What's the story? 

Anya Cummins, lead partner for the Deloitte Best Managed Companies programme discusses key traits of this year's winning companies.

This article first featured in the Sunday Business Post on 4 March 2019.


Of the many factors that define a good business, the art of storytelling is a crucial one. Giving people a glimpse of who you are, why you do what you do and what separates you from the competition can make a huge difference in enticing customers, other businesses and investors.

It’s something Irish businesses are focusing on and improving in, as highlighted by this year’s winners of the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards.

Now in its 11th year, the event’s winners have shown off their strengths in managing many areas, such as sustainability and talent acquisition, but storytelling is a key feature of the very best, said Anya Cummins, lead partner for the Deloitte Best Managed Companies programme in association with Bank of Ireland.

Often businesses can be very good at what they’re doing, but not as strong at articulating what their USPs (unique selling points) are, she said.

That seems to be a big focus of the best-managed companies; to articulate in a short sentence why they’re different, the problem they solve and why someone should consider buying their product or service.

The focus of the awards is to put the management teams of these companies - often working in the background and supporting the shareholders - in the spotlight.

The theme of this year’s programme is ‘scaling for growth’, looking at how businesses are making the jump from medium-sized to large.

Considering the ambition and work ethic Irish companies show, it is inevitable that many of them will look to expand and broaden their horizons when the opportunity arises.

A big feature this year is scaling for growth, and what we mean by that is Irish businesses - with Irish ownership and the right capital structures - being able to achieve supercharged growth, either organically, through acquisition or through a combination of the two, said Cummins.

The domestic market [is often something] they’re outgrowing and they are developing a significant presence in international markets, both via sales channels and often supported by manufacturing capability and significant investment.

Entering new markets can be high risk, and also high reward, and requires considerable planning and often significant investment of both capital and senior management time.

This has been a key area of focus for us this year – both at the networking events we have run as part of the Best Managed Companies awards programme throughout the year and we also explore this in detail at the symposium that we run for winners in partnership with the IMI.

This ability to scale and grow is a characteristic that the winners share. To put it in context, the winning companies, from 27 counties around the island, have a combined turnover of €11 billion, export sales of €3 billion and employ close to 44,000 people.

Cummins said this makes them “the foundation of the Irish economy” and worthy of recognition and celebration.

From our perspective, they deserve to be recognised and rewarded for the incredible work that they’re doing and the growth rates that they’re achieving,

she said.

The Best Managed Companies programme is all about recognising the incredible work that these businesses are doing year on year and the significant and important contribution they make to the Irish economy.

The process all winners go through is rigorous and this means winning companies have very much earned the right to hold the Best Managed designation. While there was a much bigger pool of applicants this year compared to previous years, there are only 12 new winners.

In short, the awards are not something that are given out lightly and require a lot of work from the applicant businesses, the coaches from Deloitte and Bank of Ireland who work with applicants on their submissions and the judging panel.

All of those winners are very deserving of their title and it’s a big effort for them to get through this programme,

said Cummins.

This year we were very impressed with the quality of the applications, and each one deserves to be congratulated. They’re all driving continuous and sustained growth with robust plans and are highly strategic and innovative in their approaches.

The big themes that jumped out for Cummins include: technology and automation, sustainability, talent acquisition and retention, diversity, planning for unpredictability - an area in which the winners particularly impressed the judging panel - and governance.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the judging process was just how proactive these companies are in tackling problems. The impact of issues like Brexit are still undefined, yet these winners are finding the opportunities in these challenges.

Even applying for the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards is an opportunity in itself. It’s more than just a milestone for those who win; all companies that enter receive detailed feedback, which is something that will benefit any business in the long run.

The feedback that they receive from the coaching process and the judging panel gives them an opportunity to benchmark the performance of their strategy and their business against best in class in the Irish market,

said Cummins.

That is the strongest point of feedback that we get from businesses, both winners and non-winners, who benefit hugely from going through this programme. They receive independent feedback and critiques of their business strategies and are benchmarked against their competitive landscape and other privately owned businesses of scale.

It’s a very meaningful accolade – Best Managed is a global programme and a huge learning and networking opportunity for the entire management team, not just the chief executive.

While 2019’s programme culminates on Friday with its symposium and gala awards, applications for 2020 will launch again in the summer and Cummins encourages privately owned businesses to get in touch if they’re considering applying.

In the ever changing marketplace that all businesses operate in currently, it really is a fantastic opportunity,

she said.

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