The 2016 ISME Annual Conference took place in a busy RDS on Friday 11th November. The conference was sponsored by Post Logistics. At the start of the conference ISME Chairman James Coghlan discussed how appropriate the theme “Challenging Times – New Opportunities” was, in light of recent world events including Brexit and the Trump election. He pointed out that while these events will of course provide huge challenges to SMEs, they also “open an undiscovered country of opportunity for those willing enough and creative enough to explore it”.
He added The keynote speaker was Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh, who had many inspirational words about overcoming challenges to impart to all in attendance. He asked delegates to “Look at the industry you are in, look at the factors that are moving it, what are the external factors that control it, can you create some sort of niche in that industry that makes a difference to you, because you have got to change, standing still is not an option”
“There is always opportunity, you wire your brain to see where that opportunity is and how you can exploit it…I’ve have never seen a company grow in my life, companies do not grow, people grow, focus on your people and they grow”
He also stressed the importance of having a good balance between business and the individual. He suggested that owners of SMEs separate themselves from their business and said
“Success will not bring you happiness, happiness will bring you success, be happy first then you will be successful”
The inaugural Sean Hannick SME Award was presented by Rory Hannick, son of the late Sean Hannick, to Barry Dowling, Co-Founder and Managing Director of TransferMate – a global payments company based in Kilkenny. The Sean Hannick award is for Irish SMEs who have demonstrated the entrepreneurial attributes of courage, innovation, scalability and a willingness to learn – grounded in Ireland with an international perspective.
Philip R. Lane, Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland acknowledged how the SME Sector is central to the work of the Central Bank and how at the macroeconomic level, the economic performance of Ireland critically depends on the SME sector. He also stated that the smallest of firms account for nearly half of all net jobs creation in Ireland, with the largest contribution coming from young, small domestically-owned enterprises. He believed that the experience of the SME sector since 2008 illustrates the importance of understanding the differences in the inter-sectoral linkages across individual companies within the sector.
The conference ended with lively discussion during The Great Debate with much focus placed on Brexit and the challenges posed for SMEs. Author, commentator and Director of the Hibernia Forum, Eamon Delaney pointed out how the entrepreneurial spirit is found across the nation. He said
“In business you have to be positive, it’s like playing sports or football, you have to keep the head up and keep going, the political culture at the moment from all bar none is not our friend and that has to be addressed”.
Chief Economist in Investec, Philip O’Sullivan suggested that “Companies need to take opportunities where they are available; they need to diversify away from traditional export markets, with two-fifths of indigenous companies’ exports going to the UK. UK growth is expected to come in at 1.5% next year, Irish SME’s are going to have to look beyond that [UK MARKET]”