The four pillars of the best managed

Chair of the Best Managed Companies judging panel, Frank Ryan, shares his insights, along with the new judges this year, Ellvena Graham and Lionel Alexander

Harry Goddard, chief executive, Deloitte Ireland. Picture: Fergal Phillips

The Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards programme is led by Deloitte Ireland, in association with Bank of Ireland. The network comprises 136 companies, with a combined turnover of €13.9 billion, employing 51,000 people.

Entering its 14th year, the programme represents the island of Ireland and ranges in sectors from retail and hospitality to manufacturing and construction.

Companies are evaluated against four pillars to determine if they qualify as Best Managed, and these are: strategy, capabilities and innovation, culture and commitment, and governance and financials.

Under the four pillars, the judging panel assesses against various criteria to ascertain the strategic, organisational, cultural and innovative qualities of the companies.

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

New winners are receiving an award for the first time. Gold Standard are those who have received the award for the fourth year in a row. The Platinum Club 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 a Best Managed Company.

The programme’s independent judging panel is chaired by Frank Ryan of the IDA, and this year features two new judges, each with long experience and unique insights to inform the process.

Succeeding within a changed world

Recovery, staff retention, sustainability and accelerating the adoption of digital technology represented key strategic foci for Best Managed Companies during the latter half of 2021.

Clarity of strategy and purpose and the effective communication of strategy throughout the company remained central to achieving growth.

New business models were developed and implemented to best support customers. Companies sought to deepen engagement with key stakeholders to build trust and customer loyalty. Welfare of staff continued to be a key priority as companies reset their activities within an evolving working environment.

2022: resilience in the face of turbulence

Best Managed Companies grow in the face of turbulence. It causes them to rethink, to reposition their strategy and face the new reality, not in spite of the turbulence, but because of it. This ability is what makes them Ireland’s Best Managed Companies.

The new year brought major renewed uncertainty in world markets. Companies reacted by focusing on the key issues that lay within their area of control. New plans were devised to focus on the usage of electricity, including the use of renewable energy and on-site electricity generation.

Additional strong engagement with domestic and international customers was undertaken.

Companies reassessed their supply chain requirements.

Investment in innovation was seen to be key to future performance. Research and development programmes were reviewed and refocused following further engagement with key customers.

Plans for the digitalisation of the business were advanced and increased cybersecurity measures put in place. Lean programmes for manufacturing and services companies were developed to increase productivity and enhance customer service.

Balanced score card systems were introduced to monitor overall operational effectiveness.

Frank Ryan, chairman, board of IDA Ireland. PIcture: Maura Hickey

Building strategic business relationships

During this year, in the most challenging of circumstances, Irish companies continued to reach out to world markets to strengthen existing relationships and to build the new business relationships of the future.

We must continue to capitalise on growth opportunities as we build a sustainable economy in Ireland. That means continuing to be open to new ideas, to new technologies and to world trade.

Frank Ryan is chair of the Best Manged Companies judging panel and chairman of the board of IDA Ireland

Sustainability amid uncertainty

The Best Managed Companies this year showed huge strength and agility coming through the pandemic. And as volatility in the economic and social landscape pursued, they have showed great resilience in responding to changing circumstances. Tight financial controls, ongoing performance reviews and future-focused strategies supporting their continued success.

What gets measured gets done, and all the winning companies showed strong KPI (key performance indicator) tracking across their operations. One particular area that differentiated winners this year was delivery across ESG (environmental, social and governance) metrics.

Best Managed Companies are delivering above and beyond when it comes to business responsibility, which is having a positive impact not only on their own businesses, but also on the communities around them. We saw clear evidence of governance structures being established to support the organisations in achieving their sustainability goals. With the climate crisis a real threat for businesses and the communities in which they operate, there was a distinct focus on how to respond in practical ways.

Another common thread among the entries was the increased priority of seeking input from non-executive directors to provide impartial advice, experience and an objective external viewpoint on issues of importance.

From technology to risk management, and from talent acquisition to succession planning, winning companies acknowledged the huge value outside perspective brings to enhance governance within.

Harry Goddard is chief executive of Deloitte and a member of the Best Managed Companies judging panel

Ellvena Graham, chair of Tourism NI, and senior independent governor of Queen’s University Belfast

Committed and engaged workforces

One of the four pillars that companies were evaluated against was culture and commitment. The judging panel was impressed with how leaders of Best Managed Companies demonstrated their ability to build a strong corporate culture, one that would sustain their company and enable them to attract and retain talent as they emerge from the pandemic.

Now, more than ever, leaders of Best Managed Companies are devoting their time and energy to ensuring all employees understand the company’s purpose and ‘what makes them tick’. This has been made more difficult as many of us operate in a hybrid world, but good leaders understand the importance of developing their people, building inclusive cultures, and having compensation systems that reward long-term goals. They are able to adapt and move with the changing environment.

Culture has been of key focus in the battle for talent and retention, as attitudes have evolved in recent times. Winners from the Best Managed Companies cohort have shown how they are not only good to work for, but that they are doing good as they do business.

That identification with values is becoming a differentiator and can put clear blue water between any company and their competitors. A strong commitment to ESG strategy was evident from this year’s winners, who clearly articulated how they applied the social aspect in their communities and where they could demonstrate this was building a committed and engaged workforce.

Best Managed Companies recognise that this is not a destination, but a continuing journey.

Ellvena Graham joined the Best Managed Companies judging panel for 2022 and is chair of Tourism NI, and senior independent governor of Queen’s University Belfast

Lionel Alexander, chairman, Intact Software

Balancing risk for innovation

In the past few years, given the huge tectonic shifts impacting businesses, the Best Managed Companies showed the ability to adapt to these business challenges ranging from the pandemic to inflation and global economic volatility.

It was imperative that the Best Managed Companies accelerated their digital transformation and innovation capabilities as part of ensuring their business success through these tectonic shifts.

The success achieved by these companies and their leaders was down to their ability to recognise the need not just to innovate in technology, but also in business models, talent and people management.

Clear themes emerged from this year’s Best Managed Companies award programme in this regard.

The winners showed leadership in developing focused and purposeful digital strategies that employees embraced to enable company success, while displaying a culture that promotes innovation and risk-taking.

They showed an agile operating model. In this period of uncertainty, speed to innovate and adapt was critical. They also demonstrated the ability to attract, retain and develop world-class digital talent.

Open-architecture technology, data platforms and collaboration were also evident. These are pivotal to innovation speed, cost and quick decision-making.

It was also impressive to see these companies’ speed of transformation in making their business relevant through this period.

Through adoption of a series of innovative ideas and digital strategies, companies identified and grew new business opportunities. It was also impressive to see that these opportunities were global in nature.

Most impressively, the Best Managed Companies showed that through continued innovation, they could grow and sustain their business models, while ensuring they retain, nurture and develop their best talent.

Lionel Alexander joined the Best Managed Companies judging panel for 2022 and is chairman of Intact Software

For more information, log on to: deloitte.ie/bestmanaged