Global political uncertainty and taxation among key concerns for Irish entrepreneurs heading into 2017

Dublin chosen as host city for Sage’s first ever Business Builders Debate, opened by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny

London, 07 December 2016 - Dublin played host to the first in a series of global business forums by Sage today. The Sage Business Builders Debate, which was officially opened by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Smock Alley theatre, brought government representatives together with a range of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs and business builders to address the key challenges facing Irish businesses today.

Research conducted by Sage in advance of the forum revealed that political uncertainty, both globally and locally, is the most pressing cause of concern for almost half of Irish small and medium-sized businesses (45%) facing into the new year.

Despite these concerns, Ireland is open for business and preparing to increase trade, with 53% of businesses planning to increase their export activity during 2017. Confidence is high, with 97% of Irish business owners saying they are either fairly or very confident in their business, and 68% of those surveyed stating that they plan to grow their business in the next three years.

Among the other key findings are:

  • More than half of businesses have grown in the last 12 months: 57% reported growth in turnover on the previous year.
  • According to business in Ireland, the top five obstacles they face are: competition (44%); taxation (34%); cash flow (32%); employing and retaining talent (24%); and Brexit (24%).
  • Business said that the main issues hurting them right now are: exchange rates (37%); tax (36%); and inflation (28%).
  • The top five political events that will have the most negative impact on business are considered to be: Brexit (50%); changes in the Euro (44%); Irish Government changes (26%); currency fluctuations (22%); and the results of the US elections (19%). Note, interestingly, 17% of businesses think that political events will have NO impact on their business.
  • Of all the political and economic changes in 2016, Brexit is believed be the most challenging, with 50% of respondents saying that they believe it will have a negative impact on their business. 44% consider fluctuation in the Euro to be a negative impact risk.

Opening the Sage Business Builders Debate, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, said: “Supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs is a key priority for the government to pave the way for continued jobs growth right across the country. It forms part of our Regional Action Plan for Jobs and we will sustain the rate of increase in new start-ups and entrepreneurship across the country through the work of the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland. I would like to recognise the contribution made by our business builders to the Irish economy."

Jacqueline de Rojas, MD, Northern Europe, Sage added: “Entrepreneurs and business builders are the powerhouse of the Irish economy. What came across loud and clear today was that Irish businesses are passionate about what they do and want the government, and other experts, to help them knock down some of the barriers to doing business in Ireland today.

“A gear change is urgently needed on digital to maximise trading opportunities both at home and exporting overseas. 68% of the businesses we surveyed are currently not equipped to sell online. Embracing technology and the cloud will help these businesses negotiate the changing landscape whatever changes a post-Brexit world brings.”

Eamonn O’Brien, Founder, The Reluctant Speakers Club and Sage Business Expert added: “SMEs are the lifeblood of the Irish economy so I’m delighted that Dublin has been chosen to launch Sage’s series of forums to bring government and business together to talk about tangible resources and means to grow their companies in 217 and beyond. It’s really heartening to see that the majority of entrepreneurs in Ireland (73%) are happy to be their own boss and would not change from being self-employed to being an employee in someone else’s business.”

Today’s Sage Business Builders Debate featured two lively panel debates, chaired by Denis Staunton, London Editor, Irish Times with panellists including: Martin Shanahan, CEO, IDA; Bobby Kerr, Chairman, Insomnia Coffee Company and presenter of Newstalk’s Down To Business; Brian Crowley, CEO, TTM Healthcare; Jerry Kennelly, founder and ex-CEO of Image Library Stockbyte; Paula Fitzsimons, National Director, Going For Growth; David Walsh, Co-Founder and CEO, Netwatch; John Dunne, Partner, PwC and AJ Noonan, Chairman, Small Firms Association, Niamh Bushnell Dublin Commissioner for Start-ups.

Over the next 12 months, Sage will roll out a series of similar debates in business centres across the globe in an effort to continue shining a light on the key issues keeping business builders awake at night.