Doing business in Ireland: High-end tour operator Adams & Butler hit an early bump in the road

At the launch of the Fuelling Ambition Roadshows

Adams & Butler had positive experiences with JobBridge, and found Enterprise Ireland helpful, but have been hampered by one bit of red tape in particular

IN BUSINESS since 2003, high-end tour operator Adams & Butler is a well-established stable business.

The company’s early days were a little choppier, however, especially when it came to accessing credit.

In fact, founder and chief executive Siobhan Byrne Learat found the whole experience particularly unsavoury.

“It was an horrendous experience whereby as a single mother with four children I had to put my family home as a guarantee whereas my fellow married director didn’t, as he only co-owned the house. That was immoral,” says Ms Byrne Learat.

Finding available talent is another issue that the niche tour operator, which creates tailor-made travel itineraries, has to contend with.

One avenue the business has used to find staff has been the controversial JobBridge scheme introduced by the Government to help people back into the workforce after the financial crash, but which has also drawn the ire of critics who suggest some companies exploit workers by not subsequently offering them a full-time role.

Doing business in Ireland: High-end tour operator Adams & Butler hit an early bump in the road

With Adams & Butler, the story appears quite different, however.

To date, four staff have been hired on JobBridge — three of whom are still with the business.

Another state-funded support the company has used to its benefit over the past 13 years is Enterprise Ireland (EI).

“Enterprise Ireland is very supportive with courses, and especially their mentor programme. I love EI,” Ms Byrne Learat says unequivocally.

It’s a similarly positive story when it comes to the country’s overall business environment which she describes as “very supportive”.

A lot, then appears, to be in Adams & Butler’s favour.

As if to illustrate the varied array of issues SMEs in Ireland have to deal with, however, Ms Byrne turns to taxis — or more accurately, taxi exams.

“It is impossible for us to get driver guides.

“Even though they are basically just chauffeurs, they have to do a local taxi-driver’s test which means they must know the price for luggage, know intimately local housing estates that they will never use in their career.

“There needs to be a separate test and course to be a driver guide. All these guys have already done a professional guiding course, but it breaks their hearts to study for a taxi exam when they will never need to know what they are learning.”

It’s an issue that’s unlikely to have come across Mary Mitchell O’Connor’s desk before, but for Adams & Butler it’s their most pressing concern.

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