Four Business Lessons I Learned from Ireland

St Patrick’s Day is a huge celebration for the Irish and their descendants all over the world. For me personally, my family always celebrate St Patrick’s Day, as my husband and four children are Irish. I lived and worked in Ireland for ten years in my twenties and thirties and was fascinated by their history, culture and people. The Irish people are very resilient and their recent history has so many business lessons! After centuries of poverty, wars and oppression, Ireland made very clever business decisions. It is now the world’s RICHEST country in the world per capita.

In this blog, I share with you my top four business lessons that will help every business achieve growth and success.


Despite being one of the poorest countries in Europe in the 1960s, the Irish government invested significantly in financial and human capital in its education system. Decades later, this well-educated workforce of Irish people was very attractive to foreign investors who wanted to develop business relationships within Europe.

My coaching clients recognise this important business lesson. They understand the importance of investing in education. Learning about business acumen positions you to attract business opportunities. Invest in yourself and your team. Research shows that investing in training, especially leadership training reaps huge rewards for businesses.


After centuries of poverty, oppression and violent wars, the Irish government turned things around during the 90s and 2000s in a period referred to as the Celtic Tiger. When the GFC hit in 2008, it became apparent that despite its huge growth and wealth, Ireland lacked robust systems, regulation and structures. The results were catastrophic. The IMF had to bail out the Irish government. Personally, in my circle of friends, half of them lost their jobs. It really was a period of “doom and gloom” for the Irish people. Unfortunately, Ireland learned this business lesson the hard way. Similarly, businesses that have rapid growth, without strong regulatory systems and structures are inviting huge risks. Documented systems and checks are a necessary risk management strategy in business.


Ireland is a very small island country. The smartest foreign policy they implemented was when they joined the European Union (EU) in the 1970s. While protecting its individual interests, Ireland also benefitted from Europe’s trading in the Common Market. So what is the business lesson from this? Growing your business in isolation is a lot more difficult! To grow, you need multi-directional relationships with like-minded organisations. Your business needs to give and receive value to others.  Maintain your individuality and be part of a larger network.


Today, Ireland is the world’s richest country n the world (based on GDP per capita). How did they achieve this? They found their point of difference. Here are some of its strengths that led to the creation of its point of difference:

  • English-speaking country
  • an educated workforce,
  • a member of the EU
  • closest European country to the USA

With these points of difference, it is not surprising that Ireland was an attractive country for foreign investment. However, since its inception in the EU, its economy benefitted hugely from EU State Aid waiver. The EU withdrew State Aid waiver from Ireland in 1996-1998 and Ireland had to do something to give it a competitive advantage. Thus, in 1999, Ireland introduced its 12.5% corporate tax rate. These factors continue to provide Ireland with a competitive advantage globally. This highlights the business lesson about using your strengths to help you identify your strategic point of difference for competitive advantage.

Written by:

Julie Sexton,

Co-owner of TalkHQ and Business Consultant with Speechie Business Talk.

How to nail that interview

Simply enter your details below to receive a Free download