Sponsored: Ingenuity of resilient Irish businesses takes centre stage in all-island awards

Indigenous companies in all sectors are being encouraged to apply for this year’s Best Managed Companies Awards programme

Anya Cummins, lead partner for the Best Managed Companies Awards Programme and Head of Deloitte Private Picture: Jason Clarke

The hard work, innovation and perseverance demonstrated in recent months by Irish companies will take centre stage in a major business awards programme launching this week across the island of Ireland.

Deloitte Ireland, in association with Bank of Ireland, is calling for privately-owned companies on the island of Ireland to apply for the 2021 Best Managed Companies Awards.

Now in its 13th year, the programme recognises the high standards and passion of indigenous businesses and their management teams.

For many Irish businesses trading through the pandemic, the unprecedented challenges of recent months have called for resilience and ingenuity like never before.

In response, the 2021 Best Managed Companies Awards programme will have a particular focus on those companies that have “gone the extra mile”, according to Anya Cummins, Lead Partner for the Best Managed Companies Awards Programme and Head of Deloitte Private.

“We’re in a very different environment this year, so we’re looking at Best Managed Companies in a market where management teams have steered these businesses through probably the most challenging economic and social periods on record,” Cummins said.

“These businesses continue to operate, manufacture and deliver goods and services in a very disruptive operational environment while keeping their people and customers as their top priority.”

The Covid-19 response

The impact of the pandemic on individual companies has differed significantly depending on the sector in which they operate. This would be taken into account in this year’s judging process, Cummins said.

Applicants will have the opportunity to share the steps they have taken in response to the impact of the pandemic on their business as part of this year’s Best Managed Companies evaluation framework.

They will be encouraged to provide examples of how they have responded; while protecting their people and supporting their communities during this highly challenging economic period.

“We really do want to recognise the teams that have pivoted their businesses through one of the most testing years in memory with strong leadership and resilience,” Cummins said.

“In a time that has seen teams pull together like never before, this year’s Best Managed Companies Awards programme will really seek to recognise the achievements and efforts of the entire team within the companies that apply and reward and recognise the incredible work and success stories of Irish businesses this year.

“We are aware that the impact of the pandemic has varied significantly sector by sector and this will be taken into consideration in assessing applicants this year.”

Among the existing network of 130 Best Managed Companies are some leading examples of the ingenuity and proactivity demonstrated by innovative Irish companies during the pandemic.

Wisetek, the Cork-headquartered IT solutions company, repurposed one of its production lines in just 24 hours last April to help assemble ventilators in partnership with component suppliers.

Combilift, the Monaghan-based forklift manufacturer, meanwhile, developed a splitter device that can be used to turn one ventilator into multiple ventilation stations.

Adapting to the market

“One of the first focus areas for companies in 2020 was cash flow management, liquidity and building resilience into balance sheets; with management teams looking at their capital structures and capacity to support continued market shocks and volatility,” Cummins said.

“Digitisation has also been a significant theme this year; with privately owned companies evaluating their business models and accelerating their adoption of technology in response to changing market conditions and operating models.

“The way in which businesses and management teams engage with their people has also changed fundamentally; and technology has played a key role in that. For many businesses, the way in which they sell and interact with their customers has also changed significantly, and again digital strategies are becoming increasingly important.

“Supply chain management has been another big focus, with significant supply chain uncertainty at different points over the course of the last year, Brexit being a key factor in this.

“The overarching themes we’re seeing across the board is resilience and adaptability. These companies have been able to pivot their business models quickly and have been agile in their response to a rapidly changing market.

“They’ve made decisions quickly, taken advice and learnings from their boards and their peers, and they’ve flexed to deal with really rapid changes in their environments and their operating models. There are some great examples of recovery and growth across this market; and the entrepreneurial culture of leading indigenous Irish businesses is really shining through.”

With members from 27 of the 32 counties of Ireland, the 130 companies in the Best Managed network represent a diverse cross-section of Irish business with combined annual revenues of €11.4 billion and export sales in excess of €3 billion. Together, they employ 42,000 people.

Some of the well-known names in the Best Managed Network include Chanelle Pharma, Waterwipes, CMS Distribution, Musgrave, Fexco and eShopWorld, who were among the New Winners 2020.

Mentoring support

Another new winner admitted to the Best Managed network last year was Frylite. One of nine companies in the 2020 New Winners category, it continues to see the benefits of its involvement in the Best Managed Companies network.

Founded in Co Tyrone in 1988 by Eamon McCay, its managing director, Frylite supplies cooking oil to thousands of customers from six bases in Strabane, Coleraine and Lisburn in the North and Dublin, Galway and Cork in the Republic.

“The Best Managed Awards programme helped us to take a step back and analyse our business through a more strategic lens, which proved very timely heading into what turned out to be a very difficult set of market conditions for our industry,” McCay said.

“Given these circumstances, we’re looking forward to the requalification process and to learning more as we engage with the programme again.”

Like McCay, the owners and management teams of all of the companies taking part in the Best Managed Companies judging process have benefited from the support and advice on offer.

The programme is unique, here in Ireland and internationally, for this holistic approach, which takes into account management capabilities and practices across all key business functions. It recognises excellence in management and considers a business from every perspective, not just financial performance.

Applicants are assessed across four pillars: strategy; capability and innovation; culture and commitment; and governance and financials. Each is weighted equally in the judging process.

Tailored feedback

All applicants, whether a winner or not, receive tailored feedback and coaching from both Deloitte and Bank of Ireland.

Their strategies and capabilities are assessed through the coaching process, giving them independent insight and validating their strategic direction.

“The coaching helps companies to formulate their final submission for the judges’ review, but ultimately it gives teams the opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day,” Cummins said.

“It holds a mirror up to their business, their performance and their business plan. This is particularly important now at a time of such market volatility, disruption and opportunity.”

The wider benefits offered by the Best Managed Awards programme go beyond the judging process, however.

Global symbol

The Best Managed designation is a globally-renowned symbol of business success and resilience.

This designation acts as an important marketing tool for companies in the Best Managed network.

It gives these companies a competitive edge, according to Cummins, especially in attracting and retaining talent in this virtual working era.

In addition to national and peer recognition, winners get the opportunity to network with other companies in the Best Managed network and access to year-round (currently virtual) events, such as chief executive roundtables and fireside chats with leading business figures.

They also receive national media exposure through the annual Best Managed Companies awards gala, the programme’s media partner, the Business Post, and the exclusive annual Best Managed Companies magazine.

Exclusive professional development is provided for management teams at the annual Best Managed Symposium hosted in partnership with the Irish Management Institute, the programme’s academic partner.

This year will also see the introduction of a new award for the Best Managed Family Business, in association with the Family Business Network Ireland.

“The Best Managed Companies Awards programme offers a really great opportunity for businesses to shine a light on the good things they have done over the past year and to celebrate their teams,” Cummins said.

“For successful applicants, there is a valuable opportunity here to step back, assess how their marketing is evolving in the current market, get an independent perspective and benchmarking on their performance and priorities, network with their peers and recognise the whole management team for their hard work and successes in what has been an incredibly challenging year.

“We should all be celebrating entrepreneurship and the success of indigenous Irish businesses every year, but even more so in 2021.”

For further information, see deloitte.ie/bestmanaged

Nikki Canavan, Senior Director, Origination and Market Development at Bank of Ireland Corporate Banking Photo by Andres Poveda

Companies displaying remarkable agility in unprecedented times

By Nikki Canavan

The Irish psyche is entrepreneurial and the agility, innovation and resilience Bank of Ireland has witnessed as part of the Best Managed Companies Awards programme in these unprecedented times has been remarkable, writes Nikki Canavan.

Well-managed businesses plan for the unpredictable – including, in recent years, Brexit, supply chain disruption and increased geopolitical risk.

A global pandemic was not, however, a feature of many contingency plans at the start of 2020. Nonetheless, Irish businesses have shown great resilience and flexibility in responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Many have adjusted their Brexit preparations, particularly around supply chain management, and invested in critical ICT infrastructure to facilitate digital channels and remote working.

Those companies that have been investing in their online model and gotten it right in recent years have reaped the rewards during the global pandemic.

These are the companies that have developed effective, attractive and easy-to-use online channels for sales, marketing and customer payments.

A host of Best Managed Companies have equally demonstrated impressive agility in the speed and ease with which they have transitioned to remote working, while also continuing to meet the needs of their customers.

Heightened awareness of, and commitment to, employee wellbeing is a universal and enduring theme that we hear every day from Irish businesses and I don’t think there has ever been a time when this has been more critical. In this regard, the proactive steps taken by best managed businesses to minimise the human impact of this pandemic, embracing health and safety guidance, providing safe working environments for their staff and customers and mobilising their businesses to respond to the risks of disease transmission has been compelling.

We are beginning 2021 at a critical stage in terms of Covid-19, with a spike in infections and the imposition of Level Five restrictions.

For the first half of the year, the impact on trade is likely to continue, affecting individual sectors differently. However, the roll-out of a vaccine, which has now thankfully begun, should support a rebound in economic activity in the second half of the year.

In times of uncertainty such as we are operating in today, it is important to take time to think strategically about your finances and your business’s ability to absorb trading frictions.

Elongated working capital cycles, reduced profit margins and increased currency volatility are all real risks facing many Irish businesses today.

The existing network of Best Managed Companies in Ireland have found solutions to mediate all of these issues.

Celebrating the stellar work done by these businesses over the past year is just one purpose of this awards programme, however.

As in all years, this year’s applicants will benefit from coaching and external feedback from expert consultants.

The programme has supported 130 existing Best Managed companies in Ireland as they have navigated through the uncertainty brought by the pandemic over the past year.

It will continue to do so as cases continue to rise and the Brexit transition period comes to a close.

Nikki Canavan is Senior Director, Origination and Market Development at Bank of Ireland Corporate Banking. Bank of Ireland is the sponsor of the Best Managed Companies Awards programme run by Deloitte Ireland

About Ireland’s Best Managed Companies Awards

The Best Managed Companies programme, run by Deloitte Ireland in association with Bank of Ireland, promotes and recognises excellence in Irish/Northern Irish-owned and managed companies and shines a spotlight on the exceptional performance that drives them.

The Best Managed Companies Awards programme originated in Canada in 1993, where it has been run successfully ever since and was launched in Ireland in 2008.

In addition to Ireland and Canada, the programme now runs in 35 other countries, among them the US, Germany, Australia, France, The Netherlands, and China.


The programme is the only awards scheme on the island of Ireland that considers business performance from every perspective. The awards are open to companies that meet the following criteria:

- Irish/Northern-Irish substantially privately owned, managed and controlled companies (incorporated in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland);

* With a turnover in excess of €10 million (STG£8 million);

* Established for at least five years;

* Co-operatives engaged in value-adding and trading activities are eligible to apply

* Private equity-backed businesses are also eligible where the business is incorporated in – and the management team is based in – Ireland or Northern Ireland.

Award levels

Continued success in the programme is recognised through the four different levels of Best Managed Companies award winners. These include:

1. New Winners

The Best Managed companies in this category are those that have received the award for the first time. These companies must go through both phase one and phase two of the application process.

2. Gold Standard

These are the Best Managed Companies that have received the award for the fourth year in a row. These companies must go through phase one and phase two of the application process.

3. Platinum Standard

Best Managed Companies that receive the award for the seventh year in a row enter the Platinum category. These companies must go through a Phase I and Phase II Best Managed Companies Awards Programme application process.

4. Re-qualifiers

The Re-qualifiers are the Best Managed Companies already in the programme that are not going for New, Gold or Platinum status. Companies go through a requalification review process in order to ensure that the companies continue to uphold the Best Managed standard.

For further information and details on how to enter the awards, visit deloitte.ie/bestmanaged. The closing date for phase one entries is Friday, February 26. The companies that progress to phase two of the application process will be notified in March. Winners to be officially announced at an annual awards event in September 2021.