More support needed to nurture entrepreneurs

Avolon Chief Executive Domhnal Slattery.

The chief executive of aircraft leasing company Avolon, Domhnal Slattery has resourced and produced a key report on entrepreneurship in Ireland.

It should be mandatory reading for a group of people we do not normally associate with the world of business -- teachers, politicians and civil servants.

Avolon's 'Project I' report is packed with a set of ideas and suggestions that anyone who cares about the future of the Irish Republic should embrace.

I have long held the view that Irish nationalism and republicanism were terms held hostage by too narrow a group including advocates of violence and disorder.

They can instead be embraced by those who believe the Irish Republic can evolve into an independent economic powerhouse that taps the abilities of its citizens and the global diaspora to create waves of new businesses producing employment, wealth and dynamism on the island of Ireland.

The Project I report starts by calling out a key attribute in the Irish character which has been often leveraged for business success – storytelling. In the world of stockbroking, we spend all of our time effectively telling stories about the future and aiming to attract capital in support.

Unlike auditing or accounting, which focus on historical data, stockbrokers and entrepreneurs lay out their aspirations and future objectives to capital providers.

That process requires a huge amount of frog kissing but if successful can unleash a stream of investment that helps businesses grow and expand. The Irish are good at storytelling and that helps explain why so many of them are in the upper echelons of leading global investment banks.

There are numerous examples of successful companies on the Irish Stock Exchange but a key weakness in Ireland relates to early stage and startup companies.

This is what the Project I report is correctly most vexed about because it shows how we struggle to instill a spirit of entrepreneurship at a young age and fall short in either encouraging or empowering young entrepreneurs.

To address this shortfall, Project I recommends an aggressive collection of solutions including tax breaks that encourage business owners to keep their companies instead of selling them early, mentoring programmes that tap successful business people’s minds and a collaborative effort to showcase entrepreneurs to investors from around the world.

To do this requires leadership. The political system in Ireland finds it hard to take a stance on this because business success and tax breaks are terms than many politicians prefer to avoid.

You have to wonder why. Do you recall ever being told stories of business success at school? Have those companies that have succeeded around the world from an Irish base ever been properly celebrated by the national broadcaster?

Is it not odd that RTÉ has resources for an industrial relations correspondent but not for an entrepreneurship correspondent?

History may have something to do with this. Any analysis of the beginnings of the Irish Republic can easily find a seam of resistance to capitalism.

That could be tagged to an association of big business with British rule and particularly the management and ownership of Irish land. That, however, is termed history because it belongs in the past.

Ireland has created many spectacular business successes over a number of decades and that has happened despite and not because of the infrastructure in place supporting entrepreneurs.

Imagine what could be the potential if we get our act together around fostering and developing generations of new Irish entrepreneurial men and women who embrace risk taking to create new business opportunity?

We need a rebellion of another sort if the mindset of key influencers is to be pivoted in favour of an entrepreneurial culture.

Joe Gill is director of origination and corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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