The best executive cars on the market

Mark Gallivan takes a look at the best executive cars on the market in Ireland for 2019.

Depending on your view, the rise of the ubiquitous Crossover SUV and impacted demise of the executive car in the hearts and minds of Irish new car buyers is either one of two things; pretty depressing or simply a change in what consumers perceive as motorised status.

In the first two months of 2019, six of the top ten selling new cars in Ireland were Crossover SUVs. If you dig deeper into these very same statistics and combine Jeep and MPV sector cars, a total of 22,049 were sold against 6,512 saloon cars. It seems buyers now champion a taller driving position, better versatility, load capacity and quasi go-almost-anywhere capability while sacrificing any semblance of driving enjoyment and the consequential trade-off of a compromised cruising refinement.

Speaking of the executive car segment, which ones should you consider? As a segment, it is defined by the contenders like the BWW 3-Series, Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class. What is the real winner here and what are the quirks and gripes that you may not have heard in other car reviews?

First place: BMW 3-Series – from €43,120

If you’ve quietly held a suspicion that the BMW 3-Series has slipped a bit in recent years, you would be correct. Somehow the cars core DNA of best in class steering and chassis dynamics was often described as very good rather than outstanding. Enter the all-new G30, the seventh generation of BMW’s executive car and now with a guarantee that BMW has mended the less-focused dynamics and delivered electric steering communication that is amongst the best I’ve tested. The step up in cabin architecture, with a new digital dashboard, makes good strides in keeping up with Audi’s A4.

You’ll like: Best in class driving dynamics, an improved infotainment system, fabulous agility and rewarding dynamics. Cabin a proper advance in design.

You’ll grumble: Avoid run-flat tyres – they ruin the ride. New digital dash less easy to read than analogue dials. M Sport trim is best option for looks but adds a harsh ride.

Second Place: Mercedes C-Class – from €37,710 (Pictured in main image)

Isn’t this where we’d usually find the Audi A4? It was. It was after testing the facelifted C-Class Saloon, Estate and fabulous Cabriolet recently, did I shift my opinion. True, the C-Class interior and actual build quality trails the A4 in places and if we’re being honest, only matches it for driving engagement. But as an overall ownership proposition for middle management executives – those with a burning ambition to do better – the Mercedes C-Class in any of the variants is a beautifully crafted car.

Sporting an intriguing range of smaller four-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engines and 1.6 petrol/electric regenerative hybrids, along with the larger perennial larger engined diesel and petrol engines, the range is vast enough to suit all buyers. Where the Saloon version of the C-Class scored well is the rear-wheel drive bias and creamy smooth steering and suspension composure. Of all the cars tested in this segment, it’s the C-Class you’d drive after a long day and 300 kilometers to travel before reaching home. Everything in the C-Class is geared towards reducing stress and eliminating unnecessary fatigue. And this all-around package is not limited to the Saloon. You can also opt for the Estate, Coupe or Cabriolet version. It’s a close thing, but the C-Class pips the Audi A4 to the second place spot.

You’ll like: Classy and composed with junior S-Class styling. Surprisingly fun to drive. Lovely cabin. Smart 1.5-litre petrol engine a good bet for low mileage drivers.

You’ll grumble: Gearbox kick down is slow. Some interior fittings would shame a VW Golf. Pricey options.

Third Place: Audi A4 – from €35,930

Just because the Audi A4 was launched four years ago, it doesn’t mean it is now relegated to an also-ran. So much was right from the start with the fifth-generation (B9) Audi A4 that it still warrants serious consideration for your executive car choice in 2019. No other car in the executive segment is better constructed and feels like it could survive everyday business and family duties for years while remaining largely unscathed. The car’s only demerit is after four years, Audi needs to update the exterior look and cabin layout. Lastly, if you’re less than six foot tall, make sure you test one over a longer drive. The driver’s seating position is set low and can feel claustrophobic. Otherwise, you’ll be treated to car that is a massive step up from the previous generation A4 and is decently rewarding to drive.

You’ll like: Bank vault build quality. Brilliant to drive, with excellent ride and refinement. Still looks sharp after four years.

You’ll grumble: Engine’s momentary hesitation when accelerating a concern. Seating position set too low and proves claustrophobic. Cost of Audi’s options extortionate.

Fourth Place Lexus IS – from €41,480

A surprising fourth place is given to the Lexus IS for several reasons. Granted, it’s not down to the Japanese brand’s sales success during 2018. By shifting a total of just 484 cars and registering a paltry 110 Lexus IS models during 2018, it is the forgotten executive car choice. Indeed, as left-field choices go, the Lexus IS is a 2019 panacea for the executive that is still mourning the demise of SAAB in December 2011.

But choosing a Lexus is to enter an elevated world of customer care and bullet-proof reliability. After all, Lexus won the top spot in the UK’s Auto Express with a golden 95.12 per cent reliability rating. In Lexus land you tend to bypass any semblance of indifferent customer experience. If you want to waft in a car that is constructed with millimetric precision and enjoy a cabin with solid sporting looks, then the Lexus IS as an ownership proposition with guaranteed rarity in the German default car park.

You’ll like: Excellent reliability reputation. Genuine customer care. The 2017 update tweaked and honed the IS to within tiny tolerances. Immense and a brilliant left-field choice.

You’ll grumble: Infotainment system is fiddly to use. Hybrid never as seamless as suggested.

By Mark Gallivan

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/the-best-executive-cars-on-the-market/ on
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Bank of Ireland celebrates International Women’s Day

Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day supporting gender diversity in the workplace conference in Limerick

Bank of Ireland celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 by supporting the 11th International Women’s Day Conference at the University of Limerick. The event shed light on the importance of gender diversity in the workplace and the significance of female representation at all levels of business.

The conference was chaired by Catherine Duff, general manager at Northern Trust and was addressed by inspirational female leaders including; Gillian Harford, county executive 30% Club Ireland, Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at UL and Vicky Phelan, cervical cancer activist.

Bank of Ireland is hosting a series of gender diversity seminars taking place nationwide as part of its campaign #BalanceForBetter. This campaign is highlighting the positive impact women have in the workplace and the value they add at all levels of a business.

Addressing the conference, Andrew Keating, group chief financial officer at Bank of Ireland said, “Bank of Ireland has developed the #BalanceForBetter campaign to encourage better awareness of gender diversity in the workplace and the importance of women being in senior leadership roles. We have heard from a number of inspirational female leaders here today and this conference, along with Bank of Ireland seminars rolling out nationwide, are demonstrating the importance for all businesses to work towards better gender balance at all levels within their organisation.”

“It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success.”

By 2021, all appointments or promotions for senior grades in Bank of Ireland will be split 50:50, male and female. They group have already made great progress and are well on course to reach their target.

“Men, including myself, have long enjoyed the unfair advantage of achieving our ambitions, while many women couldn’t do so. It’s a proven fact that the greater the diversity, the greater the innovation, and greater innovation leads to greater commercial success,” added Keating.

In closing his keynote speech, he said, “I don’t want my son Darragh to have more opportunities than his sister Aisling based of his gender, and I don’t want Aisling to have more opportunities than Darragh, I just want equality and a better balance for all.”

Does better balance mean better business?

Gillian Harford, country executive of the 30% Club, gave a powerful talk on diversity in Ireland stating that while progress is being made, females are still massively underrepresented in leadership positions across all sectors in Ireland. “Ireland is one of the best countries in the world for equal education with 56% of undergrads being women, but we are not seeing this have an effect on leadership roles with just 18% of positions on boards being occupied by females.”

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. ”

She continued, “Diversity is not important unless you have inclusion. Diversity means I’m here, but inclusion means I’m heard.

“I&D is not a numbers game, and it’s not about women winning and men losing, it’s about capitalising all talents. Better balance means we give everyone an equal opportunity to thrive and break down barriers,” she finished.

Also discussing the topic with an onus on vulnerability, Mary T. Tierney, from Azurite Consulting Ltd, discussed why creativity and innovation is what make businesses thrive, and why we need an equal balance in order to thrive.

She also talked about how people feel ashamed about their vulnerabilities and “run as far away as possible” from them.

“Vulnerability is not a weakness. It’s our most accurate method for courage – in fact it’s our only pathway to courage. We need to start having the correct conversations without worrying about possible implications or opinions. Embracing vulnerability is a minute-by-minute choice as it happens every single day,” said Tierney.

Powerful women and leadership

Professor Helen Kelly Holmes, dean of the faculty of arts, humanities and social sciences at the University of Limerick said women are really starting to be heard, drawing on the Repeal referendum last year, which “gave a great insight into the power women have in Ireland”. Historically, to be a powerful woman was to act like a man when in a position of power, according to Holmes, but this has now changed.

“Having women in positions of leadership isn’t about having a woman ruling over everyone else. It’s about having women in positions where they have a voice and can effect change,” before discussing her own industry, saying, “A lot of statistics show that universities are problematic institutions for women. They are incredibly slow to change and are very conservative institutions.”

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.”

Dr Christine Cross, head of department, work and employment studies at UL echoed Holmes’ thoughts and spoke about ‘gendered language’ and the role it plays in recruitment.

“There are a number of words that are considered ‘gendered language’ so we need to be cognisant of this when writing job descriptions so that we are encouraging more females to apply for roles and take risks.

“Women will only apply for senior positions when they believe they meet 100% of the criteria in a job description – whereas men are likely to apply if they only meet 50% of the criteria.

“Visibility is six times more important than your performance to move up the ladder into senior positions. Women need to be putting themselves out there more,” she concluded.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/bank-of-ireland-celebrates-international-womens-day/ on
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Equality unlocks human potential

Antony Keane, managing director in Accenture, believes that companies that foster equality not only accelerate career advancement for women but improve career progress for men as well.

Accenture has been celebrating International Women’s Day for years. What’s on this year?

For Accenture in Ireland, IWD is our largest client event of the year. This year it will also be the largest IWD celebration in Accenture. The event will focus on how inclusion and diversity (I&D) help to drive innovation in business and more broadly in our society.

This year Accenture is also celebrating being in business in Ireland for 50 years so the event will take a look back at how I&D has evolved over this period. As always there will be a great range of speakers and performances which always make this event something special.

What strategies are in place to achieve an equal balance?

At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation. Globally we have set ourselves bold goals to help us accelerate equality.

Today 47% of our new hires are women, and 42% of our global workforce of almost 500,000 people are women. By 2025, Accenture will achieve a gender-balanced workforce and, by 2020, women will account for 25% of managing directors globally.

To help us achieve this we offer flexible and innovative working arrangements, we encourage our women to connect through employee resource groups that help them build networks through the Accenture Women’s Network, our global online platform. We also ensure all employees have a mentor and a personalised training programme – women comprise 41% of total participants in mentoring and development programmes.

“At Accenture, we believe the future workforce is an equal one, and that gender diversity is essential for an innovation-led organisation.”

Does awareness about gender parity affect office culture?

It’s very clear to me and is supported by recent Accenture research and our ‘Getting to Equal’ studies, that creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential. If companies succeed in creating a workforce culture that fosters equality, they will not just accelerate career advancement and pay for women, they will also improve career progress for men. Sounds like a win-win to me.

“Creating a culture of equality unlocks human potential.”

How important is it for companies to implement policies aimed at closing the gender skills gap in STEM and ICT sectors?

I think it is undoubtedly important for companies to do this, however, I think the focus on this needs to start much earlier – there are simply not enough girls pursuing technology careers and learning to code from a young age. So much so that the gender gap in this space is actually getting worse. My own data point on this is when I drop my nine-year-old son to his weekly coding class and see a room filled almost entirely with boys.

Thankfully, there are a growing number of examples of technology and computing initiatives designed specifically for girls, but we really need to see more happening and more female role models flying the STEM flag.

Interview by Irene Psychari.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/equality-unlocks-human-potential/ on
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Global design guru on the shape of things to come

Natasha Jen, an award-winning designer, educator, and a partner at Pentagram speaks to ThinkBusiness ahead of her talk on International Women’s Day.

An individualistic mentality defines design studio Pentagram in more ways than one. Operating a unique socialist business model, rather than a purely capitalist one, as well as its innovative use of graphic, verbal, digital, and spatial interventions that challenge conventional notions of media and cultural contexts, all give Pentagram unique appeal.

You have 23 partners at Pentagram working together and independently, how does that work and how important is it to the company’s success?

At Pentagram, each partner is autonomous as a design business, with different staff size, different overheads and different revenue targets. Within each office, the partners share general shared overhead: office rent, general admin, office supply, etc. Each partner would generate different revenues, depending on what they pursue and how they manage their staffing overhead. This setup, at first glance, is similar to different teams (studios) sharing an office.

What makes Pentagram unique is that the different revenues from different teams would get aggregated and redistributed equally back to each team, so it’s a socialist model. What this model does is essentially a very sophisticated check-and-balance. It first allows a partner – a designer – to define what he or she is interested in and they can shape their practice accordingly. It’s an incredibly individualistic kind of mentality. What keeps it in balance is the socialist economic model. While we pursue what we like to do, which may include things that are not profitable, we must keep in mind that our own profitability or unprofitability would affect other teams. 

This business model is really simple mathematically, but behaviourally and psychologically more nuanced than a pure capitalist model. This is beyond simple friendship, it’s a true partnership psychology and that creates a collegial culture and that culture is what keeps Pentagram going.  

How important is design in the way we live in 2019?

I think design has to be talked about specifically as opposed to generically. Generic “design” tends to end up being a feel-good word that, in the face of some of the biggest crises we face right now, feels superficial. There are real urgencies that each design field faces and there are shared crises, such as global warming, or the erasure of local culture in the age of social networks and global monopolies, or the paradox of algorithm, that it is benefiting us yet manipulating us. I don’t think we know how to answer those questions as a collective. I don’t. But that not-knowingness also sets a direction for years to come. 

What has made Pentagram so successful?

I sometimes wonder if we’re just lucky. We are not a practice informed by conventional corporate models yet we are prolific. We’ve done celebrated work and we’ve done work that went under criticism. But what’s true in the history of Pentagram is that we are a creativity-led practice, and that’s the soul of the group. 

How important is avoiding trends and designing instead for longevity?

It’s hard to say what are trends and what are timeless. Trends, such as the Chanel tweet jacket, can become timeless. I think it’s more important to think about how we respond to the challenges of our time than thinking about being trendy or timeless. That is for history to judge, 

How has technology influenced design and do you as a designer embrace it or feel you have to fight it?

Technology, similar to the word ‘design’, has specificity to it that it’s hard for me to answer generically. Digital technology pretty much has consumed everything we do and communication design, my field, is a sub-set in that totality. Technology has its way to erase uniqueness and encouraging sameness, and that’s what we work against. I don’t like to think that I am “fighting” as I have no power to set the rules in the big currents of technological developments; I tend to think that there are choices that we can make and that we don’t have to feel that we are victimized by tech. 

How important is keeping control of your work and how can you do this in a busy and large company?

There’s never a case where I can say we’re “controlling” the outcome. Design service is a messy process and clients, regardless of how much or little they have training in design, get their hands dirty in the process with us. This is not to say that we’re not the author in the final outcome, it’s that the outcome is never as pure as a fairytale. But people are people: we can be genius and we’re also flawed. For me I try to understand the people condition the best I can so the work can be conceived in the most communicative way possible. 

Interview by Olivia McGill.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/global-design-guru-on-the-shape-of-things-to-come/ on
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Huge gender issue still to be addressed in agri-food sector

Agri-food specialist Karen Brosnan says more needs to be done to bridge the gender gap in her sector with 50% of companies yet to address the issue.

Originally from a dairy farm in north Kerry, Karen Brosnan is a management consultant working with companies, boards and executives in the agri-food sector to plan strategically for organisation and culture change, and to implement programmes of leadership and people development.

She is the current chairperson of Gurteen College, a director of Nuffield Ireland and the former chairperson of Ceres, the women in agri-business leadership network, as well as a member of the agri-food inclusion and diversity (I&D) taskforce. Here she discusses a number of issues facing women in her field.

What can be done to get more women involved in the sector?

Research shows organisations that embrace I&D are more innovative, sustainable and successful in the longer term. In this fast-paced world, it is important to provide opportunities for both men and women to make the most of their skills and experience.

According to a study by AON last year, 50% of agri-food businesses surveyed have engaged or have started the process of engaging in I&D strategies. The other 50%, in order to compete for talent with other sectors, need to follow suit and continue to row in behind the national programmes and initiatives that are currently underway.

At a broader level, the goal of the National Women and Girls Strategy is to develop ‘an Ireland where all women enjoy equality with men and can achieve their full potential, while enjoying a safe and fulfilling life’. The strategy’s success depends on the shared engagement of women and men, in building a fairer society. This involves finding the programmes, opportunities, and people who support change and working with them.

“Research shows organisations that embrace I&D are more innovative, sustainable and successful in the longer term.”

What are the biggest challenges facing women in the sector?

While the number of women in CEO positions in the Irish agri-food sector has increased in recent times, female representation on boards and at senior management level is still low and far from the 30% base-line considered international standard.

I believe that the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is unconscious bias. This bias comes from our life experiences and the way we have been brought up. It is hardwired into us. We bring these unconscious biases into the workplace and they influence how we make decisions.

When it comes to women in decision-making positions in the agri sector, we need to consider what are the assumptions that men and women make that might stop them recognising and utilising talent and potential. What are the assumptions that women themselves are making that might be stopping them putting themselves forward. Individuals need to become aware of their beliefs and biases and to take part in conversations around how we support women, young men, and different nationalities in different roles.

“While the number of women in CEO positions in the Irish agri-food sector has increased in recent times, female representation on boards and at senior management level is still low.”

What needs to be done to increase female representation on boards of agri-food organisations?

Studies over the last decade have consistently shown a positive correlation between women on boards and the company performance. In a global analysis of 2,400 companies conducted by Credit Suisse in 2018, organisations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income growth than those that didn’t have any women on the board. Increasing numbers of women in the workforce has not translated into significantly higher numbers of women in higher and management grades. Organisational cultures, and particularly agricultural cultures, need to become increasingly open to challenging gender and other stereotypes.

Is there a lack of talent in the pipeline?

Ireland has the highest rate of college students per capita, in Europe, and with an increasing number of third level programmes in agri-food with a high female participation, it means that a shortage of talent is not the issue; the issue is graduates’ perceptions of the industry. The agri-food sector needs to be able to compete with others for top talent. There are many businesses in the industry that are struggling to attract talent from traditional sources, because they cannot compete on reputation or compensation. The future success of the agri-food industry depends on attracting diverse talent and thinking. The pace of change demands it.

“I believe that the biggest challenge facing women in the workplace is unconscious bias.”

Are there opportunities for greater planning and review on family farm businesses?

As with every self-employed person in Ireland, some businesses are ahead, but for many, it can be hard to get the balance right. Entrepreneurs need to build in thinking time, and time for review. I speak for myself when I say that it is easy to get lost in the ‘doing’ instead of thinking. One of the best opportunities I have had in the last 18 months has been to become part of an entrepreneurs synergy group. We take one morning a month to review our business goals, our challenges and outcomes for the month. This gives us a great opportunity to take an honest look at the return on investment of our time and to look at what is stopping us being better, more courageous or to question our motives. It has encouraged me to be more realistic, and it is something I think all business, including farms, could benefit from.

The rise in veganism is having a previously unanticipated effect on meat farmers – just how worrying is this?

Growing public awareness of health, climate change and animal health are driving changes in food preferences. We know that the food industry is responding by providing more plant based products, which means that this is a new reality rather than a food fad. This is a complex debate with much broader social and environmental ramifications, which will greatly impact on farmers who serve as custodians of land and animals. We need a holistic view on the impact of our food systems, as we must also consider the nutritional value of what we can grow locally versus alternatives with lower nutrition and more additives, which may be imported from across the world.

The sector needs to choose to be informed, to challenge ‘fake news’ and to avoid polarised responses. Everyone wants better health, a stable climate and the vast majority of farmers are passionate about the health of their animals and their land, so committing to collaborating on policy and outcomes is imperative.

By Stephen Larkin.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/huge-gender-issue-still-to-be-addressed-in-agri-food-sector/ on
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Body Project balances for better in more ways than one

Gillian Hynes left the cooperate world to set up Body Project because she wanted to be in control of her own destiny. Here she tells Think Business how changing your lifestyle can change your life.

What drove you to set up Body Project?

As a personal trainer, I saw how my clients struggled to eat well with any real consistency. While they had their training right, breaking unhealthy eating patterns proved much more difficult for them. I set up Body Project to meet this problem. We provide personal training and healthy, chef-prepared meal plans under one roof, taking the stress and guesswork out of healthy eating and allowing people to make positive changes in the long-term. The programme is one of kind in Dublin and as far as I know in Ireland.

How important is a healthy mind and body to attaining business goals?

In my experience, it’s not so much that people fail to achieve work goals due to being unhealthy but rather they can find themselves having achieved a lot in their work life but at the expense of their health and fitness. We often have clients who come to us at the top of their game in terms of their career but feeling physically at a low. The great thing is that carving out time for themselves and getting fitter actually boosts the enjoyment of their work and gives them tonnes more energy to tackle their day to day.

“We often have clients who come to us at the top of their game in terms of their career but feeling physically at a low.”

How can we achieve a better balance?

First and foremost, it is vital to diarise exercise. If it’s not in the diary something else will always take precedence over an impromptu workout. I book myself in with my trainers at Body Project otherwise I’ll find myself tackling my to-do list and exercise won’t happen. Planning for healthy eating is also key. For instance, if you have a work dinner you simply balance the day by eating a lighter than usual breakfast and lunch. It’s important too to know that healthy eating doesn’t mean having to be ‘perfect’ all of the time.

Anyone setting up their own business has drive. I would say to people, find your niche, whether it’s Zumba or hill walking, find something you like to do. Having your own business is 24/7, you’re never really switched off from it. You have to have something that helps you switch off.

“It’s important too to know that healthy eating doesn’t mean having to be ‘perfect’ all of the time.”

How does the support Body Project provides help women in all aspects of their work/personal lives?

I think women generally can be very self-critical. I have seen so many women come through our doors with an outwardly great life and successful career and every reason to feel great but inwardly their confidence is at zero. Training doesn’t just make their muscles stronger; it makes them stronger mentally and more confident too. I am continually amazed at how life-changing adopting a healthier lifestyle can be.

“I have seen so many women come through our doors with an outwardly great life and successful career and every reason to feel great but inwardly their confidence is at zero.”

Energy levels are better, stress is reduced. We have women here who are going through a stressful period and it’s their lifeline. They come for weight loss but it changes their lives in much more profound ways. A lot of them don’t know how they will take time off to do the programme. What they realise when they do it is that business doesn’t ground to a halt. Wherever you work they will take as much as they can from you. You have to look after yourself. They get a better balance from doing our programme and realise life goes on. It’s good for them to get the balance back.

We had one particular client who came to us feeling very low in herself. She felt trapped in a well-paid but ultimately dissatisfying role and had neglected her personal life for years. Fast forward a few months later and she was bouncing in the studio door and smiling all of the time. Within the year she had a new job, a fiancé and was pregnant. I love that story; it encapsulates so much about what we do at Body Project and why we do it.

Gillian Hynes is the owner of Body Project, a fitness and lifestyle transformation business based in Dublin 2.

Interview by Olivia McGill.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/body-project-balances-for-better-in-more-ways-than-one/ on
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Donegal farmer doubles output since Brexit annouced

Keith Roulston has seen lots of changes to the dairy farming industry in his almost 40 years in business in Donegal. His farm now has 460 cows and he doesn’t see Brexit disrupting his operation.

Do you want to tell me about the history of this farm?

This farm started off with no cows after I came back here from Gurteen College. Prior to the early 1970s we used to milk cows but then we lost a herd of almost 80 cows here in 1976, which I remember well. After that, my father never milked a cow because it had such a damaging effect on him. I came back from Gurteen in 1981 and I bought 30 cows in Dungannon and we went from there and it has taken us to where we are today.

How big an impact do you see Brexit having on you?

For me personally, I’m not one bit bothered by Brexit. Of course the UK is a big market for butter and cheese, but our milk is internationally traded and we’re most interested in what happens in the GDT auction in New Zealand because that is what sets our price. Our milk goes to Lakeland Dairies in Co Cavan and they are trading with counties in North Africa, Asia and Central America, so the UK market isn’t going to be make or break for us. It may cause some inconvenience but I’m not worried in the slightest. The price of milk is going to rise this year. Brexit is a storm in a teacup and it will blow over. It’s just a case of getting the right measures in place that will work.

“Brexit is a storm in a teacup and it will blow over. It’s just a case of getting the right measures in place that will work.”

It will have a bigger impact on the beef trade because there is so much beef leaving here and going straight onto supermarket shelves in the UK. If things with Brexit go wrong, companies in the UK could decide to import from countries like Brazil or Argentina, but it depends mostly on the general public. If they demand for a food supply that is safe and trusted, well then they will continue to buy from here. But if it comes down to price, they may look elsewhere.

Have you had to make any changes to your operation since Brexit was announced?

None at all. We have just carried on as normal. Since 2016, we’ve doubled our output. At the end of our quota in 2015, it was about 1.5 million litres per year, and at the end of December 2018, we put out 3.3 million litres in the previous 12 months, so we’ve actually doubled our production in the time since Brexit was announced.

“No matter how difficult things might seem, especially now with the potential challenges with Brexit, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.”

Have you spoken to any beef farmers and are they concerned?

Their only concern seems to be that people are trying to scare them by constantly giving them the worst case scenario, but until it goes through no one knows what the implications will be. At the moment, the beef trade is a bit of a disaster and that’s without Brexit. You can barely give cattle away at present, never mind actually selling them. There’s no money in beef at the moment.

For young farmers starting out, are there opportunities for them?

I think there are plenty of opportunities for young farmers today. If you’re willing to work and you have the right focus, then there will always be an opportunity. If I had adopted the ‘wait-and-see’ approach 35 years ago, I’d be sitting here growing old doing nothing. No matter how difficult things might seem, especially now with the potential challenges with Brexit, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel. In the dairy business, it’s continuous investment that is required, and take that from me because I’ve been doing it a very long time.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/donegal-farmer-doubles-output-since-brexit-annouced/ on
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Which Irish business sectors will be most impacted by Brexit?

Pierce Butler, head of sectors for business banking at Bank of Ireland, outlines the potential impact across different sectors. 

Irish manufacturers have enjoyed more than five years of continuous growth, but they’re now looking at how they can overcome the challenges that Brexit might pose.

They’re looking at their supply chains and routes to market: their supplier’s suppliers, and their customer’s customers, how they will be impacted by Brexit, and how they can plan or react accordingly.

The food, farming and beverages sector is likely to be one of the most affected by Brexit. If we look at beef farmers, 50% of exports go to the UK. That’s a very high exposure, and it’s going to be a significant challenge for the sector. Beef farmers are very resilient however, and have overcome challenges and volatility in recent years.

In the dairy sector, there is a wider diversification of markets. 25% of exports go to the UK, and it’s an area where there has been strong growth, driven primarily by strong global demand for dairy produce.

Here, there are opportunities for Irish companies to displace UK suppliers that sell into Ireland. There are going to be challenges where perishable exports are concerned, however.

To mitigate against this, we’ve seen a number of companies invest in frozen storage, or reconfigure their production processes, how and where they produce their products. Other businesses are trying to ensure they will have refrigerated logistics to try and counter any impact of disruption that might arise.

Retail is another sector where business will need to understand their supply chain. Where are their products coming from, and how could there be a disruption as a result of Brexit.

Equally, there may be an opportunity to displace UK retailers, who may have more products coming from or through the UK. So that might give Irish retailers the impetus to target that market.

At Bank of Ireland, we’re here to help and support our customers. There are a number of ways we can do this. If you log on to our new Brexit Hub, you’ll find we have a range of supports available.

But also talk to your Relationship Manager who will be delighted to help. We have a team of 120 mobile Relationship Managers who are out talking to customers at their place of business every day.

By Pierce Butler.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/which-irish-business-sectors-will-be-most-impacted-by-brexit/ on
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Violet’s still blooming in Kildare

The family-run flower store Violet’s first opened its doors 26 years ago in Kildare and continues to grow despite fierce competition from the big supermarkets.

How we began

In April 1993, 26 years ago, Catherine (my mother) who loved flowers all her life decided to do a floristry course and realise her dreams of owning her own business. Six months later, Violet’s Flowers opened its doors.

Being a family of entrepreneurs, we also had a newsagents in the town where I learned a lot about business working alongside my dad Pat. My brother, David, showed an interest in floristry when he finished school and decided to work in the flower shop also.

When Violet’s had busy periods, myself and sister, Katie, would pop in and help out, Pat would do the deliveries – it was very much a family affair. I really enjoyed these busy occasions and it ignited my passion for floristry.

The circle of life

I love this job and how creative you can be and how much joy you can bring to people for a variety of occasions, from their wedding day to the birth of their first child. You really do see the circle of life in this industry. I love the seasonality of this business and how it’s forever evolving and changing. No two days are the same which makes it interesting and enjoyable.

Getting social

In 1993, Catherine and Pat decided to build up a stock of giftware and dried flowers little by little over six months. Catherine also started creating dried flower arrangements at home in preparation for the opening of the shop.

“I love the seasonality of this business and how it’s forever evolving and changing. No two days are the same which makes it interesting and enjoyable.”

Over the years, we have very much moved with the times – in 2014 we opened our online shop, we’re also very busy on our Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages and we like to keep up-to-date with all aspects of our social media.

Social media has become a big part of our business and it allows us to interact with our customers on a daily basis. Going forward, our goal is to make as many people happy with our flowers as possible. We have toyed with the idea of opening a floristry school – all going well that will be in our near future.

The bigger stores selling flowers online

We are not affected by bigger stores selling flowers online as much as we were by big multiples selling flowers in-store. We have definitely seen a change over the years because of this – our customers that used to buy flowers on a weekly basis for their houses now pick up a bunch while they are doing their shopping.  Fortunately for us, we create flowers for extra special occasions i.e. weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and are able to provide that personal touch that customers love.

“We have toyed with the idea of opening a floristry school – all going well that will be in our near future.”

The quiet times

I feel that it can be difficult for every business at certain times of the year. During our quieter times, we have had to come up with fresh ideas to spark an interest in our customers. Most recently, we introduced beautiful framed prints, lanterns and giftwares – it’s important to keep our customers coming back.

Who has helped you most along the way?

That’s easy – my mam and dad. Without them, Violet’s wouldn’t exist. We also have very loyal customers who have been there with us since the beginning.

“We are not affected by bigger stores selling flowers online as much as we were by big multiples selling flowers in-store.”

If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

At this stage, there is nothing I would change but having overcome a recession, it has certainly changed our thinking about certain aspects of our business and as a result, has made us more savvy and resourceful.

Who inspires you in business?

In our locality, we have a lot of family-run businesses that have been there for decades. Seeing these businesses continue to be successful, changing with the times, passing from one generation to another gives us the incentive to strive to grow our business for years to come.

By Stephen Larkin.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/the-flower-business-ireland-violets-still-blooming-in-kildare/ on
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Brexit won’t break Donegal’s fighting spirit

ThinkBusiness travelled to Donegal to speak to Claire McDonough, co-owner of La Maison, who says Donegal business owners are survivors and won’t be broken by Brexit.

What is your background?

Myself and my business partner Anne Blake started the company in 2005 following two years of research. We were both working for Donegal County Council at the time and the idea was born to have a high-end quality gifted home store after being invited to lots of weddings. We visited 52 shops all over Ireland and heavily researched everything and La Maison was the result of all our analysis. After opening, everything was going great when all of a sudden the recession hit and with that we decided that we needed to spread our offering so we retrained as interior designers. We’re now a team of six and have grown our interior design service to the point where the retail aspect is only 10% of our turnover.

How difficult was it to stay afloat during the recession?

It was extremely difficult. We didn’t have a lot of staff at the time and we had to cut our costs as much as possible. We upped our engagement with customers and held a lot more events to grow our reputation but there were many times when we didn’t even take a salary for ourselves, but that’s what was required.

“There were many times when we didn’t even take a salary for ourselves, but that’s what was required.”

Brexit impact

Brexit is going to be a massive challenge. I’ve spoken to other people in our sector and also in the county and there is a lot of panic around. But I’m looking at it a little differently. I really love what I do and I’ve worked too hard to build the business so I refuse to be defeated by Brexit. To combat this, we are currently working on new projects with one being Wild Atlantic Interiors. The one thing Brexit cannot take away is the beauty of County Donegal and because Failte Ireland put so much into creating the Wild Atlantic Way, we’re creating our own range off the back of that, beginning with cushions based on locations in the area. We also have a nursery range with lovely Donegal hares and bunnies.

Do you sell into the UK?

Not so much because a lot of our products are bought by homeowners in Donegal or possibly tourists visiting the area. But in saying that, the supply chain is a concern because of where I get my materials. Around 90% of my suppliers come through the UK so that’s going to create a challenge for the business. I’ve spoken to our reps asking about their Brexit plans and at the moment they don’t have any so that is a concern.

“I really love what I do and I’ve worked too hard to build the business so I refuse to be defeated by Brexit.”

Are you developing new markets?

Yes, I’m definitely open to moving into new markets and trying to help grow the business. In a way, that’s why I am testing the Wild Atlantic Interiors. We have done holiday homes via Skype for people in the United States who have holiday homes here. If I can source their fabrics from the US and bring them over and do it in a way that is financially viable for both them and us, then I am happy to do that.

“It just takes coming up with a creative way to combat the challenges that Brexit will pose.”

The strength of Donegal

I think we (Donegal business owners) have developed the skills for survival, that’s for sure. For us companies up here, if we survived the last recession, we’ll be able to get through Brexit. It just takes coming up with a creative way to combat the challenges that Brexit brings. The most important thing in business is to know your customer’s needs and that’s our focus.

Related Resource

    Read more about Letterkenny’s win at the recent National Enterprise Town Awards

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/brexit-wont-break-donegals-fighting-spirit/ on
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