Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Irish Food and Drink Industry

In the fifteen months since the UK made the historic decision to chart its future outside the EU, much ink has been spilled on fathoming the political and economic implications for Ireland and the food and drink industry in particular.

The UK is by far our largest food and drink export market, worth over €4 billion in 2016, and while our trading relationship predates the EU and the Single European Market, it has flourished to an exceptional degree within the framework of both. This relationship is very much a two-way street: Ireland is also the UK’s most important food and drink export market, with imports from our nearest neighbour valued in the region of €4 billion last year.

While geographical proximity and a finely matched profile of supply and demand underpin this relationship, so too do shared cultural values and complementary worldviews: we are uniquely well suited to support and meet each other’s food needs. It is against this backdrop that Brexit, and particularly the variant that puts the UK not only outside the EU but also the European Economic Area and the Customs Union, presents itself as a deep and unparalleled challenge.

Bord Bia laid the preparatory groundwork for addressing the challenge of Brexit in advance of the June referendum and, notwithstanding the fact that, a year later, no greater clarity has emerged on the ultimate form departure will take, our response has evolved into a strategy and series of supports that takes into account likely short, medium and long-term impacts.

In early 2017, Bord Bia launched their Brexit Barometer, an analytic tool designed to help individual companies assess six specific risk areas associated with Brexit – routes to market, customs and tax, supply chain, trade, currency and human resources. An expression of our commitment to provide supports that are based on facts and data rather than speculation or anecdote, the barometer is designed to give individual, tailored feedback to companies with regard to their risks and vulnerabilities, and to flag those areas where pre-emptive action can and should be taken.

The development of the barometer is further underscored by recognition that, while Brexit remains, in a granular sense, a series of unknowns, there are many ways to prepare for its eventuality and to mitigate the risks that will come from its possible permutations.

Among these permutations, few raise more concern than the possibility of a hard Brexit, where punitive WTO tariffs could conceivably shut out our dairy and beef trade from our oldest and largest market. While no eventuality can yet be ruled out, there are several reasons why this ‘Doomsday scenario’ should not assume undue prominence in our preparations for what lies ahead. Firstly, to allow it to do so would feed into the incorrect, and highly counterproductive, assumption that planning for Brexit is simply a matter of awaiting and responding to a tariff and customs regime, whatever that might ultimately be. Secondly, it ignores the more fundamental question as to what alternative trade relationship could meaningfully supplant that which currently prevails between Ireland and the UK, as well as our peers in the EU. The UK is a country that proudly claims some of the highest retail and food safety standards in the world. To willingly expose itself to the massive operational and reputational risks that would come from routing entire supply chains outside the EU would be, to say the least, politically and economically unprecedented. It would test the concept of food security in a modern industrial nation to its limit.

Experienced considerable structural change over the past decade

Previous research identified that there is a positive relationship between communication effectiveness and job satisfaction. This means if there is good communication between the manager and employee, the employee is more satisfied with their job leading to improved performance. Staff should know what is going on and what is expected of them, and feel that their ideas are valued and their good performance praised. Communication is essential to creating a strong working relationship and open communication is crucial for a dairy farm business to be productive. It helps set expectations and co-ordinate actions; builds trust; enables people to act on facts not assumptions; and provides feedback on performance.

Communication with employees starts with a clear, well thought out job description. A job description sets out the duties and responsibilities required of the new recruit and also infrequent tasks that the person may need to carry out from time to time. A detailed job description can help eliminate individuals who would not perform well on the job before the hiring process begins. It should be used to communicate with the employee what is expected before starting employment, so if any problem arises over work responsibilities the farmer can quickly refer to the job description.

Communication can occur formally or informally. An example of informal verbal communication that occurs daily would be going through the “to-do” list for the day and assigning people to do different jobs if there is more than one person working on the farm. Information regarding production performance (milking performance, grass covers etc), relevant work or material needed can be informally communicated using WhatsApp group messaging, diaries, books or notice boards. This can be a very effective method of ensuring that everybody working on the farm is up-to-date with critical information, e.g. date of cow treatment with antibiotics or date of fertilizer application.

A simple way of communicating to all employees when the routine jobs such as TB testing, vaccinations etc will be occurring is to use a yearly wall planner – simply a yearly calendar. This can be used as a planning tool to plan for jobs that are clearly known in advance, allowing for clarity about what needs to be done and when. Employees can also record when they are taking holidays in advance. The planner should be placed in a common area where it can be viewed, discussed and modified.

Body language is an important part of communication which can constitute 50% or more of what is communicated. Noticing the signals that people send out with their body language and being able to effectively read those cues is therefore a very useful skill. Excellent communicators are aware that their body language is equally as important as verbal communication in conveying a message to others.

The energy market and had the infrastructure in place in every major city

Before electric lamps lit up virtually every city across the globe, people were employed to manually light gas lamps on the streets. In the 19th century, this laborious trade was the dominant form of street lighting in Europe and were provisioned by small group of firms who sprung up to cope with the seemingly insatiable demand for such lamps.

However, it wasn’t the inevitable emergence of the electric lamp some half a century later that ultimately extinguished those businesses, but an unwillingness to embrace change. ‘Lampers’ understood the energy market and had the infrastructure in place in every major city.

Nevertheless, as electricity seized bigger and bigger shares of the market, these firms simply stood idly by and watched while their business faded away — undone by a lack of foresight.

Innovations which initially feel disruptive eventually become fundamental to basic business functions. While Lamplighters had time to see the shadows looming over their industry, nowadays change can come in an instant — just ask 9 out of 10 startups who fail.

Regulation Liberation

In December 1998, Eircom (eir for younger folks) was the only Irish telecoms provider, by the start of 2001 — there was 77. Following telecoms deregulation in the US & EU, the Irish Government followed suit, allowing for full competition in the telecommunications industry.

The global-change signalled the impending digital export and telecoms revolution. After years of simple “local” aspirations, Ireland was finally positioned to enter the global stage.

Two decades later, Irish business and communication has transformed. With the rise of smartphones (2.1 billion shipped by 2021) and the shift towards the ubiquitous cloud — the progress and has been relentless and the opportunities for growth, endless. Even long-time hardware giant, Cisco — who in 2016, successfully transitioned into a software model, restored 6% of their stock offering in three months.

Gas lamps lit up cities for the first time before being usurped by a more effective solution. The next stage in communications technology is already facilitating a more dynamic approach to business.

The Mobilised Business Model

Irrespective of the product, service being provided or period in time, business has always had two underlying actions; communicating and collaborating. One of the greatest assets of any firm is the combined knowledge and experience of its employees. However, it’s also a challenging resource to adequately harness.

In a highly-competitive marketplace, the most informed decision-makers thrive.

Ideas and insight need to be transmitted and put to good use effectively throughout the organisation. Efficient communication is the key to perfecting this process.

Pointy Helps You Find it Locally

Do you ever need something but have no clue where to find it? Enter Pointy, a new technology that works for both retailers and consumers.

Mark Cummins, the man behind Pointy, spoke on The Capital B this week. Not his first foray into the world of tech (he previously sold a company to Google), Pointy aims to help get local stores online as well as help consumers find the products they need fast.

So what exactly does it do? Pointy is a device that attaches to the barcode scanner in each shop and automatically lists the products to a website, Mark explained where the concept came from;

“It really simplifies making a website for a local shop, quite a lot of local retailers have websites but they’re not getting anything out of it. Consumers are looking for products and that product information is not available online so all the local shops are invisible. When people are doing these searches on Google they’re getting redirected, so local stores are not picking up the business that by rights they should be”

“It’s like a location service, most of the time people just want to go in and pick up the product in person, you’d be absolutely amazed by what people search for.”

Pointy also has some big name investors behind it, international rugby star Jamie Heaslip is involved, who Mark says has a huge interest in tech.

“He’s actually very tech savvy, it’s an interest of his, he likes that we have a local Irish angle”.

Also on The Capital B this week, we’re chatting to the Commercial Director of Lidl Ireland, the founder of Popertee delivers a lesson on how to find the perfect retail space for your store and Freshii’s Dave O’Donoghue on why talk is big but execution is everything.

a qualified aromatherapist

As a grandmother of four and a qualified aromatherapist, Ocean Bloom founder Cheryl Cleminson has always been interested in skincare. But it wasn’t until a member of her family was personally affected that she discovered the power of seaweed. “When my grandson Alfie was younger and suffering from baby eczema, we tried all the products on the market, even the natural ones, and he didn’t get ease from any of them,” she explains.

By chance, she got chatting to an elderly lady in the community, who mentioned in her day they would take the children down to the sea and bathe them. This was just the spark of inspiration that Cheryl needed. “I started thinking about it and I collected some seaweed and made a baby seaweed bath for him and his skin started healing,” she says.

She began experimenting by blending the seaweed with oils and created products for family and friends. They were a hit, and someone suggested she should make a business from it.  She subsequently enrolled in a business course with her Local Enterprise Office and began an in-depth study into growing seaweed and its health-giving properties.  It’s been a whirlwind adventure ever since.


Launching the Business

Cheryl confides that getting the business up off the ground was one of the bravest things she’s ever done.  She’s bootstrapped it from the beginning, handling everything from product development to filling the containers.  She notes: “To start a business, usually people save up or they have all these processes in place, I didn’t have anything in place. I would lie in bed and feel a bit panicky and think, ‘I’m too old for this’.”  But hearing how her products work made it incredibly rewarding. “I think people coming up to me and telling me that the products have made a difference to their skin is the biggest highlight,” she says. “If I can carry on making a difference to even a few people, that’s the best reward.”


The Importance of Good Advice

For anyone interested in starting their own business, Cheryl offers the following advice: “I think it’s important to have a bank who knows you and has a good insight into your business.  You can have a magnificent business plan but if you haven’t got a bank who believes in it, then it won’t work.  I believe going to your local branch, to people who know you, is so important.”

It was the staff at her local branch who first told Cheryl about MyBusinessToolkit, a package offering access to a suite of five leading business tools, from Sage Accounting and Payroll to the bOnline website builder.