Discussing business opportunities

Scaling into Europe for business success

A growing number of Irish companies are blazing a trail into Europe. Here’s why.

If ever there was a time to diversify and seek opportunities in new markets, for Irish businesses the time is now.

As a member of the Eurozone, Irish firms are well positioned for market diversification. Although launching into a new market carries risks, the Eurozone offers several advantages.

First, there is easy access to 340 million people in 19 states that share the single currency. There is the Eurozone’s stable economy that, as a bloc, will continue to grow a further 1.3% through 2019. The benefits of single currency should not be underestimated, offering zero currency risk without fluctuating exchange rates or conversion costs.

Trade in the Eurozone also benefits from the absence of tariffs and customs, while a common regulatory environment means that Irish goods and services comply with EU legislation.


Irish companies in Europe

Irish companies have blazed a trail into Europe before, for these reasons and more. At Enterprise Ireland’s Eurozone Summit earlier this year, Irish firms described how diversification has proven to be the key to growth. Among them was Irish workwear company Portwest, who warned that when a single client went under, they lost 35% of their business.

“It taught us a hard lesson about diversification,” said Orla Hughes, the firm’s European Commercial Manager. “If we didn’t expand to Europe, we would have 50% of our business now.”

That move 15 years ago, has seen the firm build out its sales model through distributors, and Hughes believes the Eurozone offers huge potential. “In our top 10 Eurozone countries, we have 4,500 customers or distributors of our products. When it comes to the Eurozone, even though we have been there 15 years, we feel we have only scratched the surface. Of the 60 trade shows we did worldwide last year, 35 of them were in the Eurozone. It’s got enormous potential for us.”

There were key learnings for Portwest as it hit new markets with its workwear range. For instance, in Germany, orange hi-visibility workwear vests are typically the preserve of refuse collectors, so local differences can affect sales, said Hughes.


Some Irish start-ups have seen success by taking their first steps in Europe.

When ParkPnP, a parking marketplace, conducted market research, it found strong competitors already in its target market – the UK – so opted instead to move directly into the European space, with the densely populated Benelux region firmly in its sights. By acquiring a local Belgian firm in the same space, it quickly acquired market share and, importantly, local market knowledge.

CEO Garret Flower described the critical importance of doing market research ahead of launching into a new territory: “You are immediately drawn to Germany because of the scale. It sounds huge.

“But dig a little deeper and you find that Germans don’t pay for their parking via apps; 90% of them still prefer to pay by coin.

“When we looked at Europe, we saw it was very much a greenfield, so we believed that if we could get to market first, we could grow quickly to maximise unused parking space with our solution.” ParkPnP CEO, Garret Flower 

The decision to locate in Belgium paid off, and the firm has adopted a franchising model to branch into the Netherlands.

“Having done it this way, we feel we have a solid foundation to roll out across Europe and can now go into France and Germany. Franchising with local players, for us, we felt was, and is, the best way to roll out. It gives us speed and speed helps us to scale.”

In order to successfully tap into Eurozone markets all elements of new market entry preparations are required: market research to select the market with the best opportunities, a value proposition that matches the new market and highlights your competitive advantage, the right route to market, and the resourcing of people, skills and funding to make it happen.

Enterprise Ireland’s world-class Market Research Centre has extensive resources to aid your research, while our Excel at Market Intelligence programme will advise how best to conduct market research.

Our Market Discovery fund is a key financial support for new market entry, ensuring you have funding to research, get expert advice and conduct market study visits. GradStart provides up to 70% of two-year salaries for graduates with relevant market language skills.

Companies we support benefit from our market advisers’ near-unmatched knowledge of market dynamics, target buyers, networks and ecosystems across six Eurozone locations. When you’re ready to enter the market, we offer a key manager grant to help co-fund the salary of personnel with the right skills to work with market advisers and drive your diversification plans.

Irish start-up Hidramed aims to revolutionise wound care with innovative product

“I think Ireland is a great place to be a female entrepreneur. There are so many networking opportunities and great support. It’s just a case of finding it and using it.

Suzanne Moloney, Founder and CEO, Hidramed Solutions

Key Takeouts:

  • Need for a solution to a medical issue led to the development of an innovative wound management system.
  • Mentoring helped progress to happen quickly.
  • The right support is essential to success at every phase of the journey, from prototype to launch and beyond.

Case Study: Hidramed

Finding a solution to a problem leads to the development of innovative and vital products – or to put it another way, necessity is the mother of invention. One Irish entrepreneur who embodies this phrase is Suzanne Moloney, whose very real need for a solution to managing her medical issue led to the development of a new and innovative wound management system, HidraWear.

HidraWear is the first product from Hidramed Solutions, and was developed with the support of Enterprise Ireland, which has announced a new €750k Competitive Start Fund (CSF) for Women Entrepreneurs, opening for applications on 25 June 2019. Suzanne herself was the recipient of a grant from a previous round of the CSF for Women Entrepreneurs, and believes that it is this type of support that helps the growth of women in the business world. “I think Ireland is a great place to be a female entrepreneur – there are so many networking opportunities, great support – it’s just a case of finding it and using it.”


Hidramed Solutions was inspired by patient frustrations

Suzanne was inspired to start Hidramed Solutions and develop HidraWear when she found that her own frustration at managing her medical condition was shared by other patients. “I have a condition called HS, or hidradenitis suppurativa. It’s a debilitating disease of the skin that affects at least 1% of the population globally, and it’s incurable. It causes lesions in the skin in places like the armpit and the groin, quite sensitive areas, which would need to be covered with a bandage. I was a chef and a baker and quite physically active in my work, and to keep a dressing on my thigh or armpit would be virtually impossible – they’d just fall off due to the moisture in the area and the fact that these areas are not flat surfaces and need to move in multiple directions. I’ve come across other HS patients improvising with sanitary towels and kitchen paper – there was literally no solution there for HS patients.

Hidramed documentation“I found myself spending far too much time on trying to manage these dressings. The straw that really broke the camel’s back was when I attended a friend’s hen party and was talking to the groom’s mother. I was shaking her hand and a dressing just fell out of my dress. I always had this idea to develop some sort of solution and that just spurred me on to really find something that worked for HS patients.”

After initial work with a product designer that didn’t progress, Suzanne decided to try again, this time with the help of Enterprise Ireland. “I applied for a co-funded Innovation Voucher to develop a prototype with design experts at NCAD.”

The result was HidraWear. “The product removes the need for using adhesive on the skin, which can damage the skin around the lesion if you’re constantly putting bandages on the area, causing medical adhesive-related skin injuries (MARSI). We’re also giving back control to HS patients by making changing a dressing quick, painless and easy. It’s very discreet and convenient too.”

“It’s a Class one medical device, so the regulatory burden is quite low, which means we can roll it out to other countries relatively quickly.” says Moloney.

The product is scheduled for launch towards the end of 2019, initially in the UK and Irish markets, but the plan is to roll it out quickly into the US and throughout Europe. We are beginning with an armpit solution and then moving onto products for other areas of the body quite quickly. But we also plan to be a support system for HS patients – we want to help, not just be a dressing company.”


Getting support from prototype to launch

Going from prototype to launching a working product is a long journey, but Suzanne did the research and found plenty of support along the way. “We received a grant from the CSF for Women Entrepreneurs in 2018. We also received invaluable advice and guidance along the way. Through the mentoring programme, we were paired with Aileen McGrath, who is a marketing expert and highly skilled in ecommerce – which was really vital, as we are selling directly to the consumer, an unusual approach for a medical product.

“I made some mistakes at the start but once I got the right advice, things began to happen for me very quickly – particularly when I was accepted on the BioExel Medtech Accelerator Programme at NUI Galway, which is backed by Enterprise Ireland. This was a six-month programme that taught me everything I needed to know about developing a medical device and developing a business.”

Once the first product is launched, growing its distribution and developing more products are the next items on Suzanne’s list.  The company plans to sell direct to consumer to begin with but is developing reimbursement strategies for the UK and USA, with plans to sell into healthcare channels too.

“We also have a whole series of products planned for the future, for example, adhesive-free bandaging for elderly patients, venous leg ulcers and pressure sores. Our market entry point, however, is through HS.”

Enterprise Ireland’s €750,000 Competitive Start Fund (CSF) for Women Entrepreneurs is open for applications between 25 June and 16 July 2019. Under this CSF, up to €50,000 in equity funding is available to a maximum of 15 successful women applicants with early stage start-up companies. In addition, up to 15 of the successful applicants will be offered a place on Dublin BIC’s INNOVATE accelerator programme.


Sourcing the right Eurozone market for your business

Exporting to the Eurozone makes sense for Irish firms for several reasons. We share a common currency. Trade within the Eurozone benefits from the absence of tariffs and customs. A common regulatory environment means that Irish goods and services comply with EU legislation.

The Eurozone offers ease of access to 340 million people in the 19 states that share the single currency and a stable economy that, as a bloc, will continue to grow a further 1.3% through 2019.

Although the Eurozone’s population is five times that of the UK, it accounts for only 20% of all Irish exports. As such, it presents what Minister for Trade Pat Breen T.D. described as one of the greatest sources of “untapped export potential” at Enterprise Ireland’s Eurozone Summit earlier this year.


How to find the right Eurozone market for you

Finding the right market fit for your exports requires groundwork and an awareness that Europe is composed of different economies and markets, each with its own advantages and barriers to entry.

In order to successfully enter Eurozone markets, all elements of new market entry preparations are required: market research to select the market with the best opportunities, a value proposition that matches the new market and highlights your competitive advantage, the right route to market, and the resourcing of people, skills and funding to make it happen.

Some countries have well-known strengths and sectoral specialisms. At the Eurozone Summit, delegates heard from market experts who outlined some of the major opportunities – and some of the risks – that member state economies hold for Irish exporters.


Opportunities across the Eurozone

Germany is the largest Eurozone economy and the world’s fourth largest. Famed for its manufacturing sector, there are also opportunities for Irish exporters in the automotive, pharmaceuticals and medical device sectors. As one of the biggest foreign direct investors in the Irish medtech sector, German firms are familiar with Irish innovation and regard it highly.

Accessing Germany requires breaking into long-standing supply chains built on loyalty and quality, with consistency a key driver for German consumers. Decision making and order lead-in times can be protracted but the Irish reputation for flexibility stands exporters in good stead.

While many German brands are well known internationally, the domestic economy is driven by SMEs or ‘mittelstadts’, Angela Cullen, Senior Editor at Bloomberg Frankfurt, told the Eurozone Summit.

“Thousands of them form the backbone of the economy and they have honed their products to be market leaders. Partnering with a German sectoral partner may be necessary to get a market foothold.”

The nearby Benelux countries are some of the most densely populated areas of the Eurozone, allowing the rollout of a product to a large cross section within a small geographic area.

The Netherlands has long positioned itself as the number one logistics nation of the Eurozone with Rotterdam often referred to as ‘Germany’s largest port’.

As well as being the first point of entry for many physical goods, the Netherlands acts as a first point of entry for data as it is home to some of the largest data centres in Europe. Irish construction consultancy and build expertise is valued by the Dutch, with the sector continuing to show growth, and Dutch firms focused on securing their design and build supply chains post-Brexit.

“It is an extremely developed economy that is open to business and used to working with partners so it is natural for the Dutch to partner with fellow member states to bring off a project,” Willem Noë from the European Commission in Ireland said.

Belgium is often said to be one of the best test markets for products, given its population mix, and can be an ideal testbed, Ruben Hamilius, managing director of Businessgames Ireland, told the event.

“But be warned, the biggest mistake I see is exporters think ‘Build it once, sell it forever’ but that is not really the case. You need to do your research, as the product fit may not be right. Belgium is great for that.”

It certainly suited Irish parking marketplace start-up Parkpnp, who rolled out its parking app tech in Belgium first, eschewing its home market and the UK. The company has now honed its product into a franchising model already in place in the Netherlands and is rolling it out into France and Germany after learning valuable lessons in the testbed market.

In France, local language skills can be crucial, while supply chains are generally built on face-to-face contact rather than via the internet.


Enterprise Ireland supports can help

Enterprise Ireland’s world-class Market Research Centre has extensive resources to aid your research, while our Excel at Market Intelligence programme will advise how best to conduct market research.

Our Market Discovery fund is a key financial support for new market entry, ensuring you have funding to research, get expert advice and conduct market study visits. GradStart provides up to 70pc of two-year salaries for graduates with relevant market language skills.

Companies we support benefit from our market advisers’ near-unmatched knowledge of market dynamics, target buyers, networks and ecosystems across six Eurozone locations. When you’re ready to enter the market, we offer a key manager grant to help co-fund the salary of personnel with the right skills to work with market advisers and drive your diversification plans.

These supports will help ensure you find the right market fit and  “take advantage of the Eurozone”, as advised by the first President of the European Council, Count Herman Van Rompuy, at the Eurozone Summit.



Swiss time

Smart Swiss production creates opportunity for Irish suppliers

Jens Altmann, a market adviser based in Enterprise Ireland’s Dusseldorf office, explains why Irish exporters are looking to Switzerland.

Fittingly for an alpine country, Switzerland offers a mountain of opportunity for Irish businesses. Although small, at just over half the size of Ireland, Switzerland is highly business-focused, boasting the second-highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world.

The Swiss manufacturing sector includes many familiar names due to an Irish presence. These include ABB Technologies, a global leader in power, robotics and automation technology, and Liebherr, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of construction machinery, helping to shape technological advances across many industries.

The development and implementation of digital applications is supported by the country’s infrastructure, data governance, education and workforce, subsidies, and other factors. Continuous development at Switzerland’s high level requires a comprehensive and reliable supply chain. That creates a variety of opportunities, particularly for companies developing smart manufacturing and industrial internet of things (IIoT) solutions.

Ralf Guenthner, Senior Partner at Swiss consultancy TEAM-FACTORY, comments, “Most technology companies in Switzerland are aware of the value IIoT and digitalisation could create for them. Developing a new mindset and holistic approach, combining technology, organisational changes and human behaviours, as well as building up a strong ecosystem, would boost value realisation.”

Ireland’s IoT industry is one of the most dynamic in the world, with companies largely focused on the industrial space, and providing software, platforms, sensors, integrated circuits, antennas, and more. Irish companies target a range of sectors including manufacturing, transport, logistics and engineering, with the aim of increasing operational efficiency, improving productivity, and enhancing health and safety.


Focus on Innovation

Last year, Enterprise Ireland hosted a trade mission to Zurich to help Irish companies explore IIoT opportunities in Switzerland. Over two days, 10 Irish companies engaged with industry associations, visited Swiss world-class manufacturers, and attended a targeted workshop and networking session.

Swiss multinational Schindler was one company Irish attendees visited during the trade mission. Schindler is well known for its elevators, escalators, and moving walk-ways, carrying both people and materials, and connecting vertical and horizontal transport systems through intelligent mobility solutions. Schindler’s futuristic PORT Technology lab in Switzerland showcases their ideas for innovative new transit management systems and urban living concepts.

Based in Zurich, ETH University is famous for cutting-edge research in areas such as microelectronics and robotics, and is one of the world’s top ten institutions. Enterprise Ireland collaborated with the university to host an afternoon workshop that brought together Irish companies and Swiss industry experts.

Compelling questions addressed during the session include – How do machines optimally collect and share data with other machines? How can they operate with increasing autonomy? Which applications are most impacting the development of IIoT and Machine to Machine (M2M)? How can opportunities for suppliers of everything from antennae and chips, to sensors and software, be captured?


Irish Swiss relations

Enterprise Ireland’s Dusseldorf office is focused on helping IoT companies to identify and exploit opportunities arising from the digitalisation of Swiss industry, and across the wider German-language region. We are extending our engagement with Swiss companies and industry leaders to actively promote Ireland as a technology provider for the IIoT value chain.

Switzerland’s high-tech leadership and the collaboration with suppliers from an international value chain, combine to make it a high-potential market for growing new business and technology partnerships.

Brigid O’Donovan, technology business consultant facilitating collaboration between world-class Swiss and Irish technology organisations, confirmed the potential of Swiss-Irish collaboration, noting, “Both countries are well positioned to take advantage of the productivity and economic growth opportunities of digitalisation.”

There is now a significant opportunity for Irish companies to become part of Switzerland’s enhanced value chain. That is a summit worth achieving.


This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

Irish companies banking United States

How to manage US banking, employees and legal fees

Two challenges that Irish companies sometimes experience when preparing to export to the United States for the first time involve banking and employment. The following pointers will help you to prepare.

Download the full Going Global USA: Learn your Legals guide now.

All US banks require an Employer Identification Number (EIN) confirmation letter, also known as Form SS4, before opening a business account in your company’s name.


How to apply for an Employer Identification Number

You can apply for an EIN online on the Internal Revenue Services website, if you already have a US social security number (SSN), or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

If you don’t have an SSN, you can apply for an EIN from the IRS by fax or have a lawyer act as a ‘third-party designee’ to prepare and process an EIN application on your behalf.


If you have an EIN

Some banks will accept a copy of a fax from the IRS assigning your business entity with an EIN. Others will need to see the EIN verification letter sent by the IRS, which can take weeks to arrive.

Most banks will also require a copy of the company’s formation documents – US business address and annual statement of officers and directors.

To comply with mandatory anti-money laundering legislation, US banks need to verify the identity of those opening business accounts under Know Your Customer (KYC) rules. There are several ways the requirement can be met:

  • Get a visitor visa to travel to the US and personally open an account at your bank of choice
  • Use third-party services to help you set up an account
  • Some banks will set up an account without the relevant corporate officer being in the United States. If acting on a referral from a legal representative, the process can be completed via email.


Employment considerations

Irish companies should carefully plan their approach to hiring personnel in the US as there are a number of potential pitfalls to be aware of. For example, if you hire someone as a consultant or independent contractor, it could later be determined that they are actually an employee under US law. Improper classification risks exposing a company to penalties and liabilities, including the withholding of taxes, benefits, and the possibility of being sued by the employee.

Laws governing US employment and benefits are complicated, which makes it vital for potential exporters to seek the advice of legal professionals.

As US benefits packages vary widely and differ significantly from those in Ireland, companies should seek advice on what employees in specific roles are likely to expect when considering a job offer.


Legal costs

For small companies using a lawyer or legal service provider for help with company formation and setting up, fixed fee packages in the range US$3,000 to US$5,000 are available. Packages usually include general counsel, registration fees, and the creation of incorporation, confidentiality agreements and stock issuance.

In general, you can expect to pay additional fees for operating and shareholder agreements, as they can be highly complex. While legal assistance with IP transfers can also be costly due to complexity, many Irish companies keep IP rights within the Irish parent, with the US entity established as a servicing company.


Access more insights on doing business in the US.

Czech Republic

Central Europe: Old town, new export opportunities

Ladislav Müller, manager for central and southeast Europe at Enterprise Ireland, describes new opportunities that are proving attractive to Irish exporters.

From Dublin, it only takes two hours on a packed plane to land in Prague. The city is a popular tourist destination and capital of the Czech Republic, one of the fastest growing economies in Central Europe. As thousands of tourists rushed to the cobbled streets of its old town, Czech Gross Domestic Product increased by 4.5% in the first quarter of 2018. Neighbouring Slovakia has shown 3.6% growth, with Hungary at 4.7%, and Romania at 4.2%.

According to EY’S Attractiveness Survey 2017, Central Europe attracted nearly half of Europe’s industrial investment projects in the period. Its strengths are its geographical links, good infrastructure, the quality of its human capital, and its productivity. The provision of EU funds is another key driver, particularly for Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The Financial Times projected an improved economic picture for the region, based on stronger-than-expected global demand, tighter labour markets, government stimulus measures, and easy financing conditions.

Irish exports to the region have also grown for the last ten years, even during the recession.


Irish exporting success in Central Europe

Many Irish exporters are growing sales by supplying large multinational corporations with a base in the region. Ventac, vehicle and industrial noise control specialists from county Wicklow, set up a regional sales office in the Czech Republic, while Waterford’s PPI Adhesive Products, a leading manufacturer of technical adhesive tapes, run their regional sales operations from Slovakia. Portwest, the Mayo-based designer and manufacturer of high-quality workwear, have a CEE sales headquarters in Hungary.

But Irish companies are not only targeting large multinational companies. Central European agriculture has experienced remarkable growth over the past number of years, supported by an expanding food industry, domestic investments, and EU farm subsidies. Between 2014 and 2020, CAP and EARDF subsidies will reach €26 billion in Romania, €8.3 billion in Hungary, and €7 billion in the Czech Republic. Spending is driven by pressures on efficiency and food safety, environmental and animal welfare regulations, and requirements for farm machinery upgrade or replacement.

In 2017 MooCall, producers of unique calving sensors, were awarded a Gold Medal for innovation at AnimalTech trade fair in the Czech Republic, followed by Dairymaster, who won the Grand Prix at Czech TechAgro 2018 for smart technology for their MooMonitor health and fertility monitoring system.

Enterprise Ireland runs a long-term programme called Opportunities in Agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe that helps Irish farming machinery and technology producers to enter local markets.

Many Irish companies perceive Central Europe as a source of competitive advantage on the continent. Kingspan, producer of insulation panels, celebrated twenty years for its plant in Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic in May 2018. PM Group, international providers of services in engineering, architecture, project management and construction management opened offices in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 2010. Grafton Recruitment and CPL Jobs are market leaders in human resources management across the region, while many Irish technology companies set up in Romania to service customers.


A hub for business process outsourcing

Central Europe is also one of the fastest growing locations for business process outsourcing (BPO) centres and service companies in Europe. According to Outsourcing Advisors, a third of major outsourcing companies now come from Central and Eastern Europe. Ireland has a very strong offer for BPO operators, who are in turn always seeking solutions that drive efficiencies or offer cost savings.


Untapped opportunities in Central Europe

As Brexit uncertainties continue, Central Europe offers significant export market potential, thanks to its closeness to Ireland, strong Irish presence, and concentration of multinationals and local buyers.

To support further growth, Minister of State Pat Breen led an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Warsaw and Prague last June, targeting opportunities across the engineering, electronics, enterprise software, and medical devices sectors. Irish companies signed contracts in excess of €7.5 million during the mission.

Enterprise Ireland’s office in the Czech Republic is ready to facilitate market research visits, introductions to buyers, and searches for distributors, to help companies we support to win new opportunities in an exciting region.

Learn more on how Enterprise Ireland supports businesses to diversify at Markets & Opportunities.

This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

winning contracts US

Negotiating the non-negotiables: Tips for winning contracts in the US

In a David and Goliath business encounter, David stands a better chance of success if it is obvious that he is good at what he does, said Sally Hughes, CEO of the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM), speaking at this year’s E3 Entrepreneurship Export Exchange conference, organised by Enterprise Ireland and Global Situation Room.


IACCM is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to raising the value and integrity of trading relationships worldwide, working side-by-side with both buyers and suppliers and with both mega-corporations and SMEs.

In her presentation, Hughes covered three lists:

  • the most common terms included in standard US contracts
  • the most important terms included in US contracts
  • strategies that SMEs need to adopt when dealing with major corporations.

She also described an example of an unnamed SME owner who negotiated a life-changing deal with retail giant Walmart and discussed how Irish firms could follow their example.


Show you’re an expert in your field

“In an environment where one side has significant buying power, as a supplier you have to demonstrate great quality and value,” she says. “More importantly, you need to present yourself as an expert in your field.

“The one area where there will inevitably be negotiation is price but it’s critical not to get dragged down in those discussions early on. In fact, in the first few meetings you don’t want to be negotiating price at all. The key to meaningful negotiation, and to the effective management of risk, is to get to know the buyer well.”

In Hughes’s Walmart example, the successful SME supplier spent 18 months getting to understand the retail giant’s needs. Notably, when the supplier was offered a contract with Walmart’s non-negotiable conditions, his lawyer warned him that the terms were ‘too risky’ and could cause the collapse of his business but the supplier continued to negotiate a deal.


Negotiating contracts in the US

According to Hughes, the terms most commonly negotiated in standard contracts in the US include:

  • Limitations of liability
  • Indemnification
  • Price, charges and price changes
  • Termination of contract
  • Scope and specification
  • Warranty
  • Performance guarantees and undertakings
  • Payment terms
  • Data protection, security and cyber-security
  • Liquidated damages.

Indeed, the IACCM chief said that, very often in contract negotiations, the areas that partners battle over the most are not always the most important. Hughes advised that the most important contract terms to focus on are those that will contribute most to your success, largely:

  • Scope and goals
  • Responsibilities
  • Prices, charges and price changes
  • Service levels
  • Performance, guarantees, undertakings
  • Limitation of liability
  • Payment terms
  • Warranty
  • Product specification

In the Walmart case, the SME owner believed he had to be better than the competition at accepting and managing risk. As part of his deal with the retailer, he requested access to sales data so that he could assume responsibility for ensuring that his products moved off the shelf.

“Success depends on the quality of the information flow from buyer to seller,” said Hughes. “Transparency is key and is in both parties’ best interest. This is about a partnership, no matter what your relative side.”


Winning business in the US

If you want to win business from bigger customers than you have ever had before in the United States, Hughes advised following these strategies:

  • Be better than your competition at accepting and managing risk
  • Demonstrate your expertise and educate your buyer – before discussing price
  • Get the buyer emotionally involved in your product or service
  • Demand quality information flows between you and your customer
  • You might not be able to negotiate ‘boilerplate’ – the standard terms and conditions listed at the end of most contracts – but you can ensure you implement good governance through communication protocols and problem-solving techniques
  • Even if it seems like a David and Goliath scenario, it is about a partnership. Big buying power doesn’t have to mean big negotiation power – that is down to you.

“Selling in the US market takes planning and it takes persistence,” added Hughes. “You need to understand who you are selling to, what rules and procedures they’ll be following, how will they measure value and what weightings they’ll apply to selection criteria.

“You’ll also need to have developed a negotiation strategy, how you will convince them that you are a reliable supplier committed to the market, that you are an expert in your field, that you are passionate about your product or service and that you understand fully the nature of your competition. You need to educate your buyer.”


Read more on doing business in the US market.

Irish exporters to Germany

How we got the German market to work for us

As German businesses demand detailed certainty, not just now but long-term, after-sales, support and clear future planning are key to building more than just a foray into the market to deliver a sustained successful expansion for Irish firms.

While the German cultural and business identity centred on convention, conservatism and future-proofing may at first appear quite different from the Irish propensity for dynamism, innovation and can-do delivery, many Irish firms have made successful entries to this biggest market in Europe.

At the Ambition Germany event organised by Enterprise Ireland, Irish firms already active in the market shared why and how they chose Germany, and insights into their success.


Major opportunities and significant challenges in the German market

The opportunities are huge, given the size of the world’s fourth-largest economy but the challenges can also be substantial. It is a mature market with long-established supply chains and a preference for supplier loyalty.

Robert Byrne, director of Burnside Eurocyl, the Carlow-based hydraulic cylinder manufacturer, ventured into Germany in the early 1980s: “A combination of a weak pound and strong Deutsche Mark made our product very competitive so we set up a sales office in Germany. That was vital. You need constant feet on the ground. You simply have to have a presence in the market you intend to sell into.”

German deals must be taken seriously. Negotiations can take a long time and Germans dislike ambiguity.

“This is why, when we sell, we don’t send a sales rep but an engineer. The client can see the solution we are offering – and get the detail clearly explained. They very much appreciate that,” added Byrne.

Since taking advice from Enterprise Ireland on exploring a new market, Paul O’Sullivan, managing director of Irelands Eye Knitwear, said exports now comprise 55% of all sales with Germany being its biggest overseas market.

He told delegates: “We were encouraged to get into Germany by Enterprise Ireland but we found customers very loyal to their supply base. It’s hard to get a meeting but if you do, you’re halfway there. They will do a lot of research on you before agreeing to meet, so to get that point is a very good sign. But if you want to get to the next level you’re going to have have people on the ground, so we needed sales agents in Germany to get to there.”

Cold-calling is frowned upon in Germany and privacy is highly valued – and regulated – so do not squander a meeting or bombard with marketing material. Pat Ward, managing director of Western Automation, electrical safety specialists, said establishing the firm’s credibility and its reputation for long-term delivery was key.

“Establish your credibility to supply them with a solution for their needs. Your credibility is vested in you, not your product, and that comes from your ability to supply as promised, deliver on technical support. When dealing with German firms, be credible, be believable, and always do it in person.”

Initial successes for Burnside Eurocyl came from the firm’s dynamic approach. “We grew because we were fast and flexible and that’s what made us competitive in the German market. But we did make some mistakes. We went for sales before we had capacity and we lost customers because of that. If you give a lead-in time, stick to it.”

Expansion for Western Automation was boosted by attending one of many trade shows – Germany is one the world’s leading venues for trade shows.

Enterprise Ireland can advise on which trade shows are most beneficial for your company to attend. Recently, 34 Irish companies were supported to showcase their solutions at the world-renowned Medica and EuroTier trade fairs, leading events for medtech and agritech respectively. More than 250,000 people attended the events.

“We bit the bullet and did a trade fair in Hannover. It showed we were a company of substance. Before we went to Hannover, we had one German customer. After Hannover, we had 5.

“It’s not a cost, it’s an investment,” said Ward.


For more insights on doing business in Germany visit our German Market Insights pages.






How Modular Automation transformed into a substantial international exporter

Over the past five years, Modular Automation, a 32 year-old Shannon-based company that delivers advanced technological solutions for the manufacturing industry, has grown its business significantly thanks to export success.

The company delivers automation solutions for advanced manufacturers, including custom solutions and build-to-print machines for clients such as Johnson & Johnson, Boston Scientific, Stryker and Medtronic.

Working with these companies’ manufacturing sites in Ireland provided Modular Automation with invaluable opportunities to sell into their sister sites overseas, attendees heard at Competing for the Future, a breakfast briefing organised by Enterprise Ireland as part of its International Markets Week programme.


International markets are now hugely important for Modular Automation

Leveraging multinational clients here and following them overseas enabled the company to grow revenues and double staff to 150 people, CEO Vivian Farrell noted.

International markets are now “hugely important in terms of reaching our ambitions for growth,” said Farrell.

Three years ago, the company opened a US office, in Florida. The idea was not just to service the sister sites of clients in Ireland but to also serve as a base from which to develop new customers.  “That is our strategy for growth and it is working for us, but it’s only achievable if we do a good job for the multinationals in Ireland, and critical to that is R&D and innovation,” she said.

“We’re investing heavily in R&D and innovation in Ireland and we see that as a catalyst for growth, in particular in the US.”

Much of Modular Automation’s research and development comes as a result of co-investment with customers here. “The machines that we develop for our customers haven’t existed before, so it’s primarily custom automation. It’s new and it’s risky, and it involves a lot of R&D. But when we crack it, very often there’s a market for that in their sister sites,” she said.


Winning business across the US

While Modular Automation already had a significant customer base in Florida when it chose to locate there, the company has succeeded in winning business right across the US, from New York to the West Coast.

“We opened the office in 2015 but started planning it in 2014. The background to it was that there was a lot of discussion around Made in America at the time. We felt it was a risk that was going to make it more difficult for our customers – and potential customers – in the US to do business with us, unless we had a base there. We felt we needed to commit investment to the US, get boots on the ground, and show we were there for the long haul and willing to invest in the US market.”

Setting up the new office was challenging. “We were naive at the start in thinking that after maybe 12 months we’d have secured our first new deal. In fact it took double that amount of time. That was one of the key learnings we made,” she said.

It was an expensive time. “You’ve got a lot of set up costs and hiring in the US is expensive as well. There were a lot of lessons in the first two years of set up but thankfully it is starting to pay off now. We’ve secured some nice deals and are hoping to grow that into the future.”

She advises anyone thinking of following suit to “put it down on paper. There’s nothing like getting your ambition down on paper and seeing it through.”


Make the most of Enterprise Ireland supports

Make the most of Enterprise Ireland’s supports. “There are 650 clients here at this event alone,” she said. “We find it a fantastic resource, being able to tap into businesses that have already made the move is hugely helpful, talking to people who have done something similar to what we were planning.”

The US is an easy place to do business but it can also be overwhelming because of its sheer size, she said. “Getting on the ground and engaging with the Enterprise Ireland representatives who are out there and who know the landscape is hugely helpful.” Staff from Modular Automation also attended Enterprise Ireland trade missions, which helped make initial introductions to new customers.

“Tap into that network, talk to other businesses, talk to the Enterprise Ireland staff, get on the ground,” she said. “Be brave and take the leap.”


For more information on entering the North American market visit our dedicated US Markets page.

Why Portwest views the Eurozone as its local market

Once a small family business in Mayo, Portwest has become the world’s fastest growing work wear company. Here’s how.

The saying, ‘don’t let perfect be the enemy of good’ means that if you wait for everything to be perfect, you’ll never progress. For businesses, the maxim could well be adapted to ‘don’t let success in the home market be the enemy of export growth’.

It was an issue touched on by Harry Hughes, CEO of Mayo-based safety clothing and equipment company Portwest. He was speaking at Competing for the Future, a breakfast briefing panel discussion organised by Enterprise Ireland as part of International Markets Week.

During the discussion, Hughes suggested to a packed auditorium in the RDS that success in the home market can inadvertently stymie ambition overseas.

“When you go abroad to foreign markets, you are starting at ground zero, which is not an easy place to be,” said Hughes.

It takes a successful business out of its comfort zone. “It just takes time and you have to stay with it,” he said.

Hughes, who is the current EY Entrepreneur of the Year, helped grow what was a small family business with a turnover of €100,000 in 1978 into the €205 million a year business employing 3000 staff it is today.


How Portwest broke Europe

The UK was Portwest’s first export market and remains an important one for the company today, accounting for 40% of its business. Its success there may, however, have discouraged it from entering new markets.

“We were probably slow learners in the beginning, in that we were 25 years selling in Britain and had reached maturity in that market before, 15 years ago, we started looking into Europe,” said Hughes.

It has taken a “one step at a time” approach to new markets ever since, starting with the Netherlands and then France. Today, Portwest sells into 120 countries worldwide.

“We started in the Dutch market and after that it was one brick at a time in Europe. We now have sales people in every country in Europe. We have eight people in Germany which we have found to be the most difficult to crack but obviously the prize is the biggest, at 82 million people.”

Every country has its own nuances, he said, and it’s important to understand the competition in each. “In our case, we would have 50 competitors right across Europe. Nobody is standing at doors waiting for us. But if you are persistent, you will get there in the end.”

The key is to innovate, he said. “We have to look at the local styling. The Germans expect a better product for a lower price, so we’ve had to adapt to that. There is no reason why any Irish company cannot succeed as long as they keep saying ‘What are the issues?’ and keep resolving them.”

Mistakes are inevitable. In Portwest’s case, a key hire made in Ireland and relocated to Europe turned out not to be the best strategy. “Now we employ French people in France, Germans in Germany and so on. The boots on the ground need to be local,” said Hughes.

Today the company, which sells globally, views the Eurozone as its local market. “We have the same currency, the same laws, there are no borders.”

Brexit uncertainties make looking further than the UK more important than ever. Portwest has responded to the UK’s imminent departure from the EU by shifting some of its warehouse activities.

“There are only two things we give away – warehousing and sales. Everything else we do in Mayo,” he said.

The company recently acquired 140,000 sq ft of warehousing in Poland, reducing its warehousing space in Britain. “We take the attitude of ‘plan for the worst’,” said Hughes. “So rather than have one major distribution centre servicing the EU we will have two.”

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Brexit, such a move makes good business sense, he said. “We’ve been growing at around 25% a year and currently have nine international warehouses, but from a Brexit point of view, we only had one distribution centre in Europe, so that will now go to two.”

Language and culture are not barriers so much as issues to be resolved, he said. “You need to see (the Eurozone) as a local market and get out there and invest,” he said. “Sales are going to cost you initially but once you make that initial investment, once you get a taste for selling into one country in Europe, you’ll find it as easy as selling in Ireland – and then you will keep going.”

Burgeoning middle class in China creates opportunities along New Silk Road

“Made in China” are three words that became ubiquitous in global manufacturing. Being a factory for the world powered China’s economic rise over the past four decades to become the New Silk Road.

The most populous nation on earth has gone from producing less than 3% of global manufacturing output by value in 1990 to almost a quarter last year. Companies large and small throughout the world have products that are made in China, including 80% of the world’s air-conditioners, 70% of its mobile phones, and 60% of its shoes.


How China became the ‘New Silk Road’

Exporting is key to China’s success but it has also transformed the domestic economy into one that is increasingly consumer-led.

More than 400 million of China’s 1.4 billion population are now considered middle class. Consumer spending accounts for more than 60% of economic growth in China and, according to a study by consulting firm McKinsey, 76% of China’s urban population will be considered middle class by 2022, compared to just 4% in 2000.

Dr. Linda Yueh, a fellow in economics at Oxford University, where she directs the China Growth Centre, says that this burgeoning middle class presents huge opportunities for Irish exporters seeking to sell into what is forecast to become the world’s largest economy as early as 2020.

“China is now a maturing economy and has reached the stage where future growth is going to rely on domestic demand,” Dr. Yueh says. “The cities are already full of rich people and therein lie opportunities for Irish exporters, particularly given that many local companies there haven’t yet faced global competition.

“You can be a massive firm in China and never have faced global competition because in China you have a domestic market of 1.4 billion people.”

The 1980s is when China began to reform and to upgrade its industries, moving out of central planning and becoming more market oriented. This ‘open doors’ policy towards global trade transformed the country and it continues to advance today in the form of the ‘New Silk Road’ routes of the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI development strategy involves infrastructure development and investments that will connect cities across 68 countries and including 65% of the world’s population across Asia, Europe and Africa. The plan is to open trade corridors and develop a unified market which creates jobs and opportunities for people and businesses along the routes. Crucially for Irish exporters, it will make it easier for businesses to reach China’s growing middle classes.


Irish ambition in China

An increasing number of Irish companies partnering with Enterprise Ireland have set their sights on taking advantage of this vast and rapidly expanding market.

In 2017, Enterprise Ireland client exports to Greater China grew by 9.7% to record levels of €1.03 billion, with China now accounting for 52% of client exports to the Asia Pacific region. Enterprise Ireland has set ambitious targets to grow exports to Greater China by 40% to €1.44 billion by 2020.

Dr. Yueh says that demand for high-quality innovative, imported products will continue to grow strongly in China for the foreseeable future.

“A third of the world lived in abject poverty in 1990. Today we are at a historic point, where just one in 10 live in extreme poverty. More than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990 and most of that is due to China,” she says.

“Hundreds of millions of people have entered the middle class and on current growth rates the projections are that in a couple of years, we’ll have 3.2 billion people who are middle class around the world. That’s somebody earning between $10-$100 dollars per day.

“By 2030, and this point may be hit even sooner given how strong emerging economies growth is, especially in Asia, for the first time ever more than half of the world will be middle class – 4.9 billion out of an estimated 8.5 billion people at that point.

“At the moment, more than half of the middle class are in the West but by 2030, two-thirds of the middle class will be in Asia.

“This means there will be a huge amount of opportunities that we haven’t seen before. The United States powered the world economy following World War II in terms of growth with about a quarter of a million people. With Asia, we are talking about five billion people who are going to be middle class. Some of these countries, including China, may not become rich on average but the changes this is bringing into the world economy are significant.

“We’re all going to be impacted by these tremendous opportunities as a new global middle class in China and indeed the rest of Asia.”


Contact Enterprise Ireland’s local office for information and support about identifying and developing market opportunities in China.

CEO 4site

How 4site engineers innovate

“We are design-led. It’s a unique selling point. We bring innovation to every project we do.”

Ian Duggan, CEO 4site

Key Takeouts:

  • 4site is a leader in the design, survey and installation of fibre networks.

  • The company has fostered a culture of innovation, learning and knowledge-transfer.

  • Success is driven by cost-efficiencies and speed made possible by innovative design.

  • Enterprise Ireland’s Grad Start funding supported the employment of graduate engineers to meet the challenges of a quickly changing sector.

Case Study: 4site

4site is a leader in the design and roll out of large-scale fibre network systems, the gold standard for digital connectivity. Founded in 2003, the company is based in Limerick, with offices in Dublin and the UK, and has approximately 80 employees. 

Starting out as an engineering firm, run by and employing engineers, 4site is committed to a culture of innovation with new, imaginative design solutions that give the company a competitive edge.

“If I were to offer advice to start-ups in the sector it would be to diversify – don’t be too dependent on a particular capability.” 


Innovation at 4site

This is reflected in the recruiting and training of graduate engineers, supported by Enterprise Ireland’s Graduate Business Growth (Grad Start) and Job Expansion Funds.

Enterprise Ireland’s support helped expand the number of employees and establish an in-house Fibre Planning Programme tailored to the skills 4site requires. Employees are mentored, attend weekly training sessions and are encouraged to contribute new ideas through an Innovation Forum. In 2018, Engineers Ireland acknowledged 4site’s excellence in CPD through its Accredited Employer Scheme.


“One of the most successful parts of our business is getting young, enthusiastic graduates who contribute a wealth of new ideas. They always have a faster, better way of doing things and within six months, they are really fantastic additions to the organisation.” 


The ‘4Survey’ app, introduced in 2017 and developed in partnership with Esri, the international supplier of geographic information software, was a product of the Innovation Forum. No more marking maps by hand, taking photos on a handheld device and filling in spreadsheets, which are then taken separately to a central office. The app does it all, transferring complex survey data straight to the design team via the internet. The survey process is now 50% faster, more accurate and more cost effective.

A further innovation is the use of the latest drone technology. Drones highlight solutions not readily available from ground level – for example, carrying out an asset inventory check on a 40m tower, gauging the safety of a rooftop before accessing it, or eliminating the need for permits and mobile platforms at the roadside. Cost and disruption are kept to a minimum, while health and safety risks are minimised by reducing the need for working at height.

This approach has garnered impressive results. A leading provider of fibre network in the UK is blue chip firm CityFibre. 4site recently won the contract to design CityFibre’s new networks in the UK cities of Huddersfield and Coventry. This contract is 4site’s biggest yet and is worth in excess of one million sterling. CityFibre has ambitious plans to provide fibre to five million homes across 12 UK cities.

In 2017, 4site provided survey and design services to develop a 5G-ready network for the Scottish city of Aberdeen. 4site also fitted a network of ‘small cell’ sites connected to existing fibre and power services. Small cells are unobtrusive and cost-effective installations, ensuring excellent wireless and mobile phone coverage particularly suited to the densely populated urban environment.

With over a decade’s experience of major network infrastructure projects, 4site has acquired a reputation for excellence. This year, they were only the second Irish company accepted to the FTTH Council of Europe. They have also achieved ISO certification in environmental management, quality management, and health and safety, as well as acquiring a list of major clients including Vodafone, Cignal, Huawei, Three, Nokia, Ericsson, O2, Eir and Siro.

Duggan recognises that quality and reliability are also important factors in their success, “I think it’s trust that builds strong relationships with our customers, and the fact that we can do things faster and cheaper than our competitors.”


How support from Enterprise Ireland helped 4site to succeed

Advice from Enterprise Ireland resulted in a greater emphasis on sales and marketing, and a restructuring of the management team, Duggan explains, “Enterprise Ireland encouraged us to rebrand and invest in full time sales and marketing managers.  We have built a strong leadership team in the organisation – that has been key.”

“Enterprise Ireland’s advice and support were transformative for the business.” 

4site also made use of Enterprise Ireland’s Business Accelerator Funding scheme to expand into the UK market with offices established in Reading in 2012.


The future for 4site

Europe is only just beginning to promote fibre networks with countries such as the UK, Ireland, Italy and Germany trailing behind. According to the 2017 FTTH Ultrafast Broadband Country Ranking the UK has approximately 3% coverage. The market potential therefore is vast.


Learn how Enterprise Ireland can support your Innovation project here.