Irish companies highly focused on Scaling Up

Verne Harnish (right) pictured at the Scaling Up seminar in Dromoland Castle Hotel with (from left): Helen Downes, chief executive, Shannon Chamber and Patrick Jordan, executive chairman, Atlantic Aviation Group. Photo: Eamon Ward.


Judging by the attendance at a recent hi-level seminar on scaling up, organised by Shannon Chamber in conjunction with its Skillnet network, with world-renowned guru on the topic Verne Harnish engaged to impart his vast reservoir of knowledge, companies throughout the Mid-West and from other parts of Ireland are now keenly focused on attaining higher levels of growth.

Having spent over 30 years helping more than 40,000 business leaders scale up their ventures, Harnish told a capacity audience at Dromoland Castle Hotel that scaling up a business is organised around the four decisions a company leader much address: People, Strategy, Execution and Cash.

Outlining a company’s life cycle Harnish stated that while it starts out small, scales up as it wins more business and takes on new people, the ultimate sight should be on transforming the business into a high-growth enterprise. He did, however, caution that while millions of start-ups, approximately 11,000 every hour in the world, start out small, ninety-six per cent remain small.

Harnish’s visit to Shannon was organised by Shannon Chamber in conjunction with its Skillnet network,to encourage more companies in the Mid-West to acquire the toolbox to scale up.

“The key to scaling up is attracting and keeping the right people, creating a truly differentiated strategy, driving flawless execution and having plenty of cash to weather the storms,” said Harnish.

“This requires discipline and focus, setting priorities, gathering the right sets of data and making better and faster decisions,” he added.

Advising the room of business leaders, many of whom had brought teams of staff to the event, on managing their companies, he added: “You should be able to manage your company one day a week; the rest of the week should be spent on market-facing activities. This can only be achieved if your employees are on the same page as you.”

His advice on the secret to success was: “To succeed, companies need to be twice as good as their competitors but they have to have the vision to be so. They need to know their core values, their purpose and their brand promise. They also need to revise their strategy from revenue per employee to profit per employee.”

Citing the barriers to scaling up as leadership development, having a scalable infrastructure and marketing effectiveness, he urged attendees to learn how to lead by taking a lesson from parenting: “Establish a handful of rules, repeat yourself a lot, and act consistently with those rules; have a strategy that matters to customers and differentiates you from your competitors; set a handful of priorities, develop a rhythm to meetings and; most importantly, don’t run out of cash.

Outlining his 4D Framework for business growth, which includes: driving the business with accelerators such as coaching, learning and technology; balancing the demands of people and processes; becoming disciplined in prioritising work, gathering the right qualitative and quantitative data and getting into meeting rhythms and; making the right decisions in the four key areas of people, strategy, execution and cash, he concluded: “Bin anything that is wasting your time, energy, money or space.”

Commenting on the value of such an event to companies, Shannon Chamber chief executive Helen Downes said: “Having heard member companies share the learning they had taken from attending one of Verne’s seminars overseas and the changes they have and are now making in their businesses, I was determined to bring him to an event in Shannon. We were truly amazed at his immeasurable insights, his energy for sharing knowledge and his interest in seeing companies grow from mice, as he put it, to gazelles, to elephants, and we want to see more elephants grow here in the Mid-West region and indeed, in Ireland. So many companies came to Dromoland from Dublin, Cork, Galway, Wexford and places in between. It was simply an amazingly energising day.

“The Scaling Up model applies to all sectors; it’s not isolated to any one sector. What I would like to see is the principles applied into companies across the region and this collectively would mean, as Verne says, Scaling Up not just the businesses but the region. If this methodology can be applied to a company, it can also be applied to a region which is what Shannon Chamber will explore with Verne Harnish.”

Lorraine Corcoran, technical director with Claremorris, Co Mayo based Cosmetic Creations, an attendee, stated: “It was fantastic and great to have such a speaker as Verne with methodologies that have proven to be effective. We, as a team, got a lot from it and only aim to emulate some of the success as demonstrated by Galway headquartered The City Bin Co and Gort, Co Galway’s Topform, two companies successfully scaling up using the methodologies we learnt on the day.

Topform managing director, Paul Glynn added: “The take-away from the Verne Harnish seminar, organised by Shannon Chamber, was amazing. My team listed the top things heard on the day. We have scheduled time at our next quarterly to hone in on the top item. We have also scheduled to look at the list again in 90 days to pick off the next items and so on.

“We found the day to be amazing, entertaining and insightfull, as always. Verne Harnish gets my vote and the No 1 business presenter of all time.”