The Business Show

The Business Show 2021 – Rebooting Ireland – Highlights of the morning sessions

By Business & Finance
22 April 2021

The Business Show 2021, the second in a series launched by the Business & Finance Media Group, debuted this morning. Set across two stages, with 70 speakers and 30 sessions, the event is designed to help guide businesses through challenging times with a view to emerging stronger and more agile.

To read an overview of the afternoon sessions, click here.

You can access all of the content from The Business Show here. The content will be available for 90 days.

The Evolution Stage

On the Evolution stage, attendees were treated to a panel discussion titled ‘Shaping the Future of Irish Business – Voices of Industry’, featuring: Anne O’Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland, Paul Kelly, CEO, Fáilte Ireland, and John Power, CEO & Founder, Aerogen.

Anne O’ Leary spoke about how “the rise of e-presence and virtual meetings has caused a lot of overloaded work actually.” She also noted that, “as leaders and as companies, we are currently learning and evaluating but there is much more now about trust and empowerment, respect for people’s time, helping leaders lead in a much more understanding way of the people they are managing and leading.”

Paul Kelly discussed the positive aspects of the work from home model for individual workers. He said: “It is that flexibility of enabling people to fit work around their lives in a way that works better for them means that they will be more productive as well as having a better quality of life.”

With regard to leadership and communicating with a team, he said: “Give people more information than you probably would have given them in the past, communicate more and then give them the freedom to make decisions they need to make, trusting that they have the right contextual information.” On key areas of focus in the future, he noted that “digitisation and sustainability will be the other key thing from all industries’ point of view, particularly travel and tourism.”

Give people more information than you probably would have given them in the past, communicate more and then give them the freedom to make decisions they need to make, trusting that they have the right contextual information.

John Power urged attendees not to disregard “people who have to do the jobs that there isn’t any choice on changing their work environment.”

Regarding the long-term legacy of COVID-19, he said: “I do think the advancement that we have seen in how fast things can be progressed if there is a willingness to allow it and get to the market for patient’s and people’s benefit will hopefully be a legacy of this.”

This was followed by a fireside, titled: ‘The Return to Normal? Ireland & Industry Post-Covid’. Prof. Luke O’Neill, Immunologist and Chair of Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, spoke to Moderator Donal O’Donovan, Business Editor at the Irish Independent.

Among the talking points discussed was the economic crisis that has occurred as a result of COVID-19. He said: “The answer to the economic crisis is vaccination, it’s very clear and now we have the evidence from Israel that supports that […] If this pandemic had happened 10 years ago we wouldn’t have shut down the economy, we couldn’t have, people would have had to go to work physically.”

Regarding the responsibility of employers at this time, Prof. O’Neill said: “If you’re an employer and you have to bring people back into your workplace and someone is refusing the vaccine, you’re putting them at risk of getting infected, and you have an obligation to them in a way […] Some companies may well mandate vaccinations among their staff, you never know, it’ll be controversial because you’re forcing people to do something they might not want to do […] If you have 50, 60, 70% being vaccinated, if someone says, “I’m not going to be vaccinated” you may get them to sign a waiver to say I won’t sue you if I get infected […] it’s up to them in a way that if they’re risk picking up a very serious infectious disease that could be their choice.”

Prof O’Neill also suggested that there is a prediction of vaccine certificates for travel. He continued: “They’re trying to make 7 billion vaccine doses, it’s the most amazing thing, we’re going to look back on this time without doubt and say this has been the greatest scientific achievement of the last 100 years […] Now of course what’s happened by the way is marvellous collaboration between companies which was unprecedented such as Merck helping Johnson & Johnson and all these inter-relationships which were unprecedented in the industry for competitive reasons. The analogy I use is it’s like Pepsi agreeing to make Coke for a while.

“I would predict there will be a need for boosters mainly because of these new variants that are coming along and they’re already making the vaccines for those, some of these companies are already in production so why don’t we set up a factory in Ireland even if it came online in 12 months time, they’re is going to be a big market for these vaccines into the future, no doubt about that.”

The Elevation Stage

Events began on the Elevation stage with a fireside titled, ‘Redefining Business, Entrepreneurship & Connectivity in the Digital Era’. Moderator Gary Fox, Entrepreneur & Podcast Host, The Entrepreneur Experiment Podcast & HostButlers, spoke to David McCourt, Chairman at National Broadband Ireland.

Mr McCourt noted that, “we have to, as a business community, develop the products and services that lay on top of that fibre to solve problems around the environment, around healthcare around education, around these big problems that need to be solved, and the fibre is just the foundation.”

This was followed by the panel discussion, ‘Expanding the Tech Ecosystem – NDRC’s Regional Expansion,’ featuring: Mary Rodgers, CEO, Galway City Innovation District, Ian Browne, COO, Ignite NI, Patrick Walsh, CEO, Dogpatch Labs, and Moderator, Jonathan Keane, Journalist.

Patrick Walsh spoke at length about Ireland as a ‘global city’: “If you look at the top performing ecosystems around the world, Silicon Valley or places like Tel Aviv in Israel, they’re very tightly connected and they’re consciously thinking about those knowledge and connections transferring across. This idea of thinking of Ireland as a whole as a global city, as being connected across in a better way was something that I really thought was important to build our ecosystem forward and to build those links.”

Regarding the opportunities that arise from the work from home model, he said: “The idea is very much that an entrepreneur can come and build their startup from wherever they’re from, they don’t need to leave their hometowns.” He discussed the disadvantages of being an entrepreneur in Ireland: “It’s one of the top fiscal policy environments in the world if you’re Google, and one of the worst if you’re an entrepreneur in the OECD

“I sit on the National Competitiveness Council and we need to think about our economic model and the stability of that and how the world is changing currently and being accelerated through things like COVID and having more balanced economies. There’s nothing wrong with FDI but we want to balance it out […] We can become one of the top countries in the world with FDI, why can’t we do the same with entrepreneurship? Our fiscal policies and government policies need to reflect that ambition and they currently do not.”

The idea is very much that an entrepreneur can come and build their startup from wherever they’re from, they don’t need to leave their hometowns

Mary Rodgers spoke about the issue of access: “For us it’s all about the high value sustainable jobs in the west region, and so now the NDRC has a national platform so whatever county you are in you have the same access, there’s programs going on all the time and whether you’re in Donegal, Kerry of Tipperary it doesn’t matter and before that mattered.”

She spoke about the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion to NDRC: “NDRC have got diversity and inclusion at the fore at everything they do. It’s not just a nice thing to have, it’s definitely integrated into the delivery of the programmes and that’s been great to work with to actually have KPIs and accountability and systems in place to ensure we’re meeting those targets […] On the founders weekend, over 40% females participated in that.”

Ian Browne spoke about the dissolution of global boundaries: “We wanted to bring what we’ve done and help build a national ecosystem because entrepreneurship doesn’t care about boundaries, opportunity doesn’t care about boundarie […] We found the best way to help entrepreneurs succeed is about networks and it’s the network that really adds the value […] You can be based anywhere and grow a company from anywhere and scale it from anywhere […] The workforce is now global so it means there is no reason you can’t build a huge company from Belfast, Galway, Sligo, Dublin, Cork, Portrush, Derry – wherever you want.”

Mary Buckley, Executive Director, IDA Ireland, delivered a keynote on FDI, where she spoke about the importance of FDI to the Irish economy: “Today, there are over 257,300 people employed across Ireland in over 1,600 companies, and a third of these companies have had a presence in Ireland for over 20 years […] In 2019 alone, expenditure into our economy by IDA Ireland clients was over €25 billion euro.” Regarding what multinational companies are looking towards in the future, she said: “Multinationals are now placing an increased focus on Environmental, Social and Governance factors.”

Ruairi Kelleher, CEO at Immedis spoke to Moderator David Monaghan, Deputy Editor of Business & Finance Media Group about ‘How Culture Eats Strategy.’ Mr Kelleher spoke about Immedis’ continued hypergrowth: “Immedis, for its whole life, has lived in hypergrowth, and sustainability of that hypergrowth is the core focus of myself and the wider leadership team […] [Since 2016], we’ve done an acquisition in the US, two external funding rounds to ensure we have the capital infrastructure to deliver on that. In terms of hypergrowth from a percentage perspective, we’ve had a compound annual growth rate of 80%, and we expect to continue to see that trend over the next four years.”

Mr Kelleher also took the time to speak about company culture: “A lot of the senior management team has been there from day one […] Ensuring that we maintain that culture of the core main values of the organisation is really critical to sustaining that hypergrowth […] One of the most important things in my role is to encourage and ensure that the foundation of our business, which is our people, and our culture is protected. We can grow as quickly as we want for a short period of time, but without a really strong DNA and understanding as to who we are, that won’t last. So as an organisation, we spend a lot of time and a lot of focus on ensuring the culture is protected.”

He continues: “[Our success] predominantly comes from the culture of the organisation, it comes from the wider group in terms of the ambition we have had, and the ambition we have had embedded in us from my first day.”

Before lunch, Mark Jordan, Chief Technologist, Skillnet Ireland, delivered a keynote on ‘Steps to Incorporate Innovation into your Organisation Strategy.’ He noted that “focusing on identity and innovation helps businesses understand their purpose […] Strategies that incorporate innovation boost creativity, ideation and productivity […] Good strategies should promote alignment, clarify objectives and focus on delivering objectives.”

He listed 5 key steps to ensure innovation is at the heart of your organisation’s strategy:

1. Determine the approach to innovation by defining your requirements.

2. Develop your knowledge of your customers, the market, and your competitors.

3. Develop a clear value proposition to indentify what type of innovation delivers competitive advantage.

4. Assess and develop core capabilities within your business or organisation.

5. Establish innovation techniques by ensuring adequate policies and processes are in place.

The Business Show launched in March of this year with the a series of virtual events. The Business Show is an online event including live keynotes, panel discussions, networking and opportunities to share digital content.

This solutions-based event programme is designed to bring leaders from business, public policy and community together to discuss how to drive recovery and growth post COVID-19. Participants will bring their unique experiences of resilience and survival with an exchange of ideas, insights and strategies to help aid the recovery and growth of Ireland’s enterprise and SME sectors.