The Cork Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Conference this week at the scenic Fota Island Resort. The theme for this years’ conference was “Winning in the UK & Beyond”. I attended along with GxP Systems Business Development Manager, Denise Manton.
The event was chaired by well-known Irish broadcaster Anton Savage, who introduced our first speaker, President of the Cork Chamber of Commerce Gillian Keating. Gillian offered a wise thought when introducing proceedings: “Never mind the recession, there are opportunities in the UK”. I found this great motivation and relevant for any company who have a product or service for export, like my own.
Steve Aiken, CEO of British Irish Chamber of Commerce, spoke next. Steve told how businesses in London, Manchester and Birmingham, all locations with a fast growing manufacturing industry, want to do business with Irish companies. Indeed, the UK is home to over 40,000 Irish people who themselves are leaders in business. This offers a significant opportunity to Irish companies wishing to access the UK market.
Hugo MacNeill, MD Goldman Sachs Ireland, was our third speaker. When asked to highlight the differences between the UK and Ireland, he said that there are none really. He asked everyone attending “Are you maximising your potential in the UK? If not, then you can”.
He spoke of the importance of events like this conference
hat highlight challenges companies face when entering new markets and bring groups together to provide insights in how specific challenges can be overcome. As well as being able to “talk the talk”, it’s vital in the UK that you “walk the walk” – certainly, delivery on customer expectations is what GxP Systems is all about.
Sharon Buckley, Group Commercial Director, Musgrave Group followed. Founded in Cork in 1876, The group now has an annual turnover of €4.9bn. Sharon spoke on how the Musgrave Group played to local community strengths when entering the UK market; because the UK and Ireland are so similar, most of the solutions to overcoming challenges are common to both. They initially adopted a partnership approach, which allowed them to gain an Insight into how the UK market functioned. After discovering that there was no real difference between Ireland and UK, they grew through a combined approach of organic growth and acquisition.
Our next speaker, Finbarr Whyte, VP & Site Director of GlaxoSmithKline Cork, provided insight as to what multi-nationals look at when investing in Cork. GSK have invested €670m in Cork since 1974 so his thoughts were always going to be relevant and insightful. He spoke on what is important to GSK as a corporate entity:
- Security of supply
- Sustainability & corporate social responsibility
- Fiscal efficiency
- Competitive cost base
- Flexible skilled workforce
Cork provides all of these factors, and it is important to continue to do so in order to keep attracting large scale investment.
Some of the challenges faced by GSK Cork are:
- Developed markets are not growing while emerging markets are increasing
- UK patent ban: 10% tax rate relating to profits from sales of innovative products (very relevant to any pharma/med device manufacturers who currently pay a higher rate of tax)
- Reduced take-up of science in Irish 2nd & 3rd level educational institutions
- Increasing cost of doing business here
Finbarr also noted GSK Cork successes:
- Winning contract to produce Gantrez (an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste)
- Winning contract to produce other third party products
- Receiving planning permission to build a wind turbine at Cork facility allowing them to become self sustainable
- Receiving approval to begin production of their own range of opiates
Julie Lynes, founder of EZ City, followed Finbarr Whyte. Julies’ advice, herself having recently entered the UK market, was most practical:
- Test the market
- Have a structured plan
- Have defined goals
- Research your market
Above all, “You need belief on your product and service” advised Julie.
An interesting panel discussion followed, hosted by Anton Savage, where audience members were permitted to ask questions of the panel of speakers. Questions ranged from “Who are the people to contact to begin my market research?” (British Irish Chamber of Commerce) to “What was the first step you took when you decided to trade in the UK” (buy a UK mobile phone). Each speaker was highly motivational and gave great food for thought.
The morning was capped off by a presentation from Denis Kennelly, VP Security Systems Development IBM. Denis spoke of how IBM have altered their business plan and sold the PC manufacturing side of their business to focus on IT solutions and services. When entering new markets, he said it is important to consider the following:
- What makes my product unique?
- How does my price compare to competitors?
Most companies, when entering a new market, assume that their success in their current market will automatically carry over to a new market with little or no adjustment. It’s important to treat your entry in a new market as if you were setting up the business from scratch.
The final speaker was H.E. Dominic Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland. Ambassador Chilcott spoke of the close ties between UK and Ireland and stated that the relationship between both countries has never been better. Ireland is a more important market to UK than China, Brazil, or India because of greater exports. UK companies like doing business with Ireland because of the excellent products and services offered here.
The event certainly showed the benefits of entering the UK market and particularly how important it is to do so. GxP Systems are looking forward to expanding operations in UK over the coming months and are well equipped to face all the challenges associated with this.
By Damien Hanley
Marketing Specialist, GxP Systems