Time to knuckle down as chance for growth exists

Imagine you own a company. Let us call it, for convenience, Munster plc. This business has a lot of employees and operates across many different sectors like a large conglomerate.

Now, imagine you have a senior management meeting scheduled for the end of August.

Summer has produced plenty of drift. Many of your colleagues have been on leave and consistency has been a struggle across the company.

A lot has gone on in the outside world since June. It is time to re-set, re-focus and refresh for the remainder of 2016. What is on the agenda?

There is that new unit you established in July – BrexOpp.

BrexOpp has been tasked with the job of growing rapidly by attracting companies worried about the UK move to leave the EU.

All of the evidence, over recent weeks, is that a wide number of companies in Britain are seriously contemplating a shift to a eurozone country and Munster – not the German version – is primed to benefit.

Ask that unit’s managing director to provide an update on what there team is doing about all this and when can the company expect its first investment from this source.

Next, the core agri-food division. It has been a tough year. Aside from the fall in sterling since June it is also evident that global agri-food markets are weak, particularly in the areas of grains and dairy.

Your troops are understandably demoralised so they need a bit of a lift. Remind them that Ireland retains comparative advantage in producing key foods, cycles will change and pricing will recover as supply tightens from higher cost producers.

Remind them, too, this price weakness is a salutary lesson about keeping debt levels low in good times and bad.

The Tourism division is in perky form. They tell us summer has been a strong trading period. Bookings are up, yields are higher and spending has been strong. This team needs some restraint.

Don’t forget that UK bookings probably occurred pre-Brexit. Also, don’t let them get cocky about prices or have any illusions about jacking up rates for 2017.

Ireland needs to watch its relative tourist costs as competitors like Portugal want more of our market.

The travel team needs a session with you too. The airports in Cork and Shannon are trading well year-on-year but push them to find more business for 2017. Oil prices are low, aircraft supply is high and Ireland is an attractive destination.

Shaping deals that serve tourism in the shoulder periods of autumn and spring should be a focus point. Bus travel, too, is doing well. Frequencies are up, prices remain competitive and having the private and state sectors competing hammer and tongs is helping consumers.

That is not so clear in the train service which seems to be relatively expensive and far less flexible than other modes of transport. The motorways are doing a good job but a solution at the Cork Dunkettle roundabout must be fast-tracked.

The construction squad are next. You’ve heard lots of noise about housing initiatives but now is the time to figure out what scale of shovel-ready projects are developing.

If the projection dates are wishy-washy give that divisional head a good telling off. We need affordable housing urgently within the business to facilitate expansion and it is time to walk the walk.

Commercial property, based on the number of cranes over the Cork and Limerick skylines, appears to be in better shape. Keep the hammer down there.

The Communications team are next up for review. That one-gigabyte hub set up in Skibbereen is a shining light for the whole company. Why can’t we hardwire the entire business like that as increasingly Munster’s market is global, not just local?

Finally, a group yoga session might be useful before you bring all these team heads together to give them some important wrap-up messages from the boss.

First, holidays are over and let’s get back to work. Second, Munster plc needs positive momentum if it is to attack the scourge of emigration and, third, stop whinging about all the problems around us and get stuck into building our company. Anyone for the splits?

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


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