Global opportunities can begin at home
Valuable sales opportunities often lie closer to home than people realise. Ireland is home to hundreds of multinational companies, many of which have supply chain requirements that could be met by Irish firms. In some cases, it may be as simple as facilities management, while in others it could be a component or service for sale to company sites across the world.
In 2012 Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland came together in a joint initiative to assist Irish companies in taking advantage of these opportunities.
The Enterprise Ireland Global Sourcing team works with colleagues in IDA Ireland to identify multinational companies based here that may have sourcing requirements that could be fulfilled locally. These companies are then matched with Enterprise Ireland-backed companies that are potential suppliers.
The Global Sourcing team's focus is on developing relationships with multinationals across a range of sectors such as ICT, pharma/biopharma, medtech, financial services, engineering and energy.
The aim is to ascertain what the multinational companies' needs might be. In some cases, all procurement might be carried out at HQ level and local opportunities will not arise. In others, the Irish entity may have a degree of autonomy in this regard.
Once a need is identified, the database of Enterprise Ireland-supported companies is searched in order to find potential matches. Shortlists are compiled, profiles are sent to the multinational and then confidential introductions are arranged, where appropriate. After that, it's up to the companies to discuss the opportunity.
This activity also lays the groundwork for Global Sourcing-run events. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland work together on identifying a cohort of Irish and multinational companies who could benefit from attendance.
One highlight of this activity is a two-day trade mission to multiple locations in Ireland.
Similar in nature to the overseas trade missions that Enterprise Ireland organises for Irish companies, these events offer invaluable access to sourcing and procurement teams in global multinationals, while at the same time providing those multinational companies with direct access to potential local suppliers.
This year's trade mission took place on May 15 and 16 in Dublin and Cork and featured more than 400 prearranged one-to-one meetings between 188 Irish suppliers and 96 multinational companies. A facilitated open networking session provided hundreds of further informal meeting opportunities.
The trade mission is an important platform for raising awareness of the capabilities of innovative Irish SMEs across a range of sectors and is the culmination of intensive activity carried out during the previous six months.
A key feature is the organisation of the informal networking sessions. These utilised a system, with multinational companies hosting clearly identified pod tables and Irish companies able to stop by for a brief introduction.
The feedback from these sessions was overwhelmingly positive, with companies reporting that the less formal setting allowed for the development of multiple connections which might not otherwise have been made.
Indeed, one key multinational attendee reported that he had met 42 individuals from Irish SMEs over the two hours of informal networking in addition to his prearranged meetings.
The trade mission isn't the only event organised by the Global Sourcing team.
Where a multinational company indicates a particular need, a thematic sourcing event can be organised in which Irish companies come to pitch their offerings.
In other cases, a group of multinational companies with similar needs are brought together to meet a number of Irish companies.
The prize on offer to Irish SMEs who succeed in winning business from multinationals based here is considerable.
Regardless of the size of the initial contract, it can provide an entry point to the customer's global supply chain.
In addition, these relationships offer a reference point for future business with global clients; being able to say you supply a multinational here in Ireland can act as a powerful recommendation to buyers around the world.
Gerard Fenner is a senior executive for global sourcing at Enterprise Ireland
Sunday Indo Business