Rebooting Ireland: 8 key takeaways from The Business Show’s virtual summit

Rebooting Ireland, The Business Show | Fri 11 Sep | Author – Business & Finance

Launched by the Business & Finance Media Group, the Business Show centred on the theme of ‘Rebooting Ireland’ and brought together leaders from business and politics in Ireland

Launched by the Business & Finance Media Group, The Business Show‘s virtual summit took place yesterday, September 10th, and centred on the theme of ‘Rebooting Ireland.’ Leaders from business and politics in Ireland came together to engage with themes of Resilience, Strategic Growth, Innovation & Diversification, Digital Transformation, The Future of Work, Financial Planning & Funding, Human Resource Management & Upskilling, Business Process Optimisation, Business Continuity, International Expansion and Sustainability.

The Business Show trended on Twitter with both national and international audiences all throughout the day. The 1,300 registered attendees included a diaspora audience from countries including Canada, Australia, China, India, USA, who were witness to 22 exhibitors, 80+ speakers, 24 speaking sessions. There were in total 700 networking connections, with 50+ news articles from various media outlets covering the event.

Jason Ward, Vice President and General Manager of The Business Show’s founding partner, Dell Technologies Ireland said of the event, “In the new norm it is not possible to host the usual conference events and today has shown how we can still innovate and collaborate in a virtual world. We see that companies are looking to adapt and accelerate their development of digital solutions in order to succeed in the new world of COVID and we are here to provide them with the insights and supports to embrace this rapid change.”

The Business Show offered stories of resilience through turbulent times, shaped strategies for success in the future and provided a global platform for businesses and leaders to share their story on the next steps for growth in the post-COVID era.

On demand content from The Business Show will be available for the next 90 days. You can register here to receive it.

Below are eight takeaways from the event.


1. Build business resilience by pivoting to digital

Jason Ward joined Edward McDonnell, CeADAR, Piotr Gora, FAI, and David O’Connor, Elavon in a discussion on building business resilience, moderated by Ciara Dempsey, Dell Technologies Ireland. Mr. O’Connor spoke about how Elavon strives to maintain the same level of service in our ‘new normal’: “We had to look at our own internal infrastructure and see how we could deliver that same level of service to our internal customers … By being able to provision our own internal private cloud and then extend that out to the public cloud, we’re getting the best of both worlds.”

We had to look at our own internal infrastructure and see how we could deliver that same level of service to our internal customers … By being able to provision our own internal private cloud and then extend that out to the public cloud, we’re getting the best of both worlds.

Mr. Ward emphasised the importance of seizing the opportunities presented by digital transformation in order to build resilience, and how Dell can aid in such a pivot in business processes: “It’s a great opportunity for organisations in Ireland to avail of this digital acceleration … We at Dell will deliver the whole package to you, deferring all payments for 6 months, which means you can protect cash, keep your balance sheets strong.”

2. Now is the time to accelerate efforts for greener energy and greener businesses

Louise Phelan, Phelan Energy joined Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia, and Dermot McArdle, Electric Ireland, in a discussion on accelerating efforts for greener energy and greener businesses, moderated by Tomás Sercovich, BITCI.

Ms. McCarthy said that the future of the food industry needs to be environmentally conscious in order to grow: “If we want to capture the growth – the potential of [the food] sector – then we know, as an industry, we have to do it in an environmentally efficient way, and in a sustainable way. The two have to go together.”

When we’re marketing Irish food internationally, it’s our reputation is what we’re effectively selling. So if we’re able to sell Ireland as sustainable, world-class food and drink, that’s going to be our differentiation going forward.

Ireland’s reputation as an environmentally conscious nation, she said, could even be used in marketing: “When we’re marketing Irish food internationally, it’s our reputation is what we’re effectively selling. So if we’re able to sell Ireland as sustainable, world-class food and drink, that’s going to be our differentiation going forward.”

Mr. McArdle noted that customers want a sustainable electricity model, and advocated for a renewable mix in the future: “Customers want sustainable electricity. There is a move and a drive at a government and European level to move towards a policy area where we have much more of a penetration of a renewable mix into the system.”

3. Be conscious of different business needs when managing cash flow in the “new normal”

Michelle Connolly, KPMG, moderated a panel discussion on funding your business and managing cash flow in the “new normal”, featuring panelists Jamie Heaslip, Sabra Management, Liz McCarthy, Scale Ireland, and Ciaran Burke, Swoop Funding.

Ms. McCarthy noted that funding and barriers to accessing funding depend largely on your mode of business: “Innovative business needs to access different funding [to traditional business]. Equity funding is a really big type of funding for those companies. It’s very difficult to have a conversation with a bank manager with this very aspirational business plan that is based on creating something new.”

4. Effective leadership should contain empathy 

Siobhan Masterson, Ibec, led a panel discussion on Steering the Ship: What is effective leadership in the new normal and how can it be achieved?, joining Maureen Mitchell, Sterling National Bank, John Jordan, Ornua, and Maura Quinn, Institute of Directors in conversation.

Ms. Masterson noted the intense pressure of occupying a leadership position at the present moment, likening it to engaging in extreme sports: “Business leadership at the moment is a bit like an extreme sport … It demands a lot of athleticism – emotionally, intellectually, and also physically.”

I think it’s been a really difficult time for leaders – with both immediate and long term uncertainty. This required a step change … We became much more decisive leaders … I think you needed to lead with empathy as well.

Ms. Quinn called for greater empathy in dealing with other employees: “I think it’s been a really difficult time for leaders – with both immediate and long term uncertainty. This required a step change … We became much more decisive leaders … I think you needed to lead with empathy as well.”

Mr. Jordan concurred, saying in a post-chat Q&A: “Having dealt with the incredible conditions under which we are operating for the last 6 months, there is no doubt we are all going to be a little more empathetic.”

5. Accelerate growth through digital transformation

Hilary O’Meara, Accenture Ireland, led a conversation on the acceleration of growth through digital transformation, with panelists Maurice Mortell, Equinix, Christian Kinnear, Hubspot EMEA, and Maeve Culloty, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

During the panel, Ms. Culloty noted that “the conversation now has really drifted to what our priorities are now across the next 6-12 months.” Mr. Kinnear agreed saying, “Everybody is embracing the concept that digital and data and insights is just so crucial … Digital and data is survival stuff now.”

Mr. Mortell said that as a result of increased digitisation, most enterprises are looking at multi-cloud hybrid solutions: “The pandemic has accelerated this,” he said, adding, “The way we work has changed forever, there will always be this hybrid model now.”

6. Ireland has an opportunity for an entrepreneurial future, but do not fear failure

In a fireside discussion with Sarah Freeman, Managing Editor, Business & Finance, David McCourt, National Broadband Ireland, spoke about Ireland’s opportunity for an entrepreneurial future.

“The pivotal moments of my career have all been failures, have all been things that I’ve done wrong and I’ve learned from them … Each step along my telecoms career, the pivotal moments were all around failures or problems,” Mr. McCourt said.

He said that, in the United States, mistakes happen, but “one thing we do right is, we overcome obstacles … We have this thing embedded in us that if something tough is thrown at you, you pick yourself up and try it again and as a society we support people who fail.

The pivotal moments of my career have all been failures, have all been things that I’ve done wrong and I’ve learned from them … Each step along my telecoms career, the pivotal moments were all around failures or problems.

“Be prepared to fail and know that the chance of that happening is high. If that happens, be prepared to not give up your dream … Make sure your business idea is not a fad but is following a trend.”

Mr. McCourt also noted that countries that embrace technology and allow people to have access to technology, like Ireland, will recover “faster and better and stronger.”

7. Prepare for automation

Peter Hendrick, National Broadband Ireland, joined Séamus Dunne, Interxion, and Rebecca Keenan, Expleo, in a panel moderated by Maryrose Lyons, Brightspark Consulting. The topic for discussion was ‘Digital Transformation In Ireland: What’s required to make this happen?’

Ms. Keenan stressed the need for work on digital processes to happen immediately: “We need to be realistic in what we can do today,” she said. “Maybe we start with robotic process automation.” She spoke earlier in the day, in a keynote titled ‘Digital & Human: How an optimised integrated workforce will separate the leaders from the followers,’ where she spoke about an insurance robot recently deployed by Expleo, which is expected to save their client €4 million over the next 3 years.

8. Global expansion in the “new normal” requires access to digital, and greater choice for consumers

Tommy Kelly, eShopWorld, Lucinda Creighton, Vulcan Consulting, Daniel Chait, Greenhouse Software, and Andy Smith, UPS, engaged in a panel moderated by Sarah Freeman, Managing Editor, Business & Finance on the subject of Globalisation – What will be required to sustain a global expansion in the “new normal.”

We’ve seen quite a massive change. The age range of online shoppers has moved more into the older demographic.

Mr. Kelly noted that businesses will need be more conscious of the digital realm when looking to expanding globally: “We’ve seen quite a massive change. The age range of online shoppers has moved more into the older demographic. That demographic is a bigger spender, more reliable. Pre-pandemic, we probably would have seen 10-15% of our revenue come from the older demographic. Now that’s up to about 50-60%.”

Mr. Smith emphasised the need for consumer choice when looking further afield: “More than ever, the consumer choice is really demanding. A consumer now wants lots of choice, lots of flexibility, agility, trackability, so when you’re choosing a carrier, you need one that is able to offer [this].”

The 2nd edition of The Business Show, “Workforce Evolution,” focusing on the Future of Work, will take place in the first week of December 2020.