Irish private companies cautious about future

Private companies are rebooting their recovery through significant investment in people, technology and innovation, a study by PwC reveals.

While Irish companies are expecting revenue growth with the reopening of the Irish economy, they say continued Government support is needed until Covid-19 is well behind us.

In a subset of research from PwC’s recent global CEO survey, which included the views of 110 Irish private company CEOs, 72pc expect revenue growth in the year ahead and just 62pc expect their profits to grow.

“Continued government supports, capital and liquidity-related, until Covid-19 and lockdowns are well behind us will be vital to help maintain employment and the fabric of our society”

More than half (53pc) are extremely concerned about the impact of the pandemic on their future business prospects, while over a third (35pc) have the same levels of concern about continued uncertain economic growth.

Just 13pc believe that global economic growth will improve significantly in the year ahead.

Concerns of Irish business leaders

“Six out of ten (61pc) respondents are concerned about unemployment in the year ahead. 31pc said that having high employment levels should be a key government priority,” said John Dillon, Entrepreneurial & Private Business Leader, PwC Ireland.

“As businesses continue to adapt and respond, restoring demand and supporting jobs are key areas of focus for private business leaders.

“Continued government supports, capital and liquidity-related, until Covid-19 and lockdowns are well behind us will be vital to help maintain employment and the fabric of our society.

“With many businesses severely disrupted in the last 12 months, private business leaders have had to react quickly,” explained Dillon. “They are moving beyond damage control and are now taking unprecedented steps to ensure they have resilient businesses going forward. This includes investing in people, technology, innovation and combatting one of the greatest threats in modern business – cyber-attacks.” 

“In particular, it is imperative that any digital transformation has an employee change and cultural programme to it so that it embeds new ways of working.  The programme should also drive performance in the organisation.  Having those key elements should realise the benefits of digital transformation.”

Action to combat climate change

Tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation.  However, nearly a third (30pc) of survey respondents are not concerned at all about climate change and environmental damage on their organisation’s growth prospects.

Less than a fifth (19pc) plan on double digit investment in sustainability and ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance) initiatives. 

Dillon said Irish private businesses need to be aware that investors and lenders are increasingly demanding greater climate change accountability.

“Many consumers are demanding more transparent environmental practices.  Embracing sustainable business is a must to remain competitive and the survey highlights that private business leaders need to take this more seriously.”

5 steps to building a resilient business

The analysis highlights that private business leaders are tackling the challenges head-on to ensure they have resilient businesses for the future and are taking 5 key steps:

  • Hiring on the double: They know that having the right people is critical. Nearly double (47pc) the numbers of CEOs expect to expand their workforce in the year ahead compared to hiring activities last year (26pc).  35pc are focusing on the productivity of their workforce through automation and technology while 33pc will focus on skills to improve their organisation’s competitiveness.  
  • Digital transformation set to ramp up: 49pc plan on double digit investment in digital transformation over the next three years; a third (33pc) are planning similar significant investment in initiatives to realise cost efficiencies over the next three years.  
  • Plenty of innovation on products/services and markets: 55pc plan to launch new products or services, while 29pc plan to enter a new market.
  • Many planning merger/acquisition activity: A third (33pc) are planning on pursuing a merger or acquisition, with an equal ambition to drive growth or consolidate within their industry.
  • Doubling down on cyber threats: 44pc of respondents are ‘extremely concerned’ about cyber threats, up from 32pc last year.  This concern is translating into action.  Half (49pc) stated that their organisation is explicitly factoring cyber threats into their organisation’s strategic risk management activities while nearly a third  (31pc) plan double digit investment in cybersecurity and data privacy.  

By John Kennedy (

Published: 13 May 2021