Cathy’s Comment – Brexit; Opportunity?

We’re conscious that many of our clients market into the UK and this is certainly a worrying time. From an Irish perspective, it’d be easy to say that the UK vote has instigated a lose-lose-lose; bad for Ireland, bad for the UK and most seriously, bad for Europe. What clown would vote for that? Equally though, we can understand that people are tired of faceless, too-well-paid Eurocrats dictating policies that seem senseless on the ground and even after the vote, the Commission President Juncker’s “not an amicable divorce” comments have a slight tinge of bully-boy tactics.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…..

While politicians grapple to deal with the fall-out, biz on the ground has to continue and for those involved in export marketing it seems hard to take a strategic view right now, given that we don’t know what the landscape will look like in a few years. Oh and there’s no point in hoping for a re-vote; even if it did happen, that too could take years. In the meantime we need to deal with the immediate tactical considerations businesses are facing on the ground – like currency fluctuations, stalling on orders and getting paid.

Winning Thinking

But if you agree that’s there’s losers all over the place, right now – then you’ll know that if there’s one thing certain in business it’s that where there’s losers (and god knows we’ve all  been there over the last decade), there’s a winner hidden in the long grass.

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Sport often re-enforces this vividly too and one of the things I’ve learnt over the years is that life really is like golf. If you say you’re a bad putter then go to take the putt…..It’s no different in the markets, we know that sentiment drives market dynamics and what we think can dictate what happens.

So when we shake ourselves down, why not make a decision that ultimately we may be facing one of the biggest opportunities Ireland has had and that, in reality, we can be the winner out of this? We may end up being the only country, besides Malta, that speaks English and is in the Eurozone. I’ve just checked and Malta is about 27k long and 15k wide; online gambling, financial services, tourism and freight are key industries and they attract significant Foreign Direct Investment too. So across the EU, if there is only Malta and Ireland with English and the Euro – I think we can safely conclude there’s plenty of room for both of us. Our own goals to attract Foreign Direct Investment were captured in the IDA FDI Strategy for 2015 to 2019 and surely this opportunity has just jumped a significant notch with our major competitor literally being taken out of the market. Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive of IDA Ireland believes this to be the case. And besides the opportunity for investment coming in, maybe it’s time for Irish businesses dependent on the Irish and UK economies to look further afield; it’s not a bad thing to be forced out of our comfort zone. We work with many Enterprise Ireland client companies that have successfully either made this transition to become global operators or strategically decided at the outset to focus on other markets. Many are now leading innovators in their fields – companies you have probably never heard of that are the real heroes of Irish business life; Easyfix, Prodieco, ClaimVantage and many more.

If we decide to believe that this is the opportunity of a lifetime (maybe many lifetimes!) – what difference does it make if we’re wrong? I’m not suggesting that we can think things right (or maybe I am) because realistically we are a little boat on a big European tide but equally if we can get our thinking focussed on the opportunity and work hard around the positives; then even if we have minimal impact on the Irish macro-economic situation, we will still be more motivated to drive business forward; and motivation is everything.

Life’s Like Golf – Putting in Practice

On a practical level so, there’s strategic stuff we expect our government to get on with, like putting the right fiscal infrastructure in place to optimise the opportunity. But there’s also tactical things Irish businesses need to implement ASAP to stay strong in the short-term and to grow opportunities over time; this Enterprise Ireland Guide is really useful (we’ve summarised this in a separate article).

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It’s been great to see some Irish government agencies like the IDA and Enterprise Ireland promote the positives and getting out there quickly with guidance for the business community but for all those doomsday Irish commentators and some of our politicians who have been beating the disaster drum, if we’re drowning in negativity on top of all the uncertainty….well it can be enough to force us out onto the golf course; when we should, of course, sit at the desk, put the head down and push the business forward.

We’re not likely to change the background noise anytime soon; but we can change the way we think; Brexit – bring on the opportunity…..

Oh and if you think the puts will go in, it’s true that they do but only if you’ve spent hours on the practice ground (therein lies….)!

Cathy McGovern