Survival and Innovation: The key to success for Ireland’s Best Managed Companies

This year’s judges are looking for a solid strategy, an emphasis on sustainability and a strong workplace culture among 2024’s winners and re-qualifiers

Pictured left to right: Brian Murphy, Lead Partner, Ireland’s Best Managed Companies, Deloitte; Stephanie Leonard, CEO, Kyte Powertech; Colin Hunt, CEO, AIB and Professor Anthony Brabazon, Dean, UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School at the launch of the 2024 Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme in No.25, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2

Now in its 16th year, the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme is once again looking to celebrate the achievements of indigenous Irish businesses that have persevered, and in most cases, excelled, in an ever-evolving landscape. In fact, with new companies joining the network every year, and existing winners looking to retain their title, the standard is improving each year.

But whether a company is new to the programme or has entered every year since its inception, going through the application process each year offers both the management team and the business the opportunity to reassess their strategy and management practices, and is as valuable as the accolade itself.

This year, the judges are expecting an even higher standard, as Ireland continues to thrive through uncertain times and challenges, including geopolitical tensions, ongoing wars, inflation and disrupted supply chains.

“Several themes are emerging as Ireland’s Best Managed Companies continue to navigate an uncertain business environment,” said Brian Murphy, lead partner of the Ireland’s Best Managed Companies programme, at Deloitte.

“In some shape or form, they have redesigned how they do things over the last three to five years. For some businesses this is due to new technology and for others, the changing workforce, and different forms of working. But as a whole, they are examining how everything works in their organisations, ensuring that processes are as efficient as possible, with integrated technologies that make sense.

“We’re seeing this particularly in manufacturing and engineering; all the different areas are talking to one another because management have taken a holistic look at the business and prioritised pulling it all together.”

Another emerging theme is the adoption of a customer-centric approach. “With everything that has happened over the last number of years, consumers are looking for something different now,” said Murphy. “Companies are reassessing their consumers’ needs and actively engaging customers, understanding what they want and ensuring they are delivering the right product or service.”

Sustainability has come sharply into focus for many companies now too. “This is my third year leading the programme, and while it was a consideration three years ago, now sustainable growth needs to be key to a company’s strategy and how they innovate,” commented Murphy. “It needs to be ingrained in every aspect. This is being driven by financing (sustainability policies and frameworks are one of the first things investors are now asking about), customers and workers.”

The forces driving the push for sustainability are evident from research – according to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z Millennial Survey, 53 per cent of Gen Zs and millennials in Ireland are willing to pay more to purchase environmentally sustainable products or services, while 46 per cent of Gen Zs and 43 per cent of millennials have put pressure on their employers to take action on climate change.

Along with these trends come risks – and this year’s judging panel will be looking at how entrants have risen to these challenges.

We don’t expect everyone to have it all sorted, but it needs to be at the forefront of what the company does

Murphy commented: “There is a real concern around the level of sustainability reporting that larger companies are required to do from next year – in fact, according to the recent Deloitte CFO survey, this was the third highest risk that those CFOs had identified. People are concerned because there’s considerable work and a real cost involved.

“The second risk is around AI and emerging technology. Some of the AI technology is phenomenal, but it’s counterbalanced with concerns about cybersecurity. We also have a skill shortage as well, which is a worry for many companies.

“Thirdly, there is a drive to internationalise . . . most larger companies have to look beyond Ireland in order to grow. But it’s getting increasingly complex, with different regulations, a lot of geopolitical tensions and plenty of red tape. The UK was often the first place we went to, but that’s not necessarily the case any more due to Brexit. Now companies are looking to the likes of the Middle East or China and there are a lot of challenges around that.”

As well as how companies are meeting such challenges, the judges are looking for a clear strategy both for the business and for sustainability. “We don’t expect everyone to have it all sorted, but it needs to be at the forefront of what the company does.”

Becoming one of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies is a much-coveted badge of achievement. As the programme is active in 46 countries around the world, it can help a company significantly in new markets, as well as at home in Ireland.

The rigorous process examines a company’s performance under four key pillars: strategy, capability and innovation, culture and commitment, in addition to finances and governance. Successfully completing it is a cause for celebration, recognising the success of both the business, the management team, and the workforce as a whole.

This year, Deloitte is delighted to introduce AIB as the new lead sponsor along with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School as the new academic partner.

Applications for the Best Managed Companies programme are now open. Find out more about the programme and criteria at: deloitte.ie/bestmanaged