Driving Leadership in Enterprise



Driving Leadership in Enterprise
Leadership in
in Northern Ireland
Table of Contents
3 Foreword
5 Executive Summary
7 Session 1 - Business entry and exit with
Eleanor McEvoy, CEO, Budget Energy
11 Session 2 - Growing the business and
maximising revenue with Nora Senior,
President of the British Chambers of
15 Session 3 – Cash Flow and Finances with
Jayne Brady, Partner Kernel Capital
19 Session 4 – Increasing your Client Base with
Helen Kirkpatrick, Non-Executive Director,
UTV Media plc, Kingspan Group plc & United
Dairy Farmers.
23 Acknowledgements
How to use this document
This document is drafted to be used as an aid for
helping to drive your business forward. We have tried
to extract the useful insights, tips and nuggets of
knowledge provided both by our expert speakers and
our experienced business leaders who participated in
the focus groups. The list of contents detailed above
includes some of the key areas that you may like
to focus on. While each area may not apply to your
business, we do hope that one or two ideas identified in
the study will help in your drive to grow.
Laura Jackson,
Partner, BDO
In the pages which follow you will read real time commentary and analysis from
business people who are at the coal face of driving Northern Ireland plc. This
document is a record of the recent business series themed around Leadership
in Enterprise and was hosted in partnership with the Bank of Ireland UK. This
report serves as a very useful ‘bookmark’ of the discussions, debate and insights
The audience and panellists were female and that reflected the genesis of these
business seminars which were born out of an event which raised funds and
awareness for Action Cancer in October 2013. Our guests that day expressed
a desire to continue their important discussions and that led to our seminars in
April and May this year. We appreciate the input and participation of our keynote
speakers and our facilitators, all of whom are detailed in this valuable report.
The issues facing businesses and in some cases restricting business growth,
were examined in detail, experiences were shared and, we hope, lessons learned.
Participants discussed business entry and exit strategies, how to increase the
customer base of a company, where to look for growth and managing finances.
Access to finance remains a critical factor and the important role of venture capital
funds as well as statutory agencies was highlighted.
There are of course a number of very successful businesses in Northern Ireland
our seminars facilitated a sharing of experience between local companies,
particularly on the issue of business growth and how it can be maintained.
Delegates examined the potential of growth through export, firms expanding into
new geographical areas and new business areas and an increased focus on the
customer. We also looked at the difficulties of operating a business where a ‘fear
of failure’ can be too pervasive. Those taking part also swapped success stories
which will serve to motivate and inspire future business leaders.
The Northern Ireland Executive has set economic growth as its central priority and the emerging recovery is strong enough now that we can realistically have
confidence that we are entering a post-recession period. Invest NI is reporting on
its most successful year to date and that signals a positive return for Foreign Direct
Investment into our region. It is important that the indigenous SME, for long central
to the economy and still the key driver of jobs and prosperity, is also supported
through the creation of a business friendly environment, and political intervention
where necessary. Our delegates experience is worth recording and worth reading
as well; these are the experiences of our business leaders, experienced and new.
Please take the time to read this document, we at BDO Northern Ireland, like
our partners in the Bank of Ireland UK, believe it to be a timely and very useful
snapshot of both the challenges faced by business people locally, and the
opportunities inherent in addressing them.
Maria McAllister,
Senior Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK
This series and resulting report was conceived on the back of a unique opportunity
identified by Bank of Ireland UK and BDO. After listening to our customers,
business partners, staff and taking into consideration the general business market
sentiment, we took the opportunity to work together to engage with female
business owner/directors from across Northern Ireland.
In excess of 70 participants shared a vast wealth of insight and accumulated
experience, networked to build new connections and indeed there was some new
business done too.
You will see throughout this document that the carefully selected themes
ensured the discussion and debate focused on delivering insights of value to
participants as business leaders. They teased out healthy debate, consensus and
recommendations all focusing on the aim of achieving the support required for
the continued evolution of Northern Ireland as a modern, open and progressive
I found it really encouraging that each and every session was a forum for open and
frank discussion. The output has something to appeal to any business with the call
for action including practical ones which can be implemented within an individual
business while others focus on a more macro strategic level.
Feedback from participants was tremendously positive indicating that very valuable
conversations were had and importantly there are real opportunities to implement
practical actions to drive Leadership in Enterprise in Northern Ireland.
On behalf of Bank of Ireland UK I would like to thank all of our participants, our
keynote speakers and our series partner BDO for their contribution. Our hope is
that the collective contribution captured in this document will, in turn, inform future
conversations individuals, businesses, industry and policy leaders who all have a
role to play in the development of the Northern Ireland economy.
The aim of the series was to identify and share the current trends and
challenges that leaders in enterprise face in Northern Ireland.
These consisted of four sessions each with a female business leader
positioning their business story, experience and insights in order to motivate,
encourage and provoke the discussions from the participants. Each session
consisted of 18 senior female business leaders holding positions of influence.
To maximise the level of information extracted from participants across these
four areas, each session and speaker focused on a different topic which
Business Entry & Exit
Growing the business and maximising revenue
Cash flow and finances
Increasing your client base
Across each of the sessions four common areas emerged as a requirement
for focus in driving leadership in enterprise in Northern Ireland. These were
Strategy & Planning, Customers, Innovation and Confidence.
1. Strategy & Planning
• It’s extremely important that companies and leaders dedicate adequate
time and resources into developing and implementing a strategy, it is the
foundation of any business.
• A robust, flexible and adaptable strategy will enable you to manage and
embrace the changing environment as opposed to letting change manage
• Building a strong team that you trust to implement the strategy and clearly
communicating the strategy to the business helps businesses achieve
• When building and implementing the strategy it’s important to regularly
monitor your performance and the market.
2. Customers
• K
nowing your customer and understanding their needs play a critical role
in a company’s success.
• Customer loyalty continues to diminish and they continue to seek out
better value; companies need to differentiate themselves from their
competition by listening to customers and identifying new opportunities
based on this.
• Awareness and understanding of your customer base will help identify over
dependency on a specific customer or geography, which is imperative in
managing the risk of loss of vital orders or a missed opportunity to identify
alternative customers and markets.
3. Innovation
• Innovation needs to form part of the business culture and should be driven
by the leadership team.
• Embracing innovation not only helps manage change but can identify new
markets, products, income streams and opportunities for growth. Therefore
it is important to commit the right resources and time to innovation.
• Knowing your competitor but not obsessing over what they do will enable
you and your business to be more innovative.
4. Confidence, Confidence, Confidence…
• Confidence builds determination which helps motivate and inspire us all.
• To overcome a lack of confidence there must be better appreciation of our
achievements as business leaders, the business’ success and confidence in
the quality of the goods and services offered.
• Look at other successful businesses and leaders across Northern Ireland
and appreciate, learn from and build on them.
• Networking and self-promotion are two important factors in achieving better
confidence with a greater emphasis required in both of these areas. There is
a need for better networking and training among business leaders.
Evidenced throughout the series was the passion and desire to lead the
growth of enterprise in Northern Ireland and a strong consensus that through
a combined macro and micro focus on these key areas the Northern Ireland
business community can thrive, realise its potential and become a leading
example of driving enterprise.
entry & exit
Session 1
Eleanor McEvoy, CEO, Budget Energy
“Do what you do well and
outsource the rest”
Eleanor McEvoy
Eleanor’s thoughts…
…on growth through business entry and exit
The difference between true business leaders and
managers is that they often adopt the approach of an
entrepreneur to achieve growth, to keep the business
and themselves focused and to keep ahead of the
competition. Eleanor shared her experience of achieving
her business ambitions by taking on the adventurous
journey of growth through Business Entry and Exit.
For entrepreneurs, continuous thinking and movement are
innate. In 1986, Eleanor learnt a vital lesson which shaped
her thinking. It was a role in telesales where she gained
experience for life as an entrepreneur
„1986 - First job was in telesales based in Dublin
„1990 to 2001 – Establishes, builds and sells Pembrook
Distributors in ROI
„2001 to 2006 - Enters into telecoms establishing
Phonecard Warehouse, a top-up phone card to help
address vandalism in coin operated telephone boxes,
which was then sold as a €50m turnover business
„2010 to present day – Establishes Budget Energy,
Northern Ireland's only independent supplier of retail,
pre-paid electricity. The company now has over 65,000
customers and a growing turnover of over £37m
The first of the Leadership in Enterprise series focused on
experiences through Business Entry and Exit. It resulted
in discussion and debate which identified insights, advice
and practical suggestions for business and policy makers in
three core areas:
„Growth through Business Entry and Exit
„Confidence, confidence and confidence
„Strategy and Innovation
„To push forward and grow you need to understand
what drives you in business …what gives you
satisfaction and what doesn’t
At that time, she says, ‘we were selling some of the
most difficult products you could sell in the middle
of a recession and you could go through two thirds
of a day feeling there was no light at the end of the
tunnel. Suddenly, once you made a sale, your whole
perspective changed. From this, I learned it is important
to: park the things that don’t work for you and
concentrate on the things that do.’
„Achieving / delivering growth is not only about
identifying an opportunity, taking it on and building
it up… but knowing and not being afraid to exit the
Her first solo business venture was the result of a
chance meeting with representatives of Cadbury’s.
They wanted to roll out vending machines in the
Republic of Ireland and Eleanor signed a licensing
agreement resulting in her first venture, Pembrook
Distributors. She built it up from a tiny base, sales
expanded exponentially and the company secured
lucrative franchises. In 2001, she recognised she
had taken the business as far as she could and that
there was interest in the market for a sale. Making the
decision to sell was difficult but the success of the
sale was as a result of removing the emotion from the
entry & exit
process, seeing the bigger picture and looking beyond to
the next opportunity.
‘Nothing beats the feeling of that first sale of a business
as an entrepreneur and the sense of achievement that
comes with it.’
„Driving growth by taking things on …taking the risks
Her focus was still on ambitious business ideas and
Eleanor spotted and grabbed the opportunity to
differentiate through the set up of a new enterprise in
the highly regulated energy sector. Budget Energy was
established on the premise that ‘everyone has to buy
electricity and I reasoned, when I set up Budget Energy,
that they are more likely to buy from people they like
than from people they don’t.’ She conceded that she
was ‘probably lucky in coming into an industry where
customers were not really treated as customers in the
…on confidence
Confidence is what lies at the very heart of driving both the
individual entrepreneur and ultimately their business. This
was the resounding message delivered by Eleanor as she
shared her experiences.
„Don’t set personal ceilings
She set out her strong belief that, in general, ‘we totally
underestimate our abilities. Remember that, however
good you think you are, you are way better. The only
reason I’ve achieved the things I have is that I’ve pushed
myself and a lot of my achievements are things I never
thought I could do.’
„Confidence and determination are what lie behind
the motivation to set up and grow in business
Eleanor reiterated her firmly held belief, which is one
she has lived by and shared widely, ‘a hobby is not a
business and a business is not a hobby. If you’re not in
business to make money then my advice is simply that
you shouldn’t be in it at all.’
„Think big … don’t stop or be afraid to push the
boundaries for success
Eleanor also shared her view and mild frustration that
‘if you can run a SME successfully, there is no reason
why you can’t scale up. There is an idea that you can
take a business to a certain level and that’s it. But why
do we believe this? You will certainly have a lot more of
those rollercoaster moments with a larger business, but
every time you do something you thought you couldn’t
do before, it makes you a stronger and more confident
„Your confidence then leads to more determination
‘You’ll find that, for everyone who agrees with you, there
are many who won’t. Rather than being disheartened
you should take all those as positive affirmations to push
on. Women are so much more capable than they realise
and the worst thing you can ever do in life is to be afraid.
The only failures are those who never try.’
Comments from those in
Throughout Eleanor’s presentation the session was opened
up to the wider group for discussion. The participants were
business leaders and senior representatives from across all
sectors and were encouraged to share their valuable views
and insights on leadership in enterprise in Northern Ireland.
...on confidence
There was a very clear, strong and collective voice
recognising that Northern Ireland is lagging behind
successful countries and regions in recognising,
communicating and sharing business success.
„‘Self-belief and self-confidence are hugely important
in terms of addressing this and in feeding a culture
of more ambitious entrepreneurship.’
They acknowledged that this was fundamental in
building confidence today and for the future, and that it
plays a significant role in bringing people with you in your
„‘If you are leading an organisation and you don’t
have that sense of authenticity, then it’s hard to get
people to travel with you.’
A confident environment is one that encourages
„More thought is needed on how to build effective
networks: ‘often we see it as an add on, successful
business people see it as part of the job.’ In the
words of another: ‘it’s ultimately more about
entry & exit
confidence – if you focus on the confidence that
you belong in the space, any other issues are less
There needs to be recognition that “knocks” are an
integral part of a business journey. They are essential
to building a sustainable successful indigenous private
„‘You do have to set yourself up for knocks. If
someone says “no” you take it on the chin, it’s about
In building for the future, everyone in the room identified
with the need to have more business role models
in Northern Ireland to encourage future and hidden
business talent into leading business roles
„‘Education is central to that,’ one participant
commented. ‘ We need to highlight more successful
business men and women to inspire the emerging
….on strategy and innovation
Combining the experiences Eleanor had through her career,
she provided some inspirational insights and nuggets of
advice to help drive leadership in enterprise:
„Recognise Change
One of the important lessons anyone can learn in
business is the need to combine focus with flexibility.
‘You begin with a plan and a sense that you know where
you’re going, but one of the most important things you
need to recognise in business is that the situation keeps
„Focus on what you can do to manage change
If you don’t manage change, then change will manage
you. Don’t be frightened by it, just focus on what you do
to manage the change. It can take a lot of work but can
also make you very efficient.’
„Know your limitations
Eleanor’s time working in the IT and telecoms sectors
saw her identify the importance of knowing your
limitations and working around them: ‘Do what you do
well and outsource the rest.’
“If you haven’t got the right
staff, you are not going to
grow a business”
Participant comment
„Be aware of your competitor but don’t obsess over
Eleanor really took this on board when considering her
move into the energy industry. By taking the approach to
focus on ‘the customer is king’ rather than competitors It
became clear that her firm belief that that is not an empty
saying but rather an absolute truth is what has been the
key to success.
This coupled with delivering a vision, innovation and
regular change all based on a customer-centric approach
has resulted in being the Budget Energy’s differentiator in
the market.
„Forecasting is essential to understand the end game
and in setting a benchmark for success
‘If you are stuck in the moment, you are not focused on
what’s ahead. You plan for the future recognising the story
may not end as you expected, but knowing that, if you
don’t have a plan, then there will be no end for the story.’
„To be able to lead through change you have to be
Eleanor linked this back to her message on knowing
your limitations and that in driving a successful business
there is constant change and this then needs a team of
people dedicated, bought into and committed to your
business vision. She shared her experience and belief that
authenticity is key to building and maintaining the success
and pace of change in a business.
„Clarity and communication of your business vision is
the role of a leader
Eleanor firmly believes that ‘you can’t expect others to
reflect what your business stands for if you’re not clear
about it yourself.’
„Build a strong team and trust them
I had to build a strong core team around me and trust
them – if you don’t put that trust in them they will be
aware of it.’
entry & exit
...on strategy and innovation
When the discussion turned to strategy and innovation, the
participants agreed with Eleanor’s view that change is not
something to be afraid of. It needs to be recognised and
then embraced as an opportunity.
„‘Change is about opportunity and some of the greatest
opportunities come about simply by recognising what is
„We have had to embrace change. Some organisations
and people can be afraid of change but it brings the
challenge of learning and adapting, of making and
dealing with mistakes.’
They also voiced the importance and need to set time aside
to scan, plan and visualise the future for their business and
highlighted that business or day-to-day ‘fire fighting’ should
not preclude you from doing this. In fact, many felt it was
the responsibility of a leader in the business to ensure this
„In the roles we play, within our businesses, do we set
aside time to scan the horizon and see what lies ahead?
We all know it’s difficult to take the time to do this, but if
you do, it can be extremely worthwhile.’
All agreed that there was strong recognition of the need and
responsibility to have a clear strategy and innovative change
in education, skills and people development both at a macro
and individual business/industry level in Northern Ireland.
„‘There are skills gaps in Northern Ireland and we need
to address these through education, training and
development. That’s where the focus has to be. If you
don’t have the right people in the right roles, you can’t
take a business forward or differentiate your products
and services.’
BDO & Bank of Ireland UK view
What needs to happen at an individual
business level
„Establish and encourage networking in and
around your business; sharing experiences,
best practices and doing business together
„Identify and recognise business roles
models within your business for the wider
team to aspire to
„Ask for the business, take on the challenge
and have confidence to go for the bigger
more complex deals
What needs to happen collectively at
a Northern Ireland level
„Invest in education through private sector
professional programmes, mentoring and
High Apprenticeship training schemes
„Encourage future School and college talent
to NI Entrepreneurial companies
„Build a vision and culture to encourage
skills to remain / return to businesses in
Northern Ireland
[ 10 ]
Growing the business &
maximising revenue
Session 2
Nora Senior, President of the British Chambers of Commerce
"You have to establish a culture
that will attract the kind of
clients you want and, to do this,
you have to lead by example"
Nora Senior
Nora’s experience…
…in change and innovation
„1985 to 1990 - Saatchi PR, Scotland where she was
the youngest MD of a plc in the UK at that time
„1990 to 1998 - Nora started up The PR Centre a small
consultancy business
„1998 to present day - Approached multi-national
competitor Weber Shandwick to merge and become
a director of the consultancy's Edinburgh operation
then MD Scotland. Now Chairs UK regions and is a
member of the EMEA Management Board.
„2003 - Scottish Business Woman of the year
„2013 - First Women UK Media Award
„2013/4 - President of British Chambers of Commerce
and a member of the Regional Advisory Group to the
London Stock Exchange.
The second of the Leadership in Enterprise series
focused on experiences through growing business and
maximising revenue. The discussion and debate identified
insights, advice and practical suggestions for business
and policy makers in three core areas:
„Change and innovation
Nora provided her unique insight on innovation and
change coming from the media and PR sector, which has
fundamentally changed over the last 10 to 15 years.
„Adversity can be an opportunity… think differently
and you can turn things around… through that
thinking you can drive successful change
When Saatchi & Saatchi identified that the Scottish
PR division of the firm was loss making and likely to
be shut down Nora, who felt so passionate about the
talent of the people and their potential, went to the
Chief Executive and persuaded him to give her six
months to turn the business around’. Rationalising the
cost base and approaching the construction sector
with a proposition around consultation and community
engagement were among the decisive steps that led to
a turnaround of the division into profitability in less than a
„External factors can apply pressure to adapt and change
so that a business is fit for growth. This is why it’s so
important businesses don’t bury planning time
‘The pressure is on any business to grow and it starts
with understanding what’s happening in the markets. A
number of trends are changing how we work, now and in
the future.’
„In today’s digital era every business must adapt to
and embrace change
We live in a constant of change. For the media sector
in particular Nora highlighted the fact that, with digital
media, everyone can effectively create their own content.
There is no boundary on creativity, so the question
can be asked, ‘where does that leave the traditional
marketing and PR agency? Answering this has required
us to change our focus considerably.’
„The information superhighway continues to build
momentum with more data available, more accurately,
more often and in more detail…..but it is all about
knowing how to use it.
‘Having access to data is just the starting point, knowing
what to do with it to maximise the benefit is the next step’
[ 11 ]
Growing the business &
maximising revenue
„Driving change in enterprise means driving change
through leadership and the leader needs to thrive on
change, to be a learner, to seize opportunities and to
never stand still
Nora demonstrated this in a couple of ways. Firstly
through her merger approach where the PR team at
her company saw an increase in the attention of larger
companies. Business growth was there, but clients
began to express a need to work with a company
that had an international footprint. Nora took the
initiative, went to her biggest competitor, which had the
prerequisite international presence and agreed with a
proposal to merge. This paid off with the business having
expidential growth through its increased footprint of 132
offices in 80 markets around the world.
Secondly by relating to the range of challenges that
digital media presents to PR and advertising firms. With
the pace of change considerable and requiring continual
innovative solutions, leadership is essential to drive
awareness, training and innovation in a company to
ensure change is embraced.
„A business’ recognition of and ability to understand
their value to a customer and a customer to them is
crucial. The ability to adapt and reflect that value in
their pricing and service level is vital to the business’
growth ambitions
'Companies are sometimes terrified of moving their
rates up', Nora observed. 'Our advice is if you work
internationally, to make your quote a rate for the currency
you are being paid in and all businesses should start their
pricing fresh every year'.
Keep records - if you find you are over servicing a client,
you have no come back if you don't have the evidence
that shows this. Discount rates and over servicing don't
contribute to a healthy balance sheet.'
Comments from those in
After Nora's presentation, the session was opened up to
participants sharing their vews and insights on the key
points she had raised.
…on Change and innovation
Participants found a positive synergy between Nora’s
pragmatic approach to growth by merging with a
competitor ‘if you’re a small business, the only way to get
bigger is on the coattails of someone bigger.’
Five years ago, companies were in survival mode, meaning
investment probably wouldn’t have featured very highly on
the agenda. ‘Now that confidence is beginning to return,
investment and training are important again,’ one participant
Another observation on the changing business world came
from one attendee, ‘Five years ago, a digital strategy was
important but not as important as it has become over the
last few years for everyone.’
…on culture
Nora highlighted the importance of building the right culture
and its intrinsic link to business success. She particularly
emphasised the business leader’s role in achieving this.
„‘As a leader, there is a need to be capable, confident
and strong, but, more importantly to make sure that
the people you work with share those attributes too’
This will help ensure you have a culture that will attract
the kind of clients you want. It’s important to lead by
example. ‘People will always be attracted to people
similar to them.’
„Continuous investment in people, their development
and skills can only strengthen the business
The UK has one of the worst profiles in the EU in terms
of investment in training and investment in people. Nora
stressed the need for continuous motivation from leaders
and likened the need for motivation to vitamin C: ‘you
need to give a little drop of it every day’
[ 12 ]
Growing the business &
maximising revenue
…on culture
„The economic challenges of the recent past
have seen a culture of clients ‘holding all
the cards’, particularly in relation to growing
revenue. All agreed there was a need to redress
the balance and have confidence in the value of
what they provide to the customer so that they
can change that culture
„Most felt that the economy in Northern Ireland
does not reward the entrepreneur at the
moment and that there was an onus to do more
to get behind the risk taker … to say ‘I’ll take
the risk because there might be payoff later’
„There is an overriding need to develop a culture
where the courage to take risks is underscored
by an attitude to business that had no fear of
Participants picked up on Nora’s calculated risktaking earlier in her career, particularly with regard
to going into business on her own. ‘We need to
build a culture that says “there is nothing wrong
with failure and how you move on from that, and
that it’s okay to fail”. That’s really the key to building
the economy in Northern Ireland.’
„There is an opportunity in Northern Ireland for
a sea change in the culture with the focus on
private sector and less reliance on the public
…..on customers
It may sound obvious, but without customers we don’t have
businesses and Nora shared some valuable insights on the
importance of being customer-centric in business.
„You can and will drive growth in a business if you
change from a ‘product-centric’ to a ‘customercentric’ approach
‘If we are to grow, we need to consider the needs of our
individual customer. You grow your businesses through
tailoring the services you offer to your customers.’
Companies may now have complex tools to facilitate this
but, ultimately, it is about facilitating something relatively
traditional: making your customer feel special.
„Identifying, knowing and listening to your customers
will help differentiate you. It will also put you in the
position to identify opportunities to keep ahead of
the competition
‘One of the things we’ve tried to do is really respect our
customers and get to know them.’ Soft information is
actively collected about clients so that, ‘in a very authentic
way, we can bring that in to the relationship.’
‘Sometimes you find there is something very small that a
customer is unhappy with, but if you don’t ask the question
you may never know. It takes three times the resources to
get a new customer as to keep an existing one.’
[ 13 ]
Growing the business &
maximising revenue
BDO & Bank of Ireland UK view
What needs to happen at an individual
business level
„Be inventive in how to train and up-skill
staff by recognising ‘it’s not just about
bringing in new people “to do digital” but
the opportunity to invest in our existing
„Explore opportunities for collaboration
„Increase staff engagement and
….on the customer
There was real positivity in response to Nora’s concept
of the customer-centric and relationship-based business
model. The participants strongly expressed their agreement
on this and that the challenge for businesses in the digital
era is getting the balance right between people interaction
and use of technology in interacting with customers.
Building strong relationships means putting the right teams
together and the view was expressed that ‘if personalities
gel, it makes things so much easier, so it’s important to
think about what will work from a personality point of view.’
The demand for value, while pressurising relationships
with existing clients, paradoxically creates opportunities to
acquire new clients, as loyalty is less in evidence than it had
been in the past. Having the right skills and the ability to
adapt are critical to taking advantage of this.
Businesses need to see their people as customer. If
they employ the same tactics inside and outside the
organisation, they are likely to have more success in terms
of retaining loyalty on both fronts.
[ 14 ]
„Refocus on capacity with continuous
investment in IT, people training and
recruitment to get the right people and
infrastructure in place
„Review client base, rationalise it, even if
it means making difficult decisions about
‘vanity clients’ who are uneconomic to
„Invest in your brand
What needs to happen collectively at
a Northern Ireland level
„Government investment in digital
infrastructure and training
„Review of the educational system and
curriculum to encourage and support an
“entrepreneurial education and culture”
„Develop a more customer-centric approach
at government level for doing business,
particularly around red tape and regulation
Cash Flow and Finances
Jayne Brady, Partner Kernel Capital
Session 3
‘I have found over the years, that it
was my own setting of limitations,
through the belief that I couldn’t
do something, that has been more
important as it made me more
determined to challenge myself
and ask Why not me?’
Jayne Brady
What Jayne shared…
…on confidence
„Be determined
Jayne explained that her interest in and aptitude for
electronic engineering was evident from an early age,
and that she persevered with her chosen career path in
spite of some well-meaning advice from educators that
medicine might be more appropriate.
„Jayne holds a 1st Class Masters in Electrical and
Electronic Engineering (M.Eng) from Queen’s University
Belfast and is a Fellow of the IET.
„2013 to present day - Partner Kernel Capital with a
focus on investment in Software, Communications and
Engineering, .
„2006 to 2013 - VP of Product Line Management, Intune
„2002 to 2006 – Engineering Director Flectronics / Nortel
„2013 to 2014 - Chairman of the Institute of Engineering
and Technology in Northern Ireland, holds / has held
a number of advisory and board roles focused on
economic and social development including Digital NI
2020, Momentum and the NSPCC.
The third in the series focused on Cash Flow and Finances
with Jayne providing particular insight from her vast
experience in the Technology sector. The discussion and
debate identified insights, advice and practical suggestions
for business and policy makers in three core areas:
„Financial Discipline
„Decision Making & Planning
„Seek out the experiences you need
As a graduate, Jayne had an interest in both business
and technical roles. Her first position took her to
Germany and Tokyo, allowing her to gain experience
in business development and marketing in a variety of
circumstances. A decision to refocus around the dot.
com crash brought her to lead a project in Beijing within
an organisation - that started with a headcount of 50 and
expanded to 1,500. ‘You gain the understanding that it’s
not just about having good technology and a good sales
position, you need many other elements to make a viable
„Having the confidence to build and use your network
is key
Reflecting on the experience she brings to Kernel Capital
and the expertise it in turn brings to the companies
it works with, Jayne said that ‘one of the most useful
things I have gained in my career is access to a network,
and the support it can provide in terms of opening up
opportunities is huge.’
„Don’t be the one to hold yourself back
She shared her view that it is most often our selfimposed limitations that hold us back in our careers and
she was determined to challenge herself despite this,
asking the question ‘Why not me?’
Her passion was clear as she spoke of the need to have
the belief and confidence to push yourself forward when
that opportunity arises.
[ 15 ]
Cash Flow and Finances
„Don’t underestimate our ability to compete on the
world stage
There is a need to recognise the strengths of Northern
Ireland and the fact that its business community can
both compete with and offer a valuable resource to the
international business community.
‘Having met with over 70 companies since taking on the
role with Kernel, the quality of the companies in Northern
Ireland is evident. They have a great outlook, a sense
of positivity and, very often, are quietly achieving great
success here and around the world.’
Comments from those in
…on financial discipline
After Jayne’s presentation, the session was opened up with
participants business sharing their views and insights on the
key points she had raised.
Jayne spoke of the importance of reading a situation and
recognising when difficult choices have to be made.
…on confidence
There was particular resonance from all participants that
limits on progress can unconsciously be set by individuals in
their own careers.
„There was an acknowledgement that, without a critical
mass of Northern Ireland peers, particularly female,
challenges will exist in terms of building confidence
and ensuring younger generations in business will have
role models who inspire and establish the ‘why not me’
„The key to enabling the building of that confidence is the
establishment and maintenance of business networks in
Northern Ireland. However, it was noted that for these to
be sustainable and successful, those networks should
be built with a business focus.
„Business leaders who are also mothers of young families
invariably find they must juggle divergent responsibilities.
This doesn’t have to be seen as a negative.
‘The work-life balance we require as working mothers
can actually make us much more efficient in terms of
time management.’
„Companies are, in many cases, performing extremely
well against a persistent reality of reduced revenue
streams, and against a backdrop of redundancies, salary
cuts and general cost cutting. The importance of making
decisions, and sticking by them, is seen as related to
strong leadership and women in senior executive roles
are delivering that.
[ 16 ]
„There will be hard financial choices to make
Upon moving back to Northern Ireland a few years
ago, Jayne became involved in the innovative start-up
company, which grew to employ 50 people through
a period of excitement and challenge. It was through
this period that the company was required to raise
multi-million dollar investments and simultaneously
„The importance of having a plan
Many people are adept at running their businesses
in challenging circumstances, but they often do not
appreciate the requirement for data that confirms this.
‘Eyes can roll when people are asked to produce a
business plan, but if you put yourself in the position
of an investor, you immediately appreciate why it is so
important to have that information.’
Cash Flow and Finances
…on financial discipline
„There has been a steep learning curve in business where
the understanding of the relationship between cash flow
and viability was not well understood.
„The learnings of the hard years need to be maintained
as things improve, with close monitoring of performance
and financial discipline required. It is important to
remember the impact of a more cavalier approach to
cost management, to take the lessons learnt, to come
out stronger and ‘ensure we don’t inadvertently trundle
into another mess’.
„There is a need to build a better understanding and
awareness of the different sources of finance available in
Northern Ireland. These sources need to be more actively
considered and there is a challenge around management
of this information, which needs to be addressed.
There is plenty of information but from multiple sources.
The information needs to be available, accessible and
managed more coherently.
‘It can be a bit of a minefield to access funding even if
you know it exists.’
‘There is a lot of information, but it’s not in a central
portal and people don’t know how to access it.’
…on decision making & planning
„Leadership sometimes requires some tough
decision making
Jayne highlighted a challenge earlier in her career,
which ultimately resulted in a very important
learning. Due to challenging economic conditions,
the organisation she was leading was required to
restructure leading to significant redundancies.
‘You have to make some difficult decisions and nothing
equips you for it ... Taking the right decisions early
requires taking the emotion out of the equation.’
„Identify alternative sources of finance
As a financing resource, venture capital remains under
utilised in the UK compared to the rest of Europe.
It is important for the future development of Northern
Ireland to broaden awareness of funding options
‘Kernel are looking for companies with viable
businesses, who have made sales and who, through
the combined financing of equity and bank loans, can
get to a scale they would not get to otherwise’.
„Understand the opportunity
Jayne addressed the perception that venture capital
funding means founders ‘lose control’ of their business.
‘From my perspective, very few venture capital funders
want to take control of your business, because they are
investing in you as people. Instead, they will want to
bring value, and open up networks and opportunities to
your business.’
[ 17 ]
Cash Flow and Finances
…on decision making & planning
„There was a clear acknowledgement of a key and harsh
learning, particularly through the last couple of years,
around the need to make decisions and stick with them.
While it is hard to take the emotion out of decisionmaking, not only can women make tough decisions but
they demonstrate strong leadership in doing so.
„In terms of business management, participants spoke
of a need to maintain close monitoring of performance;
undertake regular reviews of financing; operate to strict
credit controller targets; and, where appropriate, activate
an exit strategy informed by strategic planning.
„While acknowledging the necessity to maintain financial
discipline, there also needs to be enough/more time
dedicated to horizon thinking, time to read the market,
see the opportunity and take more creative and
innovative approaches.
„The key to supporting and driving innovation and
strategic thinking is taking steps to more creative
approaches, to development of skills and career paths
that encourage risk-taking and the feeling of ‘not being
afraid to fail’.
„Businesses need to look at investment in forward
thinking, in up-skilling and multi-skilling employees and
also ways of working.
„One participant touched on the need for new
perspectives and knowledge as the digital economy
evolves: ‘Unless we understand that a company’s
digital balance sheet is going to look very different from
a manufacturer’s then we are creating impediments to
supporting them authentically from day one. The reality
is a digital business’ assets are intangible and can only
be realised at exit strategy. We won’t have a truly digital
enterprise society unless funders are brave enough to
step outside the structures they are familiar with.’
BDO & Bank of Ireland UK view
What needs to happen at an individual
business level
„Improvement in communications and
engagement with employees
„Development of a culture of networking
that plugs into the particular needs of your
business and other business leaders
„Share experiences, best practices and
learning from doing businesses
„Familiarise and consider how the different
types of financing solutions including
traditional sources available may work for
any funding requirements
What needs to happen collectively at
a Northern Ireland level
Need for Government and joined up thinking
among departments in particular on four key
„Corporation Tax changes
„A system change in education
„Investment in infrastructure and policy
prioritisation for a business friendly agenda
„Development of a one stop portal hosting
the business finance options information for
Northern Ireland
[ 18 ]
Increasing your
Client Base
Session 4
Helen Kirkpatrick, Non- Executive Director, UTV Media
Plc, Kingspan Group Plc & United Dairy Farmers
‘If your business has a good
strategy but doesn’t have the
means to execute it, then it has
no purpose. You may ultimately
get to where you want to go but
it will take you far too long and,
by then, your competitors will
have passed you by.’
Helen Kirkpatrick
What Helen Shared…
…on strategy
„Helen Kirkpatrick has had a long and distinguished
career in business in Northern Ireland, working in both
the private and public sectors, as well as contributing to
the non-governmental organisation field.
„A non-executive director of Kingspan Group Plc and UTV
Media Plc, she works in the Corporate Finance division
of Invest Northern Ireland.
„Previous roles include, Director of the Enterprise Equity
Venture Capital Group and Director and Chairman of
Crumlin Together.
„2012 - MBE for services to the community in Northern
„2013 - IoD UK Non-Executive Director of the Year and
IoD Lunn’s Award of Excellence - the first female in
Northern Ireland to receive the accolade.
The final in the Leadership and Enterprise series was led
by Helen Kirkpatrick and focused on her experience in
increasing the client base. The discussion and debate
identified insights, advice and practical suggestions for
business and policy makers in three core areas:
„Having the right strategy and resources to implement
is vital
Helen began by noting that the relationship between
a company’s strategy and the resources available to
implement it is integral to its capacity to grow. The
contrary scenario, where a company has a poor or
inappropriate strategy but the determination and
resources to execute it, is equally problematic.
‘You will struggle because, no matter how good the
people are who implement that strategy, it is not going in
the right direction.’
„There will always be a tension between strategy and
In the drive to grow a business, Helen argued there will
always be ‘a tension between sales and marketing, and
between strategy and implementation. Marketing is an
investment and not a cost, but you have to be able to
quantify the return.’
With the requirement for a visible strategy now higher on
the agenda than ever before, Helen’s advice was that ‘if
you’re going to publish your strategy, you need to show
a goal within it. You must ensure your strategy is aligned
to achieving your goals and you must be dogged in its
„Plcs are now required to publish their strategy and
describe their business models formally within their
annual reports
For example, Kingspan, a world leader in the
manufacture of high-performance insulation materials
publishes and operates on a five-year strategy. It has a
stated objective of being first or second in its markets
of choice and it orchestrates export growth through a
combination of acquisitions & organic growth.
[ 19 ]
Increasing your
Client Base
„The strategy employed to enter new markets can
require some lateral thinking
Helen shared an example from Kingspan, where the
company looked at an opportunity in the US market and
adopted the strategy to first make the market aware of
the company’s products, then to educate and convert
it, and ultimately grow the market. This approach
was based on the awareness that the US the energy
efficiency agenda is not yet as advanced as in the EU.
A second example involves UTV's investment in the
acquisition of talkSport. This radio station is one of three
national commercial stations in the UK and is speech
only, allowing the company to target the male 18 to
35 audience, a lucrative demographic that advertisers
generally find difficult to access. The further investment
in Premier League audio rights has massively extended
their reach through the provision of commentary to a
global, multi-lingual audience.
Comments from those in
After Helen's presentation, the session was opened up
with participants sharing their views and insights on the key
points she had raised
..….on strategy
„Discussions resonated with Helen’s observations and her
positioning of Kingspan’s strategic approach, whereby
they clearly positioned an objective to balance against a
dependency on one key market. This ultimately proved
a robust enough strategy to deal with challenge but
flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and
opportunities. It was felt that this could be applied to any
size or sector in business.
„Participants believed there is a real need and value of
spending time scanning the horizon to make sure you
are not missing the opportunity.
„Concerns were raised about a mismatch in strategy at
Government level, where there is particular attention
on supporting large multinationals, in spite of the fact
that SMEs make up 98% of companies in the Northern
Ireland economy ‘There needs to be a shift in emphasis,
not to discourage inward investment but to give a bigger
push to SMEs to grow and create employment in their
local economies.’
„Many participants found Helen’s insight into the unique
long term strategy being employed by Kingspan on
entering a new market, very thought provoking. They
are focused on first making the market aware of the
company’s products, then to educate, convert and
ultimately grow the market.
[ 20 ]
…on the customer
„Have you scoped who your customer is?
Kingspan recognised that its customers were not just
the businesses who invested in their offering but the
Government and the EU. This has led to its involvement
in the Building Research Establishment project and
the development of the ‘Net Zero’ house, a project
that combines new technologies and new building
approaches to reduce energy costs, and which is directly
influenced by the need to meet pending Government
and EU regulations. ‘Our view is that , if you are going to
reinvent yourself as part of the energy efficiency sector,
then you have to live it as well’
„What is the benefit to the customer?
Helen shared her belief that the key requirement of a
strategic plan is that it should facilitate delivery of value to
‘While businesses often think in terms of the new
features of their products, the only thing a customer
really cares about are the benefits.’
„Are you managing risk in your customer base?
The recession provided many companies with a
steep learning curve on the need to reduce customer
dependence on particular geographies and to protect
against the economic cycle.
Increasing your
Client Base
….on the customer
„There was a very strong view that selling is about
relationships and it was argued that ‘everyone needs to
show that they place a value on the time needed to build
„The view was expressed that employees can increasingly
be seen as customers too, and this relationship needs
to be supported through better internal communication
and more investment in training and flexibility in work.
‘We need to show more trust in our people. As work
changes, work patterns will have to change, and a lot of
positives can come from that.’
…on innovation
„Innovation has a direct link to a growing Client Base
Growing the client base is also typically linked with
investment in innovation, in areas such as developing
new products, or in resources, so that the offerings can
target new markets or widen their appeal in existing
Businesses need to look at continuously reviewing and
developing new income streams through innovation. This
strategic approach is often as much about creating a
market as it is about finding it.
„Innovation is key to staying ahead of the competition
To support the commitment to market leading positions
Kingspan spends €13.7 million each year on R&D.
‘When you are ahead of the market, you will always be
challenged by those who are following you. The only way
to defend your position is to innovate.’
…on innovation
„All were in agreement on Helen’s assertion that ‘you have
to make your business different. It has to offer something
unique if people are to come back to you.’
„It was agreed this strategic approach is often as much
about creating a market as it is about finding it. ‘A
greater need to focus on emerging markets, to get more
from existing clients and to promote the benefits of your
„On addressing the challenges of expanding the client
base over the last few years they raised issues such
as the demands of accessing markets; the need to
replace lost clients with newer ones; the requirement to
innovate; and the pressure to find resources to invest in
people and to fund new ideas and plans, all against the
backdrop of rapid change.
„They raised the challenge around pricing versus value
which has pressurised businesses into cutting prices
and discounting over the last few years. As a result
businesses now face difficulty in correcting their pricing
strategy. They acknowledged that there is a need to relay
the value and position the benefits and also not be afraid
to say “I can’t do it at that price” They acknowledged
that innovation may be the way to create new income
„Attendees fully supported the view that it is vital to
manage trade risk by extending into new geographies
and developing new income streams through innovation.
[ 21 ]
Increasing your
Client Base
BDO & Bank of Ireland UK view
What needs to happen at an individual
business level
„recognise there is nothing wrong with
celebrating success
„encourage and look for opportunities to
work smarter
„taking time to implement good ideas
„motivate employees to participate in
business as innovators and value creators
„It was agreed that companies need to be more creative
with their marketing resources.
‘The challenge is that recession has affected everyone,
but we still have to evolve to respond to what’s
happening now.’
„As companies recognise they have clients both internally
and externally, growth and market penetration will
require a commitment to investment and to innovation,
while also focusing on managing costs and maximising
„A need to invest in the right people and, on a more
personal level, stressed the value of greater face-to-face
contact, reducing what some saw as a sense of ‘hiding
behind technology’ that has come with the IT age.
What needs to happen collectively at
a Northern Ireland level
„A shift in emphasis, not to discourage
inward investment but to give a bigger
push to SMEs to grow and create
employment in their local economies
„Greater political consensus and
cohesiveness in terms of supporting a
business-friendly agenda
„Development of one information access
point to source all funding information
„Reduction in bureaucracy when dealing
with Government
„Address the corporation tax issue
„A re-modelling of government funding
supports around SMEs
„Exploit uniqueness of Northern Ireland as a
place to do business
[ 22 ]
Bank of Ireland UK and BDO would like to thank all those who
participated, and gave their very valuable input and time in
enabling us to produce this document.
Guest Speakers:
Eleanor McEvoy, Managing Director, Budget Energy.
Nora Senior, President, British Chambers of Commerce.
Jayne Brady, Partner, Kernel Capital.
Helen Kirkpatrick, Non Executive Director, UTV Media plc,
Kingspan Group plc & United Dairy Farmers.
Session Facilitator
Cathy Booth, Director People Solutions and Family Business,
BDO Northern Ireland.
Business participants
Amanda McCully, Managing Director, Balmoral Healthcare.
Angela Bradley, Finance Director, Consarc Design Group Ltd.
Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive, The Mac.
Aoife Clarke, Export Manager, Zenith Hygiene Group.
Claire Johnston, Finance Director, BTW Shiells.
Claire O’Kane, Bid Manager, Heron Brothers.
Claudine Heron, Chief Operating Officer, W&R Bamett/ R&H Hall.
Denise Rooney, Managing Director, Premier Scientific.
Diane Anton, Company Accountant, Hendersons Group.
Donna Hasson, Company Accountant, Hendersons Group.
Donna Parker, Regional Manager, Diamond Recruitment.
Fiona Burns, Chief Executive Officer, Forward Emphasis.
Hilary McMurray, Owner, He Shi.
Jane Stevenson, Assistant Director Human Resource
Development, Bryson Charitable Group.
Jenny Pyper, Chief Executive, Utility Regulator.
Joanne Stuart, Business Development Director, NI Science Park.
Karen Shearer, Finance Director, Novosco.
Kate Duffy, Office Manager, CME Group.
Kathryn Dickey, Partner, Technical Transport Products.
Kathryn Walls, Director, Mills Selig.
Kathy McKenna, Director, Global Home Warranties.
Lesley Brown, Director, Dot Retailer.com.
Libby Morgan, Head of Marketing, RSA Insurance Ltd.
Linda Neilan, Group Accounting Director, Translink.
Louise Corken, Director/ Owner, Bunk Campers.
Maggie Allen, Procurement & Compliance Manager, Mount
Charles Group.
Mandy Patrick, President, NI Hotels Federations.
Mary McCall, Owner, Treat Ticket.
Mary Trainor-Nagele, Chief Executive, Arts & Business NI.
Moira Burke, CEO, Burke Business Solutions & Jenarron
Naomi Carey, Director/ Owner, Hutchinson Homes.
Neasa Quigley, Partner, Carson McDowell.
Nuala Harden, Director of Web & Mobile Technology, CME Group.
Oonagh O’Reilly, Business Development Director, Northern Ireland
Chamber of Commerce.
Paula Jennings, Chief Office, Stepping Stones.
Paula Kane, Operations Director, MCE Public Relations.
Petra Wolsey, Marketing Director, Beannchor.
Sinead Magee, Corporate Finance Executive, Invest NI.
Susie Brown, Head of Communications, NI Assembly.
Tracy Flannigan, Director, Colliers International.
Tracy Martin, Manager, Technical Transport Products.
Tracy Meharg, Deputy Secretary, DSD.
Vicky Kell, Trade Director, Invest NI.
Victoria Halliday, PR Executive, Randox.
Bank of Ireland UK
Debbie Cunningham, Commercial Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Diane McCall, Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Judith Hearty, NI Finance Business Partner, Bank of Ireland UK.
Judith Scott, Senior Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Julie-Ann O’Hare, Director Business Banking, Bank of Ireland UK.
Kathy Brankin, Senior Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Liquori Dobbin, Regional Sales Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Maria McAllister, Senior Business Manager, Bank of Ireland UK.
Niamh Griffin, Senior Manager: Strategy, Growth & Development,
Bank of Ireland UK.
Rosalyn Murtagh, Global Markets Dealer, Bank of Ireland UK.
Aileen Patterson, Principal, BDO Northern Ireland.
Jackie Nesbitt, Principal, BDO Northern Ireland.
Laura Jackson, Partner, BDO Northern Ireland.
Pamela Gillies, Director, BDO Northern Ireland.
Maybeth Shaw, Partner, BDO Northern Ireland.
BDO and Bank of Ireland (UK) have extracted what we regard
as the key findings and observations arising from the series
of presentations and discussions. If anyone wants any further
copies or indeed has any response to the conclusions, we can be
contacted at:
Bank of Ireland UK,
Maria McAllister,
Senior Manager.
+44 (0) 28 9043 3141
[email protected]
BDO Northern Ireland,
Laura Jackson,
+44 7919 264407
[email protected]
[ 23 ]