Our goal with the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards Programme has always been to showcase the contribution of indigenous companies to the economy. But, that is not its sole purpose.
Participating companies also get an external benchmark and challenge to their management practices as they go through an in-depth coaching process with teams from Deloitte and Bank of Ireland - our lead programme sponsor. This is an important element of the programme and an integral way that we support companies. We are very committed to this - why?
Well, our view is that indigenous companies will continue to be the backbone of the economy and will be critical to its growth. This sector must be encouraged and supported so they can continue to grow and scale, ultimately creating more jobs in the economy. By facilitating this review and challenge of their companies, we are supporting them to really discern if they have the appropriate strategies and practices in place to achieve their business objectives.
Indeed, time and time again, our winning companies tell us it is one of the key benefits of participating in the process. One of the questions that I am often asked from prospective entrants is: “what does a best managed company looks like?” By carrying out this coaching process with companies every year, we’ve amassed quite the bank of knowledge on what makes a company “Best Managed” and what the common characteristics amongst successful indigenous companies are. So, for those companies that may be looking to apply for this year’s awards, here’s an outline of what ‘best managed’ has looked like over the last number of years:
Best Managed Companies are confident despite the prevailing uncertainty
The changing pace and status of globalisation, the rate of technology innovation, the increasing sophistication and prevalence of cyber threats, the impact of new market entrants and disruptors, and the political landscape and its impact on business, most notably Brexit of course, are all are driving uncertainty.
Yet, what we have observed is that winning companies are adept at performing in an unstable environment – identifying potential risks, exploring the opportunities that change brings and importantly, preparing themselves for change through strategic planning - and seeing these strategies through to implementation.
Best Managed Companies have appropriate funding structures in place to drive growth Winning companies are well capitalised and highly profitable businesses.
One of the reasons for this is that they have comprehensive funding structures in place to drive growth. They have identified and attracted the appropriate mix of debt and equity in financing the business, they regularly assess return on investment by reference to their cost of capital and actively use key performance indicators specific to their business.
The customer is always front-of-mind
Best Managed Companies keep close to their customers. They recognise the importance of performing independent market research to get feedback on their product/brand. Practical examples of this customer centric approach include documented plans to target specific clients and/or sectors in addition to plans for customer focused R&D/market analysis and bringing new products to market.
Aligned to this market knowledge of their customers, winning companies can clearly show how their product compares to competitors’ products.
Best Managed Companies are honest with themselves
While winning companies focus on their strengths to capitalise on market opportunities, they are also aware of the weaknesses in and threats to their businesses. An oldie but a goodie, companies regularly perform SWOT analysis of their businesses and update their strategies as required.
Assessing risks thoroughly ensures appropriate responses can be identified, and they take action to address these.
Best Managed Companies value external and diverse thinking
Winning companies have increasingly sought the input of a non-executive director to provide impartial advice, experience and an objective external viewpoint on issues of importance.
Furthermore, companies are also implementing diverse recruitment policies, demonstrating the importance they put on diversity and inclusion, and the benefits that having a broad set of viewpoints can bring to a business.
Best Managed companies really do have best-in-class management teams
While it may appear that it goes without saying, in uncertain times, the importance of the best-in-class management teams truly comes to the fore. We have been struck by the quality and commitment of the management teams in the winning companies.
While the entrepreneur or the founder is key, Best Managed Companies are also about the wider team who support the CEO or leader of the business in all of the other criterial areas that are fundamental to successfully running and scaling a business.
At Deloitte, we are fervently of the view that there are many companies across the island of Ireland that are similarly ambitious, innovative and expansive, which should gain the recognition that they deserve through the Best Managed Companies Awards.
An evolving programme Last year marked a milestone for the Deloitte Best Managed Companies Awards Programme, as we celebrated 10 years of recognising excellence in companies across the island of Ireland.
This year, with the renewed impetus that a decade of celebrating Irish management excellence brings, we challenged ourselves on how we could provide further value through our benchmark and challenge of companies participating in the programme.
To do this, we reflected on the fact that one of key benefits of applying is the valued feedback that companies received from the coaches and judging panel.
It’s important to note that all of the companies that go through the application process - whether they are announced as winners or not - receive individual feedback.
The judging panel review the common characteristics amongst companies and analyse them under the four pillars of strategy, capability, commitment and financials.
Through this review process, the programme provides a practical framework for management teams to challenge themselves.
Overall, this is an enlightening process that results in practical takeaways that can be used to further strengthen companies.
And so, to provide more meaningful feedback, and indeed more diverse feedback, we made some significant additions to our judging panel.
We are very pleased that Feargal Mooney, former Chief Executive Officer of Hostelworld Group and Rose Hynes, Chairman of the Shannon Group Board and Origin Enterprises, joined our judging panel this year.
With expansion and overseas investment firmly on the minds of Irish businesses, Feargal’s insight on how to invest in technology to enhance business capability and to successfully scale a business, right through to IPO stage, has been extremely pertinent to this year’s cohort of companies.
Similarly, Rose’s experience of working on the boards of large companies and organisations across a wide range of industries, not only demonstrated the value of having external challenge and thinking, but also provided a robust challenge to our companies.
Anya Cummins is a partner at Deloitte