In today’s fast-paced commercial world, the ability to stand back and take a dispassionate look at a business can be invaluable. When that perspective is informed by business mentors, and benchmarked against the best managed companies on the island, the opportunity becomes something more.
That is the value proposition from the 2022 Ireland’s Best Managed Companies Awards programme, run by Deloitte in association with Bank of Ireland. Now open for new entrants, the programme is for businesses, north and south, to evaluate their entire management approach against the Best Managed Companies four-pillar framework. Now in its 14th year here, the programme is unique in that it is not just geared to chief executives. Instead, it caters to the whole management team, and provides individualised feedback for businesses, as well as mentoring and education opportunities.
The awards programme recognises and promotes excellence in Irish/Northern Irish owned and managed companies and is the only awards scheme on the island of Ireland to consider a business’s performance from every perspective. Entrants compete in a rigorous process to evaluate the calibre of management abilities and practices across four pillars: strategy; capability and innovation; culture and commitment; and governance and financial performance.
“Get out of the garden and smell the roses,” was how it was characterised by a programme coach to Aidan Kinsella, chief executive officer of Dennison Trailers, a family engineering company.
First engaging with the programme four years ago, Kinsella said the main benefit was in stepping back and looking at the company with the assistance of an experienced coach, and benchmarking where the company was on strategy, people, finance, and more, “so we could take a view of where we were”, getting to look at the company from a distance, or “out of the garden”.
A more recent entrant, Windsor Motor Group, first engaged with the programme in 2020. Windsor had embarked on an ambitious strategy over the past number of years, said Peter Nicholson, managing director, to introduce innovative practices to better serve customers and to set itself apart in the Irish motoring industry, and “we were very interested in independent validation”.
“The team had received great feedback from other participants in the programme and felt it was an important step to gain independent feedback and validation of our management systems and strategic plans,” said Nicholson.
That entire team focus is part of a robust and comprehensive process, according to Anya Cummins, head of Deloitte Private at Deloitte Ireland. It reviews management’s practices against strategy and identifies areas where they might need to increase focus.
Nicholson agreed, and saw one of the main benefits to Windsor Motor Group being the rigorous process that evaluated the calibre of management abilities and practices.
“The BMC Programme ensured that we focused on all areas of the business including business strategy, capability, innovation, culture and financial performance,” he said. “The process required more engagement with management and staff across the business, resulting in better strategic alignment.”
Kinsella said the Dennison experience had been similar, gaining particular benefit in continuous self-examination. “We now use the programme to look at where we are, what we have achieved and, more importantly, where we might not have got to where we wanted,” he said.
“The fact that the programme runs annually keeps our objectives live and keeps the strategic objectives refreshed. Having access to the coach is great also, as the coaches are dealing with multi-sector companies and some of the themes they are encountering in one sector could provoke some new thinking for us.”
Both Kinsella and Nicholson also saw additional benefits from the programme. Kinsella was pleased to find recognition of the award was truly international.
“We use the Deloitte Best Managed Companies award on our European marketing brochures and at trade shows, clients were impressed that we had an external recognition of the company,” said Kinsella. “This helped to accelerate the customer engagement and, rather than having to spend lots of time selling who Dennison Trailers were, we got to focus quickly on the product range and what we could offer.”
“Our success in being named as one of Ireland’s Best Managed Companies,” said Windsor’s Nicholson, “is also an endorsement of the culture of professionalism and high standard of customer service that exists throughout the business. Our skilled technicians, retail advisers, customer care and administrative staff are committed to excellence and to providing customers with the best service and experience, and were delighted with this validation.”
A common theme among both long-time and recent participants in the programme is the opportunity to look at their business as never before, informed by external expertise and experience.
“Potential participants should view the programme as an opportunity to question and interrogate operational processes, management styles, cultural values, and compensation/reward structures,” said Nicholson.
“Most importantly, the programme gives the business a great medium to engage with managers and staff to draw out fresh ideas, deal with issues that hinder progress, and engender buy-in to embrace change and move the organisation forward positively.”
“Use the programme to focus on where you are as a business,” Dennison’s Kinsella advised. “Use the coach and the feedback to deep dive into the issues facing the business and learn from other sectors. Use the programme to get the senior team to question what you are doing and to pull together behind a vision.”
“With Covid-19 restrictions eased and businesses getting back to what they do best, it’s the perfect time for indigenous companies to take advantage of new opportunities that have presented themselves as they continue to future-proof their businesses,” said Cummins.
“The Best Managed Companies programme looks at every aspect of a business’s performance, evaluating the calibre of their management abilities and practices, as well as giving access to invaluable coaching, and the opportunity to join a network of high performing companies. As we enter the 14th consecutive year of the awards in Ireland, we’re excited to see how companies are moving forward with confidence.”