Since its inception in 2003, Acumen has helped more than 1,000 companies across the island, generating more than £227 million worth of additional sales.
It provides tangible support for small companies trying to break into a new and often unfamiliar market in the Republic of Ireland. Cross-border trading is an essential part of a company’s growth strategy but lack of knowledge and feet on the ground can hamper progress.
This is where the Acumen programme comes into its own and InterTradeIreland’s Director of Business Services, Margaret Hearty explains: “We know how challenging it can be to find the time and funding to recruit a dedicated professional to win sales in the cross-border market. Companies eligible for the Acumen programme can get help recruiting a sales person along with funding of up to 50% of the cost of the sales person’s salary in the first year.
One of the businesses that has seized a new cross-border opportunity is Viltra Wastewater Technology in Co. Down. A previous participant on the Acumen programme, the company hired a full-time sales representative to grow their business in Ireland. It turned out to be a crucial decision for the business.
Colm Gribben from Viltra says: “Having a guy out on the road for us in the South, made a huge difference. He built a database of architects and engineers and started knocking doors and getting our name out there. As a result of this, we got an enquiry about Fanad lighthouse in Donegal and secured a contract to solve the waste water problems for the new visitor centre. Now 25% to 30% of our turnover comes from Ireland and I’m confident this will continue to grow.
“I’d really encourage anyone who wants to build their business to apply to Acumen. The application process and the advice the consultants gave as part of the programme was a big help - it was like I had 10 people working for me. I gained insight into my competitors and the market I was trading into which was a huge benefit,” adds Colm.
The latest research from InterTradeIreland shows that SMEs that export have better outcomes across a key range of indicators; including turnover, productivity and employment. That is why, with the Acumen programme, InterTradeIreland will also now be running a series of sales training workshops for eligible applicants. This will help to build more sales skills into businesses and develop networks on the island which will enable more exporting to take place.
For more information go to: www.intertradeireland.com/Acumen
Acumen: Developing new markets, new customers and new sustainable income.