Doing business in Dublin

Dublin has been undeniably affected by the recession, but don’t let that fool you into ignoring the business opportunities

Dublin has been undeniably affected by the recession, but don’t let that fool you into ignoring the business opportunities

Ambitious and growing businesses in Britain are, understandably, looking to the east – China, India – for opportunities abroad. It would be a mistake though to ignore markets closer to home. Ireland, for example, is the UK’s fifth largest export market, and we still export three times as much to Ireland as we do to China (which has more than a billion people compared to Ireland’s 6.2 million). Each person in Ireland spends an average £3,607 per year on British goods. And with many global companies having a presence in Dublin, and 50% of Ireland’s population living within 100 kilometres of the city, Ireland’s capital holds its own among commercial centres in Europe.

Finding opportunities

Ireland entered into recession in 2008 and has been extremely affected by the downturn. The economy declined by around 11% in terms of GDP in 2009. Simon McKeever, director of trade & investment at the British Embassy, Dublin summarises: “Ireland faces a huge fiscal challenge, a challenge that is well documented in the media in the UK, and is facing a tough budget in December. In September 2010 the standardised unemployment rate was 13.7%.”

It’s not all doom and gloom though. McKeever adds that figures show consumers are still spending, while imports from the UK have actually risen by 1.7% year-on-year to June 2010.

One potential benefit of the recession from a business point of view is that costs have gone down from the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom years when the cost of salaries, rent, utilities and business services peaked. “Since January 2008, Ireland has regained a lot of its competitiveness, domestic inflation has fallen and there have been adjustments in the Irish economy, although Ireland’s costs remain high relative to other countries,” says McKeever. Dublin’s streets broad and narrow are still an expensive place to set up shop, with investment bank UBS ranking the city as the tenth most expensive place to live in 2009.

Make it personal

The benefits of working in Dublin for a small or medium-sized business include a common language, proximity to the UK, a well-educated workforce, a similar regulatory framework and a tempting 12.5% rate of corporate tax for trading income.

Adrian Brady CEO of Eulogy!, the largest Irish-owned PR agency in the UK, has been doing business in Dublin for years. “The key thing is to realise that the commonality of a single language and an established trading relationship does not mean attitudes, culture and ways of doing business are the same,” he says. McKeever expands: “The Irish business culture places great importance on face-to-face contact. Irish business people are often generous with information and their time. Communication can be quite informal and there is almost a personal dimension to doing business. Meetings will often start with small talk and it is very important to build up rapport, so it helps to have some knowledge of recent national news or sporting events.”

Support system

The small business sector is strong in Dublin and there is a good support network for new and established businesses, thanks to various chambers, networking groups and representational bodies such as ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association Limited) and the SFA (Small Firms Association). “British businesses can expect to link into the wider business community in pretty much the same way as they would do at home,” says McKeever.

Help is also at hand from UKTI Dublin, which regularly publishes specific business opportunities for UK companies, and IDA Ireland, which offers services and incentives including funding to any international companies looking to set up in Ireland.

Brady adds: “As great as the level of commerce is between Britain and Ireland, there’s still massive potential for businesses on both sides of the Irish Sea to support each other more. In spite of the current downturn, Dublin is still a sophisticated European marketplace which businesses should take seriously.”


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