underway to open up the country in stages.

    “Italy was the original global epicentre of the pandemic and it quickly became a country of unwelcome firsts,” she says. “As Italians saw the healthcare emergency escalate, they also had to process the shock of being the first country in the world to be put on a full lockdown.

    “There was no frame of reference to follow so Italy quickly became the global frame of reference. However, after a couple of months of hardship, it is now preparing to open its borders to the rest of Europe and from June 3rd, entry into Europe from the countries of the European Union, including countries in the Schengen region and Switzerland, will be permissible without a two week quarantine.

    “And the plan is to open borders fully to global travel from 15th of June with flight and medical protocols in place.”

    O’Toole, who is responsible for leading the Milan based Enterprise Ireland team to support sales activities for Irish companies in Italy, says although the country is still working within in some restrictions, it is beginning to open up and there are opportunities to be had.

    “Remote working will remain in place in the country for the foreseeable future across sectors which have this possibility,” she says. “But with respect to logistics, the supply chain to Italy was not severely interrupted.”

    “Construction sites have been open since early May and medical device companies are back to work. Tourism is also starting to open up, including in the hard hit north and airlines are returning to flight with medical protocols being adapted by EU airlines.”

    “Also the ecommerce sector is extremely active and there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon in various sectors including construction, health, ICT agriculture and energy.”

    Like the rest of the world, remote working is still on the agenda for the foreseeable future, but O’Toole says there is plenty of business happening in Italy and things will continue to improve in the coming weeks and months.

    “Virtual client meetings are the modus operandi at the moment which will ensure progression of business,” she says. “But we have had many positive news stories in recent weeks from client companies.”

    “Italy is a world leader in the construction of major infrastructures, and it is home to leading aerospace technologies as well as being a leading producer in many significant global sectors.”

    “So, although the country has endured a lot of trauma in the last few months, it is a resilient nation with an indomitable spirit and while commerce has undoubtedly been interrupted, there is a real determination to get back to business.”

    Get key insights on doing business in Italy and the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

    Industry Bulletin – Agritech & Machinery Dealership view


    Reporting from across world markets, Enterprise Ireland’s Agritech Market Advisors have compiled this buyer sentiment update consisting of case studies from importers, distributors and leading dealerships of agricultural equipment.

    As part of our Market Watch series, we have interviewed 23 companies to provide first-hand updates of the situation on the ground in key regions across the world.

    Read the full report.

    Resetting your business model

    Resetting your business model in response to Covid-19

    In preparing for tomorrow’s world, businesses need to reset their business model to remain relevant to their customers in the new environment

    The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world and transformed the environment and operating rules for business. Last year’s winning formulas have become failed propositions almost overnight, and many of yesterday’s compelling products and services are obsolete in the context of tomorrow’s needs.

    This requires businesses to take a long, hard look at their business models in order to remain relevant to their customers in the new environment. They will need to reassess what they sell, who they sell it to, and how they make money from that. They will also have to examine why people buy from them and how that translates into profitability.

    According to Business Financial Consultant Brendan Binchy, companies need to focus on four key areas when seeking to reset their business models:

    • Their current product offering and how can it be developed, changed, or delivered differently
    • Who their customers will be in future, both current and new, and if there is a need to drop some existing ones
    • The reasons customers buy from them, their new value proposition, and how they will do something unique; and
    • How they will make money – lower input costs, production efficiencies, premium price or volume increases.

    When looking at the product offering, Binchy advises companies to ask the hard questions. “Have you got any inherent future proofing protection for your product or service? What is unique about it? What is its lifecycle in the market? How much of your revenue is dependent on it? What are most profitable products?”

    The answers to these questions will help decide what products to retain or drop, as well as inform new product development efforts.

    Customers should be subject to a similar analysis, he advises. “Who uses your products? What are their demographics? Who are your most profitable customers? Where are they? What defines your ideal customer and where can you find more of them? Why are you still dealing with unprofitable customers?”

    This will assist in defining target customers. “Businesses should categorise customers into groups according to their profitability and different attributes, and then select which ones they want to deal with in future. This may lead them to stop dealing with some of them. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to fire customers who don’t value what you do.”

    The next step is to establish why these customers will buy from the business. “Go out and ask your customers,” Binchy advises. “Bring them in and talk to them about it. Find out the defining attributes of your most important customers and find ways of meeting their expectations. This will help you pick the right people to work for; people who value what you do. If a multinational has been buying from you for the past 10 years, you must be doing something right. Find out what that is and build on it.”

    Making money is the other and perhaps most critically important part of the jigsaw. This will require the business to look at the key business model drivers of products and services, marketing and sales, and finance, in terms of profitability, cashflow and return on investment. “They are the what, the who and the how of the business model,” Binchy explains. 

    “The enablers are your people and systems and processes that support the business. You can’t grow a business without all three drivers, being robust and in balance with each other. You can have great customers and products, but you won’t have a business if you’re not making money.” says Binchy

    An analysis of those drivers, along with the enablers, will give you a clear view of the revenue and cost bases of the business, and will help identify how the pathway to profitability can be bridged. “A business might look at reducing materials, labour or other operational costs. It can also look at production efficiencies or seek to increase prices if it can be positioned in a premium segment of the market.”

    The remaining question is how to finance the transition between the old and the reset business models. “The money and support are there to help companies bridge between the two. We just have to hope the transition period between them is going to be as short as possible,” Binchy adds. “The Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant is there to help businesses start the journey. It offers a 100% grant up to the value of €5,000 to fund the cost of a financial consultant to prepare a financial plan that shows exactly how the company intends to reset and adapt its business model as it emerges from lockdown. The Lean Business Continuity scheme offers vouchers worth up to €2,500 to fund the cost of training and advisory services.”

    He points to the €450 million Covid-19 Working Capital Loan scheme and the €200 million Future Growth Loan Scheme available through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland as potential sources of loan finance for companies.

    In addition, there are the Enterprise Ireland Sustaining Enterprise Funds which offer funding up to €800,000 to fund the implementation of stabilisation and viability plans. Smaller businesses can also apply for funding of up to €25,000 or €50,000, depending on the size of the business.

    Both schemes feature repayment moratoriums for the first three years, a very important consideration according to Binchy. “That is very attractive when the company doesn’t have repayment capacity for the moment. They can’t go to the banks if they are in that position. Businesses have to dance very carefully when seeking funding, and these schemes certainly help with that.”

    Learn more about the Enterprise Ireland supports available in our Accessing Liquidity & Managing Cashflow webinar

    Adapting your business model

    Adapting your business operations in response to Covid-19

    As businesses reset and recover, every aspect of a business’s operations should be examined and analysed to identify efficiencies and better ways of doing things

    Having identified a pathway out of the crisis, made required changes to the business model and developed a cash conservation strategy, businesses need to turn their attention to operational matters if they are to adapt quickly to the changed environment.

    Every aspect of a business’s operations should be examined and analysed to identify efficiencies, better ways of doing things, or things which shouldn’t be done at all. Companies around the world are already engaged in this process and those that delay will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, according to Business Transition Consultant Brendan Binchy.

    He points to a survey of 3,000 CEOs carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit which found that almost all of them are going to implement operational agility measures as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. “That train has already left the station as far as they are concerned,” he says. “Every company should take a quick and hard look through the whole functional side of its business.”

    He offers a checklist of the five core functional areas of the business which require attention – products and services, marketing and sales, finance, people, and systems and processes.

    “They need to take a walk through that checklist and identify areas where they can improve effectiveness and efficiency,” he adds. “For example, when looking at the operational model they should ask if it is possible to morph to online, or if product and service delivery modes can be changed.”

    On products and services, he advises careful management of stock levels as a starting point. 

    “New product development should also be reviewed, you have to look at the cost to bring it to market and how quickly it can generate new revenues streams or if you need to do it at all at the moment.” says Binchy

    Similarly, expansion plans should be subject to reappraisal and put on hold if not justified by a clear payback. Supplier relationships are also important, and discussions should be held with a view to reducing costs and achieving efficiencies.

    “With international supply chains, some companies are moving away from “just in time” policies to making sure there is “enough in time” to meet demand,” Binchy adds. “There is risk associated with internationalisation, and companies could consider moving to a portfolio of multiple suppliers to deal with this.”

    Other considerations relate to the production process itself. “If the company is starting up again, what needs to happen in the production flow? Does everyone need protective screening measures? Will you sub-contract some things out which had been done internally?”

    Turning to marketing and sales, he recommends a selective appraisal of investment, but with targeted reductions based on return on investment rather than wholesale cuts which could cut off the market cycle.

    Another area to look at is pricing strategy and the potential impact of discounting. Care should be taken to avoid a situation where discounts lead to volume increases which in turn may cause problems in the production process and perhaps divert resources from more profitable lines. It’s a classic case of weighing up the price volume trade off.

    The finance function should become more fully integrated into the management of the business, he advises. “The finance team should be a core part of the overall management team. This means you will know all the things you need to know about the business and its finances as they happen, rather than find out about them in a report two or three months later.”

    Binchy says communication is vital when dealing with people in your business. “You have to remember that you’re dealing with human beings and you should support them in the same way as you support your customers. When you are faced with implementing inevitable pay rationalisation measures you should segment your employees carefully to ensure that those people who are adding most value are rewarded appropriately.”

    The final item on the checklist is systems and processes. Along with people, these are the underlying enablers of the business and every element should be assessed to ensure it is delivering value to the business either in terms of revenue generation, service improvement, or efficiency and productivity gains. Regardless of how good a process can appear there is always a better way, Binchy notes.

    Businesses seeking to adapt and modify their operations to meet the changed environment created in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic can avail of support in the form of Enterprise Ireland Lean Business Continuity Voucher and the Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant.

    The Financial Planning Grant is worth up to €5,000 to pay up to 100% of the costs of an approved financial  consultant to work with the company on the development of a business and financial  plan, while the Lean Business Continuity Voucher is worth €2,500 and can be used for training or advisory services to help them identify and implement the measures needed to ensure they can continue to operate during the current period.

    Where additional finance is required to fund new initiatives Binchy points to the Enterprise Ireland Sustaining Enterprise Fund which offers funding of up to €800,000 to eligible companies. There is also a fund for smaller companies which offers funding of up to €25,000 and €50,000 depending on the size of the business.

    Learn more about the Enterprise Ireland supports available in our Accessing Liquidity & Managing Cashflow webinar