Building Your Business
PLATO EBR Connects Businesses Across the island at PLATO EBR CONNECT 2013

PLATO EBR’s most recent all-island networking event took place on 4th October 2013 in the Titanic Building Belfast involving PLATO participant companies across Ireland including PLATO EBR and PLATO Dublin and PLATO Cork. John McEntegert, CEO of Monaghan County Enterprise Board and Chair of PLATO EBR, welcomed over 100 delegates to CONNECT 2013 and highlighted the range of active groups across the East Border Region and encouraged non-PLATO companies at the event to apply for the Programme. The Theme of this year’s CONNECT 2013 event was Collaborate to Compete which emphasised the importance of creating change together and innovation through collaboration.



Pictured (from L-R) John McEnteggart, Chair PLATO EBR; JJ O'Connell, Director PLATO Cork; Dr Cecilia Hegarty, Director PLATO EBR, Marion Walsh director PLATO Dublin, Ciaran Hanna, SEUPB; and Eamonn Fitzpatrick, CONNECT Chair (FM Environmental).

Eamonn Fitzpatrick, FM Environmental and former Chair of PLATO in Newry and Mourne officially opened the conference and moderated the morning keynote speeches. During the morning session, delegates heard from Brian O’Hare, Bombardier who focussed his presentation on improvement through engagement within a large traditional engineering firm in Northern Ireland. Brian emphasised the importance of mind sets and behaviours and creating culture change to enhance competitiveness. Brian demonstrated how they had let natural team structures emerge, created communication zones, the value of balanced scorecards and rewarding continuous improvement. Brian reviewed the lessons learnt in Bombardier and indicated that cultural change took time, there were no quick wins, it was hardwork but he was keen to point out to all growing companies that they should try and get the best out of their workforce not the most. The second keynote speaker was Darren Mawhinney from Glen Dimplex shared the GDG path to growth. Darren humorously revealed how Sir Martin Naughton’s Business Plan failed fantastically sicne he set out with 7 employees and to stay small but be the best. Now GDG employs over 10,000 worldwide with €2billion turnover. Glen Dimplex is now the world’s leader in the electrical heating business but their growth is by acquisition. Glen Dimplex has acquired many well known brands from white goods to Hoovers and Hair Straighteners such as NOBO, Creda, Glen, Valor, Expelair, Morphy Richards, and many, many more. The aim is to invest in and maintain brand strength when it is acquired as opposed to rebrand under Glen Dimplex. Darren emphasised the R&D facilities of the Group and how they strive to create fuel efficiencies within the electrical heating systems by working with others in partnerships including energy generators, transmission and distributors, and suppliers. The final morning speaker Gary Conroy of Realex focussed his presentation on how to scale a business. Realex, which he founded in 2000, has now grown into an £18billion pound business with 12,000 clients and 170 employees with more growth anticipated. Like any small company Gary talked about the importance of having “no frontiers” and winning clients and over-delivering on contracts in order to gain a good reputation in the marketplace. “There will be challenges along the way”, Gary revealed how internationalisation took a few failed attempts; and perseverance and growth go hand-in-hand.

During the networking lunch, over 20 public agencies and private companies packed the trade exhibition spaces to discuss opportunities for partnering up and doing business together. The event proved to be a success in terms of creating business opportunities on an all-island basis. Companies were made aware of current funding supports available for businesses in an all-island context.

In the afternoon, there was a series of parallel workshops involving Feargal McCormack, Managing Partner, FPM Chartered Accountants who presented on the topic of Cashflow & Tax Implications Of Cross Border Trade, Fergal was followed by Brian Morgan, Partner, Morgan McManus Solicitors who presented on the topic of Employment Law North & South – A Comparative Analysis. Jim Roycroft, Assoc. Director, Pfizer Biotech regaled delegates with the story of Pfizer’s journey towards Culture Change and how it had contributed to Company success. In another parallel session, delegates packed in to hear from Niall McKeown, MD, Ionology who focussed on Social Media Strategy. William Despard, Owner, The Bretzel Bakery gave an entertaining account of his Road to Success and shared some baked goods too. Pat Lynch, CEO, Compliance & Risks, Cork presented on the topic of How to Get Great Customers and Keep Them providing some valuable take-home messages for the audience.

Late afternoon, José Pietri, MindShare Consulting, Paris provided a one-hour interactive workshop on collaborative tooling online which emphasized the importance of getting to grips with web communication and networking. José provided an extensive range of exercises and tools available free from:

The event was not simply a networking opportunity but a rich environment for learning and sharing – promoting opportunities for doing business with partners (for example PLATO Parent Companies i.e. multi-nationals committing to supporting SME growth on an all-island basis), and for creating new business in new markets (for example identifying sub-contracting opportunities and finding out about new trends). Over 50 structured meetings took place throughout the CONNECT 2013 event between delegates with pre-scheduled networked meetings.

Photographs of the event are available HERE

Presentations of the event will be available here soon.

  • DMawhinney Glen Dimplex Group
  • Niall McKeown Ionology
  • Roundtable Discussions
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