Chain reaction: Lorcan Sheehan interview.
Lorcan Sheehan is the CEO and founder of PerformanSC Supply Chain, a consulting firm headquartered in Dublin with international offices in Chicago, London and Singapore.
Following a degree in accounting and finance, and a diploma in professional accounting at University College Dublin, Sheehan qualified as a chartered accountant with Arthur Andersen. From finance he moved into supply chain and e-fulfilment at Modus Media International, before becoming vice-president, supply chain solutions, then senior vice-president, marketing, at ModusLink.
After 18 years at executive level in the design and execution of international supply chains, Sheehan founded PerformanSC to support organisations in achieving maximum supply chain performance. PerformanSC works closely with the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) in the delivery of customs compliance, Brexit preparation and Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) training, with clients across the healthcare, hi-tech, retail, food and drink, and logistics sectors.
Sheehan is co-founder of the Supply Chain Peer Network within the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (Ibec), and has chaired the End2End Supply Chain Conference in Dublin for the last three years. A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland, he is a regular contributor to international supply chain events and publications; has been quoted on supply chain issues in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times; and was named one of Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s ‘Pros to Know’.
What is the biggest challenge to exporters in 2019?
“Brexit has to be the biggest challenge facing exporters in 2019. The uncertainty surrounding the withdrawal agreement creates a business context that makes it difficult for importers, exporters, customs officials and supporting agencies to prepare for changes to the trading environment. This will be a challenge, even with an orderly transition, and has the potential to be hugely disruptive in the case of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.”
“In Europe, Irish companies may find they have renewed competitive advantage over UK-based competitors, and now is the time to press home that advantage. We can present risk-free supply to customers that are concerned about Brexit delays”
“Retail and other customers are looking for assurances now that plans are in place to mitigate disruption to supply post-Brexit. While some of the actions that companies are taking around customs awareness training, AEO certification and market and channel expansion will have longer-term benefits, we are now entering the realm of companies incurring specific short-term costs of prepositioning inventory and preparing for potential delays that they will find difficult to recover in the market.”
What is the most exciting development for exporters going forward?
“Connectivity from Ireland across the rest of the globe is one of the biggest areas to improve upon and, if done right, can provide increased access to new markets.
“Irish exporters will particularly benefit from the development of additional direct air routes to China, the US, Canada and Ethiopia; improved sea capacity across the Irish sea and directly to Europe, bypassing the UK; and improved broadband access, allowing service companies to trade internationally. We can leverage all of these developments in growing our export trade of products and services.”
Why do you think it is important for exporters, and those who service exporters, to collaborate on a series like the Irish Exporters Association (IEA) Supply Chain Series?
“We have found that many companies face similar challenges in key export markets in establishing logistics connectivity and in accessing and developing talent to support their business growth. Taking a couple of days out per annum to meet with companies that have faced similar issues to those confronting you can provide great insights into potential solutions. And the network element of these events is as important as the formal content.”
What are the top three tips you would give to anyone looking to export from Ireland?
“Firstly, research and understand your market – ideally by working closely with those that are already in these markets and taking the time to visit and talk with key customers to understand their needs.
“Secondly, leverage your own personal network and the networks available through the IEA, Enterprise Ireland or other industry groups, to grow your business.
“And thirdly, consider the market and channel expansion opportunities that may exist for your product – consider what is happening with retail and particularly the development of business to consumer channels.”
In your opinion, is Brexit an opportunity or a threat – and why?
“Brexit is both an opportunity and a threat. We are all aware of the potential threats and future barriers to trade that will be posed by Britain leaving the EU, but many companies are focusing solely on the negative elements of Brexit.
“Britain’s exit has the potential to disrupt markets in the UK and Europe. In Europe, Irish companies may find they have renewed competitive advantage over UK-based competitors, and now is the time to start to press home that advantage. We can present risk-free supply to customers that are currently concerned about Brexit delays. Meanwhile, in the UK, there are opportunities to displace other European competitors if we can solve their Brexit disruption issues in a more effective manner.
“We encourage companies to address both the risk and the opportunity elements of Brexit in their planning.”