As industry around the world slowly begins to get back on its feet after an unprecedented period of instability, Manus Rooney, Enterprise Ireland, Country Manager for the DACH region (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland), says the green shoots of regrowth are already beginning to take shape.
“Like companies in many countries across Europe and indeed around the world, Irish firms have faced several challenging years with Covid and Brexit and more recently the disruption to supply chains and price increases in raw materials,” he says.
“But despite this, exports to the Eurozone grew in 2020 by 1.6% to €5.85 billion and 23% of Enterprise Ireland supported companies’ exports are to the region. In addition, Ireland was the only EU state in 2020 which experienced positive economic growth. So despite the challenges, there are plenty of opportunities available for Irish companies across the region, which comprises of 440 million people and is the biggest free trading area in the world.”
Benefits of being part of the Eurozone
According to Rooney, the single market and customs union is an extension to our domestic market, which is of huge benefit to Irish firms – particularly as the EU is investing over €2 trillion to make Europe greener, more digital, and more resilient.
In addition, each member state has committed investment in a range of their own national priority issues – providing great opportunities to leverage the increase in investment.
“Of course, like a lot of markets around the world, Covid has had a big impact, particularly on travel and tourism – but numbers have shown that Irish companies have been very resilient throughout the pandemic,” he says.
“The region, as a whole, is now in recovery with a lot of strong optimism, which has been fuelled by the opening up of the leisure and tourism sector – and recovery in Asia is driving business across the Eurozone.” says Rooney.
“Vaccination and the easing of restrictions is also leading to a faster than expected recovery, so the EU and the Eurozone are set to expand at equal rates of 4.8% this year and 4.5% in 2022.”
Supports for business
Enterprise Ireland supports clients across its eight offices in the region and while Ireland’s good reputation has traditionally stemmed from our food and drink exports, the region expert says Irish firms are increasingly gaining a reputation for innovation and flexibility.
“A lot of the markets in the region are sophisticated with local incumbents and alternatives so the key, for Irish companies wanting to scale, is to translate this innovation into value and a language the customer understands, which often needs to be tailored market-for-market,” he says.
“Planning is also so important, and we have seen time and time again that companies which take part in our Enter the Eurozone programme or put in the effort to plan early, will reap rewards in the end. This also applies to selecting the right market – not all are the same – so I would encourage SMEs not to focus simply on size but to look at what makes it attractive to them and whether or not they have the resources and skills to access it.
“They should test and validate their findings and then determine the value proposition for the local market by working out who the target customer will be and what they will be looking for. Then they can determine what value they, as a company, can bring to the table, whether that involves benefits around price, speed, simplicity, or compliance. And as nothing happens without resources, plans should be costed and agreed in advance.”
Success in the region
While Manus Rooney and his team are on hand to offer advice and support to companies wishing to enter the market in the DACH region, there are already a number Irish firms with a strong foothold in the market.
“There are many Irish companies who have already reached success in the DACH region, and each have taken different approaches to build scale across Europe,” Rooney says.
“These include Dennison Trailers who have recruited locally and the Watershed Group in Germany, the latter who have grown by acquisition to build and scale quickly.
“In France, PEL Waste Reduction Equipment use a local distributor and recently won a tender with Metropole of Marseille – and in Benelux, Druid Software work with their partner Koning & Hartman – who have enabled them to sell into the Port of Rotterdam.”
Opportunity and digital information
It is clear that there is a lot of opportunity for Irish businesses across the Eurozone and Enterprise Ireland is currently running a webinar series, Europe is our Future, the most recent of which looked specifically at Building Sales and Marketing for a European Audience.
“It is very relevant for companies looking to start and scale in the Eurozone,” Rooney explains. “And it uniquely offers insights from both European and Irish company perspectives on how they approached building European sales and marketing capability.