Cork digital marketing agency Granite on fighting inflation and finding talent

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SMEs are a top employer in Ireland and are struggling with rising costs and retaining talent. Cork digital marketing agency Granite is no exception.

“Inflation is eating everything from a margin perspective on our side,” said Granite co-founder and director Rob Carpenter.

The company raised prices late last year, but soaring inflation made that move redundant.

“We’re actually in a position where we may have to revisit this in the third quarter because we can’t absorb all of these costs,” said the company’s chief financial officer, William Hogan.

“With inflation, it’s all about confidence. And once people’s confidence is affected, a lot of things follow. People might think, do I really need to change this, or am I going to wait six months. So it all has a ripple effect,” he added.

Meanwhile, Brexit remained a lingering minor nuisance for the expanding business.

Last year, Granite was in the process of acquiring a UK-based company, but for a number of reasons, including Brexit, the deal never happened.

Other SMEs may end up walking away from deals with the UK this year, as ESRI recently suggested in a new report that companies may want to suspend investment activities in the UK until that the talks, in particular around the Northern Ireland Protocol, stabilize. For now though, Brexit is not proving too problematic for Granite.

“So far, with the UK customers we have, we haven’t had too many problems there. Sterling has been on the right path for us in the short term. Like last year we had a bit of a rough ride, but this year it seems to have gone in the right direction,” Mr Hogan said.

The company, which has a client list including Pepsi, Pfizer and Knock Airport, is looking to open a UK office to attract more clients. Still, it’s not too much of a priority, as remote work has given the company an edge.

“We picked up a lot more business in the UK, in the US as well, just by being able to present business remotely. So that worked in our favor,” Mr. Carpenter said.

But what we see as something that we will have to do in the future, with the current situation around Brexit, is that we will have to have an operation in the UK. It’s unlikely to be this year, especially next year.”

He explained that he wanted to have boots on the pitch in the UK in order to “develop and cement relationships”.

However, gaining more staff for this office could be another hurdle for the company.

“Our industry is pretty hot from a talent and salary perspective that can be demanded there. And many organizations are fully embracing that ability to work remotely 100% of the time. So you’re looking to be competitive in that space” , Mr. Carpenter said.

Additionally, offering a hybrid work scenario has its downsides and Mr. Hogan and Mr. Carpenter agreed that more time is spent creating a collaborative remote work environment compared to the office.

“You just have to work a little harder to get the same level of collaboration, and especially from a design perspective,” Carpenter said.

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