There is no doubt that COVID-19 is making its presence felt with businesses across the globe feeling its impact and Marina Donohoe, Regional Director, UK, Central and Northern Europe, says Enterprise Ireland clients in the region are no different.
- Great uncertainty on how deep the recession might be and its length makes it a particularly challenging time for Irish industry.
- Restriction of movement is causing further issues for Irish exporters.
- Prepare for the upturn – invest in client and partner relationships to secure existing business and research potential new opportunities to emerge now and post the crisis.
“Restrictions on movement of people is impacting on clients’ ability to respond to customer and partner needs,” says Donohoe. “Market confidence and demand has been eroded, and deals are being lost while fund raising plans have been curtailed or stalled. There is great uncertainty on how deep the recession will be and how long it will last, and this makes for a particularly challenging time for Irish industry.
“Enterprise Ireland has eight offices across the region which are working closely with clients on a one-to-one basis to support them throughout this difficult period focusing on sustaining existing and securing new business where possible.” says Donohoe.
Donohoe says it’s vital for companies to stay connected by keeping abreast of what is going on, exploring the possibilities of virtual business and continuing to invest in client/partner relationships.
“It’s a time to listen and learn about the problems your clients are experiencing and how together you may find potential solutions which strengthen your partnership,” she says. “But also, it’s important to exercise caution when extending credit, especially when your business partners are relatively new, and you’re not familiar with their current liquidity position.
“So, I would encourage companies to actively research the marketing issues their clients are facing, seek out information on the current situation from trusted sources like the WHO or local government departments. And continue to invest in marketing because while industries globally are in crisis mode, they are still seeking solutions to trade so with heavy restrictions on travel, focus on virtual meetings and as a means of engaging prospective new customers.”
Global supports for business
While it is undoubtedly a difficult time in business, the regional director says there have been many supports put in place across UK, Central & Northern Europe and Russia.
“A variety of measures have been adopted by the British and other European governments,” she says. “Each country is offering a range of specific supports including loans, wage subsidies or guarantees and these may be relevant for Irish companies with a presence overseas. OECD provides a regularly updated Country Policy Tracker to help navigate the global policy response and provides information on travel, border crossings and general health advice.
Key sectors facing challenges
“Many sectors are severely impacted such as the tourism and hospitality trade, personal and professional services and certain areas of the financial and manufacturing sectors.
“Transport is also a major concern and although some countries (e.g. UK and Sweden) have not closed their borders, many others have created temporary regimes which are causing problems for road deliveries – logistics details can be found here.
With all these added complications, doing business can be difficult for Irish exporters and Enterprise Ireland is currently preparing sectoral market insights which will be shared with clients and updated weekly to provide view on market conditions, government supports etc. Details on public sector contracts and offers can be seen on this platform and also on the GOV.UK site.
Opportunities for growth
Donohoe also says there are still opportunities for growth but in a few core sectors:
“The healthcare, pharma, digital services and medical device sectors are still experiencing growth and Enterprise Ireland has been fielding requests for solutions in this area,” she says. “Similarly, solution providers for retail, BPOs, food production and office solutions may also see some growth.”
“As markets and sectors emerge from this crisis with expected fundamental shifts in consumer/business needs it is a time to also prepare for these changes. Ireland’s SMEs have demonstrated resilience and flexibility by adapting to Brexit challenges and a global recession so remaining agile will be an advantage”.
No-one knows when the crisis will be over, but Donohoe says it’s vital for Irish exporters to stay connected and prepare for the reopening of markets.
“Utilise all digital tools to deepen relationships and promote your business,” she advises. “Prepare for the upturn to secure existing business and research potential new opportunities to emerge now and post the crisis.
“Business and consumer demand will change so investment in research, new idea validation, competitor analysis and the development of strong market development plans will all position Enterprise Ireland clients for the next global economic growth cycle. Enterprise Ireland’s executives across the 8 offices in UK, Central & Northern Europe are on hand to support you through this exceptionally difficult and unprecedented period.”