Leadership for Growth: Enterprise Ireland
As the residential construction boom in Ireland began to tail in 2006-7, the government recognized the nation had a surplus of building skills and know-how that could generate export revenues. However, many construction executives lacked the skills or experience to internationalize key elements of their business. With more than 20 percent of GDP originating from construction, the nation feared a major decline in the capability base, with associated implications for regional and national prosperity. Enterprise Ireland, the government agency responsible for the development and promotion of the indigenous business sector, was asked to intervene, building the skill of construction executives from major Irish companies to achieve strong positions in global markets.
Leadership 4 Growth was a 12-month program for 30 CEOs (or equivalent) across the Irish construction sector. This includes architects, engineers, contractors and materials supply companies. All are established companies (turnover up to €1.5Bn) with potential to scale internationally. The program comprises:
- A blend of business development, personal leadership development and company development
- Three 5-day modules for the 30 CEOs, introducing them to the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the UK
- Two 2-day modules for senior team members nominated by the CEO. We believe the senior team is the primary lever of effectiveness and must be aligned.
- Personal support for the CEO from an executive coach to focus on their leadership development
- Support for the CEO and senior team from a business advisor to implement ideas, concepts and plans emerging from the modules. The advisor is usually a former CEO, familiar with the challenges of international expansion.
- A series of meetings with a small group of peer CEOs, facilitated by a business advisor, to evaluate progress and share lessons learned.
While conceiving the program, we could not have anticipated the harsh economic climate of the past 18 months and its associated impact on the construction industry and the wider Irish economy. Recent conditions refocused executives on international possibilities which greatly aided our efforts, though the challenges of managing a fast-shrinking domestic business while expanding overseas brought many new leadership demands.
Key achievements from the program include:
- Executives are very clear about the key capabilities at the core of their company that are in demand in new markets and can be profitably delivered.
- New market opportunities totaling approximately €400m have been identified.
- Companies have de-risked new market entry in many ways, including partnering with Irish and/or local market suppliers.
- Aligned senior management teams creating capacity for CEO or other representative to grow the selected new market.
- Survival — only one company of the 30 involved in Leadership 4 Growth has gone into liquidation.
- A tight network of CEOs ensures continued learning and passing of suitable opportunities between companies.