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.

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.

Salaso CEO Aoife ni Mhuiri

Salaso: Using market research to hone your growth strategy

Salaso CEO Aoife ni Mhuiri

Market research is important at every stage of building a business, not just when you’re exploring new markets and verticals. For Aoife Ní Mhuirí and Salaso, market research was vital when their precision exercise digital platform was inundated with requests from new customers over the last 12 months – and this is where Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre proved so useful.

“The last year has been an absolute gamechanger in terms of digital health, we experienced a large increase in inbound customer queries because we had the digital platform to deliver to patients under COVID restrictions.” explains Salaso CEO Aoife Ní Mhuirí

“As a small company, we had to focus on the right opportunities and we found the Market Research Centre particularly useful in understanding these customers. More strategically it is has helped us hone our market expansion strategy in the US.”

 

The growth of digital health

In business for 10 years, Salaso is a well-established digital platform designed for health professionals to make precision exercise prescriptions easily accessible for patients. The idea was born out of Aoife’s experience as a working chartered physiotherapist and her interest in e-learning and digital technology.

“I did the Endeavour Programme back in 2011 at the Institute of Technology in Tralee (now Munster Technological University), and that was essentially the start of Salaso. The company’s aim was to use technology and multimedia to make exercise a core part of healthcare and this led to the development of the Salaso platform . Physiotherapists, occupational therapists, primary care therapists, nurses, physicians and so on can use the infrastructure to engage their patients in exercise and physical activity programmes in order to  improve outcomes both for the patient and the clinic, hospital or practice.”

The platform can be used in countless scenarios, as Aoife explains. “It’s really for every patient; one of our clients in the US said that our infrastructure will benefit every person coming through their doors – and that’s true. No matter who you are or what you do, there’s always an exercise programme that can benefit your health and wellbeing – whether you have breast cancer, you’re recovering from a stroke, you have a pain in your back, you want to play sport and need to recover from a hamstring strain, there’s always an exercise programme for you.”

“We like to think of ourselves as pioneers in precision exercise, delivering the smart infrastructure that allows practitioners select and guide the patient in choosing the right exercise, at the right time and in the amount of time the patient has to engage in exercise.”

 

US growth ambitions

Headquartered in Kerry with offices in the UK and the US, Salaso is going from strength to strength. “There are huge opportunities for our platform in the US due to the direction that healthcare is taking over there – it’s very much about keeping people out of hospitals and surgeries, and that’s what our platform feeds into. We have an office on the East Coast and also in Nevada, working to target the value-based care market on the West Coast.”

That opportunity has grown even more due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as Aoife explains. “The pandemic changed the delivery and the consumption of healthcare forever, which is a good thing for many people, as there’s easier access to the care that they need – because the technology is  available and the infrastructure is there in the hospitals. The behaviour has changed too, now that digital healthcare is accessible. Think of someone who’s had a stroke or suffers from Parkinson’s disease who needs to access care or follow-up physiotherapy – before they would have been reliant on someone driving them there, maybe a son or daughter who has to take time off work, now they can access the care they need from the comfort of their own home.”

This, coupled with the fact that patients are becoming more educated about the many different forms of healthcare, has resulted in Salaso becoming a much sought-after platform.

“More patients are also now more involved and informed about their options; if there’s an exercise programme that might help postpone a surgery or improve recovery, then they want to know about it.”

“All of the evidence shows that if you engage with prehabilitation before surgery, the outcomes post-surgery are better. Even if you look at an area like cancer, exercise not only improves quality of life but it can also have a positive effect on survivorship.”

As Salaso grew, so did its need for market research; as Enterprise Ireland clients, the company was able to avail of the Market Research Centre to help them recognise opportunities and understand new markets. “We used the Market Research Centre for accessing a lot of the reports for the overseas markets, the US in particular,” Aoife explains.

“The centre was very useful for segmenting the industry, as well as identifying the possible leads that we could go after. It also helped us in understanding the market in the US, how reimbursement worked, and what has changed in the last 12 months. ” says Aoife

“The centre was very useful for segmenting the industry, as well as identifying the possible leads that we could go after. It also helped us in understanding the market in the US, how reimbursement worked, and what has changed in the last 12 months. For instance, a year ago, tele-health wasn’t reimbursed, but during the pandemic, reimbursement for tele health was brought in temporarily, and now it appears to be here for the long-haul. Getting information on topics like this is so useful when navigating a complicated market like the US healthcare market.”

The pandemic has accelerated Salaso’s growth as a company but expanding too fast can have its pitfalls too – and again, the data provided by the Market Research Centre can be invaluable. “There’s great opportunity for us to expand right now but we’re still an SME with limited resources, so knowing the best use of those resources is critical for the future of the company. And that’s where market research really comes in for a company like us.”

Learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre can support your company’s export ambitions.

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.

Image of Mo Harvey

 The future looks regulated – regtech report

Photo of Mo Harvey, fintech advisor

The Irish fintech sector has long been dominated by the payments industry but the regtech (regulatory technology) sector in particular has been quietly achieving great heights globally and without much fanfare, until now.

Mo Harvey, Financial Services & FinTech Advisor, Hong Kong, says the sector is often overlooked as it is not consumer-facing, but in fact regtech has been steadily growing in sophistication and applicability.

“There are varying definitions out there (as to what regtech is) but, at its core, it is the use of new technologies by institutions, banks, insurance companies or any regulated entity to meet regulatory compliance challenges in a more efficient way,” she explains. “It transforms risk management and compliance functions and enables companies to strategise and grow while complying with even the most complex regulations.

“Ireland is an important centre for international financial services with a high-quality talent pool working in legal, risk and compliance functions – currently, regtech is the largest indigenous fintech sub-sector and it is bubbling with promise.” says Harvey. 

 

Global Regtech Market

According to Harvey, regtech is the ‘unsung hero’ of the fintech sector and the Asia-Pacific region is ripe for Irish firms within in the sector.

“Pre-pandemic, the global regtech market was predicted to grow from USD$6.3 billion in 2020 to USD$16.0 billion by 2025, a rate of over 20% per year, with Asia-Pacific accounting for the highest growth rate over this period,” she says.  “However, COVID-19 caused an acceleration in adoption in tandem with a fintech boom so the market could hit as high as USD$30 billion by 2025.

“Market and industry drivers such as the 2008 financial crisis, increasing regulatory enforcement actions and fines, proactive regulators encouraging regtech adoption, digital banks, payments and lending, virtual assets and remote onboarding are just some of the contributing factors which have created opportunity for specialised solutions.

“Regtech adoption is mature in Europe and the USA, but Asia-Pacific presents an interesting opportunity for regtech companies. It is a uniquely fragmented region of developed and developing markets, with a number of sophisticated financial ecosystems and complex regulatory environments.” confirms Harvey. 

 

Expanding the Irish Regtech Footprint

Enterprise Ireland began its Asia-Pacific wide regtech initiative over three years ago and has just released its ground-breaking report on The State of RegTech in APAC, and Mo Harvey says the report has even garnered support from all the key fintech ecosystem players throwing their weight behind it, from the APAC RegTech Network and The Regtech Association of Australia to the FinTech Associations of Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia.

“We could see an increasing number of regtech companies coming out of Ireland and an alignment in terms of potential and opportunity in Asia-Pacific,” she says. “What started as an exclusive market research for Irish regtech companies to help them understand the nuances of the region, has now become the authority on regtech in Asia-Pacific.

“Consequently, people are starting to take note of what Irish regtechs have to offer out here.”

 

Plenty of opportunity for Irish firms

Covid 19 may have caused many problems for industry in every sector across the globe but the fintech expert says it has brought about some positivity for companies in the regtech sector.

Right now, we have a perfect storm of opportunity,” says Harvey. “Regtech adoption in Australia is well-advanced but it is at a relatively early stage in the Asian banking market with opportunities for further growth.

“While many banks have started using regtech, most commonly in financial crime, regtech is employed in a low percentage of risk management and regulatory compliance activities.

“The breadth of regtech adoption is expected to increase over the next year, especially in the areas of conduct, customer protection, regulatory and tax reporting, and regulatory compliance obligations.” says Harvey. 

“In addition, we are seeing regulators in key markets such as Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, all encouraging the adoption of regtech (some regulators going as far as incentivising banks to buy regtech solutions). So now is a good time for regtechs to start building at least one Asia-Pacific market into their expansion strategy.”

 

 Ireland’s Regtech Cluster of Excellence

In outposts around the world, Enterprise Ireland is working hard on behalf of Irish businesses and its strategy with regard to regtech is to help the sector cluster in Ireland to be synonymous with excellence.

“There are a number of Irish companies already enjoying global success,” says Mo Harvey. “These include Fenergo, Vizor, Daon, MyComplianceOffice and Know Your Customer, while AQMetrics, Cerebreon, Sedicii and DX Compliance are gaining international traction. Hopefully more can follow in their footsteps.

“Marrying Europe’s position as a global leader in regulatory and compliance standards with Enterprise Ireland’s investment in innovative technology-driven companies, has provided fertile soil for Ireland to have a world-class regtech cluster and support the imminent global regtech boom.”

 

To learn more download our State of Regtech APAC report.

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.

Jenny Melia, Minister Damien English, Katie Farrell

SQUID: Enabling every business reap the rewards of a customer loyalty scheme through a handy app

At a time when business recovery is on everybody’s mind, winning the loyalty of customers and ensuring repeat business has never been so important. Exactly in the right place at the right time is a new Irish company with a unique product that allows businesses of all sizes implement an effective loyalty scheme for a small price each month.

Established by engineering graduates and best friends Katie Farrell and Matthew Coffey, and supported by Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, SQUID is an innovative loyalty app that is free for customers to download and can hold “virtual” loyalty cards for a range of businesses.

“It was something that a few people were talking about,” explains Katie. “For instance, for food delivery, you have Deliveroo, Just Eat and so on, but for loyalty, many businesses were still using swipe cards, paper cards or their own app. People tend not to want to sign up to too many loyalty schemes because they mightn’t want a load of cards or different accounts.”

The concept is simple so it’s no surprise that Katie and Matthew quickly found several businesses interested in their idea. “It’s a free app, and currently we have over 600 sites on it. We have about 60,000 people using it now.

“The business gets a small device that the customer simply taps with their phone and it adds a “stamp” to their virtual card for that business.” explains Farrell

 This is the basic offering but we’ve added a lot more since then; for instance businesses can now reach out to their customers through push notifications. We’re also looking at doing more integrations as well, for example with food ordering and booking – so in other words, we’re looking at anything a business has to do to drive loyalty, and then we want to simplify it.”

 

Benefits for a small investment

The rewards to the business are significant, especially as the basic package costs just €20 per month. “The app is affordable, it’s free for the users, and it’s more eco-friendly than the printed cards. But people engage with it a lot more than with a paper cards. For instance, 91% of people that placed their first loyalty stamp with SQUID this year have gone on to make another purchase and get another loyalty stamp. And then there’s the ability to actually reach out to your customers as well. We also have a discovery page so you can find new businesses in your area. 

“Each business has their own branded profile page with opening hours, location, social media links, menu etc, so it’s a way of finding new customers too.” says Farrell

Another key benefit is that the business doesn’t have to worry about GDPR. “The contact details and identity of individuals are hidden from the business owners, so they don’t know who they’re talking to or can’t contact them individually by name,” says Katie. “So in a way it saves the businesses the worry about GDPR and for the customer, they can simply turn off the push notifications if they don’t want to receive communications.”

 

Working through Covid

The app launched in October 2019, as Katie and Matthew had put together a small waiting list of customers who were interested in the scheme when they heard about it through SQUID’s initial market research. “We launched with the first five customers in September 2019,” explained Katie. “We decided to start small and grow from there as we were a small team, but we started getting a lot of interest and were onboarding people regularly until Covid hit.”

The beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a significant shift in the company’s clients. “We began with a lot of city centre cafés and their customers would be office workers getting a coffee on their way to work. We could see a spike in the morning and then at lunchtime. But when people started working from home, that changed. We were worried at the start, but the café industry did recover and a lot of new places opened up in the suburbs.

“The lockdown gave us time to look at strategy and to market online through social media. To keep some sort of cashflow going, we also added a voucher market feature into the app so people could buy gift vouchers from the businesses they wanted to support during lockdown.”

SQUID had also won funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF), which allowed them to really establish the business before Covid hit and develop the app. Most significantly, Katie applied for the 2019 call for Women Entrepreneurs, which included a business accelerator programme that proved to be invaluable for the ongoing sustainability of the business during Covid.

“I applied for the CSF before we launched and had a waiting list of customers. We put a lot of work into the application and the pitch, and we got it. Before that we were self-funded, so getting the funds from the CSF was our first opportunity to do some more product development – to move it from being just a prototype to becoming an established business.

“I was part of the call for women entrepreneurs, which included participation in the Innovate programme. Each week we got to attend different workshops and talks from entrepreneurs and marketing experts. I found this great as I was able to meet other entrepreneurs who might be a little further along their path than me; I learnt a lot from the workshops and the various talks too. It was also great to get that day just to take a step back from the everyday challenges and work on the overall strategy of the business – I learnt a lot from this programme which definitely helped with the success of the business so far through a challenging time.”

Visit this page for more information about the Competitive Start Fund.

Why Export title

Export Journey: Step 1 – Why Export?

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Export Journey: Step 3 – Positioning Strategy

Positioning Strategy title and businessman

Your positioning strategy should set out what you will do to achieve a favourable perception in your new export market.

Typically companies will try to achieve the same brand positioning regardless of the market. A coherent positioning strategy can be hugely advantageous, so it’s important when reviewing the export potential of your products/goods or services to consider the following:

1. Customer profiles

  • What is your current USP and will this translate to your new foreign export markets ?
  • Do you understand your domestic customer profile? E.g. age profile, socio-economic grouping etc.
  • Are there other significant demographic patterns to your product or service’s usage?
  • Have you considered the need to modify your product/service to facilitate differences in language, culture and business environments?
  • How do you plan to deliver your services to foreign markets ? In person, via a local partner or using digital resources?

2. Market Pricing and Value Propostion

  • Consideration whether any necessary changes to make your product/service more appealing to foreign markets and customers?
  • If you’re exporting services, what makes them unique within global markets?
  • Have you benchmarked your services in a global context? Would they be considered to be world-class and stand up to stronger scrutiny?
  • Have you considered the cost implications of servicing overseas markets? Including FX rates and fluctuations?
  • Does your product have a shelf life and will this be impacted by time in transit?
  • Will your packaging have the same impact in a foreign market or can it be easily modified to satisfy new demands?
  • Are there any climatic or geographic factors that could affect the uptake of your product or service in other markets?

3. Route to Market

  • Do you need special export licensing or documentation to export? i.e. technical or regulatory requirements localised to the market?
  • Are there considerations for the safe transportation of your product to global markets ? i.e. specialized containers or packaging materials?
  • Would transportation costs make competitive pricing a problem?
  • How efficiently does your target market process incoming shipments?

4. Capacity to support

  • In the event that your domestic/export demand increases beyond current projections, will you still be able to look after both markets?
  • Will you be able to serve both your existing domestic customers and any new foreign clients?

 

5. Further considerations

  • Do you require a local presence or representation?
  • Will your products/service require local professional support or can this be done digitally?
  • Will after-sales service be required ? Can it be easily sourced locally or do you have to provide it? Does you have the resources to provide it?
  • Are there legal / IP implications to consider when entering global markets?

Once your positioning strategy is in development, it’s time to consider how to develop your export strategy and access your target market.

 

Take the next step in the Export Journey

 

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Export Journey: Step 4 – Developing your Export Strategy

The next step is your export plan. You may have ideas but you need to clearly communicate them in writing so that your whole team is clear on their responsibilities. Having a plan laid out makes it easier to spot pitfalls, gaps and even additional opportunities!

The export plan is also key in seeking supports in term of financing or grants.  Don’t overcomplicate it, keep it clear and simple.

The key elements of a successful export plan include:

1. The Vision

  • What you are going to do. How you are going to do it. What your expected outcome is.

2. Human Resources

  • Have you the staff, external support and expertise? Have you skills within your team to manage language and cultural differences?

3. Financial Resources

  • Budget, Sales targets and Pricing – Consider the additional costs involved in selling into the overseas market. Establish a target price for the end user, taking into consideration currency, payment terms, freight and carriage charges, import duties and taxes, commission to partners and competitors’ pricing.

4. Target Market

  • Why you have selected this market; who your buyers are.

5. Your Product

  • Your USP and how it translates internationally. Are there external factors which could impact production or sales?

6. Market Entry

  • Sales channels; marketing plan; regulations, language and local laws.

7. Monitoring and Developing the market

  • Are you meeting sales targets?

8. What’s next?

  • How do you plan to grow and scale?

Access the Market Entry Page