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Top Tips for New Companies Setting Up Operations in Ireland


Expert analysis from Joanne McEnteggart, Managing Director of First Names Group.

For new or international companies keen to get up and running swiftly in Ireland, as either a platform to expand into the EU and EMEA markets, or as a location to base their investment structure, here are our top tips.

Clarify your strategy

First and foremost is the need for a clear strategy, setting out the business’s purpose, goals and planned approach. This might seem obvious, but we find it’s a step that is too often missed out, despite its pivotal role in shaping operational requirements (not to mention the future success of the enterprise). For example, the strategy of an overseas business expanding into Ireland should dictate the level of local staff required and whether to use consultants or to second existing employees from overseas offices. This in turn instructs the size of office space required as well as the need for various support services, such as payroll and benefits providers, recruitment agencies and/or a visa relocation specialist.

Defining the strategy should lead to a concise, well thought-out business plan with clear targets for revenue and staffing numbers and roles. This information is also necessary to complete bank account forms and especially tax forms, in particular VAT. It makes it easier for the bank and Revenue to process these forms when the business knows exactly what they want to achieve, how they are going to achieve it, and within what timeframe.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice

Here I don’t mean legal and tax advice – though that is crucial too! What I mean is that it’s always a good idea to speak with others who have already established successful companies in Ireland, both in your own sector and throughout other industries. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their key learnings were and with the benefit of hindsight whether they would do anything different. Seek advice from professionals, yes, but make sure you also talk things through with fellow businesspeople who’ve gone through it all before. Every day’s a school day, as the saying goes.

Never underestimate compliance requirements

This is vital as the international tax and regulatory landscape keeps increasing in complexity. One of the biggest regulatory changes this year has of course been the implementation of GDPR, with businesses throughout the EU and beyond scrambling to get up to speed and put required procedures in place. What we’ve found at First Names Group is that new US and Canadian clients are not necessarily up to speed on GDPR (given that it is European legislation) and how it might affect their Irish entity, so a big part of our role this year has been educating them and ensuring the relevant professional advice is sought.

Expect the unexpected

It’s a clichéd expression, I know, but it’s an undeniably good mantra to live by – especially when setting up business operations in a new jurisdiction. I’ve already mentioned the regulatory side, but there are other more routine aspects that can prove problematic if unanticipated. For instance, clients can be surprised by all of the steps involved in setting up an Irish bank account. We’ve also found that North American clients often assume the use of digital signatures is widely accepted here and that is not the case. Our job is to navigate our clients smoothly over these potential speedbumps.

Consider the need for professional support

Clearly there’s a lot to think about when setting up business operations in any new jurisdiction, and the importance of tapping into local and national business networks cannot be overstated. For example, we recently had a Canadian client coming into Ireland to set up a company. The client had developed a device that was doing very well and they were exploring options for expanding into the European market. Those discussions went into overdrive when the developers secured a contract with Amazon. We came on board to fast-track the set-up process and ensure that the Irish company was registered for VAT as soon as possible. While those wheels were in motion, we introduced the client to an Irish logistics company that could support the distribution of the product into the European market and ensured they had bank accounts in place once the company started trading.

This experience shows what can be achieved (in a short time) when a business with a commercial product works with experienced professionals and organisations to help keep things on track. And, with the right help, all of the other top tips can fall neatly into place too.

Joanne McEnteggart, Managing Director, First Names Group

The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of Directors in Ireland. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. The content of this blog is for information purposes only and the Institute of Directors in Ireland is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied.