Indian expansion is the silver bullet for Cork contracting business
Inside Track: Michael Dineen Founder of Contracting Plus
Michael Dineen, chief executive of Contracting Plus (right) with commercial director Jimmy Sheehan
Mahe in India is home to one arm of a contracting services company founded by Cork businessman Michael Dineen. In the district of Kerala, 120 Contracting Plus employees provide the backbone to the business that supplies accounting and tax services to independent professional contractors based in Ireland.
There are now plans to expand the Mahe operation, which operates alongside the main office in Cork, and offices in Dublin and London.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
There are about three or four other companies that operate the same way that we do. The average accountant won’t have the same speed of service that we or our competitors have.
What we’ve been doing recently is the silver bullet for small to medium Irish companies that want to grow and develop in the international market. All the big operators already have their base in India, Vietnam, the Philippines. They’re getting the benefit of the scaling and the cost saving, which is essential for us.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
I worked in Russia for 10 years, supporting Irish and international businesses setting up out there. While I was there, I read Russian history. Knowing the background and ethics of countries is fundamental to being successful in doing business.
I read a lot about India and spent a lot of time in conversation with people who know about India. We’ve had a lot of support from the local administration. You do need a person on the ground to steer you and advise you when you’re operating in a foreign country.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
We could perhaps have moved in India a little bit faster than we did and it would have made life easier for us.
And your major success to date?
Setting up the office in India allowed all the team here to focus on driving Contracting Plus. When you don’t have to be involved in the day to day administration stuff, you’ve a lot more time to undertake the high level work.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
Michael Buckley, the former chief executive of AIB. He’s a great business adviser of ours, and he keeps us proactive and outward looking, so I have great admiration for him.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
We’ve never had to borrow from the bank, with the exception of buying the premises – and we paid that back very quickly, like good accountants.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
We need Ireland to be the best place for work to be done. A big area we’re working on at the moment is trying to solve the skill shortage. With more flexibility, the women who’ve taken the time to rear a family, their skillset and expensive education paid for by the government won’t be lost.
We need to work with the resources we have in the latent workforce and retirees, rather than saying we need more employees in the country.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
It took us a while to completely trust the staff thousands of miles away. Eventually, we all realised that we’re all working for the same company.
At the moment, I get over to Mahe a couple of times a year. I find it’s important to meet people and talk to them about life, about their families, but technology allows us to be in touch every day.
How do you see the short term future for your business?
I believe there’s an industrial revolution going on at the moment. My mother would love to see me working in Tralee in the bank or the county council for the rest of my life. Those jobs are gone now.
What we need in the short term future in the business are individuals who can say ‘no matter what comes at me, I’m going to sort it out’. We’re planning to expand our operation in Mahe from 120 to 150 or 200 employees.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
Not in the shorter term. We’ve brought in people at different age groups and different levels within the company to encourage diversity. They would be natural people to take over the company in years to come.
I have no idea what it’s worth. Our perception is that we’re in a huge growth phase. If somebody came along with one price, we’d probably have a price three times that in mind.