Posts Tagged ‘Brian Cowen’

We need a NEW Green “Irish” Agenda

November 2, 2010
Irish Flag

Irish Flag

To be honest I’m not too concerned about the Green agenda as we know it.

Of course I care about the environment but at the moment I care a lot more about our country, the economy, our people, our children and our attitude towards ourselves’ and where we live.

I feel we are in danger of losing sight of the good things about Ireland or at least forgetting what we have and how it is such a special country.
At the moment it feels like we are all working in a company that is going into liquidation, we have to get on with our work but we know the place could fold any day. As regards being forward looking, what’s the point as who knows if the place will even be open next week?

We urgently need a NEW Green Agenda for Ireland.

As is the case in business with any objective for this to work everyone must be clear about the goal, we must understand it and we must play our part in achieving it.

All of this sounds wonderful but I believe it can be achieved if we do following four things:

Adopt a Make it Happen Approach

We have to get more Irish people working and Ireland making money again and this will happen if everyone in whatever role they have adopts a genuine “Make It Happen” approach.

If regulators, fire officers, planning officials, politicians, bankers, health & safety officials, ESB, phone and broadband installers, approach their jobs with a “Make it Happen” approach then more businesses would open and more events and activities would be possible. I am not saying allow bad practices but approach the problem with a solution mindset instead of a “Can’t do that” one and watch the difference.

Liquidators, bankers, NAMA, regulators – there is an insatiable appetite now to shut people and businesses down (and this does include builders). Work to the Green Agenda – keep business open, keep people who want to continue, open, instead of shutting them down. If this was a genuine objective, then better solutions would be found than those we are seeing currently.

We are haemorrhaging money in the public service and we just can’t afford this anymore. Let’s provide for our people who are sick, let’s give our children the best possible education and let’s provide financial support for those misfortunate enough not to have work. However, don’t rip Ireland (us) off with unnecessary bureaucracy, claiming welfare and other benefits illegally and not working at full capacity. Be honest, have a Green agenda, it’s our country, let’s protect it.

Initiate Real Positive Initiatives

The budget, the budget ..Ok, this will take money out of the system, which is going to affect everyone.

A few things here – If we adopt a Make it Happen approach the fall will not be as hard, if we take the opportunity to squeeze out excess and inefficiency in the public service it will be a great days work, which should have been done a long time ago, if we use the taxation mechanisms to encourage the better utilisation of assets and encourage people who are sitting on Celtic Tiger wealth to start investing then it won’t be so bad.
I’m ok with taking some bad tasting medicine as long as there is an equal package of Real Positive Initiatives. I’m talking initiatives to encourage new business, to encourage investment in capital, incentives to do something with our vast property portfolio, training and investment initiatives as encouragement for new business and real taxation incentives for people who are willing to Make It Happen. (Since the recession has kicked in I have seen virtually no Real Positive Initiatives)

Encourage a Spend Ireland Campaign

We have to encourage people to spend money on Irish products and Irish services, proactively keeping money circulating in the country.
I’m talking a lot more that consumers looking out for Irish products when they are doing their shopping. I am talking about purchasing managers deliberately choosing Irish products and services and retailers making this a priority and giving the Irish products pride of place on the shelves. This isn’t a cop out for Irish suppliers, who have to manage their businesses to the extent that they can compete with foreign alternatives. Besides products we need to choose Irish service providers – have a genuine buy Irish agenda. This money will come back to you somewhere along the way.

As part of this initiative I would encourage all companies to keep as many people working as possible. Not a time for making a few quid extra by outsourcing to India.

Work hard on “Ireland PR”

Finally and most importantly we need to get back to celebrating our fabulous country and start talking it up. It is a great place to live and we need to stop knocking it. In everything we do we need to be conscious of our Irishness and do everything to project the right image. This includes all of us including even Brian Cowen! We should continue and encourage events and activities that showcase Ireland abroad. Quite simply we need to start “Talking Ireland Up”.

Maybe all of this is a little Utopian but I do feel that collectively we need to lift our heads, pull together in the same direction and grasp a NEW Green Agenda, an Irish agenda.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

A Modern Fairytale – The Beautiful Village and the Hole

September 12, 2010
A Modern Fairytale

A Modern Fairytale

There was a beautiful scenic village in the middle of the country that was the pride of everyone that lived there. In fact the village was so beautiful that everyone wanted to live there.

One of the lords who owned land outside the town decided that it was a good idea to make the village even bigger so he asked his friends to buy some of his land and build new cottages outside the town. He asked other friends to give the first friends money so they could buy his land and start building. The builder friend became friendly with the banker friend and asked him if he could lend money to the villagers so they buy these houses and pay for them over 30 years. Even villagers who already had a cottage could buy another cottage if they wanted to and they could pay for them over 30 years.

The lord, the builder and the banker told the villagers that it was a fabulous idea for them to buy these cottages and pay for them over 30 years. They were not to worry as they would always have good jobs that paid good money so they could pay for these cottages and look after their families as well.

The banker friend told the builder friend that he could charge the villagers a lot for the cottages as they had 30 years to pay for them and he was happy to lend them that sort of money. After all the more money he could lend them the more money he would make and that would make both of them very happy and even better friends. The lord and the builder and the banker ordered the finest food and the finest wine and celebrated their new friendship every night in their new castles and planned on building even more cottages in more villages.

All the friends were happy and they started building lots and lots of new cottages outside the village. The heavy machines drove through the town every day as they brought materials to build the new cottages. Every time they drove through the beautiful village a hole opened up in the middle of the village that just got bigger and bigger.

Everyone was confused because everyone was supposed to be happy – the lord, the builder friend, the banker friend and the people who could buy their houses over 30 years. So, why was a big dangerous hole opening up in the middle of the village, that no one was doing anything about?

The other problem was that the beautiful village wasn’t so beautiful any more because of the big hole, which was very ugly. Some of the villagers who wanted to buy the new cottages changed their minds and many of those who had bought them were sorry that they had.

The villagers were worried about the hole so they asked a few labourers to have a look at it to see what they could do with it.

Not able to see clearly to the bottom they decided they better call some experts to see exactly how big the hole was so they know knew exactly what quantity of materials they had better order to fill in the hole.

The materials were quite expensive so the villagers asked the lord, the builder and the banker for money so they could buy them to fix the hole. After all the villagers felt it was ok to ask them as they felt the hole was because of all the building.

Unfortunately and for some reason neither the lord or the builder or the banker had any money. At least that is what they told the villagers.

The villagers were very confused, angry and upset but because the hole was so dangerous, they went to the King of all the land and explained to them how worried they were as the hole was very dangerous and that it needed to be filled in.

The King told them that even though the hole was not their fault he was going to bring in a new “Hole Tax” so that he could collect money from them to fix the hole.

The Lord, the Builders and the Bank friends told the King that they couldn’t pay the new “Hole Tax” because they had no money. He said fine very quickly. They then had some food and wine in his castle.

The villagers who had bought the new houses and were paying for them over 30 years were worried as they had very little money and they felt they couldn’t afford to pay the “Hole Tax”.

One of the villagers went home and was very upset because he was so worried that he would not have any money for paying the “Hole Tax” and feed his family as well.

His little girl saw him crying and asked why he was upset?

He told her the story about the hole and he did his best to explain to her what happened.

“Where is all the money gone?” she said after listening to his story “Someone must have it, after all”

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

The Problem with the hole

September 1, 2010
Brian Cowen

Brian Cowen - Can someone fill that hole please?

I am so angry this morning.

Yesterday I drove through Bandon in West Cork on the way to a client meeting and watched a long queue of men (one woman) outside a Post Office waiting to collect their dole money. Depressing sight.

I watched Alan Dukes of Anglo Irish Bank this morning on Ireland AM in mono tone explaining how the hole gets bigger because the “property” assets keep reducing in value: “we have to protect the depositors!” – who are they, please tell me?

I heard 47yr old Declan Murphy, 4th generation menswear store from Newcastlewest in Co.Limerick passionately talk on Newstalk this morning about how he is taking his wife and 3 kids to Australia because he can’t provide for them here. He is a proud Limerick man but can’t see himself coming back to Ireland.

He made a very simple point, which I believe in strongly ..

Unless we do positive things to generate employment and get things going in this country instead of pumping money into a bottomless pit we will never recover. A “win-win” he called it.

The hole will get bigger unless we treat the symptoms.

We need positive activity (People are more positive but outside of that I see absolutely none, not with banks or government) – that does not mean decisions to pump more money into NAMA and Anglo. It means generating employment, more income for people which will in time generate demand for some of those ghost properties – maybe the hole will get smaller?

Maybe it’s being very simplistic but it does seem very obvious – I wonder what our old friend Willie Sutton would say about it?

Best of luck in Australia Declan, come back and visit your folks sometime.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

It will get better when we stop saying it will get worse.

November 30, 2009

Brian Cowen - Fianna Fail

Getting Better

It will get worse before it gets better!

What was he thinking when he said this?

I am talking about Brian Cowen of course, the leader of our government, the leader of our country.   I consider myself to be one of the very lucky ones in the last week with the floods. Except for a leaky roof in our office and a lack of running water, no floods and pretty much business as usual.

It is difficult to empathise with people who have had their houses flooded and their livelihoods effectively ended or at least seriously threatened due to the floods. What is it like to be exhausted after days of battling with flood water, struggling with no water to drink or wash, trying to clean up and rescue what you can from the debris? I can only imagine.

In that position I imagine I want to hear things like: “Don’t worry, you will be looked after”, “We will have it all sorted really soon”, not “It will get worse before it gets better” – that must make your hole seem ever deeper. Hope or despair?

Come on Brian, have some cop on will you? Bring people hope not despair. Besides managing how about leading for a change?

You made the same comments after the last budget – why do you think most of the country is half petrified about the economy and their livelihoods. Confidence and positivity will bring optimism, will loosen the purse strings and assist recovery not “It will get worse before it gets better”

It will only get better when we stop talking about it getting worse..

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications, Dublin & Cork

Sticky Solutions

September 5, 2009

I bumped into a friend of mine yesterday as I headed for a quick sandwich at lunchtime. We chatted briefly in the glorious sunshine and we both kicked off with the usual conversation: ”How are things?”, “Not bad but cash is really tight out there”, “Lots of people are under pressure”, “Survival is the key for this year” etc – nothing unusual in any of this, we have all had these conversations, probably more than once in the day!

My friend works on the management side of a shopping centre and he was telling me how many of the tenants are under pressure. I was asking what the procedure was with tenants that fall behind in their payments and he was saying that while they do understand their procedure is to take legal proceedings against them.

He did acknowledge that this process was probably a total waste of time as he knows the tenants are under pressure. It is difficult for him to make exceptions as there are clear cut procedures that must be followed. In a black and white world of contracts and procedures it is difficult and messy to stray from these.

All of this makes total sense but at the same time it makes absolutely no sense.

Effectively both landlord and tenant are in a partnership of sorts with the property. Logically for this arrangement to work both the tenant and the landlord must make money, but the pie has got smaller and there is a general acceptance by everyone that this is the case.

The solution is probably some form of adjustment on the lease, some form of turnover related rent, some solution that acknowledges that both parties need to make money from the property. The solution may be for 12 months with a review. Even better if the tenant and the landlord can openly review the sales performance of the business and have an open and fair conversation. Better again is the tenants working together on a Marketing programme to generate new business for the centre. Focus the energy on positive solutions instead of solicitors and aggro.

The alternative makes no sense and will probably result in a closed unit that the landlord is unable to rent to anyone else – even offering a better deal than the original tenant! On top of that we will have staff out of work, less wages being spent at the centre, less traffic to the centre.

There are no winners in this game so we should work hard at finding positive solutions to deal with these exceptional circumstances. These solutions will be ‘Win Win’ – for the landlord it may not feel like this right now but long term tenants are better even if a short term sacrifice of principles and income is required.

I call this a ‘Sticky Solution’ for two reasons:

Firstly it is not straight forward – the rule book and normal procedures need to be put to one side and a different solution needs to be worked out – it is a little messy or sticky . Secondly the solution requires for both landlord and tenant to work as a partnership. Like it or not they are on the same side facing the same problem and effectively ‘stuck’ together. The problem needs a Sticky Solution.

Sticky Solutions are required everywhere in order for us to see out this recession.

To find Sticky Solutions we must all have the common goal of keeping businesses open and staff working. Fairness, openness, respect and honesty are critical attributes that are required to find these solutions.

All of this probably sounds very utopian but why not?

Sticky Partnerships

Today we are all co-dependent – employees, business owners, suppliers, customers, landlords, bankers, government and even the taxman. We all need to play our part in keeping business going and staff working, which in turn keeps us all in income.

Owners & Staff – Take the work situation with contracts and agreed % increases and bonus structures etc. The electrical workers strike recently is a prime example of this – in the context of the current economic climate the strike made no sense. A Sticky Solution was required but was not achieved.

Staff should not be taken advantage of in the current climate but they need to be realistic about expectations regarding pay and hours of work. Digging deep, sharing the burden and doing everything to keep the business open and your colleagues working is the order of the day. Dealings with staff need to be open and honest in terms of revenue and costs. A Sticky Solution.

Business & Suppliers – We need to work together with our customers and suppliers through these challenging times. Everyone needs to make a profit and everyone needs to get paid. Be fair, open, honest and human, showing respect in times of crisis. Positive solutions are required instead of solicitors when a business faces financial problems.  Let’s do everything to come out the other side of this crisis together.

The Taxman –The Revenue Commissioners play a huge role in whether many businesses will keep going or will fold. As a preferential creditor the Revenue are effectively ‘judge and jury’ with businesses that are in trouble. Keeping businesses open and people employed must be a priority in all feasible situations. Settlements and payment arrangements must be structured to take this into account. A very Sticky Solution.

The Banker – Now where do we start with this one? We all know of a dozen instances where the banks have taken over properties due to non-payment and then offered them back to the marketplace at a fraction of the original loan values. What is the point of this? – Is it not better to come to some reasonable arrangement over time with the existing customers instead of shutting them down, transferring the bad debt to the tax payer and then crashing the value of commercial properties in the process?  The Stickiest Solutions of all are required here.

..So, we need ‘Sticky Solutions’ to our very exceptional problems. We are in this together and we will have to throw out our rule books and our fixed procedures and put positive effort into real solutions even if they are a little messy and very Sticky.

The Fear Factor

May 23, 2009

Greg Canty, Fuzion Communications

Greg Canty, Fuzion Communications

It started off with gentle messages about ‘tightening our belts’ and gradually built into a frenzy of bad news mania. The media were willing partners, picking up on every negative story and then a new breed of ‘doomsday experts’ appeared who started telling us that not only were things really bad but that they would be bad for even longer than initially expected. The experts became even better experts, making even worse predictions and in the process became the darlings of the media as well as the after dinner speech and conference circuit – and doing quite nicely in the process! At least there was one growth industry in the recession!!!

The overall campaign was a resounding success with huge momentum as the country was gripped by absolute terror by the start of this year; the fear in everyone was tangible. The natural business lull in January was interpreted by many as the new norm and companies started laying people off (even those who were actually doing fine), cutting back on wages with 10% decreases being quite a standard number, and cutting out on many of their service providers.

Some of it made good business sense and we would be fooling ourselves to ignore reality and acknowledge that some serious market correction was required, but we must question the situation – “Is the market performing worse than it needs to be due to the ‘Fear Factor’?” “Are people largely unaffected by the recession behaving cautiously and not spending due to fear, or the new trend to start being thrifty?” Two years ago you were the ‘odd one out’ if you didn’t have a holiday home and some investment property, now you are the ‘odd one out’ if you are not shopping in Lidl or Aldi.

Is it any surprise that the government tax take was below expectation at the start of the year?

The country is now gripped by fear and even those with money are holding back. When quite a sensible friend of mine, who prudently buys a new car every 6 years, confessed that he felt a little embarrassed in his ’09 car, that people might think he was being too opulent in these times, I knew things had gone too far!  Especially when the car he purchased was a Skoda – not that I have anything against the brand, but it hardly screams extravagance!

We are now free falling into a self fulfilling prophecy and things have become as bad as we feared.

The terrible financial outcome from this lack of spending due to the “Fear Factor” is that our government have not allowed for a recovery period and have decided to take the tax off people directly. Instead of being taxed when we spend (and enjoy) our money it is being whipped off us at source – brilliant piece of logic and leadership!!!

The recent emergency budget was totally negative – it does nothing to stimulate the economy, but will take money directly out of our pockets, including paying double for our dreadful Health Service (don’t get me started here!!!) with absolutely no signs of tackling the level of public spending. There is a small crumb thrown at enterprise – a new €100m fund to help business, based on passed experience, the agency set up to oversee this will probably take half of the budget to cover its operating costs!!

All of this was compounded by Brian Cowen’s final words on the budget ‘Things will get even worse in the next few years’ or words to that effect. Even his body language communicated negativity.  Why would he make such a negative comment at the end of such a harsh budget?  The most worrying aspect is that he said this without understanding the damage this negativity would cause.

This was the icing on the cake for the ‘Fear Factor’ campaign, overall a resounding success!

But who should step up to the podium and in front of the flashing lights to receive the award?

My vote goes to Brian Cowen, the leader of the country who has to accept a large portion of the responsibility for the success of the “Fear Factor” Campaign.

Neither Brian nor his colleagues have showed strong and cohesive leadership since the reshuffle last year.  We need our leaders to lead at this critical state we are in.  We need leaders to do more than fight fires.   Our government needs to start leading a positive campaign and really quickly as this is the only way to drag the country out of the current mess.

Real recovery will only come with hope and optimism, when we believe there is some light at the end of this dark tunnel, not another even darker tunnel.

Greg Canty is a partner in Fuzion Communications, providing Marketing Consultancy, PR and Graphic Design services.For a consultation contact

Web: Phone :(021) 4271234