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Solving Ireland's Economic Downturn

Written by Will McKee Wednesday, 25 September 2013.

I have checked, and neither Nostradamus nor Old Moore have predicted the full impact of Ireland's current economic mayhem. Nor have they identified the actions that a business should take in response.

GOW didn’t predict it either, so the three amigos are in full agreement there, but here is my view on what most Irish SME companies should do now.

It has always been important for business leaders to look carefully at the opportunities to sell outside their home markets and because the readers of this blog are sophisticated business people, I am not going to waste time justifying the compelling reasons in support of this view.

However, up until now in broad terms, the strategic imperative for exporting was founded on the requirement for growth. The world has changed and within the three year planning horizons of most Irish companies, North and South, today’s strategic imperative is survival. All of a sudden, rather than being a “nice to have” dimension, exporting is the key to survival.

The chronic state of finances in Ireland, where there is a significant possibility of civil unrest on top of all the other difficulties, means that any company with more that 50% of current sales in the home market will have to seriously revise its strategy.

This is an all-island comment because the descriptor of sales from the North to the Republic as “exports” is a complete cod. Plus, the North is going to be walloped by a huge reduction in the £7 billion subsidy, as Britain deals with its own borrowing problems.

So the strategic solution lies in overseas markets that have a genuine chance of emerging from recession in the near term; meaning the US, Europe and Asia. Most SMEs in Ireland, particularly in the North, have only a superficial knowledge of trading in these markets, but they must learn quickly or GOW predicts doom!

What to do?

1. Set up a day for your top team to start seriously planning a strategy in light of the above
2. Pick a strong facilitator who will vigorously challenge your assumptions
3. Ignore all the economists’ talk about “green shoots” – they don’t apply to you!
4. Act on this with extreme urgency

But I am an optimist and hate joining Nosty and Oul’ Moore in predicting doom – so if you're an Irish company sort out your strategy and prove the three amigos wrong!

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About the Author

Will McKee

Will McKee (MSc, FCIM, FIOD) is one of Ireland’s most experienced board directors. His successful executive career has been complemented by non-executive roles as chairman or director of a number of leading international companies.

Will’s competence is derived from a strong marketing and commercial background with a rigorous business education as an alumnus of the Harvard Business School and regular participant at general programmes at HBS, Henley and IMD Lausanne.

The first ten years of Will’s working life from 1966 were spent as an international marketing executive in the textiles industry.  He worked in the North American, Asian and European markets.  Much of his business experience and knowledge has been directly applied to helping companies to trade internationally.

Will has hands-on experience of running international businesses in the following sectors: medical devices, food, engineering, giftware, business consulting, and fashion.

In July 2002, Will was awarded a Special Certificate from His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, in recognition of his outstanding personal achievement in business education and training.

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