Friday 22 November 2019

Road show that aims to spread wealth to the regions

Vine: short video sharing service
Vine: short video sharing service

Getting in the export game, or upping your stakes if already in it, seems to be the key to success after official figures showed January's exports were 5 per cent above year-earlier levels at €7.03bn.

Now the most ambitious medium-sized firms around the country desperate for investment to boost exports are being head-hunted during a road show by fund managers.

Those behind the BDO Development Capital Fund – a pot of €75m to be split among 15 companies – are going nationwide to launch it to intermediaries.

Pitches are being made to bankers, accountants and legal firms in Limerick, Cork and Galway who have clients that might benefit from the fund, as well as the expert mentoring and corporate backing it offers.

Ex-Kerry Foods boss Denis Brosnan and TCH's Alan Crosbie are among the industry experts ready to tell those climbing up the ladder how to cling on. The aim of the road show is to ensure the coffers make it outside the capital and into regions and firms across Ireland.

"We want to make intermediaries aware of the funding on offer and what's available," said Sinead Heaney, fund manager.

"It's not just funding people are interested in. They are attracted by the offerings and value added and are keen to meet."

Ms Heaney has been inundated with enquiries since the fund's ministerial launch by Richard Bruton at the start of the month. The details were presented to up to 90 intermediaries in Dublin recently and are set to go on the road next month.

Invited intermediaries are said to be people who have a financial interest in potential companies who want investment.

Sums ranging from €2m to €10m will be granted over the next three years to ambitious firms which already have an annual turnover of €15m to €50m and aim to at least double that through export sales – eventually leading to employment.

Mr Bruton's department is also aiming to take care of business with 25 State bodies hosting free one-stop-shop events for small business owners and managers. The next one is in Cork on April 1.

More than 500 people attended the first event in Dublin, where they quizzed experts on access to finance for SMEs, assistance and supports, and tax, employment and health and safety obligations.

Separately, a flagship programme for new start-ups is ready to give technology/knowledge intensive, export-oriented companies a package of supports to help accelerate business.

Enterprise Ireland's New Frontiers programme is open for entrepreneurs from a diversity of sectors, including information and communication technology, engineering and electronics and medical devices.

The programme "is designed to equip Irish companies with the knowledge to truly master the fundamentals for developing a sustainable export strategy," said a spokeswoman.

"The aim is to improve your understanding of the challenges of exporting, the fundamentals and principles of exporting and assessing export opportunities."

But while several schemes and funds aim to support or put money in the pocket of medium-sized firms, businesses around the country were this week left bracing themselves with another potential hike in insurance payments.

Proposals are being mooted to put a 1pc levy on non-life assurance policies to cover up to 50,000 households who can not get flood insurance cover, as well as the thousands of companies who are still counting the costs of battling floodwaters and record high coastal tides in recent months.

"A 1 per cent levy will definitely have an impact on small businesses and will push their costs up even higher," said Isme's Mark Fielding.

Employers also heard this week they face the prospect of being held liable for road crashes caused by their workers who are over the drink-driving limit.

Courts may soon be given the powers to punish bosses for the actions of their staff members who are found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar revealed.

This will particularly hit those under the influence of drugs or alcohol consumed at company-sponsored events, such as Christmas parties and work outings.

But Mr Fielding suggests firms are already aware of their responsibilities under 'vicarious liability' legislation.

"The minister is setting out what is already there," he said.

"But what he has done is bring home the fact that employers really have to be more careful."

Whatever the monthly lay-outs and issues facing managers, bringing in more business maintains a top priority for bosses with more and more turning to social media.

Vine, a short video sharing service, is the latest online marketing tool being tried out by some Irish companies as a way of attracting new customers.

The app may not have many Irish users, but a six-second video clip can be shared across Facebook and Twitter where it will hit a mass market and has the potential go viral.

Sunday Indo Business

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