Winning companies will go the extra mile to emerge stronger

There has been no tougher test of grit and stamina for Irish firms than the past 18 months of the Covid pandemic. Those who made it in style have every right to feel validated by their recognition in this year’s Best Managed Companies awards

Harry Goddard, chief executive of Deloitte Ireland: ‘Ireland’s Best Managed awards programme allows this year’s winners to demonstrate that they have survived the pandemic’, says Goddard. Picture: Fergal Phillips

The crowning achievement of the winners of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards programme this year has been a shared resilience, resourcefulness and ability to adapt quickly to fast-changing circumstances as the pandemic has continued to unfold globally.

For Harry Goddard, chief executive of Deloitte Ireland and a member of the judging panel of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards, the shared sense of pride among this year’s winners has been among the most striking features of the 2021 awards programme.

“We had a significant increase in the number of applications this year. Companies that had been through a really tough time were seeking validation for having come through it successfully, both at a managerial level and in recognition of their teams across the board,” Goddard said.

“Ireland’s Best Managed comanies awards programme allows this year’s winners to demonstrate to the market that they have survived the pandemic. Some have even come through it stronger and the Best Managed designation is a recognised, independent validation of their achievements.”

The flagship awards scheme run by Deloitte Private in association with Bank of Ireland is unique in its approach to both recognising and supporting indigenous companies whose vision, ambition and ability plays such a crucial role in supporting the economy and sustaining employment.

This year’s programme sought to recognise, above all else, the ways in which Ireland’s best indigenous companies responded, and adapted, to the seismic events of the past 18 months.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, these businesses have gone the extra mile, continuing to operate, and manufacture and deliver goods and services in a highly disruptive operational environment, all the while keeping their people’s safety top of mind.

“The pandemic has really demonstrated that, while good companies can survive a crisis, great companies are often improved by it,” Goddard said.

“This has shone through for all of the judges in this year’s Best Managed Companies awards programme. Among this year’s 137 winners, there is real evidence that they have navigated their way successfully through the crisis and come out of it stronger.”

Rather than simply battening down the hatches, many of this year’s Best Managed Companies have taken a proactive approach to the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.

They have used the time to strengthen internal structures and kickstart or revisit operational improvements that will now position their businesses for growth in the months and years ahead.

“The businesses we’re talking about here already had strong strategies in place pre-pandemic, but it is the agility they have since demonstrated in being able to change direction so quickly that has really impressed this year’s judging panel,” Goddard said.

“They have been able to mobilise their entire organisation to respond to changing circumstances and take the next steps appropriate to their business. That, I think, truly speaks to the strength and resilience of Ireland’s leading indigenous businesses.”

The judging process in the Best Managed Companies awards programme is distinctive, here in Ireland and internationally, for its holistic approach. It takes into account applicants’ management capabilities and practices across all key business functions.

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

Under this four-pillar framework, applicants to the 2021 programme were encouraged to share how they had responded to the impact of the pandemic, including examples of how they had protected their people and their communities during a highly challenging economic period.

Judges took particular care to take into account the differing impact of the pandemic on companies operating in different sectors.

“Many of this year’s winners had access to a strong board and that third-party perspective is really valuable when circumstances change rapidly as they have done over the past year-and-a-half,” Goddard said.

“Most also came into the crisis in a strong financial position. They had the capital in place to be able to make their way through the crisis successfully and they also had true clarity of purpose.

“These companies are really clear about their products and services, and about how they create value for their customers. They share strong management teams and a demonstrably robust culture of transparency.

“And these companies never sit still. They are constantly evolving and looking at ways to differentiate the product or service they offer in response to changes in their market.”

As Goddard sees it, the true strength of a company’s culture is never more evident than when the business is facing a threat or crisis. “That’s when who you are as a company, your value and personality, is really tested,” he said.

“To be able to quickly mobilise your team around a new strategy appropriate to unforeseen circumstances like a pandemic really requires a strong, healthy and robust culture. This is what we have seen across the board with this year’s Best Managed Companies.”

Building resilience in any business requires a constant eye to the future and, despite the rigours of recent months, this year’s Best Managed Companies are already planning ahead to meet future challenges.

“In particular, we are seeing a keen focus on climate change as a threat companies in Ireland now view in a very real and tangible way,” Goddard said. “They are taking steps to address this threat. It is not something they are looking at in theoretical terms. It is something they are very concerned about.”

Launched in Canada in 1993, and in Ireland 13 years ago, the Best Managed designation has become a globally-recognised symbol of business success and resilience. The programme is run in 37 countries worldwide.

The designation acts as an important marketing and recruitment tool for companies in the Best Managed network.

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

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 also saw the introduction of a new award for the Best in Innovation Award, in association with Salesforce, and in association with the Family Business Network Ireland.

For more information on Ireland’s Best Managed Companies awards programme, log on to