Thought Leadership

Why business leaders need to recruit and retain entrepreneurs to stay competitive

By Business & Finance
24 May 2022
Pictured: Tina McKenzie, CEO Staffline, Chair, Policy and Advocacy FSB & Honorary Consul to Finland

Tina McKenzie is the CEO of Staffline Ireland, one of the largest recruitment agencies in Ireland, as well as Honorary Consul to Finland.

Note: This piece was originally published in Business & Finance magazine, vol. 59, no. 2, available to read, with compliments, here.

Remember that for the most part, people don’t like change. It will be up to you to convince them that the change is worthwhile and both communication and trust are key.

Ireland is well known for its ingenuity. From the shipbuilding and linen titans of the early 19th Century, to Sir James Martin revolutionising the idea of the ejector seat in the 1930s, to John Stewart Bell, the man from Tates Avenue who proved Einstein wrong, to Professor Frank Pantridge developing the lifesaving defibrillator in the 1960s. An impressive CV for such a little place on the world map. However, we must begin to move away from the notion that entrepreneurship is confined only to Dragon’s Den style inventions or to Silicone Valley tech start-ups (both of which are, of course, to be encouraged!)

Brett Nelson, former Executive Editor of Forbes Magazine, said entrepreneurs are “in the purest sense, those who identify a need – any need – and fill it”. That’s why it is so crucial for companies to recruit and retain people with entrepreneurial spirit if they are to remain competitive in a constantly evolving global economy.

Businesses need staff that are consistent, reliable and that keep the wheels turning. However, they also need entrepreneurs; the innovative and creative types that will help the business to adapt, thrive and grow. If you fall into the latter category, always strive to show your entrepreneurial flair. I do believe you can’t necessarily become an entrepreneur by reading books or studying to become one.  It is about intuition at its heart, having the courage and conviction to take risks and working hard along the way; knowing that sometimes things don’t work out as intended, but that there are always lessons to be learned which will be vital for future success.

If you are an entrepreneur within a company, you need to feel comfortable with making suggestions on constructive changes. If you see that something isn’t working, speak up and present those innovative solutions. Entrepreneurs are inquisitive by nature, so take every opportunity to learn, research and develop skills that will assist the company. You will stay engaged and committed to the business and your employer will benefit from your increased value. Most importantly, build relationships. Remember that for the most part, people don’t like change. It will be up to you to convince them that the change is worthwhile and both communication and trust are key.

Throughout my career, when I spotted those qualities in someone; that innovative approach and willingness to think outside the box, alongside pursuing all endeavours with passion; I brought them into the fold. I didn’t always have a specific job role available, but I made room – knowing that their enthusiasm and talent would add value in time. Throughout my career, I have never regretted giving someone with a spark the chance to ignite it.

As an employer, when bringing entrepreneurs into your business, you must provide them with an environment where these behaviours are not just permitted, but encouraged. Give them the support to launch, with room for a soft landing if things don’t work out as planned.

To remain competitive, those of us with responsibility for stabilising and future proofing our businesses have had to embrace change and fast moving environments; particularly in response to the global pandemic. Entrepreneurial staff are a vital element of the journey, so I encourage businesses to bring in those candidates that don’t always neatly fit the job description, or those that require a little more flexibility. It’s like conducting an orchestra; bringing together all of the instruments to make it just right.  Perhaps some investment will be required in terms of training – but If you spot someone with the relentless spirit to do something new and innovative to solve problems, whether in the private, public or third sector; take a risk! You will more than likely be rewarded with a diverse, talented and proactive workforce, best placed to navigate the changing world around us and keep your business competitive.


As many businesses begin to look towards economic recovery and what the future might hold for them, ESW, an Irish-based leading global ecommerce company, is scaling new heights after the pandemic accelerated the change towards online shopping.  

A strong and sustained structural shift to ecommerce saw ESW revenues grow by 78% in 2020 and sustaining that growth requires constant improvement, investment, and the ability to look around corners to make the ecommerce journey frictionless for consumers.

In order to do this, ESW plans to increase its current headcount of over 600 employees across its global offices and to bring headcount to over 1,100 within 3 years. As ESW grows its employee base globally, it is placing people at the centre of this expansion and creating a supportive environment is of utmost importance.

ESW has been – and continues to be – committed to having a great workplace culture, and investing in its employees. This is demonstrated in its recent appointment of Noelle Burke as Chief People Officer. Noelle, who is a top technology industry–focused human resources professional, will lead ESW’s cultural evolution and people strategy.

Noelle remarked that; “culture is an important part of how ESW has designed the organisation over recent years. Since joining the team it is clear the company has fostered a culture that holds these values central to our way of doing business”.  

In addition, the company was recently accredited with the Great Place to Work® Award for the third consecutive year running. The Great Place to Work® Awards honour the Best Workplaces across Ireland, and is based entirely on employee feedback as part of an extensive and anonymous survey, with independent analysis of the results. In addition, we have been recognised in Crain’s Best Places to Work survey too.  Burke continues to say that “this accreditation further strengthens ESW’s position as an employer of choice as we continue to grow our workforce with plans to add 500 new roles”. She also comments that whilst “we are building for growth, like most organisations in hyper growth we too have experienced growing pains that we can take great learnings from and use for super insights in the next phase of our growth”. 

As a global ecommerce technology and services partner to some of the world’s biggest retail brands, ESW has a truly global footprint. And as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, there is a renewed focus on climate action and sustainability from companies and consumers. ESW is also committed to the renewed focus on sustainability. In a significant step along its journey, ESW announced that it will provide 100% carbon neutral shipping to its clients, which include a host of global luxury, apparel and cosmetics brands. The carbon neutral promise extends beyond just transcontinental air freight to include first, middle, and last mile deliveries.

Beyond carbon neutral shipping, ESW in collaboration with its brand and fulfilment partners, is committed to ongoing sustainability enhancement measures including: shipping smart package redesign, retailer and consumer options for lower packaging and recycled packaging, and increased use of electric and hybrid vehicles by logistics providers.

ESW is proud to offer our retail and brand clients the ability to be at the forefront of sustainable shipping and contribute to a more positive future for the environment,” said Burke. “It is another way we ensure the voices of our people – both employees and partners – are front and centre in decision-making to deliver a best-in-class ecommerce solution”.