Ireland’s Best Managed Companies lead the way

The awards judging panel evaluates entrants against four key pillars of strategy, capabilities and innovation, culture and commitment, and governance and financials

A key benefit of the programme is the annual symposium, where business educators, thought leaders and guest speakers lead a variety of interactive sessions, providing exclusive insights and practical, targeted advice

Now in its 15th consecutive year, the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme boasts a panel of independent judges from an array of bodies and backgrounds across the island of Ireland.

Drawing on a range of private and public sector experience, the panel, led by chairperson Frank Ryan, board chairman, IDA Ireland, applies a consistent set of criteria across four key pillars: strategy; capabilities and innovation; culture and commitment; and governance and financials.

The panel features Lionel Alexander, chairman, Intact Software, board member, Fine Grain Property, board member, St James’s Hospital Dublin, and chairman Advanced Manufacturing Centre Ireland; Feargal Mooney, non-executive director, former chief executive, Hostelworld Group; Sarah Murphy, chief executive, Business Post; Ellvena Graham OBE, chair, Economic Advisory Group in Northern Ireland, senate member, senior independent governor, Queen’s University Belfast, non-executive director, Dale Farm, and chairperson, Catalyst; Nikki Canavan, senior director, Bank of Ireland corporate banking; and Colm Foster, director, Executive Education, Management Institute.

Awards and categories

The awards are made in four categories: New Winners, Gold Standard Winners, Platinum Standard Winners, and Requalifiers.

New winners are receiving an award for the first time. Gold Standard winners are those who have received the award for the fourth year in a row. The Platinum Standard winners are those who have received the award for the seventh year in a row. Requalifiers are those who have been previously through the programme and requalify each year as one of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies.


Ireland’s Best Managed Companies have every right to feel justifiably proud of their achievements. The qualifying criteria for the Best Managed programme are clearly set out and the standard is very high, writes chair of the judging panel, Frank Ryan,

Notwithstanding these great achievements, we are entering a period of deep transformation in business in Ireland. I am delighted that Ireland’s Best Managed Companies are leading this transition, for example, in innovation, the digitalisation of manufacturing, renewable energy, and the creation of sustainable business models.

The role of the judging panel is to evaluate submissions utilising a business framework comprised of the four key pillars.

Winning companies place clear emphasis on the development of an effective strategy formulation process. This process is designed to be inclusive of all key stakeholders and lead to the formulation of strategic objectives and the related performance metrics required to execute the strategy. In addition, the Best Managed Companies set metrics to monitor the environmental and societal impact of the business and sustainability.

It is truly impressive to observe the importance the Best Managed Companies place on the development within their firm of a deep culture of innovation. Creativity across all business activities is welcomed. Employees are encouraged to try new ideas.

Successful companies communicate effectively with all colleagues. This is time very well spent. Understanding the purpose and key objectives of the company at this time of change is of critical importance to all staff members.

It is people who make things happen. Within successful companies, staff development is of key importance. The development of a strong corporate culture that is inclusive and encourages leadership, represents a formidable competitive advantage in modern business.

Ireland’s Best Managed Companies continuously apply financial discipline to their activities. Companies are increasingly preparing to source green finance, cognisant that by 2030 borrowing facilities may be based on companies having established green credentials.

Cornerstone of growth

A key pillar in the judging of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies is the area of governance and financials, writes Lionel Alexander.

The foundation of good governance and financials in any company is the cornerstone of sustained growth in revenue and profitability.

Companies were tested for good governance and oversight. This included the introduction of independent boards in an advisory role, good demonstration of legal compliance and ethical behaviour. Companies were tested on diversity, inclusivity and sustainability initiatives.

Financial measurement and management were well demonstrated by the winners of this year’s Best Managed Companies award. Companies showed the use of key metrics to measure and manage their strategies. In addition, they also showed the use of the Balance Score Card in managing their business fundamentals effectively.

The judging panel were also impressed this year to see companies extend their financial capability to enable sustainable revenue and profitable growth. Companies showed their ability to reinvest profits towards growth initiatives which included innovation or capital expenditure. The ability to leverage key partners, eg, suppliers, customers, financial institutions and boards, was testimony to their ability to expand growth through strategic partnerships.

It was also very impressive to see companies demonstrate strong reporting and monitoring systems in managing the business in a predictive manner. The strong financial reporting systems and superior data analytics were evident in companies using the information to make the right business decisions. The speed of technology and business model shifts were evident for the companies.

They demonstrated the use of mature processes to give managers access to the data needed, through the use of dashboards and other efficient systems of reporting data, using strong governance structures and key performance indicators to measure and manage their progress.

In addition, they showed great financial discipline in driving revenue growth, improving profitability and continued focus on asset efficiency.

Constant development, consistent innovation

This year’s winners demonstrated a strong commitment to investment in their people and capabilities to build focused and innovative teams, based not just on current needs but always with an eye to the future needs and opportunities of the business, writes Feargal Mooney.

This was evident from the formalised processes employed to identify future skill gaps and recruit experienced talent, as well as the structures developed within the business around onboarding programs, mentoring – using both internal and external coaches – succession planning and investment in education and training to support the development of future leaders from within.

Their organisational structures are designed around delivery of their strategic plan, and constant development of the skills and capabilities needed to deliver more efficiently for the customer.

They also displayed evidence of a culture of innovation and productivity improvement. This is not accidental in these businesses, but systematic. It is based on investment in technology, digitisation and automation together with structured processes around efficiency, accuracy and waste reduction.

Many of these businesses have dedicated resources focused on innovation — whether dedicated R&D hubs within their business, individual full-time innovation and transformation roles (eg, chief innovation officer), or multi-functional innovation teams with regular formalised processes, dedicated budgets and targets baked into the core strategic plans.

Many have company-wide goals to deliver a growing proportion of revenues from new product developments, or to improve margins through delivery of productivity improvements and cost efficiencies. In many cases, these are not just short-term initiatives, but built into the ongoing operations as part of a drive towards continuous improvement, always looking for ways to deliver more with less.

Finally, these Best Managed Companies always maintain a laser focus on the customer, anticipating and serving customer needs and developing products and services to add value for the customer, oftentimes in ways that the customer might not yet have imagined.

Articulating vision

What stood out about this year’s winners was that they were strong, innovative companies with clearly thought-out strategies and well-articulated visions, writes Ellvena Graham.

What struck me most was that the strategy in most cases was clearly articulated and communicated to staff at all levels, which is vital in getting the buy-in to make things happen.

This year’s winners made good use of external advisers, and in many cases non-executive directors, which gave them vital additional perspectives on their plans, strategies and implementations. Having independent directors on their boards gives them a reality check as well as a dispassionate view from experienced people who have seen these processes from inside and out.

There was a clear focus this year on not just sustainability, but sustainable growth. This was a strong theme that came through in many of their strategies and shows that the Best Managed Companies are taking their responsibilities seriously, adapting to situations and thriving.

Baton for future generations

In the realm of Best Managed Companies, the tapestry of culture weaves the very fabric of success. The judges recognised the pivotal role that culture, legacy, commitment and leadership play in shaping the future of the organisations that have been named as winners in this year’s programme, writes Sarah Murphy.

Culture is the heartbeat that resonates through the critical interactions in this year’s Best Managed Companies, guiding both their actions and decisions. These organisations embrace diversity and foster an inclusive environment where voices are heard and valued.

Legacy is the baton we pass to future generations. The commitment of this year’s winning companies to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles was clearly more than just responsible business — it was deemed an investment in the world that we will leave behind. These companies demonstrated how they are building legacies that speak to their values and their dedication to creating a better tomorrow.

Leadership is a beacon that illuminates our path forward and succession planning is a promise to continuity. Through mentorship and empowerment, these companies inspire individuals to become trailblazers, driving their organisations to new heights.

Their strategies embody their belief in cultivating leaders who will uphold their values and lead with integrity. By fostering a pipeline of talent, they aim to ensure a seamless transition, safeguarding the organisation’s legacy.

The judges were convinced by the manner in which the winning companies demonstrated their ability to build a strong corporate culture, enabling them to attract and retain talent in a highly competitive environment while building a best managed company that will thrive into the future.

The programme

This year, Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards programme recognised 130 indigenous companies, representing 24 of the 32 counties across the island of Ireland. The network of companies has a combined turnover of €17 billion and €3 billion of exports sales, providing employment for over 53,000 people across Ireland in a range of sectors.

To enter, companies must be Irish or Northern Irish, substantially privately owned, managed and controlled, and meet or exceed the revenue threshold, while being established for at least five years.

The process involves an initial application and review, before those eligible are shortlisted for a more detailed submission.

Successful companies are then assigned coaches who will help them formulate their approach to completing the submission. The coaching offers an independent view on the business and allows companies to benchmark their performance.

A key benefit of the programme is the annual symposium, where business educators, thought leaders and guest speakers lead a variety of interactive sessions, providing exclusive insights and practical, targeted advice, in the company of other award winners and alumni. It also allows winners (chief executives and their management teams) to spend a day sharing best practices and new ideas, while learning practical tools that Best Managed Companies leaders can apply immediately to drive their business.

To find out more about the awards programme, visit deloitte.ie/bestmanaged