Cora boss find­ing the right so­lu­tions – Brexit or not

Irish Independent - Business Week - - IN PERSON -

CORA Sys­tems has ev­ery rea­son to be wor­ried about Brexit. Lo­cated in Car­rick-on-Shan­non, and count­ing the UK’s Na­tional Health Ser­vice (NHS) among its im­pres­sive list of clients, the pro­ject-man­age­ment so­lu­tions provider be­lieves in­no­va­tion is the best an­ti­dote against a bad Brexit.

Founder and CEO Philip Martin says the re­turn of a hard bor­der “would be the worst thing that ever hap­pened” from a busi­ness point-of-view, but he is hold­ing fast to the be­lief, per­haps the hope, that it may not hap­pen.

“I said at the start that I don’t think Brexit will ever hap­pen,” he says.

“I know peo­ple think I’m mad still say­ing it, but I con­tinue to have a feel­ing in the back­ground that Brexit will not hap­pen.”

Cora stands on the front line of Brexit, lo­cated around 40 miles from the Bor­der, and Martin ad­vises oth­ers con­tem­plat­ing Brexit to in­no­vate to mit­i­gate its worst ef­fects.

“The more you in­no­vate the bet­ter your prod­uct is go­ing to be in that mar­ket, and the more likely you are go­ing to sell re­gard­less of tar­iffs – if that was ever to come in,” he says.

Martin, who founded the com­pany in 1999, has proven that big busi­ness is pos­si­ble in a small town. Or, as he puts it, “noth­ing has to be based in Dublin”.

To­day Cora Sys­tems em­ploys around 60 staff in Ire­land, with plans to add a fur­ther 15-20 peo­ple as the busi­ness grows. In ad­di­tion, a smaller num­ber of staff are based in of­fices in the United States and the UK.

Cora Sys­tems boasts the likes of the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive, Bos­ton Sci­en­tific, Honey­well, and Al­ler­gan on its client books. “We work with or­gan­i­sa­tions that are run­ning 40,000-50,000 pro­jects and we have or­gan­i­sa­tions that are run­ning a cou­ple of hun­dred pro­jects a year,” he says.

To­day the group is see­ing more and more in­ter­est in its prod­ucts in the UK and the US as well as in Ire­land.

As the com­pany grows in strength, Martin says there is a huge amount of ma­tu­rity around the prod­ucts it of­fers.

“We have seen a lot of large phar­ma­ceu­tics and a lot of large gov­ern­ment cus­tomers are ac­tu­ally buy­ing the prod­uct now in much larger vol­umes to man­age their whole en­ter­prise.

“That has a knock-on ef­fect for the com­pany be­cause we are adding jobs to grow that, and it is great for the re­gion, be­cause it is not a re­gion that gets too many high­tech jobs,” Martin says.

De­spite the in­ter­na­tional foot­print that Cora has, for Martin – whose back­ground is in telecoms – es­tab­lish­ing the com­pany in his na­tive Car­rick-on Shan­non as op­posed to big­ger ur­ban ar­eas such as Dublin or Gal­way, was a no-brainer. “My wife and I are both from Car­rick-on-Shan­non and we both have a huge sense of place. “All I ever wanted to do is grow it here, and es­pe­cially in the last three to four years that is re­ally what has been hap­pen­ing.”

He is en­thu­si­as­tic when we dis­cuss the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits that a smaller lo­ca­tion can of­fer busi­nesses and em­ploy­ees.

“This morn­ing I was drop­ping my kids off to school; my son is nine and he is in a class size of four or five. My daugh­ter has some­thing sim­i­lar. The level of at­ten­tion and care they are given in school is fan­tas­tic. For any­one with a fam­ily com­ing back [to a smaller area] that is prob­a­bly on top of your list,” Martin says.

“If you take Car­rick-on-Shan­non it­self, prop­erty prices are low. I used to own a house in Dublin, I sold that house – half the pro­ceeds of which went to set­ting up Cora. The house we sold is now ac­tu­ally up for sale again, and it is three times the price we sold it for – that’s less than 20 years ago.

“Here, you are in a small town that lit­er­ally has every­thing you have in Dublin; restau­rants, pubs, ac­tiv­ity parks, it has every­thing in the re­gion that you would have in a big city, but yet you are in a town of 4,500 peo­ple.”

As the com­pany ex­pands, Martin says it is be­com­ing eas­ier to at­tract staff.

“We have put a lot of fo­cus on our brand, and peo­ple are start­ing to re­alise that this is not just a small indige­nous busi­ness any­more, this is a global com­pany.”

To date, the busi­ness has been funded al­most en­tirely or­gan­i­cally, how­ever a num­ber of in­vest­ment of­fers have come in re­cently.

“We may look at it, but we are more fo­cused on ex­e­cu­tion right now than fundrais­ing,” Martin says.

“If we did take on fund­ing we could prob­a­bly grow faster, but what we are do­ing has served us well in the past.

“The bot­tom line is you want to make profit at the end of the day, so you have to make sure and keep your eye on that as well. But to an­swer the ques­tion [the busi­ness] has all ef­fec­tively been or­gan­i­cally grown up to now.”

There are ben­e­fits and down­sides to be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur.

Be­ing your own boss is one such ad­van­tage, but sleep­less nights over the fu­ture of the com­pany is not some­thing that can be del­e­gated to a mem­ber of staff.

When asked by his wife re­cently if he would go back and work for some­body else ever again, Martin said his an­swer was “prob­a­bly not”.

Global am­bi­tions:

Cora Sys­tems founder and CEO Philip Martin plans to add up to an­other 20 staff as the busi­ness grows.

“Peo­ple al­ways look at it in terms of it’s a huge risk and re­spon­si­bil­ity, which it is. You are the per­son ly­ing in bed at night wor­ry­ing about some­thing, maybe it is cash flow or clos­ing a deal, or maybe it’s an em­ployee that you are wor­ried about.

“Other peo­ple can go home, switch off and go into their hobby horse, whereas for you, no mat­ter what hap­pens, it is very hard to turn your brain off and you have to have an out­let for that.”.

On the other hand, Martin de­clares that he loves what he does.

“My biggest en­joy­ment out of the whole job is I meet peo­ple all the time. I meet em­ploy­ees, po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers, com­peti­tors, and I en­joy that and I learn,” he says.

“If you lis­ten care­fully enough, you will al­ways learn some­thing. Run­ning a com­pany, you have to con­stantly have what I would call good emo­tional in­tel­li­gence.

“You have to lis­ten to peo­ple and un­der­stand where they are com­ing from. If you can do that with both clients and em­ploy­ees that will prob­a­bly make you a bet­ter leader as well.”

As well as pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment in Car­rick-on-Shan­non, Martin is also in­volved in help­ing other lo­cal busi­nesses through his role on the Leitrim En­ter­prise Board.

“What I am try­ing to do is bring prac­ti­cal jobs to an area that’s bereft of jobs. I would be in­volved in a cou­ple of ini­tia­tives what would be try­ing to bring jobs back to the area,” he says.

He adds that busi­nesses in the re­gion “are all in this to­gether”.

“The more com­pa­nies that set up in an area like this, the eas­ier it is for some­body to make a move down to the North West and set up over here. Peo­ple will al­ways put up ob­sta­cles, say you can’t do it be­cause maybe you don’t have the broad­band or the staff. Every­one has staffing prob­lems, you just have to be in­no­va­tive, if you are a creative com­pany, if you have a re­ally in­no­va­tive brand and com­pany, peo­ple will come and work for you, and we have put a lot of work into that piece.”

As the com­pany heads into its 10th year, it ap­pears Martin has man­aged to find the right so­lu­tion for Cora.

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