By Kirsty McManus, National Director, Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland

Kirsty McManus
Kirsty McManus

It’s often said that in Northern Ireland, our tendency is to hide our light under a bushel, we don’t like to shout about what we are doing well.

There are of course a myriad of challenges faced by local businesses, not least of course the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the outworking of efforts to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Despite these however, we continue to have much to celebrate, making Northern Ireland a fantastic place to start and grow a business.

We have a vibrant workforce and an economy full of exciting opportunities. Compare where we are now to 20 years ago, or even more recently.

Entirely new sectors such as film and TV production, the creative industries and an ever evolving advanced manufacturing hub, could hardly have been dreamt of but are now a reality.

We have a young and well-educated population with more than 60 per cent of people under 44 and over a quarter of school leavers going on to further and higher education.

This region is a beautiful and happy place to live. No surprise then that we consistently attract a range of international investors seeking to establish a base here or expanding existing operations.

In fact, of the international brands that have set up in Northern Ireland, almost 70 per cent then reinvested in the region.

Businesses that come here to test the marketplace, see the talent, see the warm and friendly environment and the welcome from the people, and they want to remain.

If they can see the worth in our economy, then so should we.

As an organisation, our focus is around director development. We believe better directors, will make better firms and that will ultimately lead to a better economy. More than 500 people in Northern Ireland who have completed our certificate and our diploma programme.

It is about making sure that directors have everything they need in the toolkit, so that they can function and perform to the highest level.

This has accelerated in the last year we have noticed a boom in investment in leadership development.

Leaders in Northern Ireland, as everywhere else in the world did not have COVID on their risk register but have taken the experience of the coronavirus lockdown as their opportunity to become better prepared for whatever lies in the future.

So we have amazing leaders and countless incredible businesses, both home grown and international – the perfect combination and why Northern Ireland still has a fantastic success story to tell.