Rebooting Ireland: Five key takeaways from the The Business Show’s inaugural webinar

Rebooting Ireland | Tue 16 Jun | Author – Business & Finance

The five key takeaways are:

    1. A period of disruption is a good time to start a new business, but be realistic
    2. Getting Ireland back to work will be the biggest challenge of the next government
    3. There are tremendous opportunities for higher education tech companies
    4. The future of the public-private relationship
    5. There is now, more than ever, a strong potential for Irish businesses in the United States

In the Eye of The Storm: Ensuring Business Resilience to move from Surviving to Thriving’ was the theme discussed by guest panellists Minister for Finance & Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe TD, Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, Sarah Clarke, CEO of Intuition North America, and Mark Little, co-founder and CEO of Kinzen during a live webinar this morning. This first online engagement was hosted by Sarah Freeman, Managing Editor of Business & Finance Media Group.

If you missed the webinar, you can see it here.

Here are five key takeaways from the webinar:

1. A period of disruption is a good time to start a new business, but be realistic

Mark Little spoke at length about the danger of us, as a society and as individuals, believing that in a post-Covid world, things will go back to normal: “There is no new normal,” he said. “There is a never-normal. Things have changed for us in the past three months in a way that I don’t think we fully understand, in the way we work, the way we live.

“And what a great opportunity […] for someone who has been carrying around in their rucksack that great idea. In a moment of disruption, when everything in your world is changing, is a perfect time to start thinking about that business.”

Mr. Little is no stranger to crafting a business plan out of a moment of disruption, having gone into business in the midst of the financial crisis in 2009. “People thought I was having a nervous breakdown,” he joked.

Mr. Little’s advice for up-and-coming businesses is structured as follows: “First of all, understand the problem you are trying to solve […] Fall in love with the problem you’re trying to solve. The second thing is the resilience test. Most entrepreneurs, most small businesses will fail the first time around. So, are you okay with that? Finally, most importantly, relevance: You may have an idea now … But everything is changing. Make sure your idea is still fit for purpose.”

2. Getting Ireland back to work will be the biggest challenge of the next government

Paschal Donohoe TD discussed what the plans for the next government will entail. A key concern for whoever finds themselves in government will be getting citizens back into employment this year and into the following. He also stressed the importance of giving the companies that employ them the opportunity to recover. 

He said: “We have hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens this morning who are waking up either without a job or with a job that is paying less than would otherwise have been the case.

“And I think what is so important in recognising the challenge both from an economic and social point of view is the speed with which this has happened and the scale of what has happened as well.” 

On the wage subsidy scheme, he noted: “ I want to get to a point in the future where a scheme like that is no longer needed, or if it is needed it is significantly smaller and different.

“But on the other hand I can’t get to that point with a speed that means that a half a million people who are currently depending on it find that the company they are working in or the employer they are working for can no longer survive without that scheme.”

3. There are tremendous opportunities for higher education tech companies

Sarah Clarke, CEO of Intuition North America discussed the myriad ways in which the fast-tracked move to digital has impacted higher learning: “We are seeing really progressive ways of offering personalised learning paths, which is something that is not always possible at an individual student level in the classroom, but can be used to complement classroom training.”

With increased digital learning comes the potential for lessons to be adapted or reconfigured based on knowledge or skill levels. 

“Using adaptive technology allows instructors and teachers to configure lessons to the level of knowledge of their students,which makes for a more meaningful classroom experience.”

4. The future of the public-private relationship

Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, recently spoke about the power of the potential of a public-private partnership at the Ibec Leaders’ Conference. When asked to elaborate on this point at this morning’s webinar, he spoke about the remarkable waves of change, such as an intangible economy, which has been a frontier for Ireland, and one that is equipped to tackle some large generational challenges, the all-island dimension of Brexit, and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“The public sector, throughout the last decade, has been fairly stable,” he noted, “while private sector employment increased dramatically. So it seems remarkable given that the state is giving so much support to make that point now. But hopefully we will see that re-emergence of a strong public-private partnership in the delivery of services, and partly that social dialogue dimension that we discussed in Q1 will form the basis for the future.

“I think that debate about how we provide that security for the gig economy, for that precariousness that people talk about, I think that commonality is there for us to seize.”

5. There is now, more than ever, a strong potential for Irish businesses in the United States

Sarah Clarke, in discussing her work in the United States, suggested that now, while most businesses are operating from home, is a fruitful time to research opportunities. She said: “In terms of offering insights to Irish businesses, I would say that [they] potentially have never had such a strong advantage of doing business in the US because there is no advantage right now to being here to do business because we are all at home.

“For those itching to jump on planes, think about why, and what it is about your character that you can offer online or in some more meaningful way and get curious about your consumers and ask how they’re feeling, and build a structure for opportunities around that.”