Monday 22 October 2012

Global Recession ? it's the opportunity of a Lifetime

One thousand, three hundred new jobs over the next four years in Kerry Group. On top of that, we're likely to get a further 1,300 spin-off jobs. Paddy Power then rows in with 600 jobs of its own, while on Monday, GSK announced that 120 jobs which were supposed to go in Sligo, will now be saved.

What's going on here? I thought we were in the middle of a recession.

The truth, however, is that these developments aren't entirely against the run of play.

They may not all pack the same punch as Kerry Group or Paddy Power, but Irish entrepreneurs working across a range of sectors are building the companies that will eventually get us back on our feet.

"As far as I'm concerned, this recession is far and away the greatest opportunity of our lifetimes," says entrepreneur John McGuire.

"It's never been easier to set up a company, rent an office, buy equipment and advertise. Everything -- from printing to phones to property -- has become cheap and accessible."

Back in 2009, Mr McGuire watched the mortgage business that he had built from scratch disappear before his eyes. Just a year earlier, it had organised over €130m in mortgages and made a gross profit of just over €1.4m. But as the banking industry collapsed, business dried up with horrifying speed.

In response, he sold anything that wasn't nailed down, rented out his house and moved into his office. With the world crumbling around him, Mr McGuire opened Dax Cafe Bar on Dublin's Pembroke Street with business partner Olivier Meisonnave -- by converting the boardroom of his defunct business.

"It's been a great success," he says. "Come in any lunchtime or weeknight evening and the place is flying. That's not to say that it's been easy. Far from it. Trading conditions are incredibly difficult, but if you cut your teeth in this market, you're set up for the rest of your life."

Six months after opening the bar, he launched the cut-price insurance brokerage Quotedevil -- "for a hell of a quote". Over the past year, the company has added one person to the payroll every month.

Mr McGuire now employs twice as many people as he did at the height of the boom.

Irish companies in a range of sectors are bucking the recessionary trend. Food and drink exports increased by 12pc last year, reaching close to €9bn.

Over the last 18 months medical-device companies have announced €244m worth of investments and promised 1,500 jobs.

Meanwhile, internet companies accounted for €80bn in exports last year.

"There is no recession online," says Alan Coleman of the multi-award-winning digital-advertising agency Wolfgang Digital.

"Online markets are growing, so what we do is help people tap into the growing online demand for their products and services."

Mr Coleman walked out of his job just as the economy began to go down the tubes five years ago. He used online tutorials to learn about Google Adwords -- the search engine's flagship advertising product -- and set up his own digital-advertising agency in his kitchen.

This year, the company added four new people to the payroll.

"We were born in the recession," he says. "I started the business at the tail end of 2007, just as things started to fall apart. So we've never known anything else."

Although Mr Coleman dislikes the term, he is a serial entrepreneur and has previously run an organic-lunch delivery business, a football-merchandise business and sold porridge and smoothies at festivals.

"There are two ways of looking at the way things are at the moment," says John McGuire. "You can see the negative or you can see the positive.

"At the moment, all I can see are opportunities."

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