SME’s are the backbone of the Dublin economy and supporting initiatives that drive their competitiveness is a key objective of Local Government. Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council are leading in supporting local business.
As a council having rate paying clients of diverse scale and in diverse sectors DLR understands the need to provide a broad range of economic supports beyond infrastructure, place making and other physical assets. The council’s challenge is to offer supports to our clients that have impact and are economical to deliver to its broad base. With the increased pressures on companies globally from patriotic capitalism, technology and the shortage in the availability of a skilled workforce we have recognised the significant importance of supporting our clients to become more competitive. To do this DLR launched a specific regional program (beyond the established LEO supports) which will commence in September and will run for the next three years or until its objectives have been reached. This strategy will consist of four pillars as listed below.
We believe these areas of focus provide companies with a great opportunity to enhance their chances of success in this increasingly competitive landscape and we are delighted to be working closely with the Sandyford Business District to initially launch two of these pillars; LEAN and the Leadership Program. Working with Sandyford BD presents us with a unique opportunity to speak to more than one thousand companies through the strong Sandyford BD network. Expanding on the four pillars;
We have engaged specialists to deliver a series of workshops and one day consultations (beyond the existing LEO LEAN for Micro program) to educate, engage and kick start the culture shift with our clients. Further supports will then back up this initial interest. LEAN has its beginnings in the Toyota Production System in the middle of the 20th century. It is based on focusing on the customer and continually improving the way in which value is delivered by eliminating every use of resources that is wasteful or does not contribute to the value goal which is the essence of competitiveness.
Of the companies that have engaged in the LEAN for Micro program independent reports state that; 20% have an increase in productivity, 11% have an increase in employment, 43% see significant sales increases and 30% had significant increase in quality.
DLR has teamed up with LIFT Ireland to deliver their highly effective leadership program to businesses. The commitment for participating companies is 30 minutes per week using a 25 year old proven system to elevate leadership skills. Effective leadership is key to supporting companies’ growth, creating a culture of authenticity and allowing staff to contribute fully. It supports a positive attitude towards identifying and solving problems and a coherent attitude towards continuous improvement. We know that investing in leadership has a positive impact on employee retention and increasingly on attraction, being a strong focus on many potential employees list of important company attributes when considering their next move.
Many SME owners can find themselves running a business without any formal business qualification and subsequently lack the skills and confidence to make important business decisions.
On the ground evidence from state funding agencies, banks and investors point to a low level of financial literacy in the Irish SMEs impacting their ability to raise finance, forecast accurately, scale and prevent practices which often lead to failure. Recognising this DLR, has partnered CIMA to incentivise companies wishing to improve their financial literacy. This is a practical and broad course aimed at owner managers key employees of SMEs who want to learn best practice in the areas of; Business Economics, Management Accounting, Financial Accounting and the fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance and Business Law leading to a CIMA Cert BA after their name. Students of this course will not only support their businesses in managing and forecasting their finances but it will also allow them to plan around external influences to support their company’s growth. Good financial management and corporate governance are critical for growth in today’s challenging and increasingly competitive and legal environment.
Research and Development
New products and services open up markets and support existing business relationships. There is evidence that the majority of companies availing of the Revenues R&D tax credit scheme are of scale indicating a lack of R&D activity in the SME sector. Enterprise Ireland’s Agile Fund is targeted to increase the level of funding in Irish companies and is offered to clients of Enterprise Ireland, the LEO’s and companies that are not clients of either. Its emphasis is on a quick turn around funding internal and external staff to work on research projects.
The challenge, as always, for SMEs is to find the time to engage in these activities, we know that typically only 7% of SMEs engage in any meaningful training, the hope is that these targeted supports will gain considerably more traction to allow companies to remain competitive on a global and national stage.